PAPER AND POETRY: invention through craft

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 21 –22 September 2023, The Paper Foundation, Burneside, Cumbria. 

How do the making of literary texts and the making of paper shape one another? Paper is one of the most durable and ubiquitous materials in the history of writing surfaces. We conventionally associate paper with the unit of the codex or the sheet, but we also encounter paper in textual culture as endleaves in the form of printed ‘waste’, or in the envelopes and fragments which shaped the poems of Emily Dickinson, or in the work of contemporary book artists who use paper to challenge the very concept of the book. From the medieval period to the present day, writers, artists, and makers have given imaginative and physical form to paper whilst their creative work has in turn been shaped by paper’s materiality.  Paper and Poetry: Invention Through Craft seeks participants to explore the historical and contemporary intersection between literary and material paper forms at the Paper Foundation in Burneside, Cumbria. 

The Paper Foundation offers a unique opportunity for immersive paper-making from pulped rags to the drying and pressing of sheets using historical techniques. Alongside these practical elements of the symposium, a writing workshop led by poet Vona Groarke themed around surface, material, and flaw will offer participants the chance to respond creatively to the paper-making process; Orietta Da Rold will also lead a workshop on paper in the history of the book. Together these workshops will explore paper’s material and imaginative role in shaping literature from past to present day. Finally, participants will take part in roundtables to discuss the place of paper in their own writing and/or research, with around 15 minutes per speaker.  We hope that these roundtables will reach across the creative-critical divide to explore the place and impact of paper-making in both academic and poetic writing. We welcome scholars working on paper in any field including literature, history, art history, and media studies, along with creative writers who engage with the materiality of their surfaces. 

To apply, please send a 150-200 word abstract of your paper-based academic research or creative project to, and by Friday 31st March 2023. Please also get in touch with any questions. 

Topics of interest might include: 

The role of paper in contemporary poetry

Paper in the literary imagination (in any period) 

Paper in the history of painting, art, design

Craft, intellectual labour, and embodied knowledge 

Paper and flaw/error/perfection

Paper and temporality/ephemerality

Paper and the history of the book

The Paper and Poetry convenors: 

Orietta Da Rold (Professor in Medieval Literature and Manuscript Studies, University of Cambridge)

Tom Frith-Powell (Paper-Maker, The Paper Foundation, Burneside) 

Vona Groarke (Writer-in-Residence, St John’s College, University of Cambridge) 

Georgina Wilson (Research Fellow in Early Modern English, University of Cambridge) A cross-divisional conference on distributed authorship

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UCLA, October 5th-6th 2018


Sean Gurd, Professor of Classics, University of Missouri

Francesca Martelli, Assistant Professor of Classics, UCLA


Distributed authorship is a familiar concept in many fields of cultural production. Long associated with pre-modern cultures, it still serves as a mainstay for the study of Classical antiquity, which takes ‘Homer’ as its foundational point of orientation, and which, like many other disciplines in the humanities, has extended its insights into the open-endedness of oral and performance traditions into its study of textual dynamics as well. The rise of genetic criticism within textual studies bears witness to this urge to fray perceptions of the hermetic closure of the written, and to expose the multiple strands of collaboration and revision that a text may contain. And the increasingly widespread use of the multitext in literary editions of authors from Homer to Joyce offers a material manifestation of this impulse to display the multiple different levels and modes of distribution at work in the authorial process. In many areas of the humanities that rely on traditional textual media, then, the distributed author is alive and well, and remains a current object of study.

In recent years, however, the dynamic possibilities of distributed authorship have accelerated most rapidly in media associated with the virtual domain, where modes of communication have rendered artistic creation increasingly collaborative, multi-local and open-ended. These developments have prompted important questions on the part of scholars who study these new media about the ontological status of the artistic, musical and literary objects that such modes of distribution (re)create. In musicology, for example, musical modes such as jazz improvisation and digital experimentation are shown to exploit the complex relay of creativity within and between the ever-expanding networks of artists and audiences involved in their production and reception, and construct themselves in ways that invite others to continue the process of their ongoing distribution. The impact of such artistic developments on the identity of ‘the author’ may be measured by developments in copyright law, such as the emergence of the Creative Commons, an organization that enables artists and authors to waive copyright restrictions on co-creators in order to facilitate their collaborative participation. And this mode of distribution has in turn prompted important questions about the orientation of knowledge and power in the collectives and publics that it creates.

