What invisible hands are at work within artistic and cultural production? Writers, poets, artists, and critics have always had to negotiate aesthetic and economic pressures. As these pressures have conflicted and converged, how have our artists responded? In what ways is this evident in their works?

What invisible hands are at work within academia? In our roles at the university, we act variously though simultaneously as critics, consumers, scholars, teachers, artists, and employees. In the academic setting, there is a complex of relationships between aesthetics and economics, where, for example, our teaching can be discussed in terms of labor, or our criticism in terms of art.

This conference will attempt to address the intersection of cultural production and economic realities, from both sides of the critical lens. The conference organizers encourage submissions for 15-minute papers from all departments and disciplines. Please send a 150-word abstract by February 25, 2002, to nabi@virginia.edu. We also welcome panel proposals, which should discuss the panel theme and abstracts for each of the papers.

General themes include professionalization, aesthetic production, and the idea of craft. Following is a full list of potential topics, organized by area:

18th Century
19th Century
20th Century
American Studies
Gender Studies
Race and Imperialism
Current Topics


  • "When Adam delved and Eve span ..." - division of labor - the three estates
  • Monastic labor - spirtual work
  • Manuscript production
  • Mystery plays
  • The Quest
  • The ploughman - the good parson


  • Edenic labor
  • Collaboration in the theater
  • Iconography of Mammon
  • Money and its metaphors - debt and credit - usury
  • Labor in city comedy
  • "New World Labor" - travel narratives - the Americas - literary representation of mercantile exploration
  • Economics of education - schoolwork
  • Projects of translation - printing - editing
  • Manuscript traditions and circulation
  • Golden Age poetry - country house poetry
  • Monumentalization of authors (Shakespeare, Jonson, Daniel)
  • Literary patronage - court culture - coteries
  • Masques
  • Masters and servants - the gentlewoman and her mistress
  • Apprenticeships
  • Religion and the rise of capitalism
  • Women and service - the barmaid - whoredom - the fallen woman


  • Professionalization - Grub Street
  • Manufacture and marketplaces
  • Production of books
  • Work, the clock, and the industrial organization of time
  • Business and/as the Public Sphere
  • Working-class poets
  • Ideologies of production: Country/Tory vs. Town/Whig
  • Religion and work: High Church, dissenters, and the Protestant work ethic
  • Economies of character: leisure, consumption, and identity
  • Class, education, literacy, and the reading public
  • Servants and masters: class, sexuality, and the novel
  • Transatlantic production: the wages of colonialism and the slave trade
  • Professionalization of letters
  • Rise of professional editing
  • Rise of the printing press
  • Sentimentalization of work and leisure


  • Work sites: urban - public - domestic
  • Domestic economy
  • East End vs. West End
  • Market anxiety
  • Craft and the Pre-Raphaelites
  • Craft of Art - Ruskin - Morris - aestheticism
  • Leisure as a profession
  • Gaskell - self-help
  • Empire and the emergence of civil service
  • Labor laws - the Ten-Hours Act - Socialism - Chartism
  • Religion and labor - Methodism - Adam's curse
  • Charity, the workhouse, the Respectable Poor
  • Professionalism and the New Woman


  • Art's vocation, art's avocation (Eliot, Stevens)
  • Language, meaning, and the work they do
  • Labors of reading and interpretation
  • Disciples of discipline: making art academic
  • (Labor)atory: avant-garde works of art
  • Labor as suffering: protest writing of the 20th century
  • Modernist difficulty vs. postmodern play
  • Aesthetics and mechanical reproduction
  • The work of the patient and the analyst


  • Industrialization anxieties
  • Plantation labor - indentured servitude
  • Scribbling women - sensationalism
  • The American Dream
  • Popular front - cultural front - the 1930s
  • Labor unions
  • Criminal work - gangsters - film noire
  • Works of politics, politics of work


  • Gender maintenance - gender performance
  • Speech and imperialism - the speaking subject
  • Labor and reproduction
  • Traditionally female work as artwork - female work as culturally significant (child care, quilts, diaries, epistles)


  • Intersections of race and labor
  • Effects of a global economy
  • Commodification of multicultural studies
  • Marketing ethnicity
  • Freedom as work of art: the "New" Negro
  • Slave to the rhythm: art, writing, and hip-hop
  • Old forms in the New World: post-colonial writing


  • From Avant-Garde to Ivory Tower
  • MFAs - the academization of poetry, fiction
  • MLA anxieties