Conference: Nonconformist Women and their Literary Practices 1650–1850

Saturday 30 May 2021
Dr Williams’s Library
Gordon Square
London WC1H 0AR

To register please contact the organiser, Tessa Whitehouse, at [email protected].

This conference seeks to shine a light on the literary cultures that flourished among orthodox dissenting communities in the period 1650–1850. Often informal, familial, and ambivalent towards the commercial and urban imperatives associated with print publication, these intimate groups sustained complex traditions over time, and were shaped by faith, practice, and locality. In focusing attention on women writers—including those represented in Timothy Whelan’s eight-volume collection Nonconformist Women Writers (2011)—the conference will explore work that is under-studied in scholarship both on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Calvinist literature and on women’s writing of the period more generally.

Conference themes

Genres: Poetry, letters, diaries, orations, eulogies, drama, hymns, spiritual meditations, professions of faith, conversion narratives, spiritual autobiography, religious tracts and moral fiction, historical writing; formal and informal modes of writing

Circles: families, friends, servants, religious associates

Emotions: how are they expressed, theorized and practiced? What generic conventions are at work in representations of love or friendship (for example) that are specific to nonconformist writers, to women, and to nonconformist women writers?

Cycles and tradition(s): the life-cycles of individual writers and their associates; connections between generations; dissent as a movement with a history and future

Faith: the impact of specific Calvinist doctrines on writing; denominational experience; community worship; literary and sociological practices inculcated by religious tradition (such as diary-keeping); faith may be sustaining and generative or disabling and alienating

Varieties of dissemination: publication in manuscript and printed forms; anonymous, pseudonymous and public writing; collaborative composition and distribution; occasional and durational work

Processes of preservation and recovery: familial archival practices; eighteenth- and nineteenth-century publication of seventeenth-century texts; twenty- and twenty-first century attitudes to these writers; editorial practice; gaps in literary history.

Speakers and contributors

  • Timothy Whelan, Georgia Southern University
  • Sylvia Brown, University of Alberta
  • Nancy Jiwon Cho, Seoul National University
  • Jessica Clement, University of York
  • Amy Culley, University of Lincoln
  • Felicity James, University of Leicester
  • Karen Smith, South Wales Baptist College
  • Katarina Stenke, University of Cambridge
  • James Vigus, Queen Mary University of London
  • Tessa Whitehouse, Queen Mary University of London
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