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The Reading Experience Database (RED), 1450–1945

RED Letter: The Newsletter of the Reading Experience Database


Edited by Rosalind Crone and Katie Halsey

I have, of late, been thinking about the challenges we face when interpreting the evidence we collect in the Reading Experience Database, prompted by an article I have recently been writing in the wake of the excellent Beyond the Book conference in Birmingham. The database is now at a stage where we can start to draw meaningful conclusions about the material we have collected.  But how do we do it? And what, exactly, should we be trying to do? Anecdotal evidence is considered as notoriously unreliable by the historian, and yet it seems to tell us so much. How can (and should) we manage the challenges involved in working with material that is so interesting, and yet so factually slippery?

Of course, the primary purpose of the Reading Experience Database is not the interpretation of this evidence; by its very nature a database collects and cannot interpret. But, as scholars, the RED team does use the evidence we collect, and so, we hope, do scholars and researchers world-wide. What, then, are the various pitfalls that we tacitly expect our users to understand and avoid?  Much of what I write here will no doubt be obvious to many of our users, but it is nonetheless important to sound a cautionary note.

Our many types of sources demand various kinds of interpretation, and different levels of contextual knowledge, although many issues need to be considered in all cases. It is always important, for example, to consider the provenance of the source, and its reliability.  Have there been any significant editorial interventions (if it is a print source)? If manuscript, has it been authenticated? It is helpful also to consider the motivation of the author of the source, and, in many cases, the accuracy of his or her memory. It is necessary to take into account questions of tone, and the dictates of convention or literary form. And different genres and forms demand greater or lesser levels of attention to particular issues.

Many of the questions our evidence raises are related to the cultural status of reading a particular text at a particular time. ‘Tell me what books a man has read, and I will tell you what he is,’ wrote Maria Edgeworth and her father in their Practical Education of 1798. The writers of diaries, letters, journals, autobiographies and the rest of our sources are, we have to assume, similarly aware of what their reading might say about them, and for that reason it is always wise to interpret first-person accounts of reading in the light of their social, political and historical contexts. Recording the reading of Anouilh’s Antigone in Resistance France, for example, makes a distinct political statement, as does reading A Vindication of The Rights of Man in 1789, or the Satanic Verses in 1991. Reading is not, of course, always a directly political activity; it may denote social or cultural aspiration, or a desire for intellectual improvement, or the opposite of any of these things. In her Autobiography, Harriet Martineau recorded reading Paradise Lost at the age of seven, claiming that this act fixed her mental destiny for the next seven years. This claim might well be true, but we should also consider the reasons for making such a claim.  Is she asserting her spiritual precocity? It is obviously important to her that her readers should know of her love for poetry. But why? Does she, as a second-rate but ambitious author, want to claim kinship with the great poet Milton? Is she, an activist for women’s rights, making a feminist point about a woman’s intellectual ability? Might all of these motivations be present? These questions can only be answered by a closer study of Martineau’s life and works, and of the cultural status of Milton’s poem in the 1870s, but whatever the answers are, they have an impact on how we interpret her reading experience.

We need to consider context and motivation carefully in all the examples given above, and this leads us into both textual and cultural analysis.  First-person accounts of reading need interpretation in the same way that a novel or poem needs interpretation; thought is never unmediated by the form in which it appears, even in the most seemingly transparent confessional writing.  The value of anecdotal evidence, therefore, lies not primarily in the factual data it can provide (although we should not underestimate the importance of the factual information about reading habits and practices that we have collected – the database tells us a great deal about, for example, the times of day when reading is most common, the unexpected popularity of certain texts, the books available to particular reading communities at a given time, and such matters as the costs of given editions) but often in what it can tell us about cultural pressures and prohibitions on readers, and how readers react to such pressures and prohibitions. There is more to be written about this subject, but I must now move on to project news. We would be interested to hear from any readers of RED  Letter on the topic of working with our evidence; please get in touch with if you have anything you would like to discuss.

And now, on to RED news.  Last month saw a symposium, organised jointly by RED and the Cambridge Victorian Studies Group (CVSG), and hosted by CVSG in Cambridge. It was a very successful day, and particular thanks are due to Jonathan Rose, who acted as Respondent, and William St Clair, who chaired the event. A further joint initiative, with the Robert Louis Stevenson Society, has just been organised (see below). Thanks to Richard Dury for setting this up with us, and for publicising both projects, and to Julie Watt and Olive Classe for their impressively prompt volunteering! We are also working with Matthew Bradley of the GladCAT project, to document Gladstone’s reading, and we are busy planning for the RED conference, which will take place on 21-23 July 2008 at the Institute of English Studies, London. Further information about the conference, including the draft programme, is available on the RED website, at, and our poster forms the last page of this newsletter. Registration will close at the end of June, so please sign up early to avoid disappointment. Any questions about registration or logistics should be directed to We are grateful to Jon for all his help with the financial and administrative aspects of the conference organisation. The conference will also include an exhibition of rare books and other material from Senate House Library. Many thanks to the Senate House Library, and in particular to Karen Attar, for organising the exhibition, and also for permission to use material from the Senate House Library holdings in our conference programme.

