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Virtual Round Table: Enlightenment in public discourse, 22 October

We warmly invite you to join our colleague, Professor Gregory Brown, at a virtual round table discussion in honour of Professor Wolfgang Schmale.

The event is organised by the Österreichischen Gesellschaft zur Erforschung des 18. Jahrhunderts/Austrian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ÖGE 18) and takes place on 22 October 2021, starting at 3pm (CEST)/2pm (BST).

At some point around the turn of the millennium, the concept of ‘the Enlightenment’ must have faded from the public culture of history. Previously a historical anchor for the humanistic ideas of the post-war world, the increasing marginality of ‘enlightened’ values was revealed in the political prose accompanying the global crises since the 1990s. At the same time, the problematic legacy of the often racist, Eurocentric and misogynistic attitude of many enlighteners came to public consciousness as well. However, ‘the Enlightenment’ and its heroes (and a few heroines) have never completely disappeared from public discourse, the arsenal of political language or academic goals. The striving for coherence, for exchange, for accuracy and definition – in the various university subjects, in the media, in public political and academic debates, has, of course, become less. This postulated arbitrariness has potentially already been substituted with a highly polemical fight over who gets to define meaning in public discourse, an example of which can be seen in the controversies surrounding the ‘1776 Commission’.

Wolfgang Schmale, Professor of Modern History at the University of Vienna, has been dealing with the tension between the Enlightenment and the public for many years and will discuss this topic together with three colleagues: Professor Stephanie Catani (Würzburg), Professor Anne Conrad (Saarbrücken), and Professor Gregory Brown (Las Vegas).

Schedule (times given in CEST):

3pm – Welcome (Thomas Wallnig)

3.10pm – Think piece presentations by  Wolfgang Schmale, Anne Conrad, Gregory Brown und Stephanie Catani.

4.30pm – Break

4.45pm – Discussion (first between the presenters, then including the audience, led by Thomas Wallnig)

6pm – End of event

The link to join the event on Zoom is going to be published on the Society’s website closer to the date.


The original event announcement was posted on the Austrian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies website: