Sample Conference Proposals

Below, you will find three sample conference proposals: two abstracts for individual papers and one panel proposal. The two individual abstracts differ in length; one is fairly substantial, and the other gives a 250-word description of the writer's argument. The third sample, a proposal for a full panel, provides an overview of the session's overall thrust--what do these papers mean when seen as part of a unit? Please note that the original panel proposal was followed by abstracts of each proposed paper (one of which is included here as Sample #2).

Instructions for submitting proposals can vary widely, so be sure to read any submission guidelines offered by conference organizers carefully. For general information on desirable qualities of conference applications, visit our conference proposal guidelines page.

Sample Conference Proposal #1: Individual Paper

The Colloquies of Erasmus:
A Moderate Voice in an Age of Religious Conflict

by Stephanie Seery

"Change and Continuity: Religious Reformations in the Early Modern Era"
Claremont Early Modern Studies Graduate Symposium
4 March 2000

The colloquies of Desiderius Erasmus function as vehicles for Erasmus's particular humanist theology. Under the guise of dialogue, Erasmus propounds a via media between, on the one hand, what he considered the obfuscation of late-medieval scholastic theology and the superstition of popular piety; and, on the other, the schismatic views of the early reformers. His use of the humanistic arts could, he believed, restore to Christianity the true voice of Christ in the world. And, as many scholars have noted, he saw in both the ethics and rhetoric of the ancients a way of "speak[ing] seriously and effectively of faith and piety, not to reason about trifling questions, but to drive out tears, and to inflame the hearts to heavenly things." Moreover, the colloquies function rhetorically to mock the reader's own pietistic follies and bring him or her back to Christ, the center of all things.

As Erasmus used and adapted it, rhetoric was both a corrective and a form of apology. He gently reminds the reader of the universal excesses of religious practice, and provides an alternative: a reasoned meditation on the working-out of God's purposes in nature and art. In my paper, I will examine "A Pilgrimage for Religion's Sake," one of the colloquies printed in 1526, a pivotal time of conflict between Erasmus and Luther. “A Pilgrimage” is a dialogue between two friends, Menedemus and Ogygius. They have met after Ogygius's pilgrimage to the shrines of St. James of Compostella, Our Lady of Walsingham, and St. Thomas of Canterbury. This dialogue provides Erasmus with the opportunity to satirize the long tradition of pilgrimages, saint-worship, and veneration of relics. I will look at the structure of the colloquy, the excesses Erasmus seeks to correct, the rhetorical strategy he uses to do so, and the implications his work had for the European Reformation. Unlike reformers such as Luther, who believed that revelation was the only source of grace, Erasmus, I argue, believes that the human mind is amenable to instruction, and can be led step by step towards love of God.

Sample Conference Proposal #2: Individual Paper


Marriage, Authority, and the Quaker Women's Meeting, 1660-1700

by Stephanie Sleeper

Conference on Gender and History
SUNY Birmingham
9-10 April 1999

The ideology of gender that is represented in the imagery and language of men and women writers of the early Quaker movement was built upon the early modern English hierarchy of male over female. In this paper, I argue that Quaker women both subverted this ideology through the acts of writing and speaking and reasserted it through their pervasive rhetoric of "woman-ness." In particular, this paper looks at one specific conflict within the Quaker movement, that of the existence and duties of the Women's Meeting in the 1660s, '70s, and '80s. During these decades, the jurisdiction over marriage applications was hotly debated, as was the existence of the separate Women's Meeting which had been established only a decade or so earlier. Women claimed their continued jurisdiction over these applications by providing essentialist arguments for their participation: as women, they spent more time with young people and therefore knew better who should marry. This argument reasserted women's gender roles as mothers and caregivers, but it also gave them an authority over marriage which can be seen in Quaker writings of this period. In claiming an essentialist jurisdiction over marriage, Quaker women also subverted the Protestant ideology of marriage. However, this gender-reinforcing rhetoric also ultimately reasserted women's own non-involvement in the public affairs and proselytizing of the movement, demonstrating that essentialist arguments have inherent limits.


Sample Conference Proposal #3: Full Panel


Participants' names have been replaced by "Presenter #1," "Presenter #2," and "Presenter #3." In a normal proposal, one would generally use the panel members' proper names unless otherwise instructed by the conference organizers.

Women and Religion in Early Modern Europe: Essentialism
and Subversion in the Production of Gendered Authority

Conference on Gender and History
SUNY Birmingham
9-10 April 1999

This panel will weave together three themes in early modern women's lives: their claims to authority, their subversion of it, and their essentialist arguments for their participation in the intellectual and religious life of early modern Europe. All three papers examine various aspects of these three themes in the development of religious and political institutions, intellectual debate, and social ideology. Presenter #1's paper concentrates on women's participation in the early modern querelle de femmes and demonstrates that women's participation in this debate centered upon a redemption of the figure of Eve, an "essentialist" argument that had particular limitations. Presenter #2's paper centers on the conflict over the Quaker Women's Meeting in late seventeenth-century England and looks at the ways in which women argued for their continued jurisdiction over Quaker marriage applications. Her paper examines women's efforts to both justify their claims on the basis of essentialist arguments and to subvert English Protestant marriage ideology through these claims. Presenter #3's paper looks at the efforts of Mary Ward, a seventeenth-century Englishwoman, to create an institute for young Catholic women that escaped the notice of Church authorities as a result of Ward's subversion of the hindrances to this experiment. Through this panel, we hope to demonstrate that women used a variety of arguments for their participation in Early Modern European society. We also hope to show that though these arguments were not necessarily based upon "radical" ideas, they may have resulted in "radical" achievements.

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