As always, there are a number of people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for their generous assistance and contributions to the project. We would like to extend a warm welcome to all new volunteers, and to thank all of you who have been contributing material for some time, in particular Margaret Thomas, Sandra Cumming, Anna Robinson and Anna Charlton, who have been very busy entering material recently.  We would also like to thank Sarah Johnson and Jenny McAuley, who have re-joined the project as Research Associates, for all their hard work and dedication. Isabel DiVanna, who left us at the beginning of this year, has just been awarded a Junior Research Fellowship at Wolfson College, Cambridge.  Congratulations to Isabel! Thanks to Pamela Robinson for helping us identify Medieval and Early Modern sources for the database, to Beth Lau for generously offering her expertise in Keats’s reading, and also to Jenny Hartley and Martin Priestman at Roehampton, for helping us to spread the word about RED.

The Reading of Robert Louis Stevenson: A Joint Venture with the Robert Louis Stevenson Society

As many of you probably know, Robert Louis Stevenson was an avid reader, and as such, we are very eager to record his reading experiences in RED. However, we are also aware that the interest in Stevenson and literature goes beyond the data we can store in RED: under the current definition of a ‘reading experience’, we have to exclude records of Stevenson’s borrowing of books and the many allusions he makes to different texts in his letters. Therefore, we have embarked on a joint venture with Richard Dury at the Robert Louis Stevenson Society, who has recently begun to collect this information in a database intended for public use. We are now looking for volunteers with an interest in Robert Louis Stevenson to read through one or several volumes of Stevenson’s correspondence in order to extract information about his reading experiences (which will be stored in RED) and/ or allusions to various texts (which will be stored in the Stevenson database). In addition to RED, entries from both databases will be made available to the public via the Robert Louis Stevenson Society website. If you are interested in contributing to this project, please do get in touch with us. We are very excited about the potential outcomes of this research!  To find out more about the Stevenson database, you can also contact Richard Dury.

Launch of Scriptorium, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts Online

Readers of RED  Lettermay also be interested to hear about the launch of Scriptorium: Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts Online, an AHRC-funded project based at the Faculty of English, Cambridge University. ( Scriptorium will comprise full digital facsimiles of at least twenty late medieval and early modern manuscript miscellanies and commonplace books, along with descriptions, transcriptions and bibliographical information; a set of research and teaching resources for students and scholars working on manuscript studies; and an enhanced version of English Handwriting: An Online Course, our interactive palaeography tool:
All parts of the site will remain freely and publicly available. Currently, the resource includes images of St Johns College, Cambridge, MS S.23, an early seventeenth-century poetic miscellany. More images and information will be added progressively in the coming weeks and months, as the site is expanded and developed. The project hopes that the resource will be useful to the wide scholarly community.


Contact Details:  
Dr Rosalind Crone
Department of English
Faculty of Arts
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
Dr Katie Halsey
Institute of English Studies
School of Advanced Study
University of London
Malet Street
Email: Email:

Forthcoming Events and Calls for Papers

RED Conference: Evidence of Reading, Reading the Evidence

Follow this link for further details.


John Coffin Memorial Lecture in the History of the Book
Tuesday 15th July 2008, 6pm, (venue to be confirmed)

Professor Dr Hans Walter Gabler (University of Munich)
'Argument into Design: Editions as a sub-species of the printed book'

Organised by the Institute of English Studies

Publishing Science: Seminars in Book History and Bibliography
Organised by the Book History Research Group, the Open University, and the Institute of English Studies, University of London.

Organiser: Dr Shafquat Towheed , Open University.

The theme for the 2008-2009 seminar series will be Transatlantic Serialisation. If you are interested in giving a paper please contact Dr Shafquat Towheed.

Reading and the Age of Gladstone
23-25 January 2009
St Deiniol’s Library

Several recent and ongoing projects have sought to provide new histories of the book and examine the role and position of readers within that history. This conference not only aims to explore the issues that surround reading in the period c1830-1901, it also seeks to explore the ways in which the Victorian period is read today. Increased literacy, unprecedented developments in publishing, the widespread availability of texts through periodicals and a new library culture: all mark out the nineteenth century as one of the most active in terms of the ‘reading experience’. But how did readers of the time set about their task, and how should the modern critic or teacher set about theirs? What engagement did readers in the period have with the whole machinery of producing and disseminating books, with publishing houses, with libraries, with periodicals, and how do such material considerations affect our reading of the Victorians today? What did the act of reading mean for them – and what does it mean for us?

Possible themes might include, but are not limited to:

  • the Victorians and book collections, libraries, literary institutions
  • the Victorian periodical
  • nineteenth century bibliomania
  • mass literacy
  • readers at the margins, or annotators of books
  • readers as editors – collation of scrapbooks/manuscript volumes
  • public readings
  • the publishing of Victorian literature and criticism today
  • circulating libraries and the public libraries
  • writers writing about reading
  • book clubs/associations/exchanges between readers
  • ‘proper’ reading/censorship of texts
  • reading the Victorians in the university environment, and outside it
  • how to record acts of reading – the use and suitability of new technologies in research on the history of reading/readers

Proposals (no more than 300 words) for papers of 20 minutes duration should be sent to the organisers, Dr Matthew Bradley and Dr Juliet John, via email to and by August 31st 2008. Confirmed speakers for the conference include David Bebbington, Philip Davis, Simon Eliot, and Kate Flint.

