CIDRA SPECIAL EVENT
School of Arts, Histories, and Cultures
LIVES AND LETTERS: EPISTOLARITY AND (AUTO-)BIOGRAPHY
Wednesday 30 November 2011
Keynote speaker (confirmed): Prof. Mary Beard (Cambridge).
Mary Beard (Professor of Ancient History at Cambridge) is an expert on the modern reception of ancient letter-collections, as well as a well-known cultural commentator, the Classics editor of the TLS, and the author of the “Don’s Life” blog for The Times. Her work is notable for its interdisciplinary outlook.
Call for contributions:
This event aims to investigate the broad intersection between letters and biography/autobiography from antiquity to the modern period, drawing on the expertise of staff from across a range of disciplines in both the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, and the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures.
We invite contributions from across both Schools for this one day event: historical, literary, cultural and theoretical approaches are all welcomed. We envisage that talks will be some 25-30 mins in length, but we are open to suggestions of other formats.
Potential topics might include:
• letters and narrative/narrative in letters
• letters and letter-collections as biography/autobiography
• letters and the revelation/rhetoric of the self
• the use of letters in the writing of biography/autobiography
• what are published letter-collections for and how have readers consumed them?
• how are published letter-collections arranged (e.g. by theme, addressee, or chronology, etc.) and why?
• letter-collections and rise of the epistolary novel or autobiography
• What are archives of letters for and how do researchers use them?
Contributions on other relevant areas are warmly welcomed.
How are letters used by biographers, historians and storytellers? Hundreds of letter-collections of different kinds have been preserved from the pre-modern era, and the impulse to use letters to structure a narrative or to illustrate a life has remained strong to this day. But what are the connections between letters, letter-collections and biographical narrative? In the modern era, letters by famous men and women are prized source material for biographers: the letters of Michelangelo, for instance, are central to every biography of the man written between 1568 and the present day. But in the ancient world, for example, the situation was rather different: even the most prominent of ancient biographers, Plutarch, writing about one of the most famous letter-writers of antiquity, builds his Life of Cicero largely from Cicero’s great speeches, rather than his extensive correspondence. A modern biographer (or his/her readership), by contrast, might regard the absence of letters, or an inability to access them, as a serious problem. Why are letters treated differently in ancient and modern biography? To what extent is this to be explained by differences in the types of letter-collection, differences in the genre of biographical writing or the influence of other kinds of narrative, especially the modern epistolary novel?
Please send a short abstract by 30 July (100-200 words), to email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org
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