CFP: [18th] "I remain, &tc.": Addressing the Eighteenth Century Letter

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John McTague
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"I remain, &tc.": Addressing the Eighteenth Century Letter

St Edmund Hall, Oxford
11th-12th September 2008

We invite proposals for an upcoming conference on eighteenth-century

Whether viewed as the dominant carrier of polite discourse, an expression
of the self, or simply a markedly accessible literary form, the letter in
the long eighteenth century has been the recent focus of critical study.
Recent work by scholars such as Clare Brant and Lisa Jardine, and
institutions such as the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, attests to
the potential of this written body of evidence for truly representative
study of the period.

This conference interrogates eighteenth-century letters as material
artefacts, their means of circulation, and pursues the theoretical
ramifications of that interrogation. In addition, it will provide
graduate students with guidance on how they may incorporate letters into
their own research, through practical advice (where and how to find them)
and practice-based seminar papers (scholars discussing their
methodologies). The conference will consist of four distinct (but not
sealed) sections:

“That word interlined is morning”: Writing letters

Are letters immediate or for posterity? Handwritten or printed? Intimate
or declamatory? The letter eludes generic sorting; how do we address the
issues surrounding the epistolary voice? Possible paper topics may include

- The consonance (or dissonance) of epistolary style with recipient, or
- Lives and letters; lives in letters; biography and editing.
- Letter writers calling attention to the material process of letter
- Letters as anthologies, commonplace books, or literary criticism
- The institutions governing (or failing to govern) the writing in
- Anonymity/pseudonymity; amanuenses and scribes; forgeries
- Letters and the state.

Through the Lion’s Mouth: Circulating/Sending letters

Letters are a circulatory form. The means of distribution of letters can
have a huge effect upon their meaning. Possible paper topics include:

- The post office; the coffee house; coteries
- State correspondence; espionage; censorship
- Overseas and domestic letters
- Words and things: letters accompanying goods; letters accompanying
people; letters accompanying books.
- The lives of letters: sending, receiving, stealing, collecting,
selling, archiving, publishing.

“Such bold and lively Strokes”: Reading letters

How/where/when did recipients read letters? How do we read letters, or
read the readings of letters?

- Letters in the litter: the billet-doux.
- Letters and the body: the swung-dash; the construction of
- Shared/stolen readership of letters: reading aloud; letter’s and
literacy; forwarding; copying out
- Letters and the law; letters and faith
- Imagined, desired, or figured readers
- Translating letters

“Podefar was misken”: Sorting Letters

The conference will conclude with a round-table discussion led by
specialists in the field addressing the different uses of letters in
research (finding letters in the archive, different forms of publication,
theories of letters). Researchers will reflect upon their own practice
and provide professional guidance, with discussion to follow.

We welcome proposals for 20 minute papers, particularly from graduate
students. Closing date for submissions is Friday 27th June. Please send
proposals of no more than 250 words to:

Stephen Bernard (Brasenose College, University of Oxford)
Claudine van Hensbergen (St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford)
John McTague (St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford)

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Received on Mon Jun 02 2008 - 17:39:44 EDT

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