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Corresponding with Beckett: The Epistolary in Literary Research

  • Institute of English Studies School of Advanced Study, University of London Senate House WC1E 7HU (map)

Corresponding with Beckett: The Epistolary in Literary Research

Friday 1 June | Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study

Corresponding with Beckett focuses the issues and methodologies pertinent to research on literary correspondence. The training will be relevant to researchers working with literary correspondence as part of their research; engaging with research on a correspondence project; looking to develop or utilise the research that co-relates to a correspondence project; anticipate working as editors or researchers on literary correspondence; interested in the future of correspondence as a research resource in the digital age. While open to scholars across all periods, the training will focus on the Modern and the Contemporary, taking the recently completed Samuel Beckett Letters Project, published by Cambridge University Press as The Letters of Samuel Beckett (2009–2016) as an exemplar.

What does it mean to correspond with an author? How does an author’s correspondence give us insight into the work? In what ways are critical reading and writing a form of correspondence with an author? What would it mean to perform the epistolary? The publication of the fourth and final volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett marks an appropriate moment to take stock of the role of autobiography in research, and the importance of the epistolary in literary studies. A recent review by Cal Revely-Calder cautions that letters ‘are not propositions, manifestos, or statements of intent’, but rather ‘rough forays, conducted in private’. Corresponding with Beckett raises issues around the development of the grey archive, the use of digital resources, translation, visual metadata, and the role of corollary correspondence. Given Beckett’s hesitation to render the personal public, the conference will address how we negotiate issues of privacy, permissions, and copyright. It will generate new thinking on the letter as artefact, the textual and stylistic aspects of the epistolary, and will explore the legacy of a correspondence project and how the research that underpins it can be deployed for further research. Using literary correspondence and related materials raises older literary questions on authorial intention and reading methodologies that continue to inform literary analysis. In the age of snapchat and whatsapp correspondence is primarily digital: the conference will question the longevity of contemporary digital correspondence, and explore strategies for future engagement with the epistolary in literary research.

The training will be facilitated by

Lois Overbeck, Managing Editor The Letters of Samuel Beckett (CUP 2009-16) and Director of The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett Project, Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

Jennifer M. Jeffers, Professor of English, Cleveland State University. Editor:  New Interpretations of Samuel Beckett in the Twenty-First Century, Palgrave Macmillan. Former Research Assistant, The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Emory University.

in conjunction with the organisers

Dr Derval Tubridy, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Goldsmiths, University of London

Professor Shane Weller, School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent.

Topics under discussion include, but are not limited to:

·      The epistolary

·      The legacy of the archive

·      Digital correspondence

·      Privacy and copyright

·      Translation

  • The grey archive
  • Corollary correspondences
  • Visual metadata
  • Location registers
  • Ethics and the epistolary
  • Authorial intentionality
  • Literary criticism as correspondence
  • Performing letters

Proposals for 20 min papers should be sent to by 10 April 2018, and should include:

Title of the presentation

Abstract of approximately 300 words

Biographical statement of approximately 100 words

Details of audio-visual requirements

Indication of any enhanced access requirements

The presentation of a paper is not a requirement for attendance at the training. All CHASE funded and associate PhD students, Arts and Humanities PhD students at CHASE member institutions, and students and members of staff at CHASE partner institutions are welcome to participate in the training.

Date: 1 June 2018
Times: 10.00–18.00
Duration: 1 day

Location: Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Senate House, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU. Nearest underground stations Goodge Street (Northern Line) and Russell Square (Piccadilly Line).