BSECS 2017 Day One.
British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. January. Oxford.
BSECS 2017 is looking like the best thing to happen to me since BSECS 2016. Actually, straight after BSECS 2016 David Bowie died and the rest of the year went to hell.
Planes and trains and automobiles were enlisted to get me to Oxford in time for the first plenary, an address by David Garrioch of Monash University devoted to epistolary female friendships. Why did women write? What did these friendships consist of? How did such friendships differ from face to face relationships and what value was put on such friendships? So basically we spent the afternoon rifling through other people’s private correspondence.
Everybody’s conference is different. Everybody navigates a path through a different set of parallel sessions and I decided to devote the rest of the day to public service. I went to a panel on “Tolerance after Brexit” which I was relieved to discover over-ran it’s allotted time. I was worried it might only last ten minutes. This was, mind, a mainly historical survey, treating people like Voltaire, Priestley and Charles Burney and considering cultural as well as legal and political experiences of tolerance and intolerance.
This round table discussion seemed to splurge, following a coffe break, into a longer round table that treated strategies for ‘globalising’ the eighteenth century. Unlike Theresa May, discussants remained wedded to the idea that a global vision (reflexively negotiating its own colonialist baggage) is in fact a good thing and that a ‘citizen of the world’ is far from being a citizen of nowhere. Actually, anyone who insults Oliver Goldsmith has lost my vote. If they ever had it. Which they didn’t.
We concluded by wanting to decentre ourselves and knock down borders but also understand and respect some of the things borders are made of. The world awaits.
The AGM was packed to the gills this year. Unsure why. Perhaps next year we should have several parallel AGMs just to keep up with demand.