The conference will take place at St Deiniol’s Library, which was founded by the Victorian statesman and polymath William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898). The Library is the National Memorial to Gladstone and is both the only residential library and purpose-built prime ministerial library in the United Kingdom. Part of the programme will consist of the official launch of the Gladstone’s Reading Database. The research for this project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2006-09), has been conducted at St Deiniol’s, and database represents a virtual recreation of Gladstone’s library, and a unique and comprehensive record of his reading of each item. For further details about the database, please contact

A Gladstone Centre for Victorian Studies in Wales and the North West Conference in partnership with the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Victorian Studies.

Seminar on the History of Libraries
Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London
Senate House, Malet St., London WC1E 7HU

Subject to final confirmation, a series of research seminars, which are freely open for anyone to attend, has been organized at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Meetings will take place on Wednesdays at 5.30 p.m. in Room NG16, located off the main ground floor corridor of Senate House North Block.

Seminar convenors: Mr. Giles Mandelbrote (Early Printed Collections, The British Library, London); Dr. Keith A. Manley (Institute of Historical Research, University of London).

14 May:  Dr. Karen Attar (University of London Research Library Services): Incunabula collections of the Senate House Library in the University of London.

11 June:  A round-table discussion on prospects for library history research, to which Professor Robin Alston (Barbados) has been invited.

Further information concerning the Institute of English Studies may be found on its website or email

The purpose of the seminars is to encourage further research into all aspects of the subject of library history following the publication in 2006 of the Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland by Cambridge University Press. A steering group has been appointed which will also oversee the use and development of Professor Robin Alston's `List of Libraries', which has been available on the internet for a number of years.

Steering Group: Professor Warwick Gould (Institute of English Studies); Mr. Peter Hoare (general editor, Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland); Professor Alistair Black (Leeds Metropolitan University); Dr. Elisabeth Leedham-Green (Darwin College, Cambridge); Dr. Teresa Webber (Trinity College, Cambridge); Mr. Ian Willison, CBE (Institute of English Studies), and the convenors.


Cities of Reading, Cities of Literature: one-day symposium
20 June 2008
Craiglockhart Campus, Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland

This is a one-day symposium organised by the Scottish Centre for the Book in partnership with the Scottish Arts Council and Edinburgh City of Literature on Friday, 20 June 2008 at the Craiglockhart Campus of Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland.

For a map, visit:

9.00 Registration
9.30 Welcome - Dr Gavin Wallace (SAC)
10.00 Anne Peoples (former Assistant Chief Librarian, Western Education and Library Board, Northern Ireland): Divided City: a Cross-Border Reading Programme
10.45 Coffee
11.15 Workshops 1 (participants choose one)
I. Funding reading initiatives (AB)
II. Engaging the community (JD)
III. Organising the event (AP)
IV. Evaluating the event (DF)
12.00 Jane Davis (Editor, The Reader and Director, Get Into Reading, Liverpool): Community Glue: Why Reading Aloud Holds Us Together
13.00 Lunch
14.00 Ali Bowden (Edinburgh City of Literature): Edinburgh City of Reading
14.45 Workshops 2: reiteration of above (choose one)
15.30 Tea
16.00 Danielle Fuller (Beyond the Book, Birmingham): 'Open up the book, Open up yourself': Reading in a Community Context
16.45-17.30 Plenary Summing up

The cost of the symposium is £50, including lunch, tea and coffee. Accommodation is not included but Edinburgh contains a wide choice of hotels and guesthouses.

For further details or to reserve a place please contact Fiona Hartree, SCOB Administrator: ­ fax: [44] 141 455 619


What Did Mr Miniver Read? The Fears and Aspirations of the "Masculine Middlebrow" Writer, 1880-1950
A two-day conference hosted by the Institute of English Studies, London
13-14 March 2009

Writers of the feminine middlebrow have been studied with increasing discernment and energy since the publication of many forgotten titles by women novelists by Virago from 1977, and by Persephone Books from 1999. Increasingly research has sought to link texts by both male and female writers associated with middlebrow tastes and to identify the kinds of cultural status they were afforded or denied. This conference focuses on the masculine middlebrow: texts aimed at Mr rather than Mrs Miniver. We aim to look in the den, and on his side of the bed, rather than on her bedside table.

‘Middlebrow' was a pejorative term by 1925, and can be traced as an increasingly complex social indicator until after the Second World War. The cultural tastes of the ‘middling sorts' became increasingly difficult to police and categorise. Though the cultural distinctions reflected in the use of the term persist to this day, we wish to encourage examination of the texts produced during the period when the culture wars were fiercest: the period 1880-1950.

