Of Victorian Interest

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CFP: Essay Collection "Symptoms of Disorder: Reading Madness in British Literature 1744-1845" (12/1/2011; 7/1/2012)

Symptoms of Disorder: Reading Madness in British Literature 1744-1845

The editors are currently seeking proposals for a collection of essays investigating the subject of madness in British literature between 1744 and 1845.

These are landmark dates for the historical, philosophical and medical history of mental deviance. They imply a passage from an indefinite system of institutionalization and treatment of the insane (1744 Vagrancy Act, section 20) to a more sophisticated and attentive one (1845 Lunatic Asylums Act). The century as a whole is dotted with a stream of momentous events (most James Hadfield’s attempt on the life of George III and the consequent trial), which reveal a progressive transformation in the medical, legal and social response to mental disease. Our aim is, therefore, to encourage a rethinking of such a response, which inevitably implies a reassessment of the very notion of madness.

We invite submissions that explore different representations of ‘insanity’ in the fictional writing between 1744 and 1845. More precisely, the volume intends to analyse how mental derangement affects both poetry and prose in terms of themes, imagery and style (syntax, word choice, figures of speech…). Focus should be on the intersections between literature and contemporary epistemological discourse on insanity. We are especially interested in how literary texts appropriate or, perhaps, even ‘symptomatically’ anticipate some of the major issues discussed in the historical, legal, philosophical and medical fields.

We welcome discussions on the works of authors who are conventionally recognised as outstanding figures of their time, as well as of authors who are less familiar to the general reader.

A choice of authors may include but is not limited to:

  • Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768)
  • Thomas Gray (1716-1771)
  • William Cowper (1731-1800)
  • Henry Mackenzie (1745-1831)
  • Robert Ferguson (1750-1774)
  • Frances Burney (1752-1840)
  • George Crabbe (1754-1832)
  • William Godwin (1756-1836)
  • William Blake (1757-1827)
  • William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
  • Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1885)
  • John Clare (1793-1864)
  • John Perceval (1803-1876)

Please send 500-word titled abstracts, with a brief (no more than 200 words) author biography, by December 1st, 2011, to the editors Ilaria Natali and Annalisa Volpone (editorsrm@gmail.com). Authors whose abstracts are accepted will be expected to produce completed essays (6000-7000 words) by
July 1st, 2012. 

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