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The Culture of Grub Street

The Second Biennial Meeting of the Defoe Society
University of Worcester, UK, 14-16 July 2011

Proposed Panels

Deadline for Paper Proposals: 31 January 2011. Standard length of papers: 20 minutes.

Gender in the Fiction of Manley, Haywood, and Defoe (Laura Stevens)
Papers are invited that examine the treatment of gender in the work of Defoe and/or his two best-known female contemporary fiction authors, Eliza Haywood and Delarivier Manley. Papers need not focus on all three authors, but they should be well positioned for comparative study and discussion. This panel will ask and seek to address some of these questions: What taxonomies of gender tacitly or explicitly inform the depictions of men and women in these narratives? Are certain virtues or vices consistently constructed as male or female across these writers’ works? To what degree, and in what ways, do these authors mark the voices of characters or narrators with gendered features? What similarities mark these authors’ considerations of the dilemmas and opportunities facing women in particular? The goal of this panel will be not only to call attention to some of Defoe’s female contemporaries, but also to consider Defoe’s approach to gendered characterization within a broader framework of other writers’ fiction published in the same place and time.

‘The State of Wit in 1700.’ (John Richetti)
Proposals are invited for papers that investigate the poetry and prose published in response to the literary battle between Sir Richard Blackmore and the Wits. Papers may concern themselves with individual contributors to the debate, including, of course, Defoe, or groups of authors. Possible topics include contemporary concepts of literary merit; Wit, Sense and poetic form; poets and poetasters in 1700; poetic innovation and development.

‘Defoe and Narrative.’ (Nicholas Seager)
Proposals are invited for papers dealing with any aspect of narrative in the works of Daniel Defoe, whether from a historical, formalist, or theoretical perspective - or indeed a combination of these.

‘Representations of the Civil Wars and the Restoration.’ (Andreas Mueller)
This panel will investigate the ways in which the English Civil Wars and the Restoration were represented in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It is anticipated that paper topics will cover a wide range of themes, from fictional accounts of the Restoration court to the appropriation of the civil war experience in political propaganda.

‘Conduct, Discipline, and Punishment in the Work of Defoe and His Contemporaries.’ (Robert Mayer)
In criminal biographies, conduct manuals, novels, and other works, Defoe and his contemporaries used a variety of different forms to reflect upon and shape not only manners and morals but also social and economic practice. The study of such works has become more important in recent years with the ready availability of Defoe’s religious and didactic works. This panel will present new views of the ideological and formal significance of what, in Religious Courtship, Defoe called “this Way of Writing in Cases.” ‘

The Demonic and the Divine: Religion and the Politics of Grub Street.’ (Sharon Alker)
John Richetti has recently commented on the complexity of religion in the work of Defoe. In a comparison of religion in Defoe’s Religious Courtship and the Family Instructor he notes, “[r]eligion in…[ Religious Courtship ] is not so much a matter of intense piety and spiritual soul searching as it is a social issue and psychological problem, part of the institutional arrangements for a successful marriage, and not, as in the Family Instructor , a purely spiritual affair” ( The Life of Daniel Defoe 164). This panel wishes to tease out more of these complex and multifaceted uses of religion, piety, and spirituality in Defoe’s writing, paying particular attention to moments where spiritual interests intersect with or are subsumed by socio-political ones. Papers are invited that grapple with religion in any of Defoe’s works, from his novels to his political writings to his didactic works. We will also consider similar studies of the work of some of Defoe’s contemporaries.

‘Natures as Nurturer and Nemesis: Ecocritical Readings of Defoe and His Contemporaries.’ (Lora Geriguis)
Defoe’s publication of the various pieces known collectively as “The Storm” (1704) set the stage, early in his career, for the significant role nature would play in his imagination. In his novels, nature alternatively functions as nurturer and nemesis to the travelers who traverse the globe. Robinson Crusoe’s relationship to animals on the island both reconciled him to the place and provided some of his greatest moments of fear and dread. I propose a panel that would take up the challenge laid down by Rober Marzec in An Ecological and Postcolonial Study of Literature: From Daniel Defoe to Salman Rushdie (Palgrave Macmillian 2007) to consider the implications of reading Defoe’s works through a deliberately ecological lens.

