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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 epistolarybodiesconference@gmail.comby 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

This conference is organised by Sarah Goldsmith (Leicester), Sheryllynne Haggerty (Nottingham) and Karen Harvey (Birmingham) as part of the Midlands Eighteenth-Century Research Network (MECRN).

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.

We are the grateful recipient of funding from the Economic History Society and the Royal Historical Society.

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