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Instability and Insecurity in Eighteenth-Century France

International, interdisciplinary conference at the Humanities Institute, UCD Dublin

September 7-8, 2018

Keynote speaker: Kate E. Tunstall (Oxford)

             Les hommes sont des insectes se dévorant les uns les autres sur un petit atome de boue (Voltaire)

The global instability and insecurity of the 21st century have many precursors in 18th-century France. This conference seeks to identify and analyse the diverse theories, causes, reflections and expressions of that 18th-century French turmoil as they are represented textually and visually, either contemporaneously or subsequently. Examples of turbulence reflected in literary texts might include John Law’s monetary scheme, the convulsionnaires, the Lisbon earthquake, epidemics, scientific advances, and European conflicts. In the ferment of para-revolutionary years, intimations of literary and artistic unease take numerous forms: in literary, historical, philosophical, visual and musical texts and paratexts.

This conference asks whether there is a progression in the nature of turmoil as treated by earlier philosophes, by revolutionaries and by libertines? The multiple forms of creative expression which depict and critique this disturbance across the century offer broad scope for reassessment of canonical material and for consideration of peripheral authors and lesser-known texts. To what extent is the 18th-century French experience unique? Is it pertinent to draw comparisons between that early modern expression and the depiction of modern-day phenomena in terms of violence, mob rule, or a climate of fear? Are Enlightenment and revolutionary ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité doomed to remain aspirations, permanently threatened by instability and insecurity?

Topics may include (but will not be confined to):

-   literary experiment
-   shifting boundaries
-   persecution of Otherness
-   intolerance: religious; political
-   rejection of norms
-   tragedy on stage
-   emotional turmoil
-   moments of crisis
-   economic precariousness
-   consequences of profligacy
-   Sturm und Drang
-   female malaise
-   unrest in the private sphere
-   prostitution
-   bread riots; urban ferment
-   subversion
-   chaos during the Regency
-   responses to the Revolution
-   echoes in the 21st century

Papers in French or English are invited from scholars in all disciplines.
Abstracts (300 words with a short biographical note) for 20-minute papers should reach siofra.pierse@ucd.ie  before 1 March 2018.

Conference committee: Síofra Pierse, Emma Dunne, Edward O’Sullivan School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, UCD Dublin

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