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MLA Session sponsored by the MLA Committee on 18th- and Early
19th-Century German Literature

The Sincerest Form of Flattery? Imitation in the Long Eighteenth Century

Philadelphia, January 5-8, 2017

The Goethezeit is often viewed as the era in which originality emerged
as a hallmark of genius. But imitation, in many forms, also shaped the
cultural production of the late eighteenth century, whether deployed
as artistic homage or shrewd commercial strategy. Besides writing
novels featuring literary figures similar to popular protagonists,
authors appropriated pre-existing characters for use in stories of
their own; they also made explicit reference to other works in their
titles or prefaces, translated others’ works without mentioning the
original authors’ names, issued multiple (sometimes “verbesserte”)
editions, and self-plagiarized.

Imitations proliferated in the long eighteenth century, when reading,
writing, educational, and commercial practices were undergoing radical
changes. The issue of imitation thus raises aesthetic, legal, moral,
and didactic questions – for both authors and readers. We invite
papers exploring any aspect of these questions from a literary,
historical, legal, or sociological perspective, treating either
individual works (canonical or not), or a larger swathe of literary
production.

Submit abstracts of 300 words via email to Sarah Eldridge
([log in to unmask]) and Matthew Birkhold ([log in to unmask]) by
March 1, 2016.


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