This fall, HWS hosted the 2008 Northeast American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (NEASECS) Conference, drawing nearly 150 attendees from all over the northeast and Canada.
Founded in 1977 at the University of Rochester and hosted by a different college or university each fall, the NEASECS Conference brings together the scholarly members of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (ASECS) from the northeastern region of the United States and eastern Canada. Both NEASECS and its parent organization approach the study of the 18th century from a multidisciplinary approach, examining its culture, literature, arts and history.
As this year’s host school, the Colleges supported the conference through, among other things, funding, use of facilities for lectures and presentations by many HWS professors, including Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Neeta Bhasin. Catherine Gallouet, professor of French and francophone studies at HWS, was the chair of this year’s conference.
Upon arrival, the speakers were greeted by Christopher Slaby ’09 and Moira O’Neill ’09. The first night of the conference, Provost Teresa Amott hosted a welcome reception at the Ramada Inn, where many of the panels were held.
The theme of the conference changes annually, and this year was “Ambivalence in the 18th Century.” Over three days, 37 panels examined subjects as varied as women in the 18th century art world, American Indians, race in the classroom and ambiguity in the history, literature and politics of 18th-century France.
To ensure a breadth of lectures on a wide range of topics, the attendees were invited “from all over, to our little corner of the world here in Geneva,” said Gallouet. The conference has speakers from many academic disciplines-art history, English and philosophy to American, French and German studies. Professors from the Yale British Art Center, Tufts University and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music also spoke.
Among the most notable speakers were Alan Taylor and Julia Douthwaite. Taylor, a professor at University of California, Davis and author of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize-winning “William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic,” delivered a lecture titled “Revolution and Counterrevolution in the Northern Borderland.”
Douthwaite is a Guggenheim Fellowship Recipient as well as Notre Dame’s associate provost for international studies and professor of French. She gave a lecture titled “Engendering displacement, or How the 1789 Women’s March on Versailles left its imprint on French Literature.”
In addition to the lectures, HWS hosted two ongoing exhibition of books by participating HWS scholars — one in the library and one at the Geneva Ramada Lakefront Hotel. A closing gala was held at Houghton House, where Professor William Waller offered a wine demonstration and members of the Chorale, led by Professor of Music Robert Cowles, performed.
“It was a great success for HWS,” said Slaby. “There was such a high level of scholarship and thought; it was great to see some of the graduate work going on in various fields, especially work related to our own community.”
Hamilton College’s Professor John O’Neal, the president of NEASECS, said of this year’s conference, “I have been to many NEASECS meetings. To my knowledge, I cannot remember a conference that combined such a lovely natural setting, stimulating and intense sessions, varied and cutting-edge plenary talks, thoughtful use of both town and gown venues and generous samplings of local specialties. Moreover, the atmosphere from one end of the conference to the other remained buoyant and joyful.”