Kate Fullagar (Australian Catholic University)

Producing Philosophes in Oceania: The Pacific Creation of Enlightenment Thought

There are plenty of things to say about the ‘dark, shadowy aspects of Enlightenment processes’ when it comes to their role in the European incursion into Pacific worlds during the eighteenth century. These include the ways that Indigenous dispossession and disciplinary punishment went hand in hand with ideas about self-determination and individualism. But other scholars (though possibly not enough) have outlined these before me. In this paper, I’d like to focus on the getting of Enlightenment processes in the first place, and reassess how much the Pacific world played a part in forging the methodologies and insights of Enlightenment thinking. Specifically, I’d like to focus on how ordinary European mariners—with no prior education in Enlightenment ideas—found through interactions with the Pacific some of the key habits of collation, comparison, synthesis and self-reflection that their “philosophical betters” typically discovered via texts. What these habits highlighted, of course, were often the grimmest aspects of European expansionist ambition.  My paper surveys the experiences of a small handful of ableseamen (who mostly sailed on Cook’s third expedition), but it aims overall to move forward discussions about the agentic role of the Pacific region and Pacific people in developing so-called Western modernity.

Kate Fullagar is Professor of History at Australian Catholic University. She is the author of The Savage Visit: New World Peoples and Popular Imperial Culture in Britain 1710-1795 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012) and The Warrior, the Voyager, and the Artist: Three Lives in an Age of Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020). She is the editor of The Atlantic World in the Antipodes: Effects and Transformations since the Eighteenth Century (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012) and, with Michael McDonnell, Facing Empire: Indigenous Experiences in a Revolutionary Age (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018). Kate has held visiting fellowships at York, Duke, Yale, and Princeton universities. She is the Lead Chief Investigator on an ARC Linkage Project with the National Portrait Gallery called ‘Facing New Worlds.’

Eugenia Zuroski (McMaster University)

Walpole’s Satyr: The Gothic’s Visceral Quickenings

This talk considers the embodied forms of intelligence mobilized by Horace Walpole’s gothic humour. Many readers have observed that The Castle of Otranto (1764) strikes them as funny rather than frightening; rather than try to resolve this tension, for example through modern theories of camp, I turn to Walpole’s engagement of the figure of the satyr as a frame for understanding the form and function of his “creaturely” disruption of neoclassical orders. Where Enlightenment subjectivity illuminates mental space as a site of reason, Walpole’s gothic reminds us that the darkness is full of its own ways of thinking: ways that are visceral, polysemous, culturally transformative, and affectively captivating. While these qualities of his work have long been recognized as generating the tropes that define the modern tradition of horror, I argue that by reading Otranto back into the context of the satiric kōmos, we better understand the ecstatic quality of Walpole’s vision and the political potential of the “funny feelings” it engenders.

Eugenia Zuroski
 is Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University and Editor of the journal Eighteenth-Century Fiction. Her book A Taste for China: English Subjectivity and the Prehistory of Orientalism was published by Oxford University Press in 2013 and issued in paperback in 2018. She has recently contributed articles to the collection Writing China: Essays on the Amherst Embassy (1816) and Sino-British Cultural RelationsJournal18; and the forthcoming special issue of The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation on “The Novel as Theory.” Her current book project, “A Funny Thing: The Exotic Detail in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” is supported by an Insight Grant from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Sasha Handley (University of Manchester)

A Haunting at the Rectory: Making Sense of Spirits in Eighteenth-Century Households

