Thursday, 15 May
Daniel Rosenberg (History, Oregon): Time in Print [presented]
While historical texts have long been subject to critical analysis, the formal and historical problems posed by graphic representations of time, and by timelines in particular have largely been ignored. This is no small matter: graphic representation is among our most important tools for organizing information, and this is as much the case in the domain of history as in any other. Simple as it appears, the form of the timeline is actually quite new. It emerged first only in the eighteenth century. At the beginning of the print age, the graphic representation of history was dominated by the table or matrix. This highly sophisticated format, rooted in the established conventions of manuscript culture expressed the concerns of scholars of the day. The chronological table was capable of absorbing and aligning a potentially limitless array of traditions and sources. In its form, it emphasized the combinatorial structure of knowledge. But in the mid-eighteenth century, the dominance of the tabular format was challenged by the new linear organization of the timeline. The timeline opened different graphic and chronological vistas. On the timeline, as in the historical table, historical information was readily visible, but in this new form, time was made present in a visual metaphor: the line itself, in its simplicity, uniformity, and directionality, came to serve as the principal graphic figure for the representation of historical time. Timelines strongly emphasized the universality of the language they offered and the uniformity and directionality of time; they also provided a graphic terrain on which new arguments about both the form and content of history were to take place over the following centuries.
Elizabeth Elbourne (History, McGill): Orality, knowledge, memory: Debating the status of the Six Nations during the American revolution and after [precirculated]
The production and circulation of colonial knowledge has proved a fruitful theme in recent writings on British imperialism. Drawing inter alia on work in African cultural history, this paper seeks to add to the debate through examining Iroquois attempts to control knowledge about themselves during the American revolution and during its charged aftermath in Upper Canada, side by side with similarly politically charged colonial and British attempts to manipulate visions of the Iroquois. I include oral sources (albeit mostly collected in the late nineteenth century) together with archival materials to reconsider the many forms of "knowledge" in circulation through colonial networks, arguing for the importance of considering myth and rumour as also forms of colonial knowledge, equally subject to political contestation, and in constant competition with more visible written sources. I also argue for the centrality of performance to indigenous imperial "intermediaries" who attempted to control the flow of knowledge at moments of very high stakes and limited room to maneuver.
Commentator: Jonathan Elmer (English, Indiana)
7:30: Festive dinner
Friday, 16 May
Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (History, U of Texas): Demons, Stars, and the Imagination: The Early Modern Body in the Tropics [precirculated]
As Europeans grappled with their experiences in the tropics in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, classical and early modern representations of the body as a permeable vessel, open to all sorts of “invasions,” transformations and exchanges, were discarded. Although this is a thesis familiar to specialists of eighteenth-century ideas of race, the paper is original in that it foregrounds South Atlantic sources, often overlooked by our historiography.
Commentator: Rob Schneider (History, Indiana)
Emma Spary (Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL): The Potato Republic [presented]
A visitor to Paris’s Tuileries garden in the summer of Republican year 2 would have seen rows of potato plants in flower in the former Royal pleasure garden. More than any other single plant, the potato came to symbolise the good Republican: humble, modest, adaptable, economical. Countless projects for using and cultivating potatoes poured into the offices of the agricultural commission during the early years of the Republic. But converting the potato from a rare exotic crop whose food value was dubious, into a mark of good Republicanism was no simple task. It required the alignment of a variety of strategies of public persuasion already deployed during the Old Regime, with specifically Republican arguments about the proper management of agricultural space. Perhaps ironically (or perhaps not?), one outcome of the Republican assimilation of the potato was the creation of the world’s first instant mashed potato factory. This paper will concern the way in which the potato came to embody all these transformations in politics, knowledge and food production, and will end with a look at how and why it lost its privileged status some years later.
Elizabeth Wingrove (Political Science, Michigan): Philoctetes in the Bastille [precirculated]
My paper introduces the story of Antoine Allegre, a political prisoner detained in the Bastille in 1749 for writing treasonous letters detailing a plot to kill the king and his mistress. Among the plentiful archival records in Allegre’s Bastille dossier are letters he exchanged clandestinely with other prisoners, written under the name Philoctète. I read these dialogic artifacts as exemplars of both the criminal communication that nourished the public sphere in ancien régime France and the rhetorical resources through which such illicit address was crafted. Letters written and received by Philoctète—some composed in numerical code on scraps of paper, others written in an expansive hand filling several pages—materialize a communicative practice whose success depended on indirection, intervention, conspiracy, and intimate address. I argue that the rhetorical resources made available by the figure of Philoctetes were central to Allegre’s perilous (and successful) clandestine exchanges, as well as to his relentless appeals to prison and state officials for recognition and relief, which he wrote over the course of his 15-year imprisonment. I read the interlocutory strategies pursued in Allegre’s letters with and against the figure of the wounded Greek warrior as it circulated in early eighteenth-century France: most centrally, in Sophocles’ Philoctetes (made newly available in Pierre Brumoy’s 1730 Le Theatre Des Grecs), but also in Fénelon’s (oft reprinted) 1699 Les Aventures de Télémaque, Voltaire’s OEdipe (to which Voltaire added the character Philoctetes during his own 1718 stay in the Bastille), and other texts. In situating both stories—the classical tale of a political outcast and the epistolary performances of a political prisoner—within the simultaneously censorious and porous system of absolutist state surveillance, my analysis highlights the historically, rhetorically, and materially contingent practices through which state and authorial sovereignty are entwined.
