CFP -‘Cultures of Correspondence in Early Modern Britain, 1550-1640’

‘Cultures of Correspondence in Early Modern Britain, 1550-1640’

A Joint Conference organised by the Centre for Humanities, Music and Performing Arts at the University of Plymouth and the Centre for Early Modern Studies at the University of Aberdeen

To be held at the University of Plymouth, 14-16 April 2011


This conference investigates the cultural uses of the letter, and the related practises of correspondence in early modern culture. Concentrating on the years 1550-1640, it examines a crucial period in the development of the English vernacular letter that saw a significant extension of letter-writing skills throughout society and an expansion in the uses to which letters were put. The conference aims to enhance our understanding of epistolary culture and to challenge accepted models of epistolarity through the study of letter-writing practices in all their nuanced complexity, ranging from the textual production of letters, their subsequent delivery and circulation, to the various ways in which letters were read and preserved for posterity. The transmission and reception of correspondence is a major theme for exploration, from the various processes by which letters were delivered in an age before the post office, to their copying and dissemination in manuscript form, and publication in print, as well as the oral divulgation of letters through group and public reading. Study of the early modern letter in its material and cultural forms can reveal the complex interplay of material practices of letter-writing with rhetorical strategies of the letter text. Contemporary literary appropriations of the letter on page and stage demonstrate the cultural significance of the letter and its potential resonances.

Proposals are invited for papers that treat the following key areas:

· The materiality of the letter: the physicality of correspondence (paper, ink, seals, folding) as well as the social context of epistolarity (composition, delivery, reading, archiving)

· Correspondence networks; the circulation of letters; postal systems and modes of delivery

· Letters, news and intelligence

· Authenticity, deception and surveillance: forgeries, secrecy, ciphers and codes

· Women’s letters and the gendered nature of letter-writing

· Epistolary literacies, social hierarchies and the acquisition and diffusion of letter-writing skills

· Manuscript letters and letters in print

· The letter as a cultural genre and the rhetorics of letter-writing

· Humanistic letter-writing practices and the familiar letter; letter-writing manuals and models; education, pedagogy and learning to write letters

· Categories or types of letters: suitors’ letters, letters of petition, love letters, letters of condolence

· Genres of printed letters: prefatory letters, dedicatory letters, address to the readers

· Staging the letter: letters and letter-writing in drama

· Editing and the digitization of correspondence

Proposals for papers, including titles and abstracts (of no more than 300 words) should be sent to James Daybell ( and Andrew Gordon ( before  1st July 2010.

Confirmed Speakers Include

Alan Stewart (Columbia University)

Lynne Magnusson (University of Toronto)

Gary Schneider (University of Texas, Pan American)

The Organisers

James Daybell is Reader in Early Modern British History at the University of Plymouth. His publications include Women Letter-Writers in Tudor England (Oxford, 2006), three collections of essays, Women and Politics in Early Modern England, 1450-1700 (Ashgate, 2004), Early Modern Women’s Letter Writing, 1450-1700 (Palgrave, 2001) and Material Readings of Early Modern Culture: Texts and Social Practices, 1580-1730 (Palgrave, 2010) and more than twenty articles and essays in journals and edited collections. Dr Daybell is currently completing a monograph entitled, The Material Letter: The Practices and Culture of Letters and Letter-Writing in Early Modern England (Palgrave 2011)

Andrew Gordon is Co-Director of the Centre for Early Modern Studies at the University of Aberdeen, and Programme Co-ordinator of the Department of English. He has published articles on various aspects of urban culture in the renaissance from city mapping to the urban signboard, and co-edited (with Bernhard Klein) Literature, Mapping and the Politics of Space in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge, 2001) and (with Trevor Stack) a special issue of Citizenship Studies (2007) devoted to early modern concepts of citizenship. A monograph entitled Writing the City is forthcoming. His work on manuscript culture has focused principally on letter-writing and included articles on Francis Bacon, the earl of Essex, John Donne, and early modern libels.

For further details please email:, or

Published in: on February 7, 2010 at 5:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Journal of British Studies – Special Section on Loyalties and Allegiances in Early Modern England

I am very pleased to say that the latest issue of JBS features the special section I co-edited with Angela McShane on the above.


Andy Wood, “A lyttull worde ys tresson”: Loyalty, Denunciation, and Popular Politics in Tudor England”

Ted Vallance, ‘The Captivity of James II: Gestures of Loyalty and Disloyalty in Seventeenth-Century England’

Howard Nenner, ‘Loyalty and the Law: The Meaning of Trust and the Right of Resistance in Seventeenth-Century England’

Angela McShane, ‘Subjects and Objects: Material Expressions of Love and Loyalty in Seventeenth-Century England’

Controversy, protest, ridicule and laughter

The University of Reading Early Modern Studies Conference 9-11 July 2010

Call for Papers

This three-day conference at the University of Reading aims to draw together scholars from a variety of disciplines working on areas related to the themes of controversy, protest, ridicule, and laughter in the early modern period.

