CALL FOR PAPERS: The Enlightenment at Court, and Anti-Court Polemics in the Enlightenment

Organised by Andreas Pečar, Benjamin Marschke, Thomas Biskup, Damien Tricoire

Friedrich Wilhelm Schäfer, Prometheus, am Ende des Achtzehnten Jahrhunderts, Federzeichnung, 39,8 x 31,1 cm, GK II (6) 69, Copyright: SPSG
Friedrich Wilhelm Schäfer, Prometheus, am Ende des Achtzehnten Jahrhunderts, um 1790, Federzeichnung, 39,8 x 31,1 cm, GK II (6) 69, Copyright: SPSG

Scholarship on the Enlightenment is changing. Dichotomies that were apparently firmly-rooted („Enlightenment and Religion“) are wobbling, and concepts that have long dominated („Enlightened absolutism,“ „the bourgeoisie,“ „public sphere“) have faded. Current research within the history of ideas and cultural history shows the Enlightenment in more complex intellectual, social, and communicative contexts than before.

The point of departure for this conference is an apparent paradox: On the one hand, the princely court and court society are the objects of negative attributions in many Enlightenment writings— the court is portrayed as the site of despotism, hypocrisy, superficiality, intrigue, effeminization, foreignness, luxury, corruption, greed, personal ambition, moral decline, fornication, etc. Courtiers appear as effeminized and hedonistic sycophants who are concerned only with their own position, and not at all with the common good. The court serves in these writings as a negative contrast to the canon of virtues of classical republicanism, which distinguished itself through strict morals, dutifulness, modesty, authenticity, and readiness to sacrifice for the common good. These dichotomies all have older origins and drew upon ancient texts and Reformation discourses, but in the eighteenth century political discourse they were ubiquitous.

On the other hand, it is clear that many authors who used these anti-court stereotypes
and invectives were actually involved with networks and patron-client relationships that were connected with the political-social world of the court, or at least with individual members of court. Many authors who represented themselves as „enlightened“ were quite close to courts in their social relationships, and often they were even part of the social figuration of courts. Even some rulers, such as Frederick II of Prussia, used anti-court topoi, even though they stood at the head of a princely court.

It is the goal of this conference to examine this entangling of social constellations and
discursive practices and thereby to reconsider the relationship between European princely
courts and the protagonists of the Enlightenment and their ideas.

See Exposé for more information.

Venue: Halle an der Saale I 12 October 2017 – 14 October 2017
Closing Date CfP: 15 November 2016

Contact:
Dr. Damien Tricoire
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
damien.tricoire@geschichte.uni-halle.de


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