Executive Committee:

Allison Margaret Bigelow, Jan. 2023 (2021-2023 chair)
David Alff, Jan. 2024 (2021-2022 secretary)
Eugenia Zuroski, Jan. 2025
Rachael Scarborough King, Jan. 2026

Statement on Forum Executive Committee Election

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    Rachael King

    Dear colleagues,

    I’m honored to be nominated to serve on the Executive Committee for the CLCS 18th-Century forum. I have been an MLA member since 2008. My work, while rooted in eighteenth-century British literature, crosses fields to draw from media studies, book history, and the history of ideas. My first book, Writing to the World: Letters and the Origins of Modern Print Genres (JHUP, 2018), argues that handwritten letters provided the basis for the development of four key genres of print—the newspaper, the periodical, the biography, and the novel—while my edited collection, After Print: Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Cultures (UVa Press, 2020), brings together 13 junior and senior scholars to explore the continuation of manuscript culture after the “rise of print.” I am now at work on a new book project tentatively titled Improving Literature: Media, Gardens, and the Eighteenth-Century Improvement Debate, which examines how new, interactive print formats helped make “improvement” a master concept for eighteenth-century British and colonial society.

    It seems a strange time to be going on with the usual MLA business of electing delegates and executive committees, but I believe this is a crucial moment for comparative eighteenth-century studies. As the field grapples with its engagement around questions of racism, enslavement, and colonialism, we must use every means—including the seemingly straightforward space of the MLA forums—to answer the challenges posed from within and without the academy. In the wake of the global financial crisis facing universities, eighteenth-century studies is under existential threat at precisely the moment when its intellectual commitments could not be more necessary. It’s important that we demonstrate the continued vitality of our field through the MLA forums.

    As a member of the Executive Committee, I will prioritize panel topics that address these concerns, empowering junior, contingent, and BIPOC scholars to have prominent voices in the conversation. Even as we all face a precarious future, I hope to use the tools of MLA to address our collective challenges. I would be honored to help shape this process.

    Thanks for reading,

    Rachael King

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