Post-Graduate Conference Grant: Life-Writing and the Humanities

The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) are offering TWO grants of £1000 each, available to post-graduate students in the Humanities Division at the University of Oxford, to organise conferences on any aspect of life-writing.

 The grant is available to students on taught-course and research-based masters courses and DPhils, in any of the following Faculties: Classics; English Language & Literature; History; Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics, or Phonetics Laboratory; Medieval and Modern Languages; Music; Oriental Studies; Philosophy; Rothermere American Institute; Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art; Theology and Religion; and the Voltaire Foundation. Re-applications from students who have applied in the past (on the same or different topics) are welcome.

Life-Writing’ may be interpreted in the broadest terms. Conferences may be proposed on related themes including (but not limited to) biography and autobiography, memoir, interviews, journals, letters and correspondence, auto/biographical form, methodology, criticism and history, and on thematic relationships between life-writing and the humanities, such as ‘life-writing and war’. For more information about life-writing, and about the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, please see OCLW’s website: For more information about The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, please see TORCH’s website:

Applicants should propose a one-day conference, to be held at TORCH’s premises in the Radcliffe Humanities Building, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, with some aspect of the conference (eg. keynote lecture, workshop, drinks reception, film showing, dinner) to take place at OCLW in Wolfson College. (The conference could take place entirely at Wolfson College, but this will likely incur greater costs, which should be researched prior to submission of the application with Wolfson’s Events Office, The conference should take place on Saturdays during full term, or any day outside full term (except Sundays), between the start of Trinity Term 2015 and the end of Michaelmas Term 2015. Applicants will be responsible for all administrative aspects of the conference, including formulating the theme and intellectual rationale, devising the format (invited speakers or open call for papers), inviting speakers and/or issuing a Call for Papers, organising the schedule, and managing the budget, promotion and advertising. OCLW will provide limited support, such as setting up a webpage, online registration and payment, and some assistance with publicity. Please note that all applicants must be formally registered as postgraduate students on the proposed date of the conference itself.

Applications should be submitted by 5pm on Monday 5th January 2015.  Applicants should email a completed application form, together with the specified supporting materials and a covering letter, to Dr Christos Hadjiyiannis (Maternity Leave Cover Administrator at OCLW: Applicants will be notified of the outcome by Tuesday 20 January 2015. Any queries should be directed to Dr Hadjiyiannis.

Click here to open the application form  OCLW and TORCH application


CFP for the international symposium: ‘What is a letter? An interdisciplinary approach’

‘What is a letter? An interdisciplinary approach’
Oxford, St Edmund Hall from 2 to 4 July 2014

Deadline for submitting abstracts: 3 March 2014

Over recent years the number of studies, conferences, international networks, and editorial projects which focus on letters, letter writers, and letter-writing cultures has grown remarkably. As a result, our understanding of the letter as a form of text, as a material object, and as a generator or reflector of social norms and cultural practices has become more nuanced. However, at the same time our concept of the letter has become less well defined, as theoretical aspects of the epistolary form have not received comparable attention. The topical, interdisciplinary discussion of what exactly a ‘letter’ is and what terms and methods one should adopt to deal with it, is still very much in its infancy.

There are many questions to answer: how – if at all – can we conceptualize letters as a genre, and what is to be gained from that? What characteristics of letter-writing are relevant across disciplines? What are the key frames of reference in the process: single letter, correspondence, or ‘epistolarium’ (Liz Stanley)? In what ways do variable transmission processes – including the collection, archiving, editing, or exhibition of letters – influence our perception of the epistolary? Finally, and this is perhaps the most important question, how does one approach a type of text which is used both as a pragmatic and as a literary form and which is rooted in historical reality while at the same time retaining its potential to deploy fictional qualities?

