XVII David Nichol Smith Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Studies

‘Dark Enlightenments’
13 November – 11 December 2020
Adelaide, Australia

Associate Professor Kate Fullager (ACU)
Professor Sasha Handley (Manchester)
Associate Professor Eugenia Zuroski (McMaster)
Dr Freya Gowrley (Derby)

The Australian and New Zealand Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ANZSECS), Flinders University, and the University of Adelaide invite you to the 17th David Nichol Smith (DNS) Seminar for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Inaugurated in 1966 by the National Library of Australia, the DNS is the leading forum for eighteenth-century studies in Australasia. It brings together scholars from across the region and internationally who work on the long eighteenth century in a range of disciplines, including history, literature, art and architectural history, philosophy, theology, the history of science, musicology, anthropology, archaeology and studies of material culture.

The theme for this conference is ‘Dark Enlightenments.’ We have asked delegates to consider the dark, shadowy aspects of enlightenment processes of the eighteenth century, including (for example):

  • the dark side of the public sphere, such as expressed in satire and polemic
  • Empire and enlightenment
  • critiques of empathy and humanitarianism
  • negative emotions
  • crime, conflict and violence
  • the use and abuse of the past
  • progress and ethics (political, social, scientific)
  • war
  • romanticising death
  • the Gothic
  • the numinous eighteenth century
  • the transformation of night-time
  • developments in notions of privacy, secrecy and the hidden self
  • the “shady” moralities of libertinism
  • the aesthetics of darkness and light

This, we believe, is a particularly timely theme, partly owing to the nationalist turn in global politics, and the recent opposition in Australia to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. It offers both sides of the political spectrum the opportunity to interrogate and fully understand the benefits, costs, and legacies of eighteenth-century “progress.” It is also a theme designed to emphasise the Enlightenment in its moral complexity and richness, and the wide range of domains (from the everyday to philosophical thought) that contributed to its production.

Image: Joseph Wright of Derby, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768). National Gallery, London.