About the Salons Project

Project Leads: Melanie Conroy, World Languages and Literatures, University of Memphis (mrconroy@memphis.edu); Chloe Edmondson, French and Italian, Stanford University (cmhse14@stanford.edu).

Project participants and contributors of datasetsFloris Meens (Radboud University), Eve-Marie Lampron (Université de Montréal), Alice Bernard (Paris I), Lucio Tufano (Italy), Faith Hillis (University of Chicago), Steven Kale (Washington State University), and Sarah Horowitz (Washington and Lee University).

The Salons Project is mapping the intellectual and social geography of European salons from the end of the seventeenth century to the early twentieth century. Beginning with Parisian salons in the period from 1700-1914, the project graphs the social networks of leading salonnières, charting the movement of notable intellectuals, writers, politicians, and socialites between salons, as well as the evolution of individual salons as loci for intellectual and literary exchange.

The Salons Project is a part of Mapping the Republic of Letters housed in the CESTA lab at Stanford University. Mapping the Republic of Letters examines the scholarly communities and networks of knowledge during the period 1500-1800:

Before email, faculty meetings, international colloquia, and professional associations, the world of scholarship relied on its own networks: networks of correspondence that stretched across countries and continents; the social networks created by scientific academies; and the physical networks brought about by travel. These networks were the lifelines of learning, from the age of Erasmus to the age of Franklin. They facilitated the dissemination and the criticism of ideas, the spread of political news, as well as the circulation of people and objects.

But what did these networks actually look like? Were they as extensive as we are led to believe? How did they evolve over time? Mapping the Republic of Letters, in collaboration with international partners, seeks to answer these and other questions through the development of sophisticated, interactive visualization tools. It also aims to create a repository for metadata on early-modern scholarship, and guidelines for future data capture.

Later expansions of social networks will incorporate individuals from as many social and economic milieux as possible in order to draw a complex and accurate portrait of European high society. Further projects cover Italian, German, and British salons in selected time periods and cities. We are currently seeking participants to compile data and analyze salons not currently in our database.

The Salons Project is creating a database of notable individuals and their attendance at salons. The data consists of lists of salon attendees for a given year. The attendees (habitués) will be coded for 1) gender, 2) milieu, 3) political persuasion, 4) social status, 5) profession, and 6) intellectual or artistic affiliation. We will trace the connections that arise within and across salons and cross-reference them against familial and publishing networks. The comparison of these distinct types of networks will show whether the salons did, indeed, function as fundamental public institutions, or whether they were extensions of previously existing networks (e.g. the family, the state, political groupings, professional networks, etc.).

The visualization tools of this database will allow researchers to classify salons according to their composition (e.g. politically and/or artistically heterogeneous salons versus homogenous ones); it will also help researchers measure the intellectual and literary weight of a given salon in a particular year based on the social and literary influence of attendees. These tools will also quickly reveal the movement of notable individuals between salons, information which can be compared with publishing records to track the influence of specific literary and intellectual movements throughout European high society.

The Salons Project will construct its datasets from the mémoires of salonnières, the letters and journals of habitués, biographies of socialites, the columns of the Figaro, and the research of notable cultural and social historians participating in the project.

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