Conference and Journal Special Issue


Due to the unprecedented global health crisis we are postponing the conference in Cambridge on 20th. We will post details of the new date in due course.

Form, Media, Digitisation: Eighteenth-Century Adaptation and Sterneana, 1700-1860

Keynote speaker: Prof. Devoney Looser (Arizona State University)

‘Austenish and Sterneana’

The (very) long eighteenth century witnessed a lively culture of creative responses to popular literary texts, as characters, scenes and motifs found new life in alternative textual, visual, and performative media. Examining the phenomenon of eighteenth-century afterlives can lead us to analyse the process of adaptation across literary forms, through multimedia modes, and across disciplines, and to challenge classic notions of what constitute ‘important works’, radically shifting canonical paradigms to present a colourfully diversified picture of this period’s creative output. Moreover, new technologies enable us to engage with adaptation in more creative ways than ever before.

This AHRC-funded conference and collection of essays aim to explore the phenomenon of literary adaptation between 1700 and 1860, primarily (though not exclusively) through the example of eighteenth-century comic writer and clergyman Laurence Sterne (1713-68), whose publications provoked a remarkably extensive and eclectic array of afterlives known as Sterneana. We are interested in hearing from scholars exploring the creative act of literary adaptation across forms, media, and through new emerging methodologies including the digital, and are particularly keen to explore the following research questions:

  • What role does creative adaptation play in a text’s afterlife?
  • How do adaptations of popular works synthesise different art-forms?
  • How does adaptation redraw boundaries between marginal and well-known literary outputs?
  • How is this illuminated by exploring Sterneana as a case study of (long) eighteenth-century afterlives?
  • How can we better digitise visual texts and visual narrative?
  • What can digitisation reveal about textual afterlives, canonical and otherwise?

We would like to invite proposals for 20 minute papers for a conference to be held in Cambridge on 20 March 2020, when we will launch our open access database of Sterne’s works and Sterneana. Proposed papers need not wholly concern this body of work, but might touch on it whilst exploring other examples of literary adaptation in the long eighteenth century. We also welcome papers that engage with the theory and/or practice of adaptation beyond this period, and in any aspect of digitisation, especially digital editions.

We are also accepting proposals for articles to be included in a special issue of a journal dedicated to any aspects of these topics. These may also be the same as proposals for conference papers, but proposals for articles are also invited from those unable to attend the conference.

The conference will be free to attend but booking is required. To reserve your place, please email the conference organisers (Helen and Mary) using the email addresses below indicating name and affiliation, no later than 10 March 2020.

Deadline for conference abstracts: 31 January 2020
Deadline for article abstracts: 31 January 2020
Conference: 20 March 2020
Upon acceptance, full articles of c. 7000 words would be required by 30 March 2020 for final submission by 30 July 2020.

Abstracts to be submitted (with a brief bio) to Helen Williams ( and Mary Newbould ( Please feel free to email us with any questions in the meantime.

Register for free here before 3 March.