Tag Archives: early modern letter writing

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).

Reblogged: Anne Murphy on ‘A Page in the Life of Elizabeth Jeake’

Originally posted on the many-headed monster: [In our mini-series ‘A Page in the Life’, each post briefly introduces a new writer and a single page from their manuscript. In this post, Anne Murphy offers a loving letter from a seventeenth-century merchant’s wife, who Anne has discussed in more detail in a recent article and whose…

via A Page in the Life of Elizabeth Jeake: unfeigned love among mercantile matters — Lives of Letters

Reblogged – Conference report: Probleme digitaler Erfassung und Edition von Briefwechseln – Theologenbriefwechsel im Südwesten des Reichs in der Frühen Neuzeit (1550-1620)

Report by Max Graff, Forschungsstelle Theologenbriefwechsel im deutschen Südwesten 1550-1620, Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften

Anfang 2017 wurde an der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften die Arbeit an einem neuen Langzeitprojekt aufgenommen. Die Forschungsstelle „Theologenbriefwechsel im Südwesten des deutschen Reichs in der Frühen Neuzeit (1550-1620)“ erfasst, dokument und ediert die Korrespondenzen der führenden Theologen der Kurpfalz, Württembergs und Straßburgs.[1] Am 22. und 23. März 2017 fand in Heidelberg ein Arbeitsgespräch mit Experten aus dem Bereich der Digital Humanities sowie Mitarbeitern von thematisch und/oder zeitlich ähnlich ausgerichteten Forschungsprojekten statt.

In seinem Eröffnungsvortrag umriss der Forschungsstellenleiter CHRISTOPH STROHM (Heidelberg) Intention und Relevanz des neuen Vorhabens. Obwohl gerade Briefe eine besonders aufschlussreiche Quelle für die Erforschung der Motive und Mechanismen jener Prozesse seien, die ab der zweiten Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts grundlegend für die Entstehung der modernen europäischen Gesellschaften waren, würden die mehrheitlich handschriftlich überlieferten Korrespondenzen von Theologen des 16. und frühen 17. Jahrhunderts von den Digitalisierungsprogrammen kaum erfasst. Dem Narrativ, das den Weg in die Moderne einseitig als Prozess der fortschreitenden Säkularisierung erklärt, habe die Forschung in den letzten Jahrzehnten besonders in Bezug auf die Zeit von 1550-1620 ein Modell entgegengestellt, das von einem vielseitigen Ineinander von Säkularisierung und Konfessionalisierung ausgeht – ein Vorgang, der auch in der heutigen gesellschaftspolitischen Situation in Teilen der Welt von großer Aktualität ist. Die Theologen nahmen in dieser Entwicklung eine Schlüsselrolle ein – weshalb gerade ihre Korrespondenz zu erforschen sei. Die konfessionelle Konstellation im Südwesten des Reichs mache dieses Gebiet als Untersuchungsraum besonders attraktiv. Im ökonomisch und kulturell starken Zentrum Mitteleuropas herrschte eine äußerst produktive innerprotestantische Konkurrenzsituation: Das lutherische Herzogtum Württemberg (mit der einflussreichen Universität Tübingen) exportierte sein Modell ins gesamte Reich; die calvinistisch-reformierte Kurpfalz mit der Universität Heidelberg als intellektuellem Zentrum schuf die Grundlage für die Verbreitung des Calvinismus in ganz Europa und darüber hinaus. Straßburg schließlich folgte zunächst einem an der auf Ausgleich bedachten Theologie und Kirchenpolitik Martin Bucers orientierten Modell, bevor sich auch hier die lutherische Variante durchsetzte. Zudem fanden die ersten Bemühungen um innerprotestantischen Ausgleich im Südwesten statt (schon 1534 mit der württembergischen Konkordie, die zur Grundlage der Wittenberger Konkordie wurde). Schließlich haben die beiden großen späten protestantischen Bekenntnisse – der Heidelberger Katechismus (1563) und die Konkordienformel (1577) – hier ihren Ursprung.

