Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies /
Société canadienne d'études du dix-huitième siècle


Plenary Speakers / Conférenciers pléniers

Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Plenary Lecture
Saturday October 20th, 2:00-3:00 pm
Strathcona Room, Westin Hotel, Downtown Edmonton

“How Enlightenment Orientalism Became World Literature;
Or, Have you Ever Heard of Hayy ibn Yaqzan?”

This talk challenges the presentist metanarrative around world literature by dating its appearance back to the bifurcation of the religious and secular traditions as caused by the philology of Orientalism since the Renaissance. European nationalist literary imagination emerges as a vernacularization against that of high Latin, and also against the larger social origins and imaginaries that involved the East. I will consider Abu Bakr ibn-Tufayl’s 12th-century Arabic text, Hayy ibn-Yaqzan (meaning Alive, son of Aware). Eighteenth-century scholars would know Hayy as an Andalusian precursor to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, but such a teleological literary historical footnote suppresses the subterranean influence of that remarkable text. There had already been several English translations and redactions after the Pococke Latin rendition, one by the Quaker George Keith, and another by the Anglo-Catholic George Ashwell. Simon Ockley’s significant translation was directly from the Arabic, republished and plagiarized all the way through to the 1760s. If we renounce the easy conclusions of teleological readings that always culminate in Western dominance, we find that there was considerable vulnerability and open-endedness to the manner in which the world was constructed, not necessarily out of binary oppositions, but through multiplicities of differences, knowledges, epistemologies, and orientations.

Srinivas Aravamudan is a Professor of English at Duke University where he has just completed a term as Dean of Humanities. He specializes in eighteenth-century British and French literature and in postcolonial literature and theory. He is the author of essays in Diacritics, ELH, Social Text, Novel, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Anthropological Forum, South Atlantic Quarterly and other venues. His study, Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804 (Duke University Press 1999) won the outstanding first book prize of the Modern Language Association in 2000. Guru English: South Asian Religion in A Cosmopolitan Language was published by Princeton University Press in 2006, and republished by Penguin India in 2007. His new book-length study, on the eighteenth-century French and British oriental tale, Enlightenment Orientalism: Resisting the Rise of the Novel (University of Chicago Press 2012) will be the topic of a roundtable discussion at the conference.

Canadian Society for Eighteenth Century Studies Plenary Lecture
Friday October 18th, 3:30-4:30, Humanities L-3

Please note: the talk will be delivered in French.

Against the Global Turn: The Example of the French Revolution

Since the end of the Cold War, the perception that we are living in an age of radically-accelerated globalization has, a little paradoxically, led humanists to explore globalization in earlier centuries. Over the past two decades, considerable work in the humanities has involved revealing the density and importance of pre-modern global networks of communication, transportation and power, and their presence in pre-modern European culture. And over time, the perception has arisen that we are experiencing a “global turn” in scholarship, akin to the earlier “linguistic turn.” My paper will argue that we should strongly resist this notion. The very idea of a “turn” has often-unacknowledged universalist, even imperial connotations that do not suit this particular shift in scholarship. Assuming the need to examine all or most sources through a “global” lens tends to collapse distinctions between actors and situations deeply affected by global networks, and ones that were not. It can easily lead to misreadings – especially the assumption that the use of words such as “empire” or “slave” necessarily contains a reference to colonial and/or imperial practices. And in keeping with these misreading, it tends to characterize many types of power and violence as all following an imperial/colonial template.

Contre le « tournant global »

Depuis la fin de la Guerre Froide, la perception que nous vivons une mondialisation radicalement accélérée a mené les sciences humaines, de façon quelque peu paradoxale, à l’analyse des mondialisations des siècles antérieurs. Depuis une vingtaine d’années, une quantité considérable des recherches dans les sciences humaines porte sur la densité et sur l’importance des résaux globaux pré-modernes de communication, de transport, et de pouvoir. Ainsi plusieurs chercheurs concluent-ils que nous vivons un « tournant global » dans les sciences humaines qui est analogue au fameux « tournant linguistique ». Dans ma communication, je plaiderai contre cet argument. L’idée même d’un « tournant » possède sans l’avouer des implications universelles, voire impériales, qui ne conviennent pas à l’évolution scientifique actuelle. La présomption qu’il faut examiner toutes les sources sous l’optique « globale » a tendance à éliminer les distinctions entre les acteurs et les situations qui sont vraiment imbriqués dans les résaux globaux, et ceux qui ne le sont pas. Elle peut mener trop facilement à des malentendus – surtout quand les chercheurs prennent pour acquis que les mots comme « empire » ou « esclave » reflètent nécessairement des pratiques coloniales ou impériales. De la même façon, elle peut suggérer que plusieurs types de pouvoir et de violence ont tous une source commune dans le « modèle » impérial.

David A. Bell is the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the department of History at Princeton University. From 1996 to 2010 he taught at Johns Hopkins, where he held the Andrew W. Mellon chair in the Humanities, and served as Dean of Faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences. His particular interest is the political culture of the Old Regime and the French Revolution and he has published multiple books in the area : Lawyers and Citizens (Oxford University Press, 1994); The Cult of the Nation in France (Harvard University Press, 2001); and The First Total War (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). In addition to his research and teaching, Bell writes frequently for a range of general-interest publications, particularly The New Republic, where he is a contributing editor. He is committed to the proposition that serious history can be readable, enjoyable, and accessible to an interested general public.

Detail of The Qianlong Emperor's Southern Inspection Tour (1770), Xu Yang. Mactaggart Art Collection. Reproduced with the permission of Museums and Collections Services, University of Alberta.