Call for Presentations

2nd Global Conference

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Sunday 22nd March – Tuesday 24th March 2015
Lisbon, Portugal


Call for Presentations
In the eighteenth century, the letter, which had been the foremost medium of long-distance communication since antiquity, came to be considered as a particularly intimate, natural, and authentic form of expression and communication, capable of providing unadulterated insights into the writer’s mind. Epistolary novels dominated the literary market, and the letters of celebrated public figures became equally popular reading material. ‘In a man’s letters, you know, Madam, his soul lies naked, his letters are only the mirror of his breast, whatever passes within him is shown undisguised in its natural process’, Samuel Johnson wrote in a letter to Hester Thrale in 1777. Today, this idealisation of the letter’s natural spontaneity and authenticity seems naïve at best. Letters can be manipulated as well as manipulative; they can be intercepted, censored, or fatally misread; a letter-writer might engage in histrionic self-dramatisation or active deception; genuine epistolary expression might be compromised by linguistic, social, cultural, sexual, and moral conventions alike. Letters can be almost completely impersonal, as in the case of spam mail, business communications, bills, circulars, or newsletters. And, of course, even when a correspondent believes himself or herself to be completely genuine at the moment of writing a letter, the recipient might still read a profoundly unreliable document, since the fixed materiality of the letter clashes with the mutability of the human mind and heart.

Letters are central to research in many disciplines yet have rarely been addressed in a genuinely multi-disciplinary way. The first interdisciplinary conference on letters and letter writing opened up a number of interesting avenues of inquiry. From Roman epistles to neo-epistolarity; from high Victorian fiction to literary modernism; from concentration camps to asylums; the letter has a bewildering variety of functions, forms and meanings. We would like to continue this dialogue by opening up a call for presentations around issues arising out of this discussion.

Proposals of 300 words are invited for this inter-disciplinary conference on the following themes for any historical period or geographical location:

  • What is a letter?
  • Social class or status and letter writing
  • The materiality of letters and letter-writing: letters on ostraca (potsherds), tablets, papyri, vellum; handwritten letters versus typewritten letters; the significance of stamps, ink, envelopes, writing-desks and other paraphernalia of epistolary communication
  • Love letters / hate mail
  • Dear John…
  • Letters to oneself
  • Open letters
  • Famous letter writers, for example Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, the Brontës, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thackeray, Hardy, Eliot, Trollope, Wilkie Collins
  • The epistolary novel
  • Letters in literature
  • Letters in other art forms (e.g. letters in songs, envelope art)
  • Methods and networks of delivery/postal services?
  • Letters versus conversations
  • Letters and posterity
  • Communication across space and time
  • The role of letters in doing business
  • Letters in the internet age and digital letters
  • Letters and authorship
  • Editorial decisions in collecting letters
  • Letters as historical data
  • Methods of epistolary research

What to Send
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 24th October 2014. All submissions are minimally double blind peer reviewed where appropriate. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 23rd January 2015. Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to the Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract, f) up to 10 key words.
Emails should be entitled: Letters2 Abstract Submission

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs

Linda McGuire: linda.mcguire@nullescdijon.eu
Rob Fisher : letters2@nullinter-disciplinary.net

The conference is part of the At the Interface programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting. All papers accepted for and presented at the conference must be in English and will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook.  Selected papers may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s). All publications from the conference will require editors, to be chosen from interested delegates from the conference.

Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.