This conference seeks to deepen and expand the theorising of authorial distribution in the virtual domain, and to explore the insights that its operations in this sphere might lend into the mechanisms of authorial distribution at work in older (and, indeed, ancient) media. To this end, it will bring together scholars working in the fields of communication and information technology with scholars working across the humanities, in order to explore what kind of dialogue we might generate on the question of distributed authorship across these disciplinary (and other) divisions. Ultimately, our aim is to develop and refine a set of conceptual tools that will bring distributed authorship into a wider remit of familiarity; and to explore whether these tools are, in fact, unique to the new media that have inspired their most recent discursive formulation, or whether they have a range of application that extends beyond the virtual domain.

We invite contributions from those who are engaged directly with the processes and media that are pushing and complicating ideas of distributed authorship in the world today, and also from those who are actively drawing on insights derived from these contemporary developments in their interpretation of the textual and artistic processes of the past, on the following topics (among others):

  • The distinctive features of the new artistic genres and objects generated by modes of authorial distribution, from musical mashups to literary centones.
  • The impact that authorial distribution has on the temporality of its objects, as the multiple agents that form part of the distribution of those objects spread the processes of their decomposition/re-composition over time.
  • The re-orienting of power relations that arises from the distribution of authorship among networks of senders and receivers, as also from the collapsing of ‘sender’ and ‘receiver’ functions into one another.
  • The modes of ‘self’-regulation that authorial collectives develop in order to sustain their identity.
  • Fandom and participatory culture, in both virtual and traditional textual media.
  • The operational dynamics of ‘multitexts’ and ‘text networks’, and their influence by and on virtual networks.

Paper proposals will be selected for their potential to open up questions that transcend the idiom of any single medium and/or discipline. Please send a proposal of approximately 500 words to by January 15, 2018.

Confirmed participants include:

Mario Biagioli, Distinguished Professor of Law and Science and Technology Studies, and director of the Centre for Science and Innovation Studies, UC Davis (author of Galileo Courtier, Chicago 1993; and editor, with Peter Galison, of Scientific Authorship, Routledge 2003).

Georgina Born, Professor of Music and Anthropology, Oxford University (director of Music, Digitisation, Mediation: Towards Interdisciplinary Music Studies, or MusDig:

Christopher Kelty, Professor of Anthropology, Information Studies, and at the Institute for Society and Genetics, UCLA (author of Two Bits: the Cultural Significance of Free Software, Duke 2008).

Scott McGill, Professor of Classics, Rice University (author of Virgil Recomposed: the Mythological and Secular Centos in Antiquity, Oxford 2005; and Plagiarism in Latin Literature, Cambridge 2012)

Daniel Selden, Professor of Literature, UC Santa Cruz (author of numerous articles, and a forthcoming book, on the phenomenon of ‘text networks’ in the long Hellenistic period)

The Elzeviers and their Contemporaries: Reading, Writing, and Selling Scholarship

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Friday 2 June 2017, Woburn Suite, Senate House

Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London


2017 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Louis Elzevier, bookseller and founder of the publishing house which dominated Dutch printing in the seventeenth century. Elzevier books spread across the known world, through their own vast international trade network and via the many foreign students who read them while studying at Dutch universities. They thus helped shape how the topics represented were understood, learned, taught, read, collected and pirated. The renowned dynasty lives on today through the long collectability of its output and through its namesake, the Elsevier publishing house. This conference explores material evidence of the production and consumption of academic books in the early modern period, based around publications by the Elzeviers and their contemporaries.

Proposals are invited for 20-minute papers on topics related to early modern scholarly publishing. Topics for papers might include, but are not limited to:

  • The contemporary book trade and the migration of books;
  • The secondhand/antiquarian book trade;
  • The Elzeviers in context;
  • Collecting and owning early modern books;
  • Piracy, both of content and publishing strategies;
  • Business models of academic presses;
  • Cheap publishing / pocketbooks;
  • Editing in the early modern period;
  • Early modern book illustration
  • Relationships between authors and publishers;
  • The bibliographers of publishers;
  • Digitisation and metadata

The conference will coincide with a display of Senate House Library’s Elzevier collection, one of the largest worldwide.

Please send abstracts of approximately 200 words and a short paragraph of biographical information to Dr Cynthia Johnston at by 24th April 2017.

Embodying Media: From Print to the Digital

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Date: Saturday, 27th May 2017

Venue: Faculty of English, University of Cambridge

Within the study of media theory and history, competing narratives have identified, on the one hand, the absorption of the human voice or body within the text, and, on the other, the development of technology and material texts as extensions of that voice or body. To date these narratives have been largely located from the twentieth century onward. This one-day conference aims to readdress these narratives within a longer historical and wider interdisciplinary perspective. From eighteenth century concepts of the bodily consumption of texts by readers, and words being impressed upon their brains, to more recent imaginings of the multi-sensorial spaces of digital texts and their distribution in the new media landscape, the relationship between the media of writing and the human body has been fraught with affective potentials. This conference aims to examine this relationship between the materiality of texts and the materiality of bodies by bringing together researchers from different disciplines and time periods across the study of textuality.