‘Enduring Grub Street.’ (Sören Hammerschmidt)
This panel seeks submissions that engage with the following topics: 1) the privations and obstacles that writers, readers, and others employed in the printing and bookselling business faced when dealing with Grub Street; and 2) the legacy of Grub Street as a metaphor for those privations. It is the purpose of this panel to bring together studies of eighteenth-century Grub Street as a challenging environment for aspiring authors and seasoned entrepreneurs with inquiries into the conceptual uses that later periods made of Grub Street. What were the market and working conditions associated with eighteenth-century Grub Street? How did readers approach the products of Grub Street, and how did they negotiate or contribute to the conceptualization of “Grub Street” as a synonym for hack writing and cheap print? And what was at stake when later generations recycled the “Grub Street” label to describe contemporary writers or sections of the print industry? How and why did “Grub Street” endure as a concept beyond the specific economic conditions of an eighteenth-century business location? Papers that consider both strands of our enquiry are particularly welcome, as are papers that take a broadly intermedial view of Grub Street’s print productions.

‘Defoe’s London in the Atlantic World.’ (Gabriel Cervantes)
The anonymous ballad of 1676, "The City-Caper: Or, the Whetstone’s Park Privateer" describes an encounter in a London park between a thieving prostitute and her overconfident and somewhat naïve gentleman client. Their tumultuous rendezvous is illustrated—in word and image—by analogy to a sea battle involving a cargo-laden merchantman and pirate pinnace. The multiple hazards of paid-for sex are underscored by reference to the riskiness of trading on Atlantic waters, and the moral is clear: “Hence learn you young gallants that venture to see / The danger of such Pickaroons for to flee, / For vessels rich guilded with proud Silken Sails, / Oft Fire ships do prove & bear death in their tails.” This panel invites papers that examine how in fact, thought, and feeling London was connected to the Atlantic world in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
Papers might consider how discourses arising out of commerce and colonialism became conjoined with representations of London, its people, manners, spaces, characters, and rhythms. London might also serve as an especially rich space for exploring the effects-- literal and figurative--of an increasingly interconnected world that refused neat divisions between the domestic and the foreign. Working in the opposite direction, papers might also consider how ideas of London made their way across the Atlantic and into colonial culture. Defoe’s works are rich with such associations, but papers might also explore contemporary writings that stretch Defovian issues (like crime, family, marriage, trade, manners, emigration, English identity, and religious liberty) between the metropolis and America. Examinations of little-known texts supported by interdisciplinary methodologies are especially encouraged.

‘Un-Locke-ing Defoe and His Contemporaries.’ (Geoffrey Sill)
The title for this panel derives from the first chapter, 'Un-Locke-ing Samuel Richardson', of E. Derek Taylor's Reason and Religion in Clarissa, in which he shows that Richardson's assumed attachment to a Lockean theory of knowledge in his second novel should be re-examined. Taylor believes that Richardson relied at least as much upon the writings of John Norris, whose theology depended less on sense-experience and reason than Locke's. Papers are invited that explore whether or not what Taylor said of Richardson was true of Defoe, too. If Defoe were to be 'un-Locked', then the underlying thesis of Ian Watt's Rise of the Novel - that the novel was the product of 'philosophical realism' - needs to be re-examine as well. Both papers that argued against un-Locke-ing Defoe as well as for it are welcome.

‘Thriving on Crises’ (Stephen Gregg)
The US satirist Jon Stewart has recently begun a war on what he calls the politics of fear, proposing instead an idea of moderation and sanity. We are used to the appetite of the so-called ‘red-top’ or ‘tabloid’ press for conjuring visions of social, moral and economic crises; some might say they are significant agents of those crises. We are just as used to the pose of the aloof and moderate commentator in the broadsheet and liberal press. Strikingly, the way that commentary on recent crises has been perceived bears some suggestive parallels to the language of fear-mongering or rationality flung between so-called ‘dunces’ and ‘Scriblerians’ in regard to the equivalent crises in the early eighteenth century. This panel will investigate this language and the sides taken in the debate; but it will primarily focus on how, and to what extent, authors were self-conscious about their dependence on, involvement in, and even creation of these crises.