Tuesday 1 November 2011

Missing Texts: Call for Papers

Missing Texts
A Conference organised by the Material Texts Network at Birkbeck, University of London
Saturday June 2, 2012
Call for Papers

The Material Texts Network at Birkbeck convenes and encourages innovative work on the materiality of texts. We invite 300-word proposals, from scholars working in any period and discipline, on the theme of ‘Missing Texts’. Papers might consider

Texts or works that have been erased, over-painted, defaced, cancelled, or destroyed
Missing works that exist only through photographs or other archival traces
Texts or works that are better known through photographs, and are themselves rarely on display
How do we know a text is missing? How do archives record missing texts? If a missing text must leave a trace to be felt as missing, are texts ever really missing?
Texts or works overlooked for ideological, or other, reasons, in catalogues, inventories, & canons
The role of missing texts in literary works
The fetishisation of the 'missing' ur-text in textual studies and editorial procedures
Pages torn from books, lost quires, blanks, unfilled miniatures, incomplete jottings on fly-leaves
Letters, in which only one side of the correspondence is preserved
The use by authors of the topos of the lost text, the text-in-the-making, the text-never-finished (‘all this will be properly explained in our forthcoming masterpiece…’)
What happens when we find a long-missing text or work? How do we identify and read it?
How do scholars address the loss of archives when writing, for example, histories of African and
Asian nations where there are more Western texts than local ones? What kind of scholarship develops around these gaps?
How do missing texts relate to redactions?
Why do texts go missing in archives? What are the historical moments of great archival loss (for example, the archives destroyed in the 1755 earthquake of Lisbon, or the losses in German libraries during the World War II)
Are texts more likely to go missing in particular media (manuscript more than print? Print more
than digital?)
Can a text ever go missing in the digital world?

Please send 300-word proposals (for a 20 minute paper) and a brief CV to
Dr Adam Smyth ( and Dr Gill Partington (,
by 1 February 2012.

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