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17July 2019
ISECS 2019

The Curious Self: Identity and Desire to Know in Eighteenth-Century Periodicals

 Since Montaigne's deeply personal writing, the essay has been the pivotal genre for the exploration of the self. Montaigne uses curiosité in the sense of a 'thirst for knowledge' directed at individual identity. This study explores how the periodical works of Addison, Steele, Fielding, and Haywood reflect the ambivalence of curiosity in individuals characterized primarily by their desire to know, such as the virtuoso, the 'coffee house politician', or the gossiping neighbour.
As the essay is a digressive, meandering genre, its analysis calls for a methodology which imitates the human learning process. Essayistic writing parallels the structure of neural networks as associative storage, in which content is represented by the dynamic state of neural cells interacting with each other, reshaping and changing. The polyphony of approaches by essayists illustrate a variety of ways in which curiosity constitutes the identity of individuals, ranging from Haywood's demand for female education to Johnson's fictitious diary of a scholar, a powerful statement for academic freedom regardless of 'trends' within the scientific community.
The homogeneous notion of its 'development' from intellectual vice to Enlightenment virtue, an assumption postulated by Blumenberg or Harrison, is re-imagined as a dynamic web of co-existing ideas, perceived as knots in a net. Ultimately, the analogy of the neural network illustrates the fact that there is no monolithic 'idea' of curiosity, but a vibrant network of different ideas whose interaction modifies and re-invents the identities of the curious.
Conference Site

20SEP 2018

Revolutionary or "Radical Crank"? The Political Utopias of Thomas Spence

Viewed as a political radical by his contemporaries, Thomas Spence advocates the socialization of land on his virtual islands of Crusonia (1782) and Spensonia (1803). Despite his rejection of land ownership, which is dismissed as nothing but a communist utopia avant la lettre, he developed a concept which is widely discussed in contemporary society and was the topic of a referendum in Switzerland in 2016 - the idea of an unconditional basic income. This contribution is going to present the basics of Spence's Utopias and examine their validity in terms of an 'alternative social formation' as well as its impact on contemporary thought on social change.

Interdisciplinary Conference  “Imaginationen des Sozialen. Narrative Verhandlungen zwischen Integration und Divergenz (1750-1945)", Universität zu Köln, 12-14.12.2018.
01DEC 2017

The Fast and the Curious: The Role of Curiosity in the Gothic Heroine's 'Grand Tour of the Mind'

In the eighteenth century, the gender bias against female curiosity marginalises it with the stigma of “gossip”. Situating Radcliffe’s Gothic novels in discourses of knowledge, this article offers a new reading of female curiosity as a positive side-effect of the heroine’s “mobility”, regardless of whether her state of being in motion is the result of invitation, flight or abduction. Simultaneously, the female Gothic heightens their implied readers’ curiosity without actually satisfying it. This technique creates a self-reflexive process ridiculed in Catherine, the “virtual reader” of Gothic adventures in Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Thus the female Gothic creates a “Grand Tour of the Mind” which enhances the transmogrifying power of female curiosity by dispensing knowledge either forbidden or unavailable at the beginning of the journey.


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Simone Broders specializes in English literature and culture of the 'Long' Eighteenth Century, contemporary writing in Britain, and in transfer processes between literature and other media, such as film, television and graphic novels.


Conference Contribution: "The Curious Self: ISECS 2019, International Congress on the Enlightenment, University of Edinburgh, UK: Session 8, 244: Periodical Identities
Wednesday, 7 July 2019, 8 am to 9.30 am
Conference Contribution: "Von Hippies und Höllenfürsten: Toxische Glücksversprechen in Kim Newmans Jago". Tagung Glücks-versprechen. Inszenierungen und Instrumentalisierungen alternativer Lebensentwürfe in den Gegenwarts-kulturen. 19 September 2019, 13.45-14.30.

Conference Contribution: “‘She Broke Your Throne, and She Cut Your Hair’ – An Iconography of Hair and Masculinity in English Literature and Culture”. De/Constructing Masculinities? Critical Explorations into Affect, Intersectionality, and the Body. International and Interdisciplinary Conference. Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, 22.-23.06.2018.