In rereading texts, some forgotten and long disregarded, we also revisit works which are unfashionable and morally repugnant to many in our own time. For a better understanding of middlebrow we need to be open to these aspects, and to understand what the ‘ordinary' reader of the day was absorbing from the texts of the ‘masculine middlebrow'.

We invite abstracts for papers which consider the fears and aspirations expressed in middlebrow texts by masculine authors and which were associated with a ‘middlebrow' readership. We are particularly interested in issues arising from the list of suggestions below:

  • Which periodicals were associated with a masculine middlebrow audience?
  • Did certain genres, such as travel, biographies, and whodunits, address a specifically masculine rather than a feminine readership?
  • Can ‘masculine middlebrow' reading be associated with different social classes? Which cultural zones can be securely identified with class strata?
  • Did club libraries have the same reading and borrowing patterns as municipal libraries, works libraries, or army libraries?
  • Who was ‘safe'? Why were some novelists associated with ‘the ageing intellectual'? Why was Shakespeare ‘nasty ranting stuff'? What role did anti-intellectualism play?
  • Was John Buchan read for his historical novels or his thrillers? What happened to the masculine middlebrow texts that crossed the borders of cultural classification?
  • What role did texts about the occult play in middlebrow reading? We are interested in papers which relate the esoterica of Charles Williams, Aleister Crowley and Arthur Machen to their readers' lives and wishes.
  • How did society deal with ‘problem' novelists, such as Warwick Deeping, Gilbert Frankau, and A S M Hutchinson?
  • Who were the taste formers of the ‘masculine middlebrow'? How influential were Arnold Bennett and J.B. Priestley, for example, as novelists and journalists?

You should expect your final conference presentation to last for 20 minutes. Please attach this information to your abstracts:

  • name
  • academic affiliation (not obligatory: we welcome contributions from independent scholars)
  • contact email address
  • any relevant publications
  • a short account of how masculine middlebrow fits into your past or current research (this is without prejudice to your application: it will help us understand which authors or issues are being worked on, and where)
  • whether you need an early decision on acceptance to enable an application for travel funding to be made
  • whether you need particular facilities or equipment for your proposed presentation

Organisers: Dr Mary Grover, University of Sheffield Hallam ( and Dr Kate Macdonald, University of Ghent ( Please send abstracts to by 28 September 2008.

Enquiries: Jon Millington, Events Officer, Institute of English Studies, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU; tel +44 (0) 207 664 4859; Email

Personal Writing and Textual Scholarship: Fifth International Conference of the European Society for Textual Scholarship
20-22 November 2008
University of Lisbon

Private writings are texts specifically produced for the eyes of their author or another single person. They tend to materialize in certain genres such as Diaries and Letters, but include working documents – drafts, notebooks, aide-mémoires, and others – which may represent or contain preliminary stages of later published texts. Considering this intentionalist definition, several questions emerge, some which are more editorial in nature and others verging on the legal and moral territory:

  • Do drafts and transient pre-publication versions have a value of their own or are they bound to be seen as superseded phases of a process? What about those more or less inchoate writings which were never published in the author’s lifetime? Do they have the status of a pre-non-existent text?
  • Do letters and diaries perform a role as potential indirect testimonies, conveying information that enables editors to correct or supplement passages that are absent or flawed in all extant manuscripts and copies when the whole of direct tradition is affected by one of these problems? Besides, how do the writings belonging to these types contribute to the perception of the process of constructing a different text?
  • Do scholars act differently when editing private texts, i.e., changing their nature from an originally private status into a public one? If so, do these different proceedings include a more fully developed commentary in order to make otherwise lost references and allusions legible? Or are they geared, on the contrary, to produce in the readers the feeling of being lost, i.e., of making them realize that that piece of writing was not intended for their eyes? Should bibliographic code and transcription strategy play a role in rendering conspicuous the difference between an edition of private texts and an edition of public ones?
  • Do the texts originally present in private documents gain a new identity when they are transformed into public ones, even if the process is carried out by their authors and the verbal changes are slight or inexistent?
  • Given the context of the conflict between moral rights and those of readers, how does the law set out the publication of private texts?
  • How is manipulation of private writings, from partial censorship and the introduction of changes to utter destruction, seen by textual scholars, literary archive heirs and jurists?
  • Should those texts once published and later on excluded by authors from their work be included in a collected edition? Despite having been published, do these texts become private once the author states that they no longer pertain to his work?

The Program Chair invites proposals for papers dealing with the theme of the conference: 'personal writing and textual scholarship'. Papers should be no more than 20 minutes in length. Individual proposals should include a brief abstract (300-400 words) in English of the proposed paper as well as the name, e-mail address, and institutional affiliation of the participants.

Inquiries and proposals should be sent to: Burghard Dedner, Program Chair,

Deadline for proposals: May 31, 2008.