In order to address these and related questions, the symposium aims to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines and countries, and from universities and public institutions, for an exchange of knowledge which will lay the foundations for an inclusive and interdisciplinary model of and methodology for analysing letters. The symposium will primarily consider and compare theories and practices of letter-writing from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries, but proposals relating to earlier periods are also welcome. We invite papers (20–25 minutes in length) which address aspects of letters and letter-writing against this background. Analyses of theoretical aspects of letters as a type of text are welcome on their own or in the context of a case study or studies.

We would expressly like to invite scholars from the following disciplines to submit a proposal: linguistics, philosophy, psychology, medicine, sociology, theology, media studies, law, history of art, history (including, in particular, postal history), editorial studies, cultural studies, and modern languages (including English).

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

* Genre typology

* Types of letters, themes of letters

* Relationships between pragmatic and literary qualities in and of letters

* The effect of editing/archiving/exhibiting letters (practices and processes) on defining the genre (and vice versa)

* Aspects of transmission

* Letters in competition with other media

English and German are the working languages of the symposium, and an interpreter will be present to summarize papers and assist with the discussion. The papers will be published in a conference volume. We hope that the international and interdisciplinary focus of the symposium will lead to further collaborative projects.

If you are interested in giving a paper, please send an abstract of no more than 350 words plus a short paragraph with bio-bibliographical information to:

Dr Marie Isabel Matthews-Schlinzig (Oxford),

Caroline Socha (Heidelberg),

The deadline for submitting abstracts is 3 March 2014.

Please note: travel expenses and accommodation costs will, in all likelihood, not be reimbursed; St Edmund Hall has agreed to offer speakers single en-suite rooms (including breakfast) at a discounted rate.


OCLW’s Conference – ‘The Lives of Objects – registration now open

From 20-22 September 2013, the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing will hold its inaugural conference on ‘The Lives of Objects’. We are delighted to announce that online registration for this conference is now open (you can do a ‘paper registration’, by downloading, printing and completing a registration form, and sending it, with a cheque (made payable to ‘Wolfson College, Oxford’). The registration form will be uploaded this weekend).

You can find information about registration, a draft programme, the intellectual rationale for the conference and information about Wolfson and the surrounding area on the official OCLW conference webpage. Unfortunately the call for papers is closed, and we cannot consider any further abstracts for presentation.

Please note that delegates will be asked to choose ONE out of THREE options for a trip to one of Oxford’s museums; there are very limited spaces for one of these options (tour of the Museum of History of Science, Oxford), so please register asap if you wish to go on this trip.

If you have any queries about the conference, and registration, please email me. I hope you’re as excited about the conference and the proposed programme as we are!

Yours Sincerely: The Rise and Fall of the Letter

Yours Sincerely: The Rise and Fall of the Letter

28-29 June 2013

Manchester, United Kingdom

The tradition of communication through correspondence can be traced far back in the annals of ancient history, but the rise of technology is daily changing the face and format of the letter. This conference will explore forms of correspondence as they have evolved from simple letters between friends and literary personalities and their shared experiences to revelations, through correspondence, of scientists, statesmen and celebrities. It will also look at the language used in the traditional letter, the email, the text message and the tweet as well as the constant change and development in this form of dialogue from the past and into the future, examining related fields and the letter in its historical and literary contexts.

Papers are sought from all disciplines, including but not limited to literature, history, anthropology, psychology, philosophy and other social sciences and arts.
Proposals are sought for 20 minute papers.
Possible themes may include (but are not limited to):

The changing language of digital correspondence

Victorian women writers

Challenges of editing letters

Evidential value for biographers, historians

19th century letter writers

20th century letter writers

21st century letter writers

Use of letters as a device in fiction

The epistolary novel

The lasting value of digital correspondence as an archival or primary source

The future of letter writing

Abstracts of 250-300 words (for a 20 min paper) should be sent via email to or by 1st April 2013.

Selected papers may be invited for inclusion in an academic collection of essays following the conference.

An exhibition surrounding the theme of the conference will run from 11th June to the 26th of July at The Portico Library and will tie in with Quarry Bank Mill’s ‘Best Wishes’ exhibition which begins in April and extends to the rest of 2013.

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