CfP deadline extension

The deadline for sending in abstracts is now March 1.

If you’d like to register to attend the conference, please get in touch at (also by March 1).  Registration is free, and includes coffee, a sandwich lunch and a wine reception.  There will be a post-conference dinner at All Souls on the evening of June 3, which is also free to attend.  Places for the dinner will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and priority will be given to speakers, but there will also be a number of spots for attendees.  Please specify in your email:

1) your name and institution;

2) whether you would like to attend the post-conference dinner at All Souls on the evening of June 3;

3) whether you would like to stay in a College guest room on the night(s) of June 2 and/or June 3 (guest rooms are also free of charge, though there are only a limited number).

We look forward to hearing from you!


Call for Papers

Forthcoming conference at All Souls College, Oxford

Periodisation: Pleasures and Pitfalls

June 3 2014

Keynote speaker: Professor James Simpson, Harvard

Please send 250-word abstracts for 20-minute papers to the conference convenors, Clare Bucknell and Mary Wellesley, by February 1 2014 (  We welcome submissions from postgraduates, early career researchers and senior academics.  

What do we mean by ‘medieval’?  When does ‘late eighteenth-century’ become ‘Romantic’?  What on earth is ‘Early Modern’?  How did these categories come about in the first place?  Papers are invited for a one-day conference on the advantages and problems of periodisation, which aims to interrogate the literary-historical categories that govern the way we organise, teach and think about literature.  

We ask whether periodisation is a useful tool for segmenting the lengthy sweep of English literature into sensible sections for study, or whether it is a naïve, narrowly historicist critical approach that risks making unhelpful connections between radically different types of texts.  We question whether some types of periodisation are more useful than others (is ‘the Tudor Period’, for instance, a more fruitful designation than, say, ‘1100-1350’?); we ask if periodisation is prone to entrenching scholarly prejudice against certain forms of literature; and we address the fact that some periods (for example, mid-eighteenth-century literature, Caroline literature) are much less studied than others (Romantic, Elizabethan, Modernist), and seek to interrogate why this might be.  We are also interested in the role of the university in the debate over periodisation: why do certain institutions or critical schools organise literary history in different ways, and what do these differences say about the nature and progress of English as an intellectual discipline?

We invite abstracts on any aspect of periodisation.  Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

  • period boundaries: should ‘boundary’ mean ‘division’ or ‘meeting point’?
  • periods of literature which have suffered comparative critical neglect, and potential reasons for this neglect;
  • the study of English Literature in universities and the validity of periodising approaches;
  • the history of periodisation: what kinds of literary histories have critics and writers produced in the past, and how do they differ to the habits of periodisation now current?
  • political and economic factors: do these provide imperatives for the shaping of the canon?
  • are certain genres and forms conceived of as ‘characteristic’ of particular periods?  What does this say about the way in which periods are established?
  • radical alternatives: if we choose not to organise literary history by ‘period’, what might we do instead?

twitter: @PeriodisationOx