Controversy, protest, ridicule and laughter are means to register more than disagreement: they convey contemptuous opposition to an opponent. How can the study of their uses advance our understanding of the nature and development of public debate in the early modern period?

How were new media (theatres, newsbooks, periodicals) and traditional forms (sermons, proclamations, disputations) used by the two (or more) sides in early modern controversies? What were the connections between ‘low’ literary forms (pamphlets, ballads, satires, libels), and the learned seriocomic tradition of, for example, Erasmus’s Praise of Folly?
What were the sites of protest: Parliament; stage; university; alehouse; Inns of Court – and what connections, if any, existed between these spaces?

What role did ridicule have in religious and political controversy, from Martin Marprelate to John Milton’s anti-prelatical writings? How were the conventions for mocking one’s opponent refracted by variables of class and gender?

Laughter might be a marker of intellectual achievement (distinguishing the human from the animal), or it might be condemned as a sign of brutality. If laugher was both elevating and debasing, what strategies were used by writers of satire, comedy and polemic to control its connotations? How can we write a history of laughter? How useful is more recent psychological and philosophical work on laughter – by Freud or Henri Bergson, for example – for work on early modern culture?

Possible topics include:

Humanism, learning, wit, and laughter; gender and class; classical ideas of laughter and ridicule; disputation and debate in education; ridicule, stereotyping and national identity; European models of controversy and ridicule; popular radicalism and the public sphere; conduct manuals and the etiquettes of laughter; the Putney Debates; clowns and jesters; new media and popular radicalism; the Spanish Match; burlesque, parody, scatology and obscenity; Jonson’s comedy of humours and satirical comedy; popular print (pamphlets, ballads) and ‘low’ literary forms; urban and rural forms of controversy; Rabelais and discourses of the body; legal controversy: sedition, libel, slander; the Marprelate Tracts; jokes and jests on the stage and page; Milton’s Defensio pro populo Anglicano; the Oath of Allegiance controversy; mimicry and impersonation; Civil War religious radicalism; the carnivalesque; Jacobitism; traditions of complaint, satire and invective; the decorum of ridicule, controversy, and ideas of ethical restraint; the ‘Glorious Revolution’ and ‘godly revolution’.

We invite papers that consider any or all of this year’s themes. Proposals (max. 300 words) for 30 minute papers and a brief CV should be sent via email attachment by 4 December 2009 to: Dr. Chloë Houston, School of English and American Literature, University of Reading,

Published in: on August 20, 2009 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Conceptualising Men: Collective Identities and the ‘Self’ in the History of Masculinity 27-28 July 2009, University of Exeter

Plenary Speakers: Joanne Bailey (Oxford Brookes) & Karen Harvey (Sheffield)

Call for Papers

Current understanding of the history of masculinity is restricted by two major factors: periodisation and conceptualisation, both of which further complicate one another. Phrases, such as ‘manhood’, ‘manliness’, ‘masculinity’ and ‘masculine identity’, have been utilised differently according to the period of study. Medieval and early modern scholars have been reluctant to adopt the term ‘masculinity’, seeing it as an anachronistic expression, which is alien to pre-industrial periods of history, whereas the term ‘manliness’ appears to hold very different connotations in post-1900 studies than those of earlier periods. The conceptual language adopted by those researching within the traditional parameters of periodisation has the potential to hinder otherwise necessary considerations of long-spanning chronologies in the history of masculinity. In order to achieve a fuller understanding of the concepts, theories, practices and experiences of men in the past, the history of masculinity would benefit from crossing the boundaries of periodisation. Moreover, the nuances of conceptual, terminological categorisation need to be scrutinised more carefully before being imposed on individual and groups of men in the past. This colloquium aims to promote interdisciplinary and cross-chronological discussion of these issues. In particular, it will explore the relationship between conceptual categories of ‘manhood’, ‘manliness’, ‘masculinity’ and ‘masculine identity’. Furthermore, it will consider the extent to which men in the past engaged with culturally constructed collective identities or created their own sense of a masculine ‘self’. Early career and postgraduate historians of any time period, whose research engages with the history of masculinity, are invited to present their ideas.

For further details please contact Dr Henry French (

See also here

Please submit your abstract proposal of no more than 300 words by Monday 8th June 2009. Participants will be asked to submit a short synopsis (3-pages maximum) of how these issues relate to their research, by Monday 20th July 2009, which will be pre-circulated. The colloquium will involve round-table and small-group discussions, rather than the presentation of formal papers.

Naseby Conference, Civil and Religious Liberty Conference

A couple of events posted to me which may be of interest to fellow early-modernists. The Yale conference looks very good but unfortunately is at … Yale, so it’s very unlikely I will get to go along.



Published in: on February 4, 2008 at 11:00 am  Comments (1)  
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