Speaking in Absence

Letters in the Digital Age

For information on the venues please return to the main conference page. For more information on individual speakers, and on projects involved, please click here.


Conference Programme

Weston Lecture Theatre

Throughout the day in Blackwell Hall there will be a temporary exhibition of physical correspondence from a range of Bodleian collections, including a note to Alan Bennett from ‘the lady in the van’, a letter sent from the trenches ‘under a hell of a fire’, a book of deciphered royalist letters, and a Greek papyrus letter from an Egyptian boy demanding a lyre from his father. Images of letters used in student teaching activities related to the conference will feature on the digital screens.

8:30 Registration with pastries

9:00 Welcome (Helen Brown and Olivia Thompson)


9:15 Editing letters.
The errors of our ways when editing letters.
Lecture by Christopher Ricks (Boston University)


10:15 Digitizing letters. Panel discussion

  • Electronic Enlightenment (website) – Robert McNamee (Director) and Mark Rogerson (Technical Editor)
  • Darwin Correspondence Project (website) – Alison Pearn (Associate Director)
  • Cultures of Knowledge (website) – Howard Hotson (Director)

Chair: Judith Siefring (Head of Digital Research, Bodleian Libraries)


11:30 Coffee

11:45 Analyzing letters.
Practical demonstration of Early Modern Letters Online by Miranda Lewis (Digital Editor)


12:45 Lunch (provided in conference fee)

13:45 Archiving letters.
Visual tour of correspondence collections in the Bodleian Libraries, with Bodleian curators:

  • Mike Webb (Curator of Early Modern Manuscripts) – early modern state papers
  • Alasdair Watson (Bahari Curator of Persian Collections) – oriental trade documents
  • Chris Fletcher (Keeper of Special Collections) – literary archives


14:45 Coffee

15:00 Publishing letters. Panel discussion

  • Andrew Kahn (Professor of Russian Literature, St Edmund Hall) and Kelsey Rubin-Detlev (Foote Junior Research Fellow in Russian at The Queen’s College)
  • Jacqueline Norton (Senior Commissioning Editor, Literature, OUP Academic)
  • Rupert Mann (Senior Digital Development Programme Manager, Oxford University Press)
  • Kieron Smith (Digital Director, Blackwell’s)

Chair: Abigail Williams (Professor of English Literature, St. Peter’s College, Oxford)


16:30 Concluding remarks.

Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College

17:30 Writing (about) letters. Panel discussion

Chair: Kathryn Eccles (Digital Humanities Champion, University of Oxford)


19:00 Drinks reception featuring research posters by postgraduate students

19:30 Conference dinner (must be booked separately)