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Early Modern Epistolary Culture: Cutting Edge Workshop Day 1  Add To Calendar

“Early Modern Epistolary Culture”
Organized by Nina Dubin, Art History Department

In recent years, scholars across the humanities have brought new and critical attention to the subject of early modern epistolarity, and more specifically to the ways in which the growth of letter writing—with its attendant social, cultural and political implications—effectively changed the course of history. For decades, scholarship on this subject has been dominated by literary studies on eighteenth-century epistolary novels. What distinguishes the new wave of research is in part its focus on material practice: letters are not only texts but also objects—possessed of blotches of ink, signatures, folds and seals—whose histories often involve unintended readers, postal messengers, eventual inheritors, archivists, and others. The proposed workshop would gather the key authors of recent scholarship along with scholars working on epistolarity from a variety of disciplines and at various stages of research.

This growing body of scholarship attests as well to a new emphasis on the visual. Though paintings by the likes of Vermeer and Fragonard of women sending and receiving love letters attest to the aesthetic importance of epistolarity, only now has the subject begun to emerge as a “cutting edge issue” in art history.  Art historians will comprise about half of the workshop’s participants, thus providing a rare opportunity for researchers to consider epistolarity through the lens of the visual arts.


9:30 Welcome and Introduction: Nina Dubin

9:40 Ellen McClure, Francophone Studies, UIC, “The Materiality of the Letter in Sévigné's Correspondence: Between Idolatry and Relic”

10:30 Jessica Grzegorski, Principal Cataloging Librarian , Newberry Library, “Spice and Vice: The Secret Life and Crimes of Antoine-François Dérues”

11:30 Jay Caplan, Emeritus Professor of French, Amherst College, “Postal Culture”

12:20 Nina Dubin, Art History, UIC, “Banknotes and Billets-doux

2:10 Martha Pollak, Art History, UIC, “Cabinet Secrets”

3:00 Shira Brisman, Art History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, "The Worth of a Ring, Rewritten"

4:00 Frances Ferguson, English, University of Chicago, "Letter, Novel, Conversation (What Anna Laetitia Barbauld Saw)”

4:50 Sunil Agnani, English and History, UIC, "Edmund Burke, the Brahmin and the Hot-House"


9:20 Welcome and Introduction: Shira Brisman

9:30 Jennifer Nelson, Art History, Theory and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, “War Machines for Kids (Nuremberg, 1558)”

10:20 Rebecca Zorach, Art History, Northwestern University,  "Vain Images, Compound Creatures, and the Serpentine Stone: Ulisse Aldrovandi's Correspondence with (and about) Cardinal Paleotti"

11:20 Christopher Heuer, Interim Director, Research and Academic Program, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Center, “Arctic Ink”

12:10 Andrei Pop, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago, Respondent; Final Discussion

1:00 Workshop Ends

  • Date(s): Thursday, 4/13 9:00 AM to Thursday, 4/13 5:00 PM
  • Address: 701 S. Morgan St.
  • Location: Chicago, IL, US
  • Contact: Linda Vavra
  • Email: lvavra@uic.edu
  • Website: https://huminst.uic.edu/
  • Phone: 312-996-6352
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