The University of Reading Early Modern Studies Conference 9-11 July 2010
Call for Papers
This three-day conference at the University of Reading aims to draw together scholars from a variety of disciplines working on areas related to the themes of controversy, protest, ridicule, and laughter in the early modern period.
Controversy, protest, ridicule and laughter are means to register more than disagreement: they convey contemptuous opposition to an opponent. How can the study of their uses advance our understanding of the nature and development of public debate in the early modern period?
How were new media (theatres, newsbooks, periodicals) and traditional forms (sermons, proclamations, disputations) used by the two (or more) sides in early modern controversies? What were the connections between ‘low’ literary forms (pamphlets, ballads, satires, libels), and the learned seriocomic tradition of, for example, Erasmus’s Praise of Folly?
What were the sites of protest: Parliament; stage; university; alehouse; Inns of Court – and what connections, if any, existed between these spaces?
What role did ridicule have in religious and political controversy, from Martin Marprelate to John Milton’s anti-prelatical writings? How were the conventions for mocking one’s opponent refracted by variables of class and gender?
Laughter might be a marker of intellectual achievement (distinguishing the human from the animal), or it might be condemned as a sign of brutality. If laugher was both elevating and debasing, what strategies were used by writers of satire, comedy and polemic to control its connotations? How can we write a history of laughter? How useful is more recent psychological and philosophical work on laughter – by Freud or Henri Bergson, for example – for work on early modern culture?
Possible topics include:
Humanism, learning, wit, and laughter; gender and class; classical ideas of laughter and ridicule; disputation and debate in education; ridicule, stereotyping and national identity; European models of controversy and ridicule; popular radicalism and the public sphere; conduct manuals and the etiquettes of laughter; the Putney Debates; clowns and jesters; new media and popular radicalism; the Spanish Match; burlesque, parody, scatology and obscenity; Jonson’s comedy of humours and satirical comedy; popular print (pamphlets, ballads) and ‘low’ literary forms; urban and rural forms of controversy; Rabelais and discourses of the body; legal controversy: sedition, libel, slander; the Marprelate Tracts; jokes and jests on the stage and page; Milton’s Defensio pro populo Anglicano; the Oath of Allegiance controversy; mimicry and impersonation; Civil War religious radicalism; the carnivalesque; Jacobitism; traditions of complaint, satire and invective; the decorum of ridicule, controversy, and ideas of ethical restraint; the ‘Glorious Revolution’ and ‘godly revolution’.
We invite papers that consider any or all of this year’s themes. Proposals (max. 300 words) or 30 minute papers and a brief CV should be sent via email attachment by 4 December 2009 to: Dr Chloë Houston, School of English and American Literature, University of Reading.