Department of English

Historical Poetics Now: A Symposium at the University of Texas at Austin


Keynote speakers: Laura Mandell and Ivy Wilson

November 7 to 10, 2019

This symposium, now in its second iteration, after a 2017 meeting at Connecticut College, will examine the value of historical poetics for eighteenth and nineteenth century literatures. We hope to gather scholars from across the world to discuss how and why we read the poetry of the past. The goal of the symposium will be to examine the various methods of reading poetry and poetics historically, especially in light of the expanding digital availability of archives of published and unpublished material and in the service of remaining poetic history in and beyond frameworks of nationalism, imperialism, race and gender.

We welcome reflections on the state of historical poetics today. By “historical poetics,” we mean critical methods that ground interpretation of old poems in period practices of reading, theories of poetry and prosody, and material practices of circulation and publication, studied comparatively. In the words of the Historical Poetics Working Group, its methods “encourage skepticism about the normative concepts that have been used to study and teach poetry” by “historicizing the terms through which we recognize, describe, and evaluate poems.” The symposium will bring together eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scholars for shared methodological and reflection.

Through our collaboration with the Texas A&M Center of Digital Humanities, participants will have the opportunity to visualize, data mine, and collaboratively annotate literary texts in real time at the conference.

The four-day symposium will be held from November 7 to 10 at the University of Texas at Austin’s Thompson Conference Center Room 1.110.


Please send 250-word abstracts for papers to by March 31, 2019. As part of your proposal, please indicate your potential interest in participating in a methodological roundtable or facilitated discussion of a common text, whether in lieu of or in addition to your formal paper. Please direct any questions you have about the symposium to this address as well.

Decisions will be made by April 30, 2019. Graduate students whose proposals are not accepted as conference presentations may be invited to participate in the graduate caucus and their names will appear in the program.


Please send questions to


Keynote Speakers:

Laura Mandell

Laura Mandell is Director of the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture at Texas A&M University. She is the author of Misogynous Economies: The Business of Literature in Eighteenth-Century Britain (1999), a Longman Cultural Edition of The Castle of Ortanto and Man of Feeling, and numerous articles primarily about eighteenth-century women writers. Her recent article in New Literary History, “What Is the Matter? What Literary History Neither Hears Nor Sees,” describes how digital work can be used to conduct research into conceptions informing the writing and printing of eighteenth-century poetry. She is Editor of the Poetess Archive, on online scholarly edition and database of women poets, 1750-1900 (, Director of 18thConnect (, and Director of ARC, the Advanced Research Consortium overseeing NINES, 18thConnect, and MESA. Her current research involves developing new methods for visualizing poetry, developing software that will allow all scholars to deep-code documents for data-mining, and improving OCR software for early modern and 18th-c. texts via high performance and cluster computing.  

Ivy Wilson

Ivy Wilson (Ph.D. Yale University) teaches courses on the comparative literatures of the black diaspora and U.S. literary studies with a particular emphasis on African American culture. His book, Specters of Democracy: Blackness and the Aesthetics of Nationalism (Oxford UP), interrogates how the figurations and tropes of blackness were used to produce the social equations that regulated the cultural meanings of U.S. citizenship and traces how African American intellectuals manipulated the field of aesthetics as a means to enter into political discourse about the forms of subjectivity and national belonging. Along with articles in ESQ, Arizona Quarterly, and PMLA, his other work in U.S. literary studies includes edited volumes on James Monroe Whitfield, Albery Allson Whitman, Walt Whitman, and on the emergent scholarship in American literary and cultural studies of the “long” nineteenth century. His current research interests focus on the solubility of nationalism in relationship to theories of the diaspora, global economies of culture, and circuits of the super-national and sub-national.

Organizing Committee:

Anna Foy, University of Alabama in Huntsville

Meredith Martin, Princeton University

Lisa Moore, University of Texas at Austin

James Mulholland, North Carolina State University

Brad Pasanek, University of Virginia

Courtney Weiss Smith, Wesleyan University

Dustin D. Stewart, Columbia University

Jeff Strabone, Connecticut College