Panel Description: As we may note from René Descartes’s Discours de la méthode and Isaac Newton’s Principia and Opticks, scientific discoveries have had a profound impact on the culture and writings of the long eighteenth century. Though much has been written on the scientific popularization of these texts within the Republic of Letters, with exception of Steven J. Dick, Michael Crowe, and more recently, Frédérique Aït-Touati, comparably little has been remarked on a notable by-product of scientific writing and revolutionary thought: the plurality of worlds. Since Galileo’s discovery of lunar craters and mountains in 1609, writers and scientists such as Johannes Kepler, Cyrano de Bergerac, Voltaire, and Daniel Jost de Villeneuve de Listonai have imagined life on other planets as well as the societies that exist on them. In certain cases, speculation on extraterrestrial life, such as those of Descartes and Fontenelle, have merely explored an expected universal order. In other short stories or contes, namely Micromégas or l’Autre Monde, writers have taken the concept of a plurality of worlds and applied it either positively or negatively to their society. We can thus note roughly two different tracks: the technical and the proto-utopian. This panel seeks to explore the following: to what degree do these two tracks intersect? Do they yield a different subgenre altogether? Can we indeed discuss ‘fiction scientifique’ as a unique genre in the long eighteenth century?
We welcome any papers that deal with these essential questions. Intersections with Asian and Middle Eastern literatures on the concept of the plurality of worlds during the same time period are especially welcome. Please send as one submission (1) a paper abstract of no more than 250 words, (2) a brief biography of 100 words, and (3) any potential audiovisual requirements to Ari Margolin at firstname.lastname@example.org by September 15, 2019.
Please note that you will be required to become a member of ASECS (American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies) by January 2020 in order to participate in the conference.
Ari Margolin, Colorado College