Author Archives: mis

‘And what a gift a good letter can be.’ (John McGregor) – The Letters Page, Vol. 3 (review)

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If you have been keeping an eye on the art of letter writing in recent years, you will have noticed that the news of its death is somewhat exaggerated. Letters and their close digital relatives come in many shapes and guises these days – you find them in your mailbox as well as in art and literature, in your electronic inbox as well as on social media. Once you start looking, you will spot them everywhere. Having said that, there are currently not that many literary journals which take the form of letters. That certainly is one of the unique selling points of the The Letters Page.

It is not, however, its only attractive feature: so far, each of the journal’s anthologies has not only given letterphiliacs a good excuse to revisit the pleasant land of epistolary writing but has also been a feast for the eyes of bibliophiles. Vol. 3 is no exception to this rule, although there have been changes. Unlike its predecessors – which had been produced by the very capable hands of the little Cyprian publisher Book Ex Machina – the current volume was printed in Nottingham, where the journal is based. The result may not be quite as sleek as its older siblings, but it gets quite close: when it arrives at your doorstep, you will find that the book cover doubles as a mailing box complete with wax seal and even includes an in-built bookmark. Inside the book, each letter is prefaced by a simple illustration in red whose motif relates to the content of following piece. A folded facsimile which includes the first page of the original manuscript letter on one side and the journal’s address written on the original envelope on the other precedes six of the fourteen letters.

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Like volume numbers 1 and 2, Vol. 3 again resembles a variant of the old mixed-mailbag genre in presenting a range of fictional letters written by different authors from the UK and abroad. In his opening piece, editor John McGregor suggests ‘departures’ as the collection’s leitmotif. While, to this reviewer at least, this theme did not seem equally apparent in all contributions, a quality all of them seem to share is an imaginative playfulness, or in other words: a strong sense of pleasure in exploiting and exploring the epistolary form in all its glorious potential.

As with any anthology, different readers will find some letters in the volume more memorable than others. Apart from the editor’s very enjoyable introductory letter, this reviewer particularly loved Chris Arthur’s musings on the nature of the postcard which he succinctly describes as the ‘haiku of correspondence’; John Saul’s stylistically intriguing monologue of a man called Wilson who sounds as if he just spent some time imprisoned on a psychiatric ward; Max Porter’s celebration of an epistolary ‘fraternal hug’ he received from the marvellous John Berger; and Mark O’Connell’s darkly humorous lines on his knowledge (or lack thereof) of the ‘future of technology and humanity’ which he composes, of course, with a goose feather quill and gall ink.

All in all, Vol. 3 could be described as a pretty varied literary mailbag. As with most publications, one can find a thing or two to nit-pick at. This review wants to list two minor criticisms in the hope they might perhaps be addressed by the editor and his team. Firstly, some of footnotes that are appended to the letters seem a little too extensive or try a little too hard at sounding less than serious. Secondly, this reviewer wondered why the first page of letters together with the address was given as a facsimile instead of the letter as a whole, and – more importantly – why the printed version did not always match the original completely (in Max Porter’s case, for instance, the opening paragraph was not included).

This last quibble aside, one should hasten to add, that it is of course wonderful to get a glimpse at an authors’ handwriting. Even the truncated facsimiles go a long way in restoring the individuality of the handwritten piece which was, as a paper-and-ink object, submitted to the journal for consideration long before the publication of this book. In view of this last point in particular, The Letters Page – Vol. 3 is not only another testament to the literary potential of letter writing but also, albeit maybe in a small way, a reminder of the material attractions of epistolary cultures which any letter lover will appreciate.

This reviewer, at least, is definitely looking forward to Vol. 4.

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Conference on the Aldine Edition of the Ancient Greek Epistolographers – John Rylands Library, 17 June 2019

Reblogged on ‘What is a letter’.

Lives of Letters

The Aldine Edition of the Ancient Greek Epistolographers: Roots and Legacy

accompanied by an exhibition: “Old and Rare Editions of Ancient Greek Epistolographers”.

Monday 17 June 2019, 10.00 am – 4.00 pm, Christie Room, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH

The Aldine edition of Greek epistolographers, published in 1499 in Venice, is the first printed edition of most of the 36 letter collections that it contains. Its text was based on earlier medieval epistolaria, and itself formed the basis for most of the subsequent printed editions of the collections it contained. Despite its principal position and importance, the current value of this edition for the study of Greek epistolography is not widely understood. The aims of the Rylands event are to examine collections of ancient Greek epistolographers included in the Aldine and to explore i) the roots of the Aldine edition, ii) its relationship to the medieval Byzantine manuscript epistolary collections, iii) its…

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Originally posted on John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog: Lucy-Kay Brownson, a student on Liverpool University’s Master of Archives and Records Management course, writes: ? In January 2019, as part of my MA programme at Liverpool University, I catalogued a series of First World War correspondence from the Guardian (formerly Manchester Guardian) Archive held at…

via Cataloguing the First World War correspondence of the Manchester Guardian — Lives of Letters

CA & CFP: Melancholy, Love and Letters – International Congress on Soror Mariana Alcoforado (1640–1723), Beja, Portugal – 15–17/11/19

Source of information and text/s: conference website
Name of event: Melancholy, Love and Letters – International Congress on Soror Mariana Alcoforado (1640–1723)
Dates: 15–17 November 2019
Hosts: NOVA University of Lisbon, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Venue: tbc

Description (from the conference website; not edited): The obscure letters a nun from Beja, Portugal, wrote to her fugitive lover build a crescendo of longing, affliction and abandonment, refashioning the pristine motives of medieval Galician-Portuguese «songs of a friend» with a new baroque hypersensitivity. They have attained, since their unauthorized publication in 1669, 350 years ago, an improbable success throughout Europe and the world, sparking fashions, instigating literary and scholarly battles, and inspiring countless imitations and tributes.

