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The Epistolary Research Network (TERN) is pleased to announce its fourth conference, to be held 6-7 October 2023 (online symposium)

The clock is ticking. Schedules, delays, deadlines, queues worry our lives. Letters are often considered in terms of space and geographical distance. In 2023, TERN proposes to revisit themes surrounding temporality, be it in reference to material form or technology, delivery, calendar time or epistolary contents and conventions.


Has a delayed letter ever changed a historical event? How do letter writers, consciously or unconsciously, use specific epistolary tenses to collapse or manipulate time, and for what reasons? Why are letters dated to one time period
embedded in other dated media like newspapers, manuals or scrapbooks? What of the future of this form of writing?

Possible topics might include, but are not limited to:

 

  • anachronisms

  • letters written or delivered under temporal constraints (war, illness, incarceration, difficulty finding carriers)

  • epistolary tenses, time expressions and dating conventions

  • time spent letter writing vs email, societal expectations

  • undated letters, letters removed from calendar time

  • periods when letter writing gained or lost popularity and the social context

  • open letters, letters written for later time periods or no specific time period

  • epistolary conventions concerning letter or letter archive dating

  • best time to write and reply to letters

  • mail art that addresses the concept of time

  • causes and consequences of postponements, delays and other non-delivery

  • letters used to date events in history or the lives of people

  • chronology of letter collections, gap between date letters composed and published

 

TERN welcomes 250-word maximum proposals for 20-minute papers concerning any geographical location, discipline or historical period. Papers should approach the topic of time in letters in innovative ways that will impact our understanding of this important written form and the societies that have produced it. Please send submissions to ternetwork@hotmail.com by midnight (BST) on 15 May 2023. The conference language is English. Publication of selected papers will be arranged following the conference.

Book Stack

Third Conference: 30 Sept - 1 Oct, 2022, Virtual

This online symposium sought papers from scholars everywhere who have an interest in letters and correspondence throughout history. For thousands of years, in every region of the globe, letters brought people together when physical distance separated them. They derive from many parts of society. From princes to prisoners, letters transported greetings and farewells, news from distant friends, consolation in times of anxiety, triumph against rivals, submission to fate. We usually know who wrote them, but who read them?

 

TERN addressed a theme which emerged from last year’s conference, “The Other Reader(s).”

 

From the ancient world to the post-modern, epistolary efforts have often been undertaken with at least one eye toward future unknown readers. For instance, Pliny the Younger used his private correspondence, reworked into books, to give himself and his uncle, Pliny the Elder, distinct identities that continue to impact how we understand these men today. And it was not always the case that letters were destined for the general public or even a specific person. Sometimes epistolary writings ended up in unexpected hands with unintended consequences for those who composed them.

Writing Letters

Second Conference: 1-2 October 2021, Virtual

For thousands of years, in every region of the globe, letters brought people together when physical distance separated them.  From princes to prisoners, letters could offer reports across time and distance – greetings and farewells, news from distant friends, consolation in times of anxiety, triumph against rivals, submission to fate. TERN held its first virtual meeting to explore this aspect of letters and letter-writing in the broadest possible sense, across a range of disciplines and times.  Who wrote letters?  To whom, and for what reason? What did they discuss?  What light do they shed on the human condition, and how are they different from simple conversation? 

 

So many great presentations from participants around the globe! 

Mail Boxes

Inaugural Conference: 5 July 2018, Bangor University, Wales

The theme of TERN’s inaugural symposium was Correspondence & Communities. Communities might have referred to the linking of groups or individuals who share common interests or facets of identity. Themes included the communal reading of letters, exchanges between individuals, and governing bodies concerning public issues or open letters. Contributions addressed questions exploring the dynamic nature of letters and letter writing.

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