CFP: Fact and Fiction in Eighteenth-Century Britain Back

8-9 December 2017, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris

It seems timely to look afresh at the relationship between fact and fiction, when such terms as ‘post-truth’ and ‘storytelling’ are frequently heard in the media and when genres called ‘docu-dramas’ and ‘reality shows’ thrive. Michael McKeon and, more recently, among others, Catherine Gallagher have maintained that fiction in eighteenth-century Britain was not a stable category but, rather, one with a history. Conceptions of fictionality shifted, correlatively altering notions of factuality. Writers of novels were aware that their texts created non-actual possible worlds, and self-consciously attended to the probability or improbability of their narratives. Historians resorted to counter-factuals in the mode of conjectural history. Methods for the study of nature, governed by rules of hypothesis or by new statistical techniques, raised questions about possible reliance on fictions. Similar challenges emerged in, for instance, the consideration of law, of crime, and of punishment.

This conference aims to build on earlier work and to advance discussion of less explored areas/aspects of the theme of fact and fiction, by furthering theoretical discussion (using narratological, cognitive, and other critical approaches) and by considering the fictionality of mainly, or supposedly, non-fictional forms such as periodical essays, works of history, legal documents, history paintings, as well as at novels. Theoretical and practical study of cross-influences will be welcome.

Keynote speakers: John Bender, Stanford University; William B. Warner, University of California Santa Barbara

Historians as well as historians of law, literary scholars and historians of art are invited to submit proposals (150-300 words) for papers which will not exceed 25 minutes, before 10th June 2017, to Isabelle Bour: Isabelle.Bour@sorbonne-nouvelle.fr, Isabelle.Bour@hotmail.com