To continue reading click here.


Citation of report: Tagungsbericht: Probleme digitaler Erfassung und Edition von Briefwechseln – Theologenbriefwechsel im Südwesten des Reichs in der Frühen Neuzeit (1550-1620), 22.03.2017 – 23.03.2017 Heidelberg, in: H-Soz-Kult, 24.05.2017, .

COST Action: Reassembling the Republic of Letters; Second Annual Conference (Warsaw)

12th – 15th June 2016, University of Warsaw Conference Room, Level -1.
Faculty of “Artes Liberales”
Dobra Street 72

From the conference programme:

The COST Action IS 1310 “Reassembling the Republic of Letters” is in its third year of work towards assembling the blueprint of trans-national digital infrastructure to support collaborative work on early modern intellectual history. Having previously explored scholarly work from the perspective of shared technical standards, this conference will pursue the opposite path: digital functionality will be discussed from the perspective of current scholarly strands about the Republic of Letters. Following the structural logic of the Action’s working groups, the topics addressed will include (amongst others) intellectual geography; the social history of knowledge and network analysis; topic modelling and conceptual history; descriptive techniques and the material turn; visualization and the visual turn.

The full conference programme is available here.

URL of project website: http://www.republicofletters.net

Reblogged: ‘Letterlocking: How did you fold a letter in the early modern period and what did it mean?’

The following text was originally posted by Sam on: Copious but not Compendious

First impressions are important. When I receive mail – physical items by post, that is – simply the size and shape of the envelope tells me something about the sender. A5-sized envelopes (well, C5-sized, but you know what I mean; ditto below) tend to be bills or notes from the bank, A6 and smaller are probably greeting cards and concentrate around public holidays and birthdays and the like; A4-sized envelopes are rarer, but can contain official papers as well as missives of condolences. There is cultural variation, of course, and the range of shapes and sizes of envelopes as well as their meanings vary between countries and continents.

Most people probably don’t stop to think about why we have a range of envelope shapes and sizes, although having to figure out which is appropriate for a specific purpose is probably a familiar task. Job application – A4; love-letter – a long and thin envelope, like an A5 folded lengthwise. But I’m not sure anyone today would be upset if they received mail in the “wrong” envelope – possibly puzzled, but not offended. (Having said that, it’s probably a safer bet to stick to instructions when posting job applications, though. The recipients might not take offense per se, but may well discard your application..)

envelope sizes
Some modern envelope sizes

In the early modern period, envelopes in the modern sense did not exist. Instead, letters would be folded to form their own covers. This skill was taught as a matter of course as a part of other letter-writing skills, such as learning the right opening and closing formulas, and how to write superscriptions (addresses). Jana Dambrogio has coined the term letterlocking for the practices of folding, securing and sealing letters. At this stage, we still know next to nothing about the vast field that is letterlocking. We have only begun to chart the myriad ways in which letters were folded, secured and sealed. We know very little about change over time from Antiquity to the present day, or about regional variation. And we have only vague conceptions about all the meaning that different types of letterlocking conveyed across time and space.

This is incredibly exciting: so much unexplored territory!

Research on epistolary materiality has already shown that material features can reveal social codes and meanings (see esp. James Daybell’s 2012 book-length overview). This applies not only to what letters are physically made of and how they are folded, but also to what I call textual materiality, features like layout or mise-en-page, and also more subtle aspects such as script and hand. Layout, being the most immediately visible  ..er, visual non-linguistic aspect of the text of a letter, naturally attracted the attention of scholars first, and thanks to scholars such as Jonathan Gibson (1997) the concept of significant space is now widely known.