All participants in the conference must be members of the European Society for Textual Scholarship. For information on membership, please contact: Herman Brinkman,

Conference registration fee: 50 €

For further information, visit:

Reception and Diaspora: Readers and Audiences After Empire
3-5 September 2008
University of Stirling, Scotland

Janice Radway has noted that the original use of the term "audience" to describe "face to face" communication is complicated by the act of reading books, which involves "dispersed", "nomadic" readers (Radway 1988). Similarly, in an essay written in critical dialogue with Radway's, Lawrence Grossberg uses the extended metaphor of the road to address "wandering audiences" and "nomadic critics" (Grossberg 1988). Significantly, neither of these critics is thinking about the implications of diaspora for reception study; rather they are using diasporic metaphors to illustrate a theoretical sense of the audience’s elusiveness. What happens when such figurative allusions are taken literally and applied to the actual experiences of diaspora, globalization and postcoloniality?

This conference seeks to extend current debates on the history of reading (e.g. RED: 1450-1945) by inviting discussion on reception, readers and audiences – empirical and metaphorical – after empire. Reception is used in this context to refer to diasporic narratives of arrival, hospitality and integration, and to the critical activity of reading, interpreting and responding to such narratives.

For further information, contact Bethan Benwell:

The Novel and its Borders
8 - 10 July 2008
University of Aberdeen

Organised by The Centre for The Novel

Organisers: Adrienne Janus, Abigail M Smith and Janet Todd

The novel is not only a literary form occupying a particular generic or cultural territory, but also an aesthetic, historical and social phenomenon that represents, constructs, and transgresses borders. The conference on The Novel and its Borders will engage with the novel in all its aspects, material and theoretical, from the 18th to the 21st century.

Plenary speakers: Malcolm Bowie, Jonathan Lamb, Terry Castle

Panel topics will include the following:

  • Genealogies of the novel
  • Histories of the book
  • Memory, History and Narrative time
  • Transatlantic crossings
  • Travel narratives
  • Libraries, Archives, Markets
  • Borders of the mind
  • Territories of the body, novel sexualities
  • The novel and translation
  • The novel and real/imagined communities
  • The novel and old/new media
  • Materialities of the novel
  • Transport of/in the novel
  • The novel and the city
  • The novel and the nation
  • Technology, science and the novel
  • Realism and its borders (The experimental novel)
  • The novel and its critical fields (Theories of the novel)



The International Society for the Empirical Study of Literature and Media will hold its 11th International Conference in the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis July 8-11, 2008 (

IGEL Conference: July 8-11, 2008
IGEL Summer Institute: July 5-8, 2008

The International Society for the Empirical Study of Literature and Media (German acronym IGEL) is aimed at the advancement of empirical literary research through international and interdisciplinary cooperation ( IGEL was founded in 1987. Biennual meetings of the society have been hosted in Siegen (Germany), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Memphis, Budapest (Hungary), Nakoda (Canada), Utrecht (Netherlands), Toronto (Canada), Pécs (Hungary), Edmonton (Canada) and Munich (Germany).


The 11th International Conference of the Society will be held in the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis July 8-11, 2008. Keynote speakers include Douglas Biber and Roz Picard. Doug Biber ( is internationally known for his computational techniques to analyze the linguistic characteristics of spoken and written genres and registers. Roz Picard ( is the international authority on affective computing.

The IGEL Conference will follow the IGEL Summer Institute, July 5-7. The Program of the Summer Institute is concerned with the cooperation of Humanities and Social Science students in order to develop adequate methods for the empirical investigation of literature and the media.

The IGEL Conference will precede the Society for Text and Discourse workshop (July 11-12) and the 18th Annual Meeting of the Society for Text and Discourse (July 12-15), also held in the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis (


The FedEx Institute of Technology (FIT) is a versatile, high-tech facility. The Institute is home to cutting-edge research teams working in areas such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, geospatial analysis, multimedia arts and nanotechnology. It also serves as a gateway for businesses to collaborate with University of Memphis researchers. In all, the Institute is home to over 150 faculty members, researchers and staff.

The FIT is a state-of-the-art facility with a 190 seat tiered amphitheater boasting the second largest implementation of digital congress units outside the United Nations, and 17 meeting rooms. Large projection screens, web cams, touch panel screens, laptop computers, totally wireless network, SIM cards, poly-vision and video teleconferencing, and interactive white boards are just some of the cutting-edge features of the facility.


A block of hotel rooms has been reserved in The Holiday Inn Hotel at the University of Memphis and the DoubleTree Hotel Memphis. Announcements for reservations will follow.

The Holiday Inn Hotel at the University of Memphis is an all-suite hotel centrally located in the heart of Memphis and easily accessible to downtown, the airport, and shopping. The hotel is adjacent to the University of Memphis. Prices for the reserved block of rooms are $109 per night.

The Doubletree Memphis provides lodging in Memphis near the University of Memphis and Memphis International Airport. It is surrounded by a variety of entertainment, recreation, theater and restaurants. The hotel has a complementary shuttle service to and from the airport. Prices for the reserved block of rooms are $104 per night.

In addition, dormitory rooms (2 persons sharing rooms) have been made available for discount rates in the Richardson Tower dormitory rooms accommodations at the University of Memphis campus. Prices are $35 per night.


