Literature as Imaginary Archive: Ephemera and Modern Literary Production

deadline for submissions: 
September 1, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Open Library of Humanities Journal

Call for Papers: Open Library of Humanities Journal Special Collection:

Literature as Imaginary Archive: Ephemera and Modern Literary Production


This open access Special Collection, to be published in the Open Library of Humanities journal, seeks to bring together contributions by scholars working at the intersection of modern and contemporary literature, material culture, ephemera, and archives. We are looking for essays that explore how ephemera register in, are used by, and influence the form of modern(ist) and contemporary literary production, thereby considering how, and to what purposes, literary texts come to function as imaginary archives. 


The gathering of ephemera – which we define with Maurice Rickards as ‘minor transient documents of everyday life’ (Collecting Printed Ephemera, 1988, p. 1) – into an archive is often understood as a documentary impulse which inevitably invites questions about what is kept and what is lost, whether by intention or accident. This Special Collection posits that literary texts (and the literary canon) also represent an archival endeavour, offering a space within which ephemera can be recuperated and reimagined. The collection will encompass examinations of both real and fictional examples of ephemera in literature as well as considerations of the affective and critical work that can be done by creative acts using or recovering ephemeral objects.


A substantial body of research explores ephemera (e.g., Rickards, 1988; Twyman, 2008; Russell, 2020). This Special Collection endeavours to build on existing research in two significant ways: 


(1) while much research on ephemera concentrates on the 18th century, we focus on ephemera and literary production from 1900 to the present; 


(2) while ephemera has been considered in relation to the history of the book and print culture, we are most interested in the formal questions that accrue when ephemera features, or is reimagined, in fiction, film, and poetry. 


The Special Collection invites considerations of the persistent presence of fragmentary, minor, and marginal ephemeral objects in relation to the aesthetic strategies of modern and contemporary literature. The period under consideration witnessed, on the one hand, a proliferation of material ephemera such as postcards, pamphlets, packaging, and tickets, and, on the other hand, the emergence of experimental literary styles engaging with collage and photography, documentary realism and intertextuality, fragmentation and encyclopaedism. 


We invite proposals for essays for this Special Collection on any type of literature produced between 1900 and the present that engages with any of the following themes:


  • Private or public documents designed to be transient or temporary;

  • Ephemera’s afterlives in literature / literature as a space of archival encounter;

  • The influence of ephemera on form and genre;

  • The ethical implications of literary re-imaginings of lost histories via ephemera and/or archives.


Please submit a 250-350 word abstract by 1 September 2023. Submissions should be sentto with the subject line ‘Literature as Imaginary Archive - Submission.’ The editors also welcome queries. Submissions will be notified of the outcome by 18 September 2023. 


Essays will go through a double-anonymous peer review process and be published in the OLHJ on a rolling basis. The final submission deadline for full essays (c. 8,000 words) is May 2024.