Call for Papers

As literary, visual, often treasured material objects, postcards and letters are always beyond text. This emerges through issues involved in their transmission and reception (Altman, 1982) and the many ways that they dramatize acts of material inscription. Letters have long been a potent image in the visual arts and epistolary writings often reciprocally refer to the pictorial. Combining 'fragmentary utterances and the primacy of the image' (Wollaeger, 2001), picture postcards challenged epistolary convention over a century ago. Developing postal technologies, email, texting and blogging produce new and further mutating epistolaries. Arguably more welcoming, particularly to marginalized people, these forms also result in anxiety and nostalgia, as they sensitize us to the loss of embodied aspects of letters - 'objects touched by human hands' (Harris, 2001). Contemporary fiction responds to these changes in lively and curious ways (Barker, 2010; Adiga, 2008; Berger, 2008), as is also reflected in other artistic practice and critical thought.


Cutting across disciplinary divides, we welcome researchers, writers, visual artists, curators and all who are interested in letters, postcards and the epistolary. We invite abstracts for critical or creative papers which range widely across the theme.


Topics, in a far from exhaustive list, might include:

·     Epistolary sub-genres, both fictional and biographical (gothic, religious, instructional, travel, love letters…)

·     Relationships between readers and writers, artists and spectators, verbal and/or visual arts

·     Illustrated epistolaries, including manuscripts, fiction and theory

·     The letter-form as a carrier of cultural memory, power and authority

·     Selected letters – correspondence and censorship

·     Open and closed, public and private

·     Letters across borders – delivery systems and diaspora

·     Letters and postcards as embodied objects, including in museums and archives

·     Email, blogging and other new forms

·     Theorizations of the epistolary, including gender and sexuality

·     Mutating epistolaries in fiction, from the eighteenth century to contemporary writing

·     The letter and the body




All papers presented at the conference are under consideration for publication.

A small number of limited contributions were available towards international students' travel on a competitive basis. Congratulations to: Robyn Creagh and Paula Do Prado.



Submissions for this conference were closed on 2010-11-29.

AHRC Beyond the Text