For questions or suggestions, please contact The IGEL website will be updated regularly with the latest information on the conference (

Manuscripts and Miscellaneity, c. 1450-1720
An international conference organized by Scriptorium: Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts Online
University of Cambridge, 3-4 July 2008

Speakers to include: Barbara Benedict, Julia Boffey, Victoria Burke, Margaret Connolly, Alexandra Gillespie, Earle Havens, Arthur Marotti,Steven May, Marcy North, Fred Schurink, John Thompson.

Commonplace books, collections, miscellanies; collections of lyric verse,extracts from authors, sacred and profane, topographical, heraldic and legal information, estate and household accounts and recipes. How do we describe or classify manuscripts with such miscellaneous contents? What importance did such objects, frequently used for several different purposes over the course of their lives, have in the manuscript culture of the late medieval and early modern periods? And in what ways can recent critical interests in the material history of the book and of the history of reading practices help us to understand them?

In addressing these questions, this conference will bring together literary scholars and cultural historians, codicologists and historians of the book. It will foster discussion of manuscript miscellanies written or compiled between the mid-fifteenth and early-eighteenth centuries: their contents, their material forms, how they were written and read, the ways in which their contents were arranged and disposed (within single books or across sequences of books), who owned them and how they used them, and the places that they might have had in the schoolroom or university, home or library.

It will also question the very concept of miscellaneity, in relation to other kinds of compilation and collection, and to other methods of book-classification - is miscellaneity a helpful critical, methodological or bibliographical term? And how do we view the miscellany differently in this age of digital facsimiles and hypertext?

We hope to be able to arrange accommodation in Cambridge for our speakers and attendees, but cannot guarantee the availability of accommodation to those who register for the conference after 31 January 2008. In order to register for the conference, please contact Dr Christopher Burlinson ( as soon as possible.


The Culture of Print in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine (STEM)
The Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America
Madison, Wisconsin
September 12-13, 2008

The conference will include papers focusing on the dynamic intersection of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine (STEM) and print culture. Papers might address ways in which STEM-its histories and materials, its theories and practices, its economics, and its practitioners-affects or is affected by print culture. These approaches might include: innovations in the production and circulation of print; patterns of authorship and reading; publication, and dissemination of knowledge in the history of STEM. Alternatively, taking the various theories and methodologies that have grown out of half-a-century of historical and social studies of STEM, papers could investigate the social construction of STEM knowledge through print; technologies of experimentation and inscription as a print culture of the laboratory; and the social networks of readership in the production of scientific consensus or conflict. Though our emphasis is on the United States scene, we welcome submissions from other areas of the globe as well.

The keynote speaker will be Professor Jim Secord, of Cambridge University, Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project, and author of many publications, including the award-winning Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (University of Chicago Press, 2000).

As with previous conferences, we anticipate producing a volume of papers from the conference for publication in a volume in the Center's series, "Print Culture History in Modern America," published by the University of Wisconsin Press. A list of books the Center has produced, available on the Center's website (, offers a guide to prospective authors.

For information, contact:
Christine Pawley, Director,
Center for the History of Print Culture
4234 Helen C. White Hall,
600 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706
phone: 608 263-2945/608 263-2900
fax: (608) 263-4849

Co-sponsors: School of Library and Information Studies, the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, the departments of the History of Science, the History of Medicine and Bioethics, and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


Dante in the 19th Century: Reception, Canonicity, Popularization
A two-day conference at King's Manor, University of York
15-16 July, 2008

The nineteenth  century saw the rehabilitation of Dante as a Romantic and national poet, his recognition by Ruskin as ‘the central man of all the world’, the Comedy’s emergence as an educational best-seller, and the poet’s establishment as the subject of a critical industry. His reception (particularly in English-speaking cultures) over this period, from Romanticism to Modernism, has itself been the subject of a number of important studies.

This conference seeks to extend the scope of research on this subject in a number of ways, and papers on any aspect of Dante’s world-wide reception from c. 1780 to c. 1914 will be considered. The forms in which his work is circulated and popularized at this time will be a particular concern, as will his appropriation by various forms of nationalism. Although Dante’s presence in the work of the period’s major literary figures will be recognized, papers on the visual and performing arts and other kinds of cultural appropriation will be especially welcome.

The plenary speaker will be Professor Michael Caesar, editor of Dante: the Critical Heritage. There will be 6  other sessions over the two days, with space for approximately 18 papers of 20 mins each.

Further information can be obtained by contacting Prof Nick Havely ( and from the conference website at:


Readers, Writers, Salonnieres: Female Networks in Europe, 1700-1900
Chawton House Library, Hampshire, 22-23 May 2008

Keynote speakers: Professor Dena Goodman, University of Michigan and Professor Helen Chambers, University of St Andrews.

An interdisciplinary two-day conference to be held at Chawton House Library, Hampshire, 22nd and 23rd May 2008. See for information about the location. The event is jointly organised by the University of Southampton English Department, the University of Warwick French Department and the University of Wales Swansea German Department.

