The Book and the City: SCSECS 2024 Roundup

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The Heathman Hotel's libraryThe Heathman Hotel's library  

SCSECS members had a wonderfully bookish experience in Portland, Oregon for the SCSECS 2024 conference, The Book and the City.

Setting exemplified theme with the beautiful Heathman Hotel as the conference site. The Heathman, a short walk from the famous Powell's bookstore, has its own library filled with signed editions. SCSECS members enjoyed browsing the bookshelves and took advantage of the friendly space during breaks.

The Heathman Hotel's library

The presentations were stellar. The first panel demonstrated the interdisciplinary nature of SCSECS and featured current president, Martha Lawler, who will be hosting us in Shreveport, Louisiana for SCSECS 2025. Martha described holdings on eighteenth-century education found in the Noel Collection, which SCSECS members will have a chance to explore in 2025 (stay tuned for more). Joshua Swidzinski, of the University of Portland, connected eighteenth-century algorithmic authorship and patch writing to contemporary AI, making a powerful argument for the relevance of eighteenth-century studies' place in the history of science. T. Lawrence Larkin, from Montana State University, rounded off the panel through his captivating presentation on Marie Antoinette's intimate portraits.

The interdisciplinary focus continued with presentations on the golden age of eighteenth-century studies at Yale University, East Asian book culture, politics, theology, Shakespearean adaptations, and the long eighteenth century's obsession with self-improvement and national identity. Sarah Jessi Bramao-Ramos wins the unofficial prize for traveling farthest, joining us from The University of Hong Kong to discuss Manchu-language book production in Qing China.

Jack Lynch, Distinguished Professor of English, Rutgers University, capped off the conference with his plenary, "Pope's Thames," which he presented at Portland State University's beautiful University Club. Perhaps it is enough to capture the brilliance of this presentation to say there was a slide entitled "Monster Soup." Certainly, Jack's talk opened up our previous perceptions of Alexander Pope, the Thames river, and the importance of place in an enlightening and entertaining manner.

John Rocque's Map of London, Westminster, and Southwark, 1746

Monster Soup Lynch at the podium The appreciative audience

In addition to formal and casual intellectual stimulation, there was the usual SCSECS conviviality with receptions opening and closing the conference and a delightful lunch that provided opportunities to get to know new colleagues--a perennial strength of the annual SCSECS meetings.

President and conference organizer John Scanlan also led the brave (or foolhardy) on rather chilly, damp early morning runs that included knowledge of the city that would make one believe John were a native. Certainly his love of Portland was clear, and we thank him profusely for his hard work in bringing us to such a great location.

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Remember that if you presented at SCSECS 2024, you are eligible to apply for the Presidential Award, with the winner being published in 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era, edited by our own Kevin Cope.

Thanks to all who attended and made SCSECS 2024 a great success, especially Past President John Scanlan. Hope to see you in Louisiana next year!

--Kathryn Duncan, SCSECS Secretary   

A Message from our 2025 President, Martha Lawler:

The South Central Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and the James Smith Noel Collection invite you to present papers and organize conference panels on being lost and found in the long eighteenth century. Whether one is lost at sea or lost in thought, finding one's bearings can bring about new insights and inspirations, whether in music, literature, art, or science. The state of being lost can even lead to the founding of whole new countries and the overthrow of empires. Finding the answers to the mysteries of existence led to whole new understandings of the world around us and new speculations about the unseen and unknown, and we look forward to hearing your guiding perspectives in Shreveport February 6-8, 2025.


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