Report from the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (CSECS) Conference

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (CSECS), which was held from October 14–17 in Vancouver, BC. The theme of the conferences was “States of the Book.”

Papers covered topics related to the long eighteenth century, and although most related to literature, there were also papers about theatre, history, and of course, the history of the book. It was a bilingual conference, with panels, individual papers, and keynote presentations in French and English (although I’m afraid I went to hear English papers only, since my French is not that strong).

I saw a number of papers of interest to Romanticists, and there were many more. Lauren Gillingham’s paper “Between Grub Street and Fleet Street: Henry Colburn, Fiction Publisher,” for example, discussed the importance of Colburn’s marketing strategies to the development of the novel. Kandice Sharren presented “I’ve Got Some White Space, Baby (Don’t Write Your Name): Title Pages, Marketing, and the Romantic-era Novel,” which looked closely at how title pages convey literary value. Other excellent papers related to Romanticism included Erin Nerstad’s “Absorbing Kindred Minds: Coleridge’s Unitarian Politics and Poetics,” which looked at Coleridge’s conversation poems, and Suzanne Taylor’s “Godwin and the Character of Pure Love,” which investigated why Godwin used Fenelon in his famous moral dilemma. I heard excellent reviews of Katherine Binhammer’s “Cecilia and the Punishments of Narrative” and Alison Conway’s “Repugnant Mansfield Park,” although I was not able to attend their panel. Indeed, one of my only complaints about this conference was that there were too many excellent panels, and not enough time to hear them all!

In addition to the high quality of the papers, I was impressed with the collegial atmosphere of the conference. Everyone was friendly and open to discussion, and there was a strong feeling of community—everywhere I turned, I saw colleagues and friends chatting and catching up. The organization is very grad-student friendly as well, and hosted a grad student pub night during the conference.

One of the highlights of the conference for me—and of special interest to Romanticists—was Janine Barchas’ keynote talk (Roger Chartier’s was apparently wonderful too). Barchas spoke about “The Lost Books of Austen Studies,” a talk, she explained, that began as an exploration of ephemeral editions of Austen’s novels. I learned, for instance, that editions of her novels were produced for soldiers at the front during the First World War. The subject of her talk turned, though, as she described her discovery of a copy of a critical edition of Pride and Prejudice edited by Katherine Metcalfe and her archival research into the history of the foundational critical edition of Austen’s novels edited by RW Chapman, Metcalfe’s husband.

CSECS’s 2016 conference’s theme is “Secret/s & Surveillance,” and it will be held in Kingston, Ontario, from October 26–30, co-hosted by Queen’s University and the Royal Military College of Canada. It’s definitely worth going to: CSECS has an affordable membership fee and offers travel funding to grad students. For more information about the conference, visit http://www.csecs.ca.