Call: 1st Global Conference Letters & Letter Writing – Signed, Sealed, Delivered

[For those wondering how this might be about (tele)presence, see Esther Milne’s ISPR 2011 paper, Historical Provocations: Postal Presence, Intimate Absence and Public Privacy.  –Matthew ]

1st Global Conference
Letters & Letter Writing – Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Tuesday 18th March – Thursday 20th March 2014
Prague, Czech Republic

Call for Presentations

The letter has been one of the most important forms of communication over thousands of years across many cultures and continents. Whether personal, professional or an open statement of intent it can covey the most intimate messages or declare the most inflammatory of declarations. It can be delivered by hand, by postman, by pigeon, by bottle, by smartphone, by internet connection or even by space ship. It can be cherished, collected, published, censored, blogged, stolen, steamed open, torn up, buried, displayed. It can be written on paper, papyrus, skin, in the sand, in wax, on sweet wrappers and on computer screens. It can be written with quills, pens, keyboards, chalk and in ink, in blood, in lemon juice, in light, with love, with hate, with desperation, with pride, with humiliation and with satisfaction. Correspondingly, it can take seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks or even years to reach its destination, whether sent to someone in the next room, or via a time capsule to people 50 years in the future. A letter is not just the means to communicate to others, but a way in which we communicate who, what and where we are and the times that we live in, consequently, being as much about the interconnectedness of identity, place and culture through time as it is about the immediate connection to those around us.

A striking example of such interconnectedness and entanglement survives from ancient Rome in the Letters to Atticus of Marcus Tullius Cicero written between 68-44 BCE. Originally hand written on papyri using a reed pen, they were delivered using a network of slaves often taking up to 4 weeks to reach their destination. Intended only to be read by his friend, this private correspondence was published by an unknown editor sometime after Cicero’s death and enjoyed as a literary work. Now available as both book and hypertext, its rich contents provide valuable information on many aspects of Roman life, not to mention the history of his times.

This timely consideration of the forms, materials and methods used to connect to ourselves and to others in and through time invites abstracts on the following themes for any historical period or geographical location:

  • The beginnings (archaeology and early human writings)
  • The death of the letter (and its reincarnation through technology, email)
  • Role in important events (private, public, real, imagined or literary)
  • Cultural significance of
  • As diary
  • As historical source
  • As literature or within a literary work
  • As biography
  • As art or visual significance of
  • The physical form (baked clay, waxed wooden tablets, parchment)
  • The writing materials (reed pen, quill, ink, biro, typewriter)
  • Contents of letters (love, politics, friendship, business, philosophy, consolation)
  • Forms of delivery (couriers, private or public postal services)
  • Intended readers (individual, family, group) and confidentiality issues
  • Letters lost and letters found
  • Letters as texts or texts as letters
  • Published versus unpublished
  • Handwriting and letter writing conventions: construction, syntax, language, spelling and symbols
  • Letter-writers: male and female
  • Authorship: anonymity or identity statement
  • Queering the letter?
  • Weaponising the letter?
  • Intercepted or “leaked” letters
  • The future of letter writing

What to Send

300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 11th October 2013. 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 17th January 2014. 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: Letters1 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:
Rob Fisher:

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.

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.


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