Seminars

Writing and Society Centre member Dr Chris Fleming on Conspiracy Theories

Listen to Chris Fleming's full seminar.

Our Next Seminar

The Writing & Society Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney
warmly invites you to 

Lana Starkey on Essay and Character in England 1600-1750

Friday 1 August
11.00am -12.30pm
Building 3.G.55, Bankstown Campus, UWS

My paper examines the emergence of a distinctively sceptical outlook in the seventeenth-century English essay. In particular, I will explore a number of authors who found religious zeal problematic. I will argue that these writers, from Francis Bacon to Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, tended to regard religious enthusiasm sceptically, and that they found the essay a fit genre in which to articulate these doubts. I will explore to what extent the essay in this period may have evolved a distinctive rhetoric, style, and topoi, and also to what extent it owed its English form to Francis Bacon via Michel de Montaigne and Nicolò Machiavelli.

I will also address the relationship of the essay genre to biography and character in the seventeenth century. In particular, I will explore the effect the sceptical essay had on the writing of lives and plays. I will argue that characters at this time emerge not as a series of exemplary figures but as figures exploring a number of particular moral paths. As such, characters 'lives', like Montaigne's essays, are works-in-progress, as no life is without some inner contradiction or complexity. Like the essay, the writings of characters or lives need to be read as an experiment in an overall enterprise of self-making. Seventeenth century character writers then, were preoccupied with personal freedom and self-direction.    

Lana Starkey is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland working on genre and forms of writing in Seventeenth century England.


View the 2014 seminar program.

Our seminars are free and open to visitors from outside the university. If you want to come along to one of our seminars simply RSVP by sending an email to writing@uws.edu.au indicating which seminar you wish to attend.

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