CFP: “Styling the Self: Rhetorical Performance in Early Modern Investigative Prose” (5/21/08; RSA 09)

by Jessica C. Murphy

Papers sought for Panel at RSA annual meeting March 19-21 2009, Los Angeles and Malibu, Ca.

Styling the Self: Rhetorical Performance in late Early Modern Investigative Prose

This panel seeks papers that explore conventions for authorial self-representation in the literature of late Renaissance natural inquiry. It is a commonplace that natural philosophical and proto-scientific writing leading up to the establishment of the Royal Society did not disciplinarily distinguish literary from non-literary work. Studies of literary techniques such as allegory and metaphor have produced canny analyses of how early modern investigations about the body coded political theory and vice versa. But the question of the authorial self has received less attention. In particular, the contrivance of the authorial persona as a mask or machine for the transmission of voices (the voices of cited authority, the voice of
the narrator, the voice of the biographical author) has not been as widely considered. This panel will examine the role of the literary persona in early modern treatises of the body and the world as they are constructed
through conventions of rhetorical performance.

We are seeking papers that respond to the following questions:

How do the writers of early modern treatises on the body and the world style their own narrative personae using metafictional devices that inhere or depart from earlier models?

What kinds of technologies and ideologies of the self are employed in these authorial performances?

How is the authorial voice constructed and transmitted as a voice of authority? How does it regulate its relationship with the audience and define the purpose of the narrative?

What kinds of conventions do these writers use to stage and represent processes of cognition and intellectual discovery?

To address these questions, we hope to draw together panelists interested in representations of the self in early modern investigative, natural philosophical, proto-scientific treatises and exploratory prose. Papers that consider the influence of earlier traditions are welcome, especially insofar as they engender understanding of the relationship between ontologies and epistemologies of the self in contemplative and
investigative discourses.

Please submit 250 word abstracts and a brief CV to both Stephanie Shirilan ( and Julia Staykova ( by May 21.