Significant space refers to politeness and deference expressed as space on the page of a letter. […]

(to continue reading, click here to see the original post)

CFP: The idea of a life, 1500-1700 (Friday 17 June 2016, Oxford)

Conference title: The idea of a life, 1500-1700
Date: Friday 17 June 2016
Organizer: Centre for Early Modern Studies at Oxford University
Venue: MBI Al Jaber Auditorium, Corpus Christi College

‘I pray you, in your letters, / When you shall these unlucky deeds relate, / Speak of me as I am’ — Othello, Act 5, Scene 2

What was a life in early modern England and Europe? What patterns and templates were used to sort, sift, organise and represent experience? How were models for a life produced and reworked? How was a life evaluated, in terms of various sorts of good — moral, spiritual, civic, familial, economic? What were the moments, and what were the processes, by which a representation of a life was circulated? Are Burckhardtian models of the birth of Renaissance individuality and depth still useful to describe early modern culture, or do we need new paradigms? If much recent early modern work has been organised around ideas of networks, coteries and communities, how has the idea of a life been revised? If autobiography is often seen as a nineteenth-century form, what kind of pre-history does it experience in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? How has the turn to the archive reformed our sense of early modern lives? For scholars today, what is the status of biography as a way of organising analysis of the period?

The Centre for Early Modern Studies at Oxford University invites proposals for 20-minute papers on topics that engage with the idea of a life, 1500-1700, from any disciplinary perspective. Papers are welcome on English or European materials, and from all disciplinary perspectives.

Papers might include (but are not limited to) topics such as

Life and the archive: inclusions, exclusions, mediations
Memorialization: modes of remembering a life
Recording lives: note-taking, diary keeping, commonplace books, information management
Classical models of a life
Saints lives and martyrologies
Public and private lives: honour, service, love, family
Typology and reiterated lives
Interiority and inwardness
Experimental predestinarianism, and the search for signs of grace
Conduct books
Fulfilment, contentment, happiness
Posthumous lives, reputation, honour, influence
Forms of autobiography and experiments in life-writing
Lives of artists
Exemplary lives
The good life
The role of biography in early modern studies
Editing lives and letters
The stages of life: youth and age.

Please send a 300-word proposal and a brief (one-page) CV to Dr Adam Smyth (adam.smyth@balliol.ox.ac.uk) by 25 April 2016.

CA: Epistolary cultures (18-19 March 2016, York)

Title of conference: Epistolary cultures – letters and letter-writing in early modern Europe
Organisers: Dr Freya Sierhuis (freya.sierhuis@york.ac.uk); Dr Kevin Killeen (kevin.killeen@york.ac.uk)
Date: 18. – 19. 03. 2016
Location: The Tree House, Berrick Saul Building

Description: From the place of Cicero’s intimate letters in the development of Renaissance humanism, to the knowledge networks of merchants, collectors and scientists, to the role of women in the republic of letters, recent years have seen a flowering of studies on the practice of letter-writing in Early Modern Europe, as well as major editing projects of early modern letters – Hartlib, Comenius, Scaliger, Casaubon, Browne, Greville, and the EMLO and Cultures of Knowledge projects. This conference will explore the many aspects of early modern epistolary culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth century in its Latin and vernacular forms. It will consider topics such as the intellectual geographies of letter-writing, the connections between vernacular and Latin letter cultures, questions of genre, rhetoric and style, as well as the political, religious, and scientific uses of letters.

This conference brings together speakers, both established and emergent, from around the globe, who are working on early modern letter writing and its networks, whether professional, for personal and intimate communication, or within scientific and humanist cultures. Strands of the conference will explore the material forms of writing, letter writing theory, and the importance and use of existing collections. Speakers come from a multitude of disciplines and one key goal of the conference will be consider how these disparate areas respond to early modern letter writing theory and practice.

The conference includes a workshop, which involves hands-on reconstruction of early modern letter writing devices for ‘letter-locking’ using paper, wax and seals, led by a team from MIT and Oxford.


This information was originally published on the website of the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, University of York (CREMS); a conference programme and further information can be found there.

CFP: Epistolary cultures – letters and letter-writing in early modern Europe (York, 2016)

The University of York is pleased to announce Epistolary cultures – letters and letter-writing in early modern Europe, a two-day conference (Humanities Research Centre, 18-19 March 2016).

