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Blair Hoxby: Shadows of the Enlightenment

Join us for a round-table discussion of Shadows of the Enlightenment: Tragic Drama in Europe’s Age of Reason and other recent publications on 18th-century tragedy, and directions for future research.

To refer to the Enlightenment is to teeter on the brink of paradox. The 18th century is famous for its celebration of ideals such as optimism, reason, and human progress—ideals seemingly contradicted by the pessimism and passion of much classical tragedy. For precisely this reason, the theory and practice of 17th-century tragedy has often been held up as a sterner, more admirable standard. In Shadows of the Enlightenment, a group of respected experts specializing in classical, 18th-century, and comparative literary studies offers a critical reassessment, demonstrating that the century was in fact a period of vital creation, in which the classical clashed with—and in some cases, forged—the modern. By analyzing a diverse set of authors—from Christoph Gottsched to Voltaire to Joanna Baillie—with a rare pan-European scope, the authors excavate the paradoxical entanglement of antiquity and modernity in Enlightenment tragedy.

Contributors: Alex Eric Hernandez (University of Toronto), Logan J. Connors (University of Miami), James Harriman-Smith (University of Newcastle), Blair Hoxby (Stanford University), Russ Leo (Princeton University), Cécile Dudouyt (Paris 13), Adrian Daub (Stanford University), Stefan Tilg (University of Freiburg), Larry F. Norman (University of Chicago), Joshua Billings (Princeton University

About the Speakers

Blair Hoxby, Professor of English at Stanford University, is the editor of Shadows of the Enlightenment. His books include Milton in the Long Restoration and What Was Tragedy? Theory and the Early Modern Canon.

Felicity Nussbaum is Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA. Her books include Rival Queens: Actresses, Performance, and the Eighteenth-Century British Theater; The Limits of the Human: Fictions of Anomaly, Race and Gender in the Long Eighteenth Century; and The Global Eighteenth Century.

Joseph Roach is Sterling Professor Emeritus of Theater and Professor Emeritus of English at Yale University. His books include It, a study of charismatic celebrity; Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance; and The Player’s Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting.

Bridget Orr is Associate Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. Her books include British Enlightenment Theatre: Dramatizing Difference; and Empire on the English Stage, 1660-1714.

 Cover Image credit: 
 Blair Hoxby, ed., Shadows of the Enlightenment: Tragic Drama during Europe’s Age of Reason (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2022) 




Friday, April 22, 2022. 10:00AM


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Stanford Humanities Center