Conference | 17–19 April 2024 | University of Exeter
Writing Faith and Place in Early Modern Britain
Call for Papers, deadline – 12 January 2024
This conference will explore literary and religious cultures across the regions of early-modern Britain, the counties and provincial centres, outside of London from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. We are interested in the writing of places, of local communities, and in particular of religious identities. Several key writers of the period are strongly associated with certain localities (e.g. Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney Herbert in Wiltshire, Thomas Browne in Norwich, Robert Herrick in Devon, Lucy Hutchinson in Nottinghamshire, Henry Vaughan in Brecknockshire, John Bunyan in Bedford, William Cowper and John Newton in Olney). A far wider range of lesser-known and sometimes anonymous writers, from a range of social classes, spent writing lives outside of London; their writings imagine their place in local spaces and communities. Faith forms a central theme of much of this work: religion not only motivated the most common and best-preserved records of provincial literary culture, but was also central to shaping community life in the centuries following the Reformation.
Literature of the early-modern localities includes sermons and spiritual autobiographies, but more besides: poetry, pamphlets, journalism, philosophical treatises, manuscript notebooks, and letters. We are interested in how such texts fashion a sense of locality, how they project ideas of community and readership, and how they evoke the shared spaces, networks, histories, and religious values of their neighbourhood. We are also interested in how such texts participate in national controversies at a local level, how they situate their community within the period’s reformations and revolutions, and how this included participating in conflict. And we are keen to trace the networks of patronage, preaching, and publishing that connected local literary production with the capital.
Papers may focus on a broad region, or a single community; may provide a local angle on one key figure; or may trace a nationwide issue through several local case studies. They may include literary analysis, theological or religious study, bibliography, or social or local history, and more. General enquiries and expressions of interest are welcome.
Our interests emerge from the Leverhulme-funded project ReConEx (“Writing Religious Conflict and Community in Exeter, 1500-1750”), which has shed new light on the breadth and vibrancy of writing produced in Exeter and Devon throughout the early-modern period. This has captured the rival community-forming and conflicts between different strands of Anglican conformity and Puritan Dissent throughout the period, but also the region’s contacts with London and with the outside world, including encounters with Islam and Judaism. We are increasingly convinced, however, that this case study needs to be placed in both a regional context, tracing Exeter’s cultural links across the southwest, but also a national context, comparing analogous activities in localities across the country. While the conference will include some focus on Exeter and the southwest, we are keen to receive proposals for case studies on all regions outside of London, with the aim of encouraging cross-comparison across a breadth of contexts. Keynote addresses will be given by Prof. Mark Stoyle (University of Southampton) and Dr Alison Searle (University of Leeds).
Please send a short biography (ca. 100 words) along with a title and brief abstract (250 words) for a 20-minute paper, or for a panel (3 x 20-minute papers) to firstname.lastname@example.org by 12th January 2024. An edited collection of selected papers from the conference is envisaged for publication.