Genius for Sale!

“Genius for Sale! Artistic Production and Economic Context in the Long Nineteenth Century” was a one-day conference took place on May 8th, 2014 at Wolfson College, Oxford.

It brought together scholars from a number of diverse disciplines to examine the relationship between creative output and economic forces in the long nineteenth century, a period that saw a radical transformation in the economic circumstances facing artists. It featured the scholars who have produced detailed qualitative studies of the impact of economic context on artistic production and those who have turned to quantitative methods to study cultural output. The conference program, abstracts, and papers, and speakers’ biographies are available here.

This event aimed to build on a small but growing body of work in the humanities that either actively considers the economic context in its analysis of the arts, makes use of quantitative methods drawn from the social sciences or does both things simultaneously. Examples of this kind of work include studies in English literature by Franco Moretti and William St Clair, work in musicology by Cyril Ehrlich, and in the history of art by economist David Galenson. Currently, however, there is an insufficient dialogue between humanities scholars and this growing body of innovative work with the potential to challenge widespread myths and established historiographies. This conference sought to encourage the development and advancement of that dialogue, particularly among graduate students.

This conference was kindly hosted and supported by the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing. Other supporters also included the ESRC Doctoral Training Centre and the Leverhulme Trust.  More information about our supporters is available here.