About these poignant documents of hopelessness, everything has been questioned: the letters’ authorship and original language; their author’s sex and nation; the authenticity or artifice of the emotions they project; the veracity or fictionality of the biographical and topographic contexts they evoke. Scholars, polemists, literary critics and Mariana’s devotees have put forward strong arguments in favor of various hypotheses concerning the text’s authorship, which have been raised, denied, reformulated, resumed, recombined, and joined also by a growing corpus of recreations that threaten to relegate the text itself to a faded background. Despite this fertile reception, or by virtue of it, Mariana’s passion remains at the center of the gallery of Portuguese love myths, parallel to the tragedy of Pedro and Inês.

Three and a half centuries later, the time has come to rescue the text, reevaluate its authorship, and celebrate the inexhaustible fascination of its themes: volition and desire, expressed through the ancient practice of prayer; the penitent self-examination, trained in the rigorous discipline of confession; and the «contemptus mundi», root and pillar of the cloistered condition. Mariana’s tribulations thus attain the full potential of the four canonical readings: the historical (the unhappy convent romance in Beja), the allegorical (the existential solitude of any individual), the moral (the desperation of lovers facing the impossibility of total union), and the anagogical (the lament of the soul, while abandoned in its earthly exile, yearning for its return to the Creator).

The NOVA University of Lisbon, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and with the generous support of Beja Town Council, will hold an International Congress on Soror Mariana Alcoforado in Beja, on 15-17 November 2019, to mark the 350 years of the princeps edition of ‘Lettres portugaises traduites en françois’ (Paris: chez Claude Barbin, 1669). The Portuguese National Library will showcase a related bibliographical exhibition, among other celebrations in Beja, Lisbon and worldwide.

For a description of the conference programme, see their website.

CFP: Please send paper proposals on Mariana Alcoforado, on love letters, or on Beja and Alentejo writers such as Mário Beirão (1890-1965), Luís Amaro (1923-2018), and others to mariana @ missiva.pt by June 30. Include title, 300-word abstract, and a brief bio note. Presentations in Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish will be accepted.

Submitted proposals will be reviewed by July 15 and acceptance decisions will be communicated by e-mail by July 20.

Conference fees: participants, including round trip Lisbon/Beja, 2 nights accommodation, dinner, luncheon and Congress Certificate – 25€; attendees – free (may join the travel, pending availability of places).

CFP: Epistolary Bodies: Letters and Embodiment in the Eighteenth Century, Leicester, 24/05/2019

Source of information: conference website
Date: 24 May 2019
Place: University of Leicester
Organisation: Sarah Goldsmith (Leicester), Sheryllynne Haggerty (Nottingham) and Karen Harvey (Birmingham) – as part of the Midlands Eighteenth-Century Research Network (MECRN).

Description: This interdisciplinary one-day conference explores the relationship between letters and bodies in the long eighteenth century, and the information that can be found about ‘embodiment’, or experiences of the body, in letters. What can letters add to our understanding of eighteenth-century bodies? How might letters allow us to ‘embody’ activities such as work, trade, sociability and worship? How did the form and style of letters shape the knowledge about the body that they communicated? As material objects themselves and often carried on the person, what relationship did letters have with the body? Can bodily states, such as illness, be discerned from the mingled intellectual and mechanical act of writing? Alternatively, consideration might be given to the metaphorical role of bodies in letters in the eighteenth century, in for example, bodies of correspondence or the body politic.

Call for Papers:: Please submit abstracts (max. 300 words) for 20-minute papers to epistolarybodiesconference@gmail.com by 25 February 2019. We also encourage postgraduate students to submit proposals (max. 100 words) for 3-minute lightening talks.

Topics might include:

  • Family letters on domestic, medical or corporeal practices
  • Doctor/patient correspondence
  • Business letters related to trades for the body (dress, food and beauty)
  • Differing discussions of the body as relating to age, gender, religion, politics etc
  • Foreign bodies in travel letters
  • Letters in novels
  • Representations of letters and reading in artwork
  • The material letter
  • The physical act of writing and/or reading
  • The body as a metaphor in letter writing

The event is open to all, and we particularly encourage proposals from the MECRN universities: Birmingham, Birmingham City University, Derby, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Leicester, Warwick and Worcester.

Original URL: https://epistolarybodiesconference.wordpress.com/

Reblogged – Fragmentary Lives: Conference Report — In Their Own Write

The first conference organised under the auspices of ‘In Their Own Write’ was held at The National Archives, at Kew, on Saturday the 9th of June. The theme of the conference was “the survival and interpretation of ego documents”, and it brought together a huge range of fascinating work on the subject. For those of […]

via Fragmentary Lives: Conference Report — In Their Own Write