The term “ephemeral” can be used to describe a wide variety of objects. There are, on the one hand, things like pamphlets, tickets, and broadsheets that have been traditionally categorized as ephemera. While on the other are objects that also existed only momentarily but are more difficult to categorize. By way of example are sugar sculptures, napkin art, and the elaborate temporary decorations built for festivals. Ephemeral objects abounded in the eighteenth century and especially notable is the sheer volume of printed matter that emanated from the Republic of Letters. The survival rate for ephemeral material from the eighteenth century, broadly speaking, is relatively poor but what does remain serves as vital evidence of the politics and culture of this period. This panel invites papers that address ephemeral objects either directly or obliquely. Among the questions to be considered are: in what ways do ephemeral things actually prove to be enduring? And how might they confound ideas about permanence? Through what media are ephemeral objects perpetuated and known? And what limitations and opportunities do these sources present? How do texts capture the momentariness of an object or image? What do ephemeral items reveal about histories of collecting, sociability, or consumption? Papers that take an interdisciplinary or global approach to these and other pertinent questions are especially welcome.
Please email abstracts directly to email@example.com. The deadline for abstracts is 15 September 2020.
Matthew Gin, Harvard University