Play in the Eighteenth Century; the Eighteenth Century in Play
Our subject for 2012 is “Play.” From the aesthetics of Schiller to the card tables of socialites; from Pascal’s wager to Emile’s childhood (“which is or ought to be only games and frolicsome play”)—the long eighteenth century was a century of play. Dismayed at all this non-utilitarian behavior, Jeremy Bentham coined the phrase “deep play” to describe entirely irrational gambling, the making of bets that could reduce players “to indigence” in an instant.
All events, except meals, will take place in the Distinguished Alumni Room, Indiana Memorial Union
If you plan to participate in the Workshop you must register for it via the University's Conference Registration Website ($45 for faculty; $25 for students—this charge helps cover the cost of producing the reader and providing refreshments). It would be helpful if you would register earlier rather than later, as this helps us to produce the correct number of readers. Please note that payments are non-refundable and must be made electronically; no cash or check payments can be accepted.
Wednesday 9 May
Welcome by Rebecca Spang (Acting Director, Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Indiana University)
Kathryn Gleadle (History, Oxford) “We invented a new game”: British children’s responses to the French Revolution
This paper will explore play as a medium for tracing the responses of British children to the French Revolution. Drawing upon letters, diaries and autobiographies it will consider the ways in which children processed their understanding of the revolution and the subsequent war through fantasy, mimesis, and imagination. Through the appropriation of fiction, family discussions, and community loyalist involvement children frequently constructed a distinctive juvenile culture which was both steeped within, yet also parallel to the worlds of the adults around them. Juvenile behaviour reaffirmed contemporary perception of the enormity of the crisis facing Britain and was often read as symptomatic of the widespread effects of the revolution and war upon the British nation.
Daniel O'Quinn (English and Theatre Studies, Guelph) In the Face of Difference: Molineaux, Crib, and the Violence of the Fancy
Unlike many of its competitors, the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser saw the public enthusiasm for boxing--or the “Fancy”--and in particular the overwhelming interest in the fights between the coal merchant Thomas Crib and the “Baltimore black” Thomas Molineaux in 1810 and 1811, as an alarming sign of the “frivolity” of the nation. Complaining that Britons were more versed in the staged bouts between Crib and Molineaux outside Stratham than in Wellington’s struggles against Marmont on the continent, the editors correctly identified a failure in the public’s comprehension of the scale of the respective conflicts, but themselves failed to understand that the “hammering” doled out in the ring was laden with historical significance beyond the conventional notions of geopolitics. It is my contention that something crucial was going on and that a thorough examination of the fights as moments of social and cultural performance reveals important historical and methodological questions for the study of race and decolonization in the eighteenth century.
Commentator: Lara Kriegel (History and English, Indiana University)
Johan Huizinga (History, University of Leiden), Homo Ludens (selections) and Friedrich Schiller (History and Philosophy, University of Jena), The Aesthetic Education of Man (letters 13-15, 27)
Commentator: Michel Chaouli (Germanic Studies and Comparative Literature, Indiana)
7:30 Festive Dinner at the Schneider residence
(1130 E. First St., 323-8503)
Thursday 10 May
Nina L. Dubin (Art History, University of Illinois, Chicago) Art, Play, and the Culture of Confiance in Eighteenth-Century France
This paper attends to the vogue in eighteenth-century France for epistolary pictures—works featuring the reading, writing, and receiving of letters. Wedding the theme of a woman’s inconstancy with the problem of paper’s exchangeability, such paintings arguably reflected on the progress of what was described at the time as “the papered century.” The phrase evokes the financial chaos unleashed around 1720 by the South Sea bubble and the Mississippi bubble, both of which involved the use of state-sponsored notes by a mass public. In the same way that prints satirizing the events of 1720 employed an epistolary iconography, so too was eighteenth-century epistolary painting—meditating on the growing power of paper as a site of imaginative investment—mediated by the legacy of 1720.
Anne Beate Maurseth (French and Comparative literature, University of California, Santa Barbara) ”Une fois piquée au jeu… ” The motif of game and the function of chance in Laclos’ Les Liaisons dangereuses
The different occurrences of the game-motif in Laclos’ novel Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782) create a pattern that make it more than an accessory motif found at the margins of the epistolary narrative. It is possible to argue that the game-motif becomes crucial not only for the fictive universe (the thematic content of the work), but also for the very form of the fiction. This aspect becomes even more decisive if we take into consideration how the game-motif generates a chance-function. The culture of gambling and libertine culture both reside upon an ambivalent and ambiguous attitude towards chance; both involve calculation and risk taking, pursuing pleasure in repetitive patterns of seductions. In my paper I propose to examine the game-motif as it occurs in Les Liaisons dangereuses in relation to the function of chance and in opposition to the desire of control. Whereas it has been asserted that the Enlightenment-novel is an ally of probability theory in attempts to eradicate chance, this paper argues that Laclos’ novel maintains the fascination with chance at the same time that it puts knowledge from the theory of probability into practice.
