Event and Post Doc Fellowships – Work Ethics: Rethinking Literary Labour in the Long Nineteenth Century

Work Ethics: Rethinking Literary Labour in the Long Nineteenth Century

Please find details below of an interdisciplinary conference on Work Ethics: Rethinking Literary Labour in the Long Nineteenth Century which takes place at Magdalene College, University of Cambridge on Saturday 6 October 2012. Would you be so kind as to circulate this information to all individuals who may be interested? Thanks in advance for your assistance with this.

There are also vacancies for six five-year postdoctoral research fellowships on the Leverhulme collaborative project based at CRASSH Conspiracy and Democracy: History, Political Theory and Internet Research (deadline 19 October 2012). Full details and to apply.

Work Ethics:
Rethinking Literary Labour in the
Long Nineteenth Century

An interdisciplinary conference convened by Marcus Waithe (English, Magdalene College) and Claire White (French, Peterhouse) with the support of CRASSH, University of Cambridge.Saturday 6 October 2012 at Magdalene College, CambridgeLa Bruyère discovered the world’s erroneous estimate of literary labour: ‘There requires a better name to be bestowed on the leisure (the idleness he calls it) of the literary character, and that to meditate, to compose, to read and to be tranquil, should be called working.’
— Isaac D’Israeli, The Literary Character of Men of Genius, Drawn from their Own Feelings and Confessions (1818)

Should writing ‘be called working’, as La Bruyère argued? How have writers projected and problematised their labours against a changing understanding of what it means to ‘work’? Have they operated at a remove from dominant modes and measures of productivity or sought an accommodation? In what sense is literary activity poised between labour and idleness?

This symposium brings together researchers from across the humanities to address the enduringly troubled relationship between writing and ‘work’. It raises questions that are topical when cuts in public spending are prompting scrutiny of what we mean by ‘cultural production’. At the same time, this is a debate with deep historical roots. By taking the long view, this event aims to shed fresh light on some unusually persistent problems. Papers will focus on Western European writing between c. 1790-c. 1910, a formative period in our understanding of the terms of labour, writing and idleness. Against the emergent pressures of labour politics and developing paradigms of industrial production, the conditions of ‘literary labour’ were being scrutinised and reformulated with new urgency.

This event will explore new connections between social history and literary history, focusing less on the depiction of work in others, than on the representation, and self-representation, of writers as ‘workers’. As such, it responds to recent critical interest in the testimony of writers, in the formal qualities of the writing process, and in the scope for its reform or restoration as ‘work’.

Participants include:

Morag Shiach (English, Vice Principal QMUL)
Richard Salmon (English, Leeds)
Ross Wilson (Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, East Anglia)
Richard Hibbitt (French, Leeds)
John Hughes (Dean and Chaplain, Jesus College)
Nicholas White  (French, Cambridge)
Claire White (French, Cambridge)
Marcus Waithe (English, Cambridge)

For more information and online registration please click here.

If you would like any further information please contact:

Ruth Rushworth

Publicity & Development
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)
University of Cambridge
Alison Richard Building 7 West Road Cambridge CB3 9DT

01223 766838

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Follow CRASSH on Twitter: @CRASSHpublicity



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