The conference is one in a series being held in conjunction with the Netherlands Research Organisation (NWO) Project "New Approaches to European Women's Writing" which is based at the University of Utrecht and is directed by Dr Suzan van Dijk. Please see for more details.

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw an explosion of interest in Europe in foreign languages and literatures, and recent research has begun to explore the part played by women in cross-cultural interchange. This conference seeks to examine the trans-national links between literary women in Europe in the period 1700-1900. To what extent were women writers from different countries aware of each other and each other's work? We invite papers which look at women who read or were inspired by the work of women abroad, as well as papers exploring actual links (for example, through correspondence, visits or contact in the salons) between women writers of different nationalities.

Selected papers will be published in a special issue of the journal Women's Writing.

For further information, contact the conference administrator Sandy White:

Published Words, Public Pages – SHARP Copenhagen: a Nordic conference of International Print Culture
The Danish Royal School of Library and Information Science, Copenhagen, Denmark
10–12 September 2008

Confirmed keynote speakers:
William St Clair, Hans Walter Gabler, Isabel Hofmeyr

Published Words, Public Pages aims to gather together current research into print culture – book history, textual studies, sociology of literature, library studies, literature and media studies – undertaken in the Nordic and Baltic Sea regions and elsewhere. What is shared among and across disciplines when the historical and contemporary transmission of knowledge is considered in material terms? How can we understand the inter and intra-national circulation of knowledge, involving fiction, non-fiction and scientific writing, its material production, and distribution via libraries, commercial markets and non-commercial channels? How have the efforts of printers, editors, graphic designers, programmers, entrepreneurs, publishers, distributors and of course writers affected production, reception and significance? How are ideas of a public – a literary or general public, an author's, or the public sphere – linked to the histories of people who write, make or read books, and how are they coupled to ideas of gender, to regional or metropolitan identities, or to colonial and post-colonial experience?

Emphasis is placed not only on inter and intra-national transmission but on self-reflection about methods and disciplinary boundaries. Is book history a discipline with methods of its own that can contribute to other disciplines? Or is it an inter or cross-disciplinary meeting point? Can rethinking these disciplinary questions lead us to an improved understanding of specific cultural, political, economic and geographic features that shape materials in print culture? Small languages, large markets – an apt description of the Nordic situation – addresses the export of small-language works to international markets. Conversely, small markets import large-language works (often outweighing domestic material).

To reiterate, the conference has an international and interdisciplinary aim. Strategies deployed by international readerships, booktrades and scholars for responding to questions posed by the conference will help illuminate the situation of the Nordic and Baltic Sea regions through comparative example.

Topics that the conference might wish to explore include:
  • Translation and culture. Small languages, large markets. The export and import of texts
  • Constructing publics, from the codex to the screen. Contributions might engage with relations between material transmission and publics, reader markets, law, censorship and copyright, and the construction of a public sphere, via ‘public pages’.
  • Imagined communities – émigré communities, regional groups, national readerships within and beyond the national border, their books, and the libraries and institutions that have and continue to cater for them.
  • Economies of the scholarly edition – the historical, material, institutional, publishing and market conditions for today’s critical editions.
  • Histories of reading – literacies, ‘Leselust’, religious reading, and the reading experience.
  • The Nordic model – the State and the book, in contemporary, historical and international perspectives.
  • Nordic antiquities – runes, sagas, Nordic signs, northern romanticism, its application, reception and transmission.
  • Transmitting the Nordic canon – Ibsen, Hamsun, Blixen, Brandes, Strindberg, Andersen in world markets. Anniversaries, reputations and business.

For further details please visit

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing
SHARP 2008 Conference: Teaching and Text

Oxford Brookes University, UK
24-28 June 2008

Our conference theme, Teaching and Text, reflects the historical and contemporary position of Oxford as a seat of learning and a centre of academic and professional publishing. It will be developed through an opening plenary lecture by Professor Juliet Gardiner, author of Wartime Britain 1939-1945, and by a panel on the History of Oxford University Press led by Professor Simon Eliot, Chair in the History of the Book at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London.

In line with previous SHARP conferences, we welcome abstracts on all aspects of book history and print culture, but invite especially proposals for individual papers or themed panels that aim to explore topics linked to ‘Teaching and Text,’ such as:

  • Links between education and publishing
  • Authorship, publishing and reception of educational materials
  • Education and training for careers in publishing
  • Business practice in educational and academic publishing
  • Digital materiality and the virtual canon
  • Books in universities and libraries
  • Cultural policy and the teaching of national literatures

Graduate Students:
There will be pre-conference activities for graduate students. Further information will be available in due course.

Travel Grants:
SHARP is able to provide a limited number of travel grants to graduate students and independent scholars. If you wish to be considered for such a grant, please state this when submitting your proposal in the appropriate box.

Follow this link for further information.

DRHA 2008: New Communities of Knowledge and Practice
University of Cambridge, 14-17 September 2008

The DRHA (Digital Resources for the Humanities and Arts) conference is held annually at various academic venues throughout the UK. The conference theme this year is to promote discussion around new collaborative environments, collective knowledge and redefining disciplinary boundaries. The conference, hosted by Cambridge with its fantastic choice of conference venues will take place from Sunday14 September to Wednesday 17 September.