From the place of Cicero’s intimate letters in the development of Renaissance humanism, to the knowledge networks of merchants, collectors and scientists, to the role of women in the republic of letters, recent years have seen a flowering of studies on the practice of letter-writing in Early Modern Europe, as well as major editing projects of early modern letters – Hartlib, Comenius, Scaliger, Casaubon, Browne, Greville, and the EMLO and Cultures of Knowledge projects. This conference will explore the manifold aspects of early modern letter-writing in the sixteenth and seventeenth century in its Latin and vernacular forms. It will consider topics such as the intellectual geographies of letter-writing, the connections between vernacular and Latin letter cultures, questions of genre, rhetoric and style, as well as the political, religious, and scientific uses of letters.

Keynote speakers include Henry Woudhuysen and Andrew Zurcher. Other speakers include: Tom Charlton James Daybell, Johanna Harris Joe Moshenska, Alison Searle, Richard Serjeantson

Papers might explore:

Rhetoric and letter writing.

Humanism and the republic of letters.

The early modern secretary.

Women and the republic of letters.

The classical and the biblical letter in early modern thought.

Letters and the professions – law, trade, war and diplomacy.

Materials of letter writing: paper, pen, parchment, seals.

The personal letter: friends and family

Love letters.

Writing disaster: plague and war letters.

Geographies of letter writing.

Scientific letters.

Petition letters.

Royal letters.

Prison letters.

Collections and the publishing of letters.

Verse epistles.

Epistolary fiction.

Dedicatory and prefatory letters.

Case studies.

Applications: please send a 250-500 word abstract and short c.v. to: Kevin Killeen (kevin.killeen@york.ac.uk) and Freya Sierhuis (freya.sierhuis@york.ac.uk) before 27 April 2015. We welcome applications from early and mid-career researchers, as well as established scholars


The letter that could see (a find = ein Fundstück)

‘The Americans believed at first, Paper could speak, seeing People read in a Book.

They say, that an Indian Slave, who being sent by his Master with a Basket of Figs and a Letter, did by the Way eat up part of his Carriage, conveying the Remainder to the Person to whom he was directed, who having read the Letter, and not finding the Quantity of Figs there mention’d, he accuses the Slave of eating them, telling him what the Letter said against him: But the Indian confidently abjured the Fact, cursing the Paper as a lying Witness.

After this, being sent again with the like Carriage, and a Letter expressing the like Number of Figs to be deliver’d, he did again devour part of them by the way: But before he meddled with any (to prevent all Accusation) he first hid the Letter under a great Stone, assuring himself, that if it did not see him eat the Figs, it could never tell of him: But being now more strongly accused than before, he confessed the Fault, admiring the Divinity of the Paper.’

A SHORT TREATISE UPON ARTS and SCIENCES, IN French and English, BY QUESTION and ANSWER. THE SECOND EDITION. Enlarged with an infinite number of things both Curious and Instructive. A Work very useful to those who desire to improve themselves in the French Tongue, containing a great Variety of Subjects. By JOHN PALARAIT, Writing-master, etc. to Their Royal Highnesses the DUKE, Princess MARY, and Princess LOUISA. LONDON: Sold by M. CHASTEL, Bookseller, in Compton-street, Soho; and by the Author in Greek-street, by Soho-square. MDCCXXXVI: in the  chapter ‘On languages’, pp. 29–30.

Upcoming WEMLO Workshop and Colloquium, Oxford, 14–15 August

Title: WEMLO (Women’s Early Modern Letters Online) Workshop & Colloquium on
‘New Directions in Early Modern Women’s Letters’
Date: 14 – 15 August 2014
Venue: Lecture Theatre & Rees Davies Room, History Faculty, University of Oxford
Registration: by Monday, 11 August 2014; email: wemlomail@gmail.com
Organized by: the British-Academy/Leverhulme-Funded Women’s Early Modern Letters Online in association with the University of Oxford’s Cultures of Knowledge Project, Plymouth University and University of Victoria

Detailed information about the programme, fee, etc., is available here.
Additional information can be found here.