Registration for the interdisciplinary symposium on “What is a Letter?” is now open. It will be taking place at St Edmund’s Hall, University of Oxford between 2 and 4 July 2014. The blurb describes it as this:
The symposium ‘What is a letter? An interdisciplinary approach’ will bring together experts on letter writing from a diverse range of disciplines (including literary and cultural studies in a number of modern languages, linguistics, editorial studies, sociology, and history), countries (including Austria, Britain, and Germany), and institutions (including universities, museums, and libraries).
Against the background of a rapidly and internationally growing number of research and editing projects which centre around letters, the aim of the symposium is threefold: (i) to initiate a much-needed dialogue between disciplines (and scholars from different countries) about the theoretical concepts of ‘the letter’ which form the basis for any engagement with epistolary culture; (ii) to lay the foundations for an inclusive and interdisciplinary methodology for analysing letters, taking into account their subject-specific definitions and uses, and (iii) to make the results of these efforts available to other scholars through publication of the conference proceedings.
Please note: English and German are the working languages of the symposium. An interpreter will be present to summarize papers and assist with the discussion.
It looks like a very interesting event cover a subject which many researchers (especially in the nineteenth-century history) have to deal with extensively.
For Alfred Russel Wallace, the sheer volume of correspondence made available by the Wallace Correspondence Project through its Wallace Letters Online (WLO) site means that letters have the potential to form a hugely significant part of even the smallest piece of research into Wallace in the future.
As such, with projects like WLO and many others, the need to think more critically–and indeed interdisciplinary–about how to analyse these letters is transparently growing in importance. With the primary material itself more accessible than ever, knowing how to appreciate and understand it correctly needs to be well thought out.