Moreover, this conference seeks to make use of the potentials of such media forms for academic study. Speakers will be asked to send a digital copy of material related to their presentation ahead of the conference. These materials will be uploaded to the conference website, allowing speakers to explore the implications of their research during their presentations and enabling participants to view the material before and after the conference itself.

Possible topic areas could include:

• The physiology of reading

• The multi-sensory experience of texts: visuals, sonics, and tactility

• Literacy and the materiality of the alphabet

• The (dis)embodied nature of writing

• Technology and media and/as bodily forms of writing

• Text processing from print to the digital

• The Internet and (post)human identity

• Pens, typewriters, keyboards, touchscreens, and other media of writing

• The place of the body in media theory and history

Keynote speaker: Dr Seb Franklin (Lecturer in Contemporary Literature, King’s College London)

Please submit a title and abstract of a maximum of 300 words, along with a short biographical note of up to 50 words, to by 20th February 2017.

Conference on the Ferrars of Little Gidding: CFP

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This conference on the Ferrars is timed to coincide with the completion of a major project in Magdalene College to preserve the Ferrar papers and prints which are housed in the Old Library.

Conference Dates:  10am on 5th September  to 5pm on 7th September 2016.

Venue: Magdalene College Cambridge (main venue Cripps Court)

Call for papers: proposals for papers should be sent to


Registration is open now and closes on 1st April 2016. Accommodation is limited; early booking recommended.

Updates to confirm the programme and speakers will be made in due course.

Male Devotional Practices

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Transforming Male Devotional Practices from the Medieval to the Early Modern

University of Huddersfield, 16-17 September 2015

This conference is co-hosted with the Universities of Reading and Liverpool Hope. It aims to explore the social, economic and spatial factors underpinning the changing way ordinary men demonstrated their commitment to God and the church(es) in a period of significant turmoil. Papers that address English male devotional experience from historical, literary, gender studies and material culture perspectives are welcomed. Suggested themes include:

Religion and Society: Domestic piety and lay/household Catholicism.

Material Culture and ritual objects.

The economy of piety: indulgences, relics and paying for piety.

Personal and public piety: Continuity and change over the medieval and early modern periods.

Devotional reading, writing and performance.

Geography, place and space in Catholic piety.

Please send proposals to: by 22nd June 2015.

Call for Papers: Texts in Times of Conflict

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De Montfort University, Leicester, 8 September 2015

Plenary speakers: Dr Natasha Alden (Aberystwyth University) and Prof. Ian Gadd (Bath Spa University).

Reflecting on the seismic cultural and political shifts of his own time, Francis Bacon pinpointed ‘printing, gunpowder, and the compass’ as the technological drivers which had ‘changed the appearance and state of the whole world’. Bacon’s identification of communicative (print), violent (gunpowder) and technological (compass) forms of cultural expression and exchange as world-shaping continues to resonate, shaping the production and interpretation of texts.

We welcome papers of between 15 and 20 minutes’ length on topics including but not limited to:

  • Textual and visual representations, interpretations of and responses to conflict
  • Adaptations which respond to past and/or present conflicts (including conflicts within academic disciplines)
  • Conflictual relationships between artistic, critical and intellectual movements
  • Processes and agents shaping the design, production, dissemination and consumption of texts
  • Theoretical and bibliographical methodologies
  • Intellectual conflicts surrounding the emergence of new media and technologies
  • Competing or contradictory representations of conflict through identical or different expressive forms
  • State involvement in the production, dissemination and consumption of texts in times of conflict
  • The evolution of media forms and their impact on conflict-based studies

Proposals of up to 250 words should be submitted online at by Friday 5 June. Alternatively, email them to

Bursaries are available. See for details.

This conference is jointly hosted by De Montfort’s Centre for Textual Studies and Centre for Adaptations.

Digital Material conference

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National University of Ireland, Galway, 21-22 May 2015

Plenary speakers: Jerome McGann & Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

Digital Material is a conference that considers the intersections of digital and material cultures in the humanities. How has the long history of studying material objects prepared us for understanding digital culture? To what degree does materiality inflect and inform our encounters with the digital?

