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Call for papers for the conference “The Shape of News and Public Opinion in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Europe and America” – A conference for early-career scholars


Université de haute alsace, mulhouse (france) – 24-25 september 2020


Our age, in which news travels the world in a split second and fake news has become all too common, has much to learn from the study of the writing and dissemination of news in the early modern era. The modes of news transmission underwent significant change in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In addition to being passed on orally or in manuscript, news rolled off the printing press in increasingly diverse forms.This conference, intended for early-career scholars, will explore the news revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, mostly in France, the British Isles and colonial America, but papers on other geographical areas in Europe are welcome, particularly if they seek to map out news networks on the European continent.Various sources may be looked at, such as newspapers, correspondence, placards and bills, broadsides, pamphlets, art reviews and fiction – when it deals with news and news processing.

The following two themes will be given special treatment:• Forms of journalism: what did informing people mean in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe and America? Did it mean communicating news, taking part in controversial debates, arousing interest through provocation or emotion, commodifying news, passing judgments and/or creating literary objects? This may be studied with reference to the media used (types of texts, content?), the target audience (what authors for what sort of readers?), as well as spatiality (the geography of news, the metropolis vs. peripheral areas, international news networks and cultural transfers, translations).• The formation of a public sphere: papers may explore the dynamics underpinning relationships between purveyors of news and readers. They may also study the shaping of public opinion as well as discuss the very notion of public opinion with reference to the political and economic features of France, Britain and America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Papers may address – but are by no means limited to – the following topics:

  • The circulation of news and news networks in a specific geographical area (primarily the British Isles, France and colonial America) and between various geographical areas (through translation for example): e.g. the translation and recycling of English newspapers in eighteenth-century France; the circulation of news between England and its American colonies.
  • Material aspects of news writing and of the circulation of news (for example, technical, logistic, economic or legal aspects): e.g. Benjamin Franklin and the free post in colonial America.
  • Readership: what social groups were targeted? What textual strategies were used?
  • News, rumour and “fake news” as used for propagandistic purposes.
  • The circulation of news and the emergence and development of political news in times of crisis: e.g. the British Civil Wars, the American Revolutionary War or the French Revolution
  • News and censorship: modes of censorship and their impact; the debates over censorship: e.g. Milton’s vindication of a free press in Areopagitica.
  • Champions and critics of the press and/or journalists: e.g. the debate between Fréron (the founder of L’Année littéraire) and the French philosophes.
  • The press and art reviews: e.g. the reviews of art events in Le Mercure; Diderot’s reviews of the Salons in Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique.
  • Fiction writers who were also news writers (Defoe, Marivaux, etc.); literature and the press; the representation of the press in fiction; the use of fiction in news writing.
  • The press and gender: female journalists, female readers, etc.

A selection of papers will be considered for publication.


Paper proposals (approximately 250 words in English or in French + a short bio) should be submitted to the organisers by 30 April 2020. The programme committee will send notifications of its selection no later than 15 June 2020.

Organising committee :

  • Laurent CURELLY, Professor of English,
  • Christine HAMMANN, Senior Lecturer in French Literature,
  • Véronique LOCHERT, Senior Lecturer in French Literature, vé

Sponsors :

  • Institut de Recherche en Langues et Littératures Européennes (ILLE, EA 4363, Université de Haute Alsace -Mulhouse) ;
  • Institut Universitaire de France ;
  • Société d’Étude du XVIIe siècle
  • Société d’Études Anglo-Américaines des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (SEAA XVII-XVIII) ;
  • Société Française d’Études du Dix-Huitième Siècle (SFEDS).

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