Study day "The cycles of novelty – recycling in eighteenth-century England"
Université Paris Diderot
Friday, 3rd April 2009
Institut Charles V, 10 rue Charles V, 75004 Paris
Deadline for submission: January 30th 2009
A worn-out concept, a broken object, a hackneyed expression, a threadbare fabric, or text; waste materials of the mind and the world – such are the unlikely sources of our reflection on eighteenth-century England. We wish to study how eighteenth-century writers, philosophers, musicians, scientists, painters and craftsmen transmuted a faded past into fresh novelty by a circular and paradoxical process – what is known today as "recycling."
Just as a palimpsest combines destruction and creation, practices and representations of recycling necessarily bring together old and new, iconoclasm and reinvention. Recycling in its broadest sense includes the salvaging, subversion and recreation of ideas, texts, objects and materials and as such may be researched by looking at equivalent ideas in literature, history, or cultural history: quotation, plagiarism, copying, piracy, counterfeit, parody, pastiche, subversion, revision, amendment, palimpsest for literature; reaction, revival, circulation, mutation, appropriation, conversion for history; the processes of consumption, wear and tear, scavenging, refurbishment, repair, salvage, recovery, restoration, alteration, renovation and (re)invention as far as material culture is concerned.
If the process of creating novelty is circular, is it as stable and predictable as a chemical reaction? Is nothing really lost and nothing created? Or does the process of recycling necessarily imply that something is lost and consumed either materially or culturally?
Recycling offers a wide trans-disciplinary perspective on the eighteenth century, allowing forays into sociology, cultural history, literature, philosophy, the history of ideas, objects and techniques. The market economy of second-hand objects is as relevant as the impact of recycling on social groups (highlighting the peculiar plight of the culturally central and yet socially marginal figures of pawnbrokers, scavengers and scrap-dealers). The question of renewing, re-inventing or lengthening the life cycles of objects can further be applied to ideas and cultural artefacts, allowing us to consider in a new light literary or philosophical debates, such as the controversy opposing Ancients and Moderns, or the Lockean notion of the soul and its possible reincarnations.
You are invited to submit your proposals to the workshop which will take place on Friday, 3rd April 2009. A second meeting is expected to take place as a two-day conference in 2010, to extend the boundaries of our research, possibly including other countries and centuries. Please send your proposals (max 300 words) to the organisers by 30th January 2009, at the following addresses:
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