This paper focuses on one of the most richly documented ghost reports of eighteenth-century England – that of ‘Old Jeffrey’, a malevolent spirit that tormented the inhabitants of a remote rectory in Epworth, Lincolnshire during the winter of 1716-17. Door-latches and window panes rattled, children’s beds were raised into the air, a headless badger scuttled across the floor, the head of the household was physically assaulted by an invisible force whilst at work in his study, and the family’s prayers were disturbed each evening by violent knockings. These encounters left a deep impression on the rectory’s inhabitants and they revealed the fractious family dynamics that shaped their daily lives as parents and children alike were called on to explain why they had fallen victim to the violent predations of Old Jeffrey. My focus in this paper falls on the women whose voices, and complaints of mistreatment at the hands of men, became audible and impactful as the family reflected on these unnatural disturbances. Their accounts of the haunting, I argue, shed light on the informal narrative weapons that some women deployed to protest abuse, mistreatment and marginalisation. The encounter also reveals the numinous meanings of everyday objects and household spaces that rendered spirits both plausible and terrifying to those that encountered them in the intimate settings of home.

Sasha Handley
is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Manchester. Her work focuses on histories of daily life (especially sleep), material culture and supernatural belief. Her books include Sleep in Early Modern England (2016) and Visions of an Unseen World: Ghost Beliefs and Ghost Stories in Eighteenth-Century England (2007). Sasha also co-curated the exhibition ‘Magic, Witches and Devils in the Early Modern World’ with Dr Jenny Spinks in 2016 at the John Rylands Library.

Freya Gowrley (University of Derby)

The Aesthetics of Corpulence: The Visual and Material Cultures of the Fat Body in Britain and its Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century

This paper will explore an overlooked episode in the history of the body by analysing fatness through an unprecedented focus on its manifestations within visual and material culture in Britain and its empire in the long eighteenth century. This was a period in which size took on unprecedented cultural currency: with the corpulent bodies of the nobility lampooned in satirical prints, and famously large people commodified in portraits, prints, and decorative consumable goods. Fatness also emerged as a shared language that shaped interactions between colonized peoples and their British colonizers, as demonstrated in both visual images and printed texts. At the same time, those bodies marked by unusual corpulence were put on public display as spectacular objects, while the clothing that evidenced their former owners’ size, and furniture made or altered to accommodate fat bodies, became desirable items and objects of renown.

Despite this cultural proliferation, to date there has been no sustained account of eighteenth-century corpulence written from an art historical perspective. Although changing ideas of fatness have been sketched in broad and transhistorical terms by cultural historians such as Sander L. Gilman, attention to eighteenth-century fatness has been fragmentary and unduly focused on its pathologisation through medicalised discourse. Following work that firmly establishes the necessity of visual and material approaches to the body, this paper will contend that previous accounts have fundamentally misunderstood the fat body by overlooking the crucial role played by visual and material culture in its manifestation, representation, and materialisation. Offering a corrective to such studies, this paper uses visual depiction and display to understand how corpulence was culturally inscribed during the long eighteenth century, and employs surviving material objects to consider the everyday realities and lived experience of being overweight at this time. In so doing, the paper will demonstrate the vital importance of art historical methodologies to creating a deeper understanding of a condition that is characterised by the co-option of visual space and the perceived undisciplined materiality of the body.

The paper will also ask how an examination of eighteenth-century fatness allows us to better understand current conceptions of obesity. Although 2018 marked the 40th anniversary of Susien Orbach’s feminist manifesto, Fat is a Feminist Issue, negative attitudes towards the fat body and its representations remain prevalent. By placing images of fatness in relation to their long and complex history, the paper will identify visual and material culture as central to the powerful and enduring inheritance of eighteenth-century corpulence.

Dr Freya Gowrley
Freya Gowrley is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the University of Derby’s History department. Her research focuses on the relationship between identity and visual and material culture in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain and its empire, analysing this through a focus on three key sites: the home, the collaged object, and the body. Her monograph, Domestic Space in Britain, c. 1750-1840: Materiality, Sociability & Emotion is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Academic, and she has articles published in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, Journal 18, and Aphra Behn Online and forthcoming in the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies. She has held postdoctoral research fellowships at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, and short-term research fellowships at Yale Centre for British Art, the Winterthur Museum, the Huntington Library, the Harry Ransom Center, the University of St Andrews, and the Library Company of Philadelphia.