Abstracts for invited talks

Keynote Addresses

Lynn Festa

“Lessons in Liberty: Eliza Fenwick in Britain and Barbados”

May 25, 3:30 – 5:00 PM. Harrison-Small auditorium.

The writer and educator Eliza Fenwick — Gothic novelist, feminist thinker, friend to Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, William Godwin and other 1790s radicals, governess, and author of numerous moral books for children — moved to Bridgetown, Barbados in 1814, where she ultimately became a slaveholder. This paper addresses the shifting understanding of gender, race, nation, property, and ideology that shaped Fenwick’s vision of freedom and unfreedom across these decades. Drawing on archival records of the 1816 rebellion of enslaved people that occurred during Fenwick’s time in Barbados, I examine the lessons in liberty that emerge when the abstract embrace of universal principles comes into electric contact with a society grounded in slavery and the denial of fundamental human rights. 

Elaine Hadley

“Without Men: Utopias of Liberation in a Neoclassical World”

May 26, 4:30 – 6:00 PM. Warner Hall 209.

If one were, for a moment, to label neoclassical economic theory as it emerges in the mid-nineteenth century “a white male-centric utopia,” is it then possible to detect alternative non-male utopias in British literary moments, where varieties of non-male identifying subjects enact or elicit momentary but incisive critiques of the dominant fantasy of the market to live a freer life? In this wide-ranging talk, we will seek interrogations of the growth concept, of free labor, of the unpaid work of the private sphere, and of the imperative to reproduce in narratives bereft of men. In these moments, feminist economics, the zero or non-growth movement, and direct democracy of the commons are shown to have pre-histories. None of these sites were then or are now, on their own, transformative or imitable, but they might inspire us to mobilize for freer social forms within our academy, itself increasingly structured by neoclassical logics.

Ronjaunee Chatterjee

“The Thought of the Line: the Diagrammatic in Eliot, Hardy, and Du Bois”

May 27, 3:30 – 5:00 PM. Warner Hall 209.

This talk begins with George Eliot’s well-known letter to Fredric Harrison in which she writes that aesthetic teaching must not lapse “from the picture to the diagram.” I argue to the contrary — following remarks from many scholars of Eliot — that her fiction preserves an intense thinking of “the diagrammatic”: the term Gilles Deleuze uses to describe the asignifying arrangements of line and colour in the paintings of Francis Bacon, arrangements that deconstruct an existing visual field in order to generate the new. 

I follow the diagrammatic through Eliot into Hardy’s fiction and W.E.B. Du Bois’ Infographs, arguing that paying attention to the “thought of the line” in their work gives us new pathways to thinking gender, race, and ultimately freedom in the long afterlife of the nineteenth century. 

Plenary Roundtable:
“Liberating British Women Writers”

May 27, 10:45 AM – 12:00 PM. Warner Hall 209.

  • Linda K. Hughes, “Taking Transnational Liberties:  Jessie Fothergill in European and Transatlantic Contexts”
  • Mary Ellis Gibson, “Emma Roberts and H. L. V. Derozio Collaborate in Calcutta: Whose Liberty?”
  • Kirstyn Leuner, “Giving it Away: From Private Print Library to Public Digital Humanities, The Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing
  • Jason Rudy, “Misreading Colonial Gender and Genre”

See here for speaker bios.