Recent years have seen an intensification of interest in both digital and material cultures. This broad trend has been mirrored in the academy by the growing prominence of digital humanities and the renewed focus on materiality and material objects within humanities disciplines. At the same time, libraries, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions are grappling with the theoretical and practical implications of preserving and exhibiting their material collections within increasingly digital infrastructures, while adapting to the challenges posed by born-digital materials.

The conference invites discussion of a series of related issues: does a reinvigorated interest in material culture represent a conservative reaction to the perceived threat of digital culture, or is it evidence of an embrace of the innovative affordances of the digital? How do digital media represent the materiality of texts and objects? Does the digital constitute its own form of materiality?

Proposals are invited on any aspect of the conference theme, including:

  • What is meant by ‘digital materiality’?
  • What is lost and gained when we study material objects through their digital surrogates?
  • Relationships between digital texts and material texts.
  • Creation, curation, and preservation of digitised and born-digital artefacts.
  • Digital archives and material archives.
  • What parts of our digital culture will future scholars unearth?
  • Do digital objects embody their culture in the way that material objects do?
  • Does memory inhere in the material better than in the digital?
  • The digital collector: can we be possessive about digital artefacts?
  • Object lessons: digital and material pedagogy.
  • Representations of the intersections of digital and material cultures.
  • Technology, equipment, storage, media; matter, substance, simulation, virtuality; cloth, fabric, pulp, bits, bytes.

Proposals may include:

  • 20-minute papers (abstract: 300-400 words).
  • Panels (individual paper abstracts plus 250-word overview).
  • Roundtables (abstract: 300-400 words plus names of speakers).

All participants should include a short biography (100-200 words) with their proposals.

Submit proposals at before 31 January 2015. Successful proposals will be notified of acceptance by 21 February 2015.

Print Media in the Colonial World

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16-17 April 2015


Across the colonial world, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw a flourishing of newspapers and periodicals – some fleeting newssheets, others enduring forums of discussion, some published by the colonial state, others by enterprising editors and entrepreneurs. In recent years, a growing body of literature has explored the role of these print media in colonial societies. This, however, has tended to focus on the content rather than the form, mining newspapers for information rather than considering their constitution. What’s more, it has tended to focus on certain publications and regions at the expense of others. This conference brings together scholars working in different disciplines on the colonial societies of Africa, the Middle East, East and South East Asia to consider colonial newspapers in a comparative perspective. It will consider the newspaper, the journal and the magazine as tools of education and government whose owners, contributors and readers often thought of these media as edifying publications.  They were purveyors not just of knowledge about their own societies and the wider world, but also of political prescriptions, linguistic conventions, and ethical norms, which reinforced notions of the self and the other, the state and society, modernity and its lexicons. Together, we hope to encourage enduring and inter-disciplinary conversation amongst scholars about the place newspapers, magazines, and journals played in the constitution of vernacular modernity in various locales, and to lay down the foundations for a new global history of print in the long twentieth century.

Conference panels will focus on the following themes:

  • Newspapers and periodicals as a didactic space or ‘encyclopaedia’
  • Authorship, editorial policy, financing and the legal framework in which newspapers and periodicals in the colonial world operated, particularly relating to censorship, sedition, defamation and libel laws.
  • The relationship of periodicals to the colonial state and the role of the newspaper in shaping modes of political engagement and mobilisation, and understandings of the public.
  • Language and the role of newspapers and periodicals in standardising and popularising vernacular language and new lingua francas.
  • The visual in colonial newspapers (illustration, caricature, photography, typography, lay-out).

A comparative perspective, engaging with the methodological questions at hand in several settings, is encouraged.  Papers for the conference will be pre-circulated to allow for maximum discussion, and participants will be asked to have their papers ready by 1 February 2015.

The organisers, Andrew Arsan, Emma Hunter and Leslie James, welcome abstracts of no more than 250 words in .doc or PDF format to the following email address:

Please include a position, institutional affiliation, and email address in your abstract.

The deadline for submission of abstracts is: 15 June 2014.

Reconsidering Donne

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Lincoln College, Oxford – 23-24 March 2015

An international conference to consider past, present, and future critical trends in Donne Studies.

Plenary Speakers: Achsah Guibbory (Barnard College, Columbia University), David Marno (University of California, Berkeley).

Proposals for 20-minute papers on any aspect of Donne are warmly invited. We are particularly interested in papers that reflect upon their own methodologies, or engage critically with the roles that have been, or should be, played by theory, religious history, rhetoric, form, genre, scholarly editions, biography, and book history. Please send proposals to by 1 October 2014, and write to the same address for registration details.

There will be bursaries available for registered students.

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