Objects of Value: The Afterlives of Letters

At the symposium ‘What is a letter? An interdisciplinary approach’, Pamela Clemit presented a paper entitled ‘Godwin’s letters: transmissions of value’. This paper is a work in progress; an earlier version of it is available as a podcast (please see the post below).

READ Research English At Durham

godwin_crop Chalk drawing of William Godwin by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1795 © Trustees of the British Museum A podcast featuring Professor Pamela Clemit is now available to download via theOxford Centre for Life-Writing; the podcast was recorded at thecentre’s Lives of Objectsconference, held at Wolfson College, University of Oxford, 20-22 September 2013.As part of a panel on “Archives,”Professor Clemitexplores the material culture of letter-writing in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Her focus is the correspondence of the English Enlightenment philosopher, novelist, and social thinker, William Godwin. She tracks his letters from their origins on his writing desk, to their afterlives in scholarly editions and iPad apps.Professor Clemit’s paper begins around 21:22.

Why do letters survive for centuries after they were written? The energy that created them keeps them alive. Letters constitute gifts of attention, embodied in paper. Before electronics, letters were the only means of interpersonal communication over…

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