Commentator: Konstantin Dierks (History, Indiana)
Eric Slauter (English, Chicago): Domesticating the Declaration of Independence [presented]
For the last fifty years, and with increasing persuasiveness in books by Pauline Maier and David Armitage, scholars have contended that the self-evident truths of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence so familiar to modern readers did not constitute the core of the text to contemporaries. Early domestic and foreign commentators treated the text as a declaration of national sovereignty rather than a declaration of individual rights; only later did the claims of equality and natural rights in the second paragraph emerge as central to the text. But the now-dominant narrative that emphasizes dynamic change over time unduly homogenizes original meanings and does not account for a particular kind of contemporary reader. Beginning in 1776, black and white antislavery activists and writers seized upon the first part of the second paragraph and insisted it was the central fact of the text. These activists constituted a minority of the text’s readers. Nevertheless, by insisting on the centrality of equality and rights for enslaved African-descended peoples in the early United States, antislavery writers dominated the early domestic citational history of the Declaration’s equality claims. By 1789, when French leaders drew on American documents to craft their own statements about rights and equality, a rhetorical sea change had occurred in the United States. The ubiquitous revolutionary conception that all men are created equal did not find its way into the Constitution of the United States.
The lack of an explicit equality statement in the Constitution, and the failure of the first Congress to domesticate the Declaration by amendment in 1789, may have had as much to do with the rhetoric of antislavery as with the reality of slavery. For, by 1789, antislavery writers had effectively captured the meaning of the second paragraph of the Declaration.
Ed White (English, Florida) and Michael Drexler (English, Bucknell): The Semiotics of the Founders; or, What Was Aaron Burr? [presented]
The project concerns the semiotics of political characterology, and specifically the formation of the phenomenon known today as the "Founding Fathers." We offer an historical analysis of when and how that particular constellation emerged, particularly between the xenophobic crackdown of 1798 and the conspiratorial hysterias of the next decade. We read the semiotics of the founders as a key of sorts to the discourses of slavery and reproduction, and more specifically as a response to the Haitian Revolution. We accordingly focus on the phenomenon called AARON BURR (as distinct from the historical personage), which has particular significance as a displaced fantasy of an alternative American history and, later, as an American Toussaint.
7:30: Workshop banquet dinner
Saturday 17 May
Jesse Molesworth (English, Hopkins/Indiana): The Gambler’s Plot: Modern Culture and the Problem of Randomness [presented]
When Daniel Defoe predicted that the mathematics of probability would soon spread to the masses and, in doing so, disrupt the appeal of gambling, he was dead right on the first prediction and dead wrong on the second. The failure of the second prediction tells us much about modern culture: first, that people gamble not to minimize risk, but rather precisely to create risk; and, second, that such a desire to create risk manifests a deeper desire for fictionality, or what I call the “claim to plot.” Ultimately, the search for plot enables us to explain a number of phenomena, from the inability to recognize randomness to the failure of the statistical worldview to surmount the magical or Providential worldviews.
Sophie Rosenfeld (History, UVA): On Being Heard: A Case for Paying Attention to the Historical Ear [precirculated]
This paper is designed to suggest a new direction for a history of sound and hearing. Most work in this growing field focuses on a presumed actual "heard world" that can be reconstituted through patient excavation. In this paper, I will suggest, through a case study centered on the French Revolution, that 1. we look also at metaphors of audition and auditory reception as we think about the history of hearing and 2. that metaphors allow for the history of the senses to be effectively reconnected with the history of politics. In particular, this paper asks: if the right to free speech has an established history, should not the right to hear and be actively heard have a history too? I argue that out of the political battles of the early years of the French Revolution emerged both a popular model for an intersubjective form of representation in which being heard mattered as much as getting a say and a reactionary recourse to common sense--the end stage of classical accounts of hearing--as a proposed means to sort through the polyphony of early revolutionary culture.
Commentator: Michel Chaouli (Germanic Studies, Indiana University)
12:30 Lunch – IMU
To register for the Workshop, please contact Dr. Barbara Truesdell, Weatherly Hall North, room 122, Bloomington, IN 47405, Telephone 812/855-2856, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information please contact the director of the Center, Dror Wahrman, Dept. of History, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, e-mail email@example.com.