Category Archives: interdisciplinary network

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 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:

Reblogged: Ethical and Interpretative Issues Workshop, 16 February 2018

Lives of Letters

Booking is now open for our first of two workshops this semester. To register, please fill out our Google form. Places are limited, and are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Lives of Letters-Ethical and Interpretative Workshop 16 February 2018Ethical and Interpretative Issues Workshop, 16 February 2018

This workshop will engage participants in interdisciplinary conversation on the theme of the ethical and interpretative challenges of working with correspondence containing private or sensitive information. The sessions will reflect on issues relating to the handling of this information in the writing of history, whether as used sources for personal or institutional biography or as part of the history writing of larger communities and movements.

This event is co-hosted by the Manchester History of Humanities Research Network.


Conference Room, Graduate School, Ellen Wilkinson Building, University of Manchester Oxford Rd Campus (M13 9PL). Building 77 on the campus map.


Session 1: “Correspondence, Networks and Biography”

[Abstracts for Session…

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Curating Correspondence in a Digital Age

As ever – instructive, interesting, engaging on several levels.

Lives of Letters

The first phase of activities of the Lives and Afterlives of Letters Network during semester 1 consist of three seminars. These take the form of four 10-minute lightning talks with 40 minutes of interdisciplinary discussion following, with a special focus on methodological issues and the sharing of best practices.

The second session took place on Thursday 9 November in the historic surrounds of the Christie Room at the John Rylands Library, and centred on the practice of Curating Correspondence.

A report of the four lightning talks and the discussion following is provided below.

David Denison (UoM, Linguistics & English Language): Mary Hamilton Papers


Note from Princess Augusta Sophia to Mary Hamilton, on the back of a letter written in another hand, 1781 (Mary Hamilton Papers HAM/1/1/5)

Prof David Denison, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics and English Language, focused on issues of digital curation in the Image to Text:…

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Reblogged: Networks and Individuals: Opportunities and challenges in mapping relationships through the study of correspondence

Insightful and informative summary of papers, discussions, and at the end a very useful list of relevant questions that necessitate further research and debate.

Lives of Letters

The Lives and Afterlives of Letters Network’s three events for semester 1 take the form of four 10-minute lightning talks with 40 minutes of interdisciplinary discussion following, with a special focus on methodological issues and the sharing of best practices.

The first session took place on Thursday 12 October in the historic surrounds of the Christie Room at the John Rylands Library, and centred on the study of Networks and Individuals.

A report of the four lightning talks and the discussion following is provided below.

Roberta Mazza (UoM, Classics and Ancient History): Networking in Roman and Byzantine Egypt: Private Letters on Papyrus From the John Rylands Collection

jrl1502105 Letter from Heron to Heroninus, 2nd Century CE (John Rylands Library Greek P 57)

Dr Roberta Mazza, Lecturer in Graeco-Roman Material Culture, presented an overview of the focus of her recent research: the John Rylands Library’s collections of 2000…

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Report on the Enlightenment Correspondences network meeting of 6/11/14 (guest post by Kelsey Rubin-Detlev)

Nicholas Cronk’s talk, ‘Making an Anthology of Voltaire’s Letters: The Problems and the Pleasures’, focused on the lessons learned from his recent completion of an anthology of Voltaire’s letters for the French paperback collection, Folio. The collection reaches a broad audience, with a print run of over 10,000 copies costing around 10 Euros each. The publisher dictated certain conditions, like non-abridgement of the letters; the inclusion of letters by Voltaire only, without any addressed to him; and the inclusion of pictures of a few manuscripts. In reducing Voltaire’s corpus of some 16,000 letters to the 200 in the anthology, Prof. Cronk sought first and foremost to present the full range of letter styles and functions. The five primary lessons of the anthologising process were: (1) combination of chance and deliberation in the formation of the epistolary corpus; (2) the importance of the letter’s material form (from watermarks to subjection to censorship in the post); (3) the increasing prevalence of multiple addressees across Voltaire’s career (especially the inclusion of letters within others for forwarding by the first addressee); (4) the extreme variety of Voltaire’s reinventions of the self; (5) the ludic quality of the letter-writing process, even when no publication could be envisioned.

The discussion raised more questions about the anthologising process. Unlike some previous editors, Prof. Cronk included letters that Voltaire had re-written for eventual publication (especially those recounting his stay at the court of Frederick II). Not just the re-written texts, but all Voltaire’s letters play with the apparent opposition between spontaneity and literary set-pieces, authenticity and mastery of epistolary form. The apparatus for the Folio edition balances the publisher’s desire for minimal annotation with the scholar’s expertise: quotes are translated and identified in footnotes, while a single endnote for each letter glosses the letter’s general import and the essential references. The need for readers to grasp tone and meaning sometimes dictated the choice of letters: more self-explanatory letters were occasionally preferred over more subtle missives requiring greater background knowledge. In seeking ways to convey Voltaire’s games with self-image to young student readers, Prof. Cronk noticed the prevalence of Voltaire’s own (painted and sculpted) portraits as a theme in the letters: he accordingly selected a few of these letters for inclusion in the anthology.

Below are an opening and a closing from the Voltaire letters discussed at the meeting:

I have received your new book against mankind. I thank you for it. You will please those to whom you reveal the truth, and you will not improve them. You paint in most faithful colours the horrors of human society, from which ignorance and weakness expect so much pleasure. So much intelligence has never been used to seek to make us stupid.
One is tempted to walk on all fours after reading your book.’
(to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 30 August 1755)

[‘Select Letters of Voltaire, transl. and ed. by Theodore Besterman, London, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1963, pp. 148-49]

‘Consolez vous aussi le plus tôt que vous pourrez, car rien n’est plus triste que d’avoir du chagrin; et pour vous consoler croyez que vous n’êtes ni le seul ni le premier qui ait été attrapé par le petit Suisse, car malheureusement le malheur d’autrui console.’
(to Jean Baptiste, marquis d’Albertas, c. 5 November 1761)

[Voltaire, ‘Correspondence and Related Documents’, ed. by Theodore Besterman, Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, vols. 85-135, Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 1968-77, D10137]

More information about the network and upcoming events can be found here