'A Certain Correspondence': Intellectual Sociability and Emotional Community in the Eighteenth Century

This project looks at the different modes and forms of exchange – literary, material and cultural – which contributed to a sense of identification between women with the Enlightenment ‘Republic of Letters’. These include clearly literary practices such as the exchange of letters, poems, and books, but also collaborative writing projects, such as the production of journals, memoirs, and albums. 

‘A Certain Correspondence': Intellectual Sociability and Emotional Community in the Eighteenth Century’

'A young woman in a wide-brimmed hat sitting on a sofa to right, reading a letter, her head leaning on her left hand'; oval design, trimmed Stipple. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

‘A certain correspondence: intellectual sociability and emotional community in the eighteenth century’, explores early modern cosmopolitanisms, or conjunctions of writing, affective exchange and identity in England and Europe.  It investigates letter writing, travel and salon culture as practices of ‘emotional sociability’, which are productive of Adam Smith’s ‘certain correspondences’ – bonds of culture and feeling – for eighteenth-century subjects.  It considers networks of women like those surrounding Elizabeth Montagu’s Bluestocking Circle, as well as wider international networks made by numerous women while travelling, in order to trace the forging of intellectual and emotional bonds.

As part of this project Katrina O’Loughlin looks at the different modes and forms of exchange – literary, material and cultural – which contributed to a sense of identification between women with the Enlightenment ‘Republic of Letters’.  These include clearly literary practices such as the exchange of letters, poems, and books, but also collaborative writing projects, such as the production of journals, memoirs, and albums.  

Innovative work in the history of the emotions has allowed Katrina to think in new ways about the emotions attaching to objects and spaces.  This is particularly suggestive for a project such as this, which explores the wider contexts of literary friendship necessary to understanding women’s experiences in the early modern period.  Her research therefore also looks closely at spaces and materials of affective exchange: while places such as the coffeehouse and financial exchange (characteristic of public sociability for men in this period) are not usually available to women, spaces such as the tea-table, salon, theatre and pleasure garden, spa towns, and even the boudoir, provide new opportunities for women’s literary friendship. O’Loughlin also considers significant objects connected with the fostering of women’s intellectual sociability in this period, from the intimate exchange of gifts such as fans, scarves, embroidery, paper mosaics and enameled friendship boxes to satirical prints and caricatures.

Her approach is deliberately interdisciplinary, working across early-modern literature, biography, visual and cultural history, and uses the insights of the Centre’s research on emotions and affects to reconsider the emotional structures of intellectual sociability and international friendship in the eighteenth century.

Publications


Scholarly books

K. O’Loughlin The Paper Globe: British Women’s Travel Writing in the Eighteenth Century (forthcoming Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Scholarly Book Chapters

K. O’Loughlin, ‘In brazen bonds shall barb’rous discourse dwell’: Janet Schaw in North Carolina, 1775’ in Downes, Lynch and O’Loughlin (eds) Emotions and War: Medieval to Romantic Literature (forthcoming Palgrave MacMillan, 2014).

K. O’Loughlin, ‘A smaller compass’: body and text in eighteenth-century women’s travel’, in Simon Davies, Vanessa Alayrac-Fielding, and Ellen Welch (eds), Cultural Intermediaries (Honore Champion, Etudes Internationales sur le Dix-Huitieme, forthcoming 2014).

K. O’Loughlin, ‘“My own slender remarks”: Global networks of slavery and sociability in Mary Ann Parker’s Voyage to New South Wales (1795)’, in A. Scott, A. Hiatt, C. McIlroy, and C. Wortham (eds.) European Perceptions of Terra Australis (Ashgate: 2011).

Edited Books

Stephanie Downes, Andrew Lynch and Katrina O’Loughlin (eds) Emotions and War: Medieval to Romantic Literatures (forthcoming Palgrave MacMillan, 2014).

Mark Houlahan, Katrina O’Loughlin and R. S. White (eds) Shakespeare and Emotions: Inheritances, Enactments and Legacies (under review Palgrave MacMillan).

Refereed Journal Articles

‘“Having lived much in the world”: English women travellers’ representations of Russia in the eighteenth century’, Women’s Writing 8.2, 2001.

‘“Our Floating Prison”: Anna Maria Falconbridge and travel to the River Sierra Leone’, Journal of African Travel Writing 5, 1998: 38-49.

‘The Transvestic, and European Constructions of the “East”’, Mattoid 50, 1996: 230-43.

Other

Review essay: Francis Harris’ ‘Transformations of Love: The Friendship of John Evelyn and Margaret Godolphin’, Journal of Religious History 29 (2), 2005.