top of page

2024 Conference: Call for Papers

The Epistolary Research Network (TERN) will hold its fifth conference 4-5 October 2024.


  1. On February 28, 1943, someone found scraps of paper in their garden, thrown from the window of a train going to Auschwitz-Birkenau. This person delivered these scribbled messages from resistance fighter Simone Alizon to her father. [Arch. Nat. 72A fonds Alizon.]

  2. James Lee Byars wrote more than 100 letters, using a variety of materials, forms, and ideas, to artist Joseph Beuys over a period of 16 years. Received but never replied to, they explore the day-to-day of his artistic practice.


Whether composed under difficult circumstances or elaborated as part of a creative experiment, these examples share one feature. They raise the question: What is or should be considered a letter? Must it be written on socially recognized media, be it papyrus sheets, potsherds, or vellum, to qualify? Must it have a date, greetings, closing, and include epistolary conventions, like asking after someone’s health? Must it have a specific addressee, or be delivered via a postal institution?


TERN2024 will serve as a forum to discuss and elaborate a definition of ‘letter.’ Is one definition even possible for this form of communication that has been adapted in many ways by many people over millennia and across the globe? We are interested in bringing together examples that challenge in some way current thinking or current definitions of ‘letter.’


Topics might include:

  • epistolary communications on atypical materials (pages torn from books, fabric, handmade ink)

  • written under duress or difficult situations (war, exile, prison, refugee camps, censorship, travel)

  • examine conventions specific to one group of people (secret societies, coded letters, academic or philosophical letters)

  • letters written by those unfamiliar with letter conventions and formats (children, those with limited literacy, or those writing letters for the first time)

  • hybrid forms (poem letters, essay letters, petitions, literary letters, etc.)


Proposals (maximum 250 words) and a brief biography (CV) should be sent to The deadline is 31 May 2023. The conference will be virtual and the language will be English. As always, we will try to accommodate all times zones. Publication of selected papers will be arranged following the conference.

Recieving a Letter
bottom of page