Two weeks ago I was in Atlanta for the annual meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. I presented a paper on the first day of the conference and chaired a session that I had put together on the last day. On the whole, I think it was a very good conference, professionally much better than GEMCS in February (though GEMCS was more fun).
My paper, which was entitled “Turks and the Exclusion Crisis: Revising Representation, Partisanship, and Political Culture in Aphra Behn’s The False Count,” analyzed Behn’s depictions of “Turks” in her 1681 comedy. (They’re not actually Turks; they’re Spanish men in disguise.) I think it went pretty well. In general, the most useful part of going to a conference is just that it forces you to write the paper, to get your thoughts down. I like it well enough to spend some more time on it and see if it goes anywhere. I received some very positive response from people who heard the paper. For a day or two, I kept running into people who had been in the audience and who continued to say good things about it. So that was nice.
I thought the most interesting paper on the panel (besides mine, of course) was Chris Gabbard’s “‘The wit may be somewhat trimmed’: Mental Disability in Thomas Willis’s The Soul of Brutes.” This paper demonstrated that at least one writer, Willis, offered an alternative vision of people with mental disabilities than that posed by Locke in the late seventeenth century. It was a fascinating paper and subject.
I heard a few other good papers. (I went to about 6 or 7 panels total over the course of the conference, which I’m pretty sure is a record for me. Usually, I just go sightseeing and drink too much.) I enjoyed Patricia Chapman’s “Laureate and Whore Debate Dramatic Theory: Shadwell, Behn, and the Poet’s Purpose.” Chapman compared these two playwrights’ theories of drama to (kind of) show that Behn’s was better (at least that’s what I got out of it, though I am admittedly reducing her argument to something she didn’t really intend).