Commentator: Rebecca L. Spang (History, Indiana)
11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Dwight Codr (English, University of Connecticut)
“That Cursed Itch of Play”: Finance and Gambling in Henry Fielding
While Fielding’s plots frequently unfold against the background of a gaming world, scenes of gambling are more often referred to than narrated. When Fielding does bring the practice of gambling “on stage,” it is notable that actual gambling rarely takes place; that is, everyone instead seems to be cheating. This paper explores the erasures and negations of gambling in certain works by Fielding, and brings that exploration into dialogue with larger cultural anxieties about risk and speculation, particularly those surrounding the South Sea Bubble and the National Lottery. Whereas Fielding is generally read as having been critical of financial modernity, and while that modernity is typically theorized (and criticized) as valorizing risky practices, this paper argues that the stance Fielding assumes towards gambling actually reveals a deeper level of sympathy with risky behavior. Fielding’s works – often against their own overt purpose – produce the conditions necessary for a kind of ethical risk, and thus play an important role in shaping British financial subjectivity.
Miranda Yaggi (English, Indiana University) Capturing the Queen: Jane Austen’s Pedagogy of Playful Reading
Speaking to the eighteenth-century’s embrace of pedagogical play, Walter Scott bitterly complains in the opening pages of Waverley (1814) that “the history of England is now reduced to a game at cards,” and he cautions that those “who learn history by the cards” will “prefer the means to the end.” Jane Austen certainly did. In her juvenile piece The History of England (1791), playful “means” gleefully thwart disciplinary “ends.” Borrowing strategies of play regularly employed in the drawing room and the school room, Austen displaces the traditional historiographic model of linear, sequenced events with an anachronistic gaming logic. Conflating real queens like Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots with chess pieces and cards, Austen unleashes history from chronology and creates a topsy-turvy game requiring astute reader participation. By empowering female readers and by resisting the model that has privileged men’s civic agency, Austen’s game deconstructs historiography’s complex machinations for creating the modern (male) national subject.
Commentator: Fritz Breithaupt (Germanic Studies, Indiana University)
12:30-2:00 Lunch (on your own)
2:00-3:30 Debate: This house resolves that gambling is a fundamentally rational activity
Jesse Molesworth (English, Indiana) and Richard Nash (English, Indiana)
4:00-5:30 Play and Games, Puzzles and Amusements in the Collections of the Lilly Library
7:30 Banquet at Finch's Brasserie, 514 E. Kirkwood (upstairs)
Friday, 11 May
Cornelis van der Haven (Literature, University of Ghent), Eighteenth-century Theatrical War Plays and the Experience of War
In my paper I will discuss "war plays" as they were presented on the 18th-century stage in relation to the question how the identification of the audience with ‘the military’ was realized or prohibited by means of theatricality. Masquerade-like spectacles like the great military camps, invited the public to imagine itself being a soldier, adopting military appearance and wearing the same uniforms as the soldiers during their maneuvers. Also the military spectacles performed on stage in the first half of the century until the late 1770s provided a "realistic" experience of war spectacle. On the other hand it was also by way of theatrical performances that the audience was enabled to critically reflect on this masquerade-like adoption of a "military self" and to envision imitated military behavior as artificial, childish and "unreal." How then did war acts as a commercial spectacular theatrical event relate to the aim to get a better insight, not only in the play of war but also in the internal perspective of the solider, his feelings, fears and doubts? Which tensions between and within theatre texts occur where war acts are presented as playful experiences?
Jonathan Elmer (English, Indiana) Mirrors, Thresholds, Fun: Reflections on Play, War, and Historicity
In occupied Philadelphia in May of 1778, an extravagant entertainment was staged that was dubbed the “Mischianza” (from the Italian for medley, or mixture) by Captain John André, the motive force behind it. This elaborately choreographed party featured a regatta, a jousting tournament played for the benefit of loyalist ladies dressed in Turkish habits, and a sumptuous feast served by slaves wearing silver collars around their necks. The sheer expenditure and embrace of artifice drew considerable (critical) commentary at the time, and the event to this day has a special attraction for historians and others. This paper will use the “Mischianza” as a springboard for a series of reflections about the changing dynamic between warfare and behaviors we can characterize as playful. I will argue that the “Mischianza” exemplifies an essential feature of the Revolution by making nothing happen. In its marshalling of theatrical and para-theatrical forms, and in its adjustment of the relation between play and war, the Mischianza indexes how a convergence of play and war serves cultural homoestasis.
Commentator: Hall Bjornstad (French and Italian, Indiana)
The workshop is made possible thanks to the generous support of the College of Arts and Sciences. We would like to extend special thanks to Dean Larry Singell for his continuing support, and to Barbara Truesdell for her invaluable help.