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Beyond Truth: Fiction and (Dis)information in the Early Modern World

September 17, 2018 - September 18, 2018
New College, Oxford University

New College, Holywell Street
Oxford OX1 3BN
United Kingdom

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Organisers: Emma Claussen, Thomas Goodwin, Luca Zenobi

Keynote speakers: Emily Butterworth (King’s College, London) & Alejandra Dubcovsky (University of California, Riverside)

‘Fake news’ is nothing new. Early modern scholarship has long since done away with the idea that the invention of print led to an unambiguously positive revolution in the circulation of information. Attention has been drawn to the way the press – along with improvements in transport, roads and postal services – facilitated the spread of rumours and falsehood. On the other hand, scholars working on utopian writing and the invention of new fictional forms have pointed to the provocative blurring of fact and fiction in early modern philosophy and literature. Indeed, the very classification of different kinds of information as ‘factual’, ‘fictional’, ‘news’, ‘gossip’ or ‘lies’, has been problematized by historians and literary critics studying the power dynamics inherent to any such judgements.

This conference explores the boundaries between truth and falsehood in the early modern period, thinking about disinformation, fiction, and power in tandem. By drawing together scholars working across regional, linguistic and disciplinary specialisms – from texts to visual materials, from network analysis to the study of literary genres – the conference seeks to call into question the idea of 'fake news' as a uniquely modern phenomenon while bringing fresh perspectives to classic debates on the evolution of news networks, the development of fictional forms and the origin of the public sphere in the early modern world.

• Theories and attitudes concerning truth and falsehood
• Genres such as the novel, the pasquinade and the canard
• Multimedia practices of disinformation (images, texts, voices)
• Authorities, censorship and the manipulation of information
• Movement, networks and the circulation of disinformation
• Fictions of gender, race and sexuality in disinformation
• Global news, imagined travels, utopias
• Libel, slander and the law

Prospective speakers are invited to submit proposals for 20-minute papers (max 300 words) along with a brief bio (max 150 words) to oxdisinfo@gmail.com by Friday 20 April 2018. Interdisciplinary approaches, and papers that address non-European topics, are especially welcome.

There will be bursaries available to contribute towards travel and accommodation costs for PhDs and ECRs who cannot obtain institutional support.

For more information please visit our website, (link below), or use the Twitter hashtag #OxDisinfo.

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