This strand draws together a broad range of periods, disciplines, and approaches to investigate letters and letter writing. ‘Lives and Letters’ promotes an understanding and appreciation of letters as repositories of complex meaning, and investigates the ways in which this specific mode of communication creates unique possibilities that weave together the textual, visual, material, biographical, and cultural.
The strand is especially active in areas that explain methodologies and produce new ways of understanding lives through correspondence, whether individual or collective. It also finds different manuscript cultures and technologies areas to explore anew the special insights letters make available. At once both rhetorical and confessional, the letter occupies a position as a genre in its own right, with a literary and historical narrative of processes and materialities that allows a distinct intimacy with the past.
‘Lives and Letters’ is hosted and supported by the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson College, which seeks to widen the platform for conversations and collaborations in the epistolary genre, providing an established space for research and events. It will also help to make visible the various research projects, networks, editorial projects, and other enterprises both within and beyond Oxford.
The strand is co-ordinated by Dr John Francis Davies, an affiliate to and former scholarship holder at OCLW, who recently defended a fully-funded doctorate in English. At Harvard University, he was recipient of the Joan Nordell Fellowship at Houghton, 2016-17. His thesis was entitled, ‘Tennyson in the Archive: Process and Materiality in the Early Manuscripts, 1827-1851.’ John has previously run the OCLW Tea Talks each term at Wolfson College, where Visiting Scholars, ECRs, and Fellows present and receive feedback on research in progress.