CfP: Congress celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Société d’Études Anglo-Américaines des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (SEAA1718) Back

Memory and oblivion in the British Isles and the early Americas

Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris

11th to 13th January 2024

Keynote speakers:

Pr. Alexandra Walsham, Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Pr. John Mullan, UCL


Please see below for a comprehensive description of the event, as well as themes that may considered. Proposals should be sent with a short biobibliography to by 1st of September 2023.


The Society for Anglo-American Studies of the 17th and 18th centuries will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 2024. Founded in 1974 by Jean Dulck, Robert Ellrodt, Jean Béranger and Pierre Arnaud, the SEAA XVII-XVIII was born of a reflection on remembrance and oblivion, two cerebral functions which may seem antagonistic, but which have the same positive objective goal: to manage the sum of knowledge available as well as possible in order to give meaning to any human action.  

The primary role of the SEAA XVII-XVIII is indeed to affirm the importance of the 17th and 18th centuries, to explore the links between the past and the present, and to encourage a work of recollection that allows us to reappropriate the language, institutions, habits, customs, intellectual and artistic productions, including those that have been forgotten in British and American history.

Investigating all these fields does not only consist in examining the gaps in scientific research. The aim of this inquiry is also to highlight the creative roles of memory and oblivion (either defined as intentional overlooking or carelessness) over a long period ranging from the Renaissance to the dawn of the 19th century – which is the originality of the SEAA XVII-XVIII. The conferences and journal issues produced by members of the Society highlight the legacy of Antiquity for Elizabethan, Jacobean and Hanoverian authors; they trace the literary filiations and echoes of the Baroque in the Rococo, the importance of Elizabethan theatre (Shakespeare in particular) in the emergence of a national consciousness. They show how the memory of political and religious confrontations, and of scientific discoveries, alongside the oblivion of persecutions, could lead to forgiveness and pardon, to revolutions, to reforms, and thus to the evolution of institutions, artistic currents, mentalities, ways of life, and the economy.

Finally, they interrogate the reasons why certain groups have been neglected – on account of sexual, gender and colour prejudices -, which in turn dictates a predominantly male, white and hetero-centric canon.

Following these fifty years of memorial work, the theme of “memory and oblivion” in the Anglo-American world from the Renaissance to the dawn of the 19th century is therefore an obvious choice to pay homage to and to celebrate our society.      

The field of studies on material remembrance and oblivion is particularly vast and fertile. If a simple definition of memory as “the ability to recognise past experience” immediately invites reflection on history and the way it is celebrated or neglected, it also suggests, through the notions of experience and ability, a profound link with the fields of consciousness and medicine. This is for instance the case when the ability to remember is lost and when forgetfulness and memory go awry, as when one suffers of amnesia and/or hypermnesia. It also highlights some intimate connection between memory, emotions and their expression. Recollecting facts and perceptions becomes remembrance, which in turn involves a game of reconstruction and selection. Remembering and forgetting are thus intimately linked to the field of aesthetics, as well as to that of social life and individual happiness.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of themes that may be explored:

* The physiological working of memorising and forgetting :

– What are memory and oblivion in the early modern period and in the Enlightenment?

– The mechanisms of memory and forgetting

– collective memory and individual memory

– forgetfulness: threat, vulnerability, loss, strength

– traumatic memory and repression

– memory and social disregard       

– memory, oblivion and geography

– memory, oblivion and prejudice

– dysregulated memory: amnesia and hypermnesia

– memory gaps

– forgetting, memory and sleep

* The social, political and religious functions of memory and forgetting

– memory, oblivion, stability and tradition

– conservatism and order

– memory and disorder

– selective memory   

– memory communities

* Memorial Strategies

-commemorations and rituals: festivals, meals, mementoes, material remembrances

–  Places of memory and forgetting:

– architecture and remembrance, funerary monuments and mausoleums.       

–  material memory: conservation of objects, forgotten or destroyed objects:

– memory and orality: words fly away, writings remain?

–  memory and writing: books

– ars memoriae

– destroying in order to forget

– memory, forgetting and the law: Acts of oblivion

 * Arts and the politics of memory and oblivion

– memory, forgetting, and national consciousness: the construction of a sense of community (memory and social classes)

– memory, oblivion, and artistic creation: drama, painting, sculpture, music, poetry, gardening.

– theories of memory and the imagination

– memory genres: memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, diaries, historical novels, chronicles, in memoriam and other inscriptions, quotation

– popular culture and revivals (bardic, gothic)

– art collections, cabinets of curiosity, Material Culture

– selective memory

– gendering memory

– historical and historiographical forgetting

* The function of history:

– history of memory, history of amnesia: a social history of memory and oblivion?

– The history of amnesia

– the forgotten of history

– the abuses of memory

* The joys of memory and forgetting :     

– The joy of memory and forgetting: happy forgetting: Regenerative and saving forgetting

– forgetting and forgiveness: reconciliation with the past

-> comedy, memory and forgetting

Scientific committee:

Pierre Degott, Université de Lorraine

Gillian Dow, University of Southampton

Claire Gheeraert-Graffeuille, Université de Rouen

Thomas Keymer, University of Toronto

Rory Loughnane, University of Kent

Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, Université Paris 8


Organising team:


Pr. Isabelle Bour, Université Sorbonne  Nouvelle

Associate Pr. Claire Boulard-Jouslin, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle

Associate Pr. Aurélie Griffin-Lentsch, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle

Pr. Pierre Lurbe, Sorbonne université

Pr. Florence March, Université Paul Valéry -Montpellier 3

Pr. Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle