Letters are often seen in the humanities as giving insight into the more 'personal' aspects of creativity or political life (for instance, the letters of Rupert Brooke, Lytton Strachey; the letters of Thomas Jefferson, Harold Macmillan). An interest in epistolarity more generally originated in the social sciences in the 20th century, focused on their social dimensions, as a series of reciprocal exchanges in time, and as a window on the processes of 'becoming' over such temporal exchanges. More recent theorisations of epistolarity have spanned the humanities and social sciences and picked up on the porous quality of epistolarity as a genre, recognising that it gave rise to many other genres, is extremely responsive to social milieu.
This two-day symposium provided an interdisciplinary space to explore these and other features of epistolarity, in theoretical, methodological and substantive contributions. As well as the interest in 'traditional' (which are in fact historically specific) kinds of letters, the symposium provides a locus for exploring contemporary changes in social forms and interpersonal 'becomings' concerning epistolary forms of expression, including in video letters, txt and email.
Keynote speakers: Professor Liz Stanley and Professor Gillian Whitlock (Queensland).
Browsing To the Letter: Contemporary Perspectives on Epistolarity Symposium, 23-24 April 2008 by Title
Barnett, Tully Sarah; Cavanagh, Katie Eve; Douglas, Kate
This paper will establish the purpose, reasoning, research context, and initial findings of the Australian Memory Project’s “Postcards in South Australia” digital archive and exhibition. Placing our project in the framework of similar “memory” projects, and describing some of the theoretical underpinnings and outcomes of such projects, goes some way towards building a picture of memory work in the Australian context and the place of our project within that broader framework.
This paper will consider a series of letters from former residents who had been denied re-entry to Australia in the first years of the policy and who subsequently sought to claim re-entry. Many of these men were illiterate in English and sometimes in their own languages. Their letters show them seeking to legitimate their claims by develop semi-official letter forms – which I term ‘the Karnana letter’.
This paper explores the shift away from letters and towards email and mobile phone messaging as forms of communication. To assist, two different sources are examined. The first is letters of offer that some young Victorian women wrote presenting their credentials to missionary societies. The second source is interviews with contemporary couples in distance relationships, where the couples discuss their use of email and texting.
In this keynote address, Professor Liz Stanley sketches out some ideas about how to theorise and use the heuristic of ‘the epistolarium’. She shall explore how, in what ways, and also with what limitations, thinking about the epistolarity in terms of economy and exchange and Mauss’s conceptualisation of ‘the system of the gift’ can throw useful light on different aspects of the epistolary form and its changes across time and also its sub-forms.
In 2007 a volume of letters, "Portrait of a Friendship", was published, encompassing many of the letters exchanged between these two writers over the period 1950 to 2000 (the year of Wright’s death). I would like to examine this volume as a correspondence, at least over the period 1950-1970, when both women were bringing up a family as well as pursuing their own ambitions, both as writers and as activists.
The personal communication written or scrawled on the postcard constitutes fragments of a story. The fragment exists within the whole story of the personal and representations of places and people. This paper will be a creative response to the material of the postcard as a memory archive.
One aspect of my research has been concerned with the changing form of war correspondence between soldiers and their families, as many of the ‘letters’ from soldiers during the Vietnam War are either physical tape recordings or their transcripts. Close attention has been paid to these records in an attempt to discover whether such changes in epistolary techniques or technology has changed the general content of the soldier’s letter. As such communication is continuing to evolve, seen by the popularity of email among current and recent soldiers, this has prompted interest in further – and more recent - research on the topic.