The aim of the conference is to:

  • Establish a site for mutually creative exchanges of knowledge.
  • Promote discussion around new collaborative environments and collective knowledge.
  • Encourage and celebrate the connections and tensions within the liminal spaces that exist between the Arts and Humanities.
  • Redefine disciplinary boundaries.
  • Create a forum for debate around notions of the ‘solitary’ and the collaborative across the Arts and Humanities.
  • Explore the impact of the Arts and Humanities on ICT: design and narrative structures and visa versa.

There will be a variety of sessions concerned with the above but also with a particular emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and theorising around practice. There will also be various installations and performances focussing on the same theme. Keynote talks will be given by our plenary speakers who we are pleased to announce are Sher Doruff, Research Fellow (Art, Research and Theory Lectoraat) and Mentor at the Amsterdam School for the Arts, Alan Liu, Professor of English, University of California Santa Barbara and Sally Jane Norman, Director of the Culture Lab, Newcastle University. In addition to this, there will be various round table discussions together with a panel relating to ‘Second Life’ and a special forum 'Engaging research and performance through pervasive and locative arts projects' led by Steve Benford, Professor of Collaborative Computing, University of Nottingham. Also planned is the opportunity for a more immediate and informal presentation of work in our ‘Quickfire’ style events. Whether papers, performance or other, all proposals should reflect the critical engagement at the heart of DRHA.

Visit the website at for more information and a link to the proposals website. The Deadline for be submissions will be 30 April 2008 and abstracts should be approximately 1000 words.

Cambridge’s venues range from the traditional to the contemporary all situated within walking distance of central departments, museums and galleries. The conference will be based around Cambridge University's Sedgwick Site, particularly the West Road concert hall, where delegates will have use of a wide range of facilities including a recital room and a 'black box' performance space, to cater for this year's parallel programming and performances.

Sue Broadhurst
DRHA Programme Chair


Research Society for Victorian Periodicals (RSVP) 40th Annual Conference: Characters of the Press
4-5 July 2008
Roehampton University, London

'Character' was the term commonly used of the Victorian press for what today we might call the 'brand personality' of a periodical - its distinctive features as a commodity in the marketplace. But how was this 'character' created? Some periodicals identified themselves as people (one thinks of Mr Punch, or the less voluble human figures on many a masthead) or with people (Howitt's Journal, Reynolds's Miscellany, Blackwood's, or perhaps a reliable stable of authors, or a named editor). Many sought to improve the character of readers by offering heroes or heroines for emulation. Some preferred a recurrent set of textual practices - format, layout, size, range of departments. Some characters were generated through the targeting of specific audiences such as grocers or suffragettes, radical workers or young imperialists. Others were prompted by the occasions on which they expected to be encountered - for reading en famille on Sundays, over weekday breakfast or while commuting. And then there is the vital question of how the press in general (or sections of it) were characterised by those within and outside it: what metaphors were mobilised and why?

This conference, then, offers a wide and varied route into the exciting and still only partially explored territory of Victorian periodicals. For more information, contact Andrew King at

Roehampton University is located in south-west London, 45 minutes by public transport from central London. Campus-based accommodation is available for the conference. For more on the London location, see:


Robert Burns in Global Culture
22-23 January 2009
Royal Society of Edinburgh

The Royal Society of Edinburgh is organising a major one-day conference on 'Robert Burns and Global Culture' in 2009. The conference will reflect on issues such as the global reputation of Burns, the translation and reception of Burns in world literatures, the influence of Burns on the image of Scotland abroad, and the continuing celebration of Burns in global culture in statues, music and Burns Supper events. As Scotland's National Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh has decided to host this conference on Scotland's national bard as one of a series of global events to commemorate Burns on the 250th anniversary of his birth, in Glasgow, Prague, Beijing, South Carolina and elsewhere. There will be contributions from leading Burns scholars from around the world, and there will be plenty of scheduled time for discussion as well as a session on the latest research on Burns. Neal Ascherson will open the conference, and there will be a Burns Supper with internationally known speakers, including Clark McGinn (see Sheena Wellington and Kirsteen McCue will perform at a musical lunch In the middle of the day. A number of additional activities are planned to complement the main conference.

For further information, including registration forms, please contact the Royal Society of Edinburgh Events Department:

'Adapting Byron'
4-5 December 2008
The Byron Centre, University of Manchester

Few figures have captured the creative imagination to the extent of Lord Byron. Almost every age, nation and art-form has responded to his life and works. The purpose of this conference is to examine adaptations of Byron over the past two centuries, as a means to interrogate his changing reception and to consider how he and his works have been reconceived on being brought into contact with new, non-literary contexts and media. Special attention will be paid to musical and theatrical treatments of Byron's works, life and personae. The conference will include two lunchtime musical recitals on Byron-related themes.
For further information, contact
from: William Hone, ‘The Yearbook’, 1832
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