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Speaking in Absence: Letters in the Digital Age - 21/06/2016,Oxford (England)

The conference takes an inclusive and interdisciplinary approach, considering letters from antiquity to the present day. It seeks to promote collaborative dialogue between academics, archivists, publishers, and the public, and to facilitate illuminating discussion from inside and outside the academic sphere – including opinion from individuals who write, read, reveal and research correspondence in their professional or personal lives. Through a focus on the conflicted and changing role of the letter as a private and public mode of written communication, the conference accommodates various perspectives: historical, anthropological, literary, archival, political, and many others. In this way, our consideration of correspondence will encompass the various digital and analogue methods for recording, interpreting, and presenting a specific material document and its inherent social connections, as well as an assessment of the ways in which recent developments in digital modes of communication have influenced, disrupted, or enhanced our relationship with this traditional form.

FECHA/DATE/DATA: 21/06/2016

LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Weston Library and Wolfson College (Oxford, England)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Helen Brown ; Michaela Crawley ; Olivia Thompson

INFO: web


Tarifa (£45/ para estudiantes número limitado £20) incluye los descanso. La cena de clausura £30 debe ser pagada por separado.

The conference fee (£45 / limited number of subsidised undergraduate places at £20) includes refreshments throughout the day (breakfast, lunch, two coffee breaks, drinks reception). The conference dinner (£30) must be booked separately.

la tarifa dil convengo (£45/ Studenti fino a un numero limitato £20) sono inclusi le pausa cafe. La cena finalne £30 deve essere prenottata aparte.


The conference is a one-day, interdisciplinary, student-led conversation on scholarly editing in the digital age. We aim to explore the potential for collaboration between academics, librarians, technicians, editors, and publishers for the creation of mutual frameworks within which to use the digital as a means to supplement the analogue. We have chosen handwritten correspondence as a vehicle for this exploration because in the age of social media, its nature raises immediate and intriguing questions about the progression from material object to digital resource.

Daytime activities at the Weston Library will include:

  • an opening lecture on editing letters by Christopher Ricks (Boston University),

  • panel discussion with the leaders of pioneering digital editing projects (Robert McNamee, Electronic Enlightenment; Alison Pearn, Darwin Correspondence Project; Howard Hotson, Cultures of Knowledge)

  • demonstration of the process of digitizing letters by Miranda Lewis (Digital Editor, Early Modern Letters Online),

  • visual tour of correspondence in the Bodleian collections led by Special Collections curators,

  • panel on publishing with representatives from Oxford University Press and Blackwell’s.

The conference also includes an exhibition, and will act as a launch discussion for Bodleian Student Editions, a scholarly editing course to run as a pilot scheme in 2016.

From the Weston Library, delegates will then proceed to Wolfson College for a further panel discussion with writers and directors of projects based on the letters of Gertrude Bell, Dorothy Hodgkin and Ada Lovelace, and Letters 1916, a crowdsourced local history project in Ireland; and drinks reception with research posters by postgraduate students.

The conference is organised by students as part of the TORCH-OCLW annual postgraduate conference competition, and is additionally sponsored by the Bodleian Libraries and Balliol Interdisciplinary Institute.

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