Histories, Theories, and Uses of Waste Paper in Early Modern England – Call For Papers

Histories, Theories, and Uses of Waste Paper in Early Modern England
Balliol College, University of Oxford
15 June, 2019

This one-day multidisciplinary conference will explore the manifold afterlives of waste paper in early modern England. Manuscript and printed sheets were frequently reused to wrap later volumes, to stiffen spines and cover the inside of bindings, to line boxes, to serve as notepaper, or (in the words of the poet Henry Fitzgeffrey) ‘to wrap Drugg’s’, ‘dry Tobacco in’, and package ‘Pippin-pyes.’ While this cycle of use has long been understood as destructive, it also speaks to a distinctly pre-modern sense of how texts might endure beyond their initial form and function. The archive of waste can help us think about the shifting fate of books across time and within distinct institutional settings, exposing a partially hidden record of the past. How should literary and textual histories incorporate these materials that were cast aside in their own moment?

We seek 15-minute papers that consider the origins, functions, and legacies of waste paper, as well as related practices of textual use, destruction, and care. Multidisciplinary approaches are particularly welcome, as are both archival and theoretical presentations.

Possible topics might include:

  • the archival discovery of waste paper;
  • the thick and multitemporal histories of waste objects;
  • the juxtaposition of waste and host texts;
  • ways in which waste unsettles linear narratives of periodization and national boundaries;
  • best practices for cataloguing and conserving fragmentary texts;
  • waste paper and the literary imagination.

With plenary papers from Kate Bennett (University of Oxford) and Whitney Trettien (University of Pennsylvania).

This conference is being organized by Megan Heffernan (DePaul University), Anna Reynolds (University of York), and Adam Smyth (University of Oxford).

Please send an abstract (with title) of approximately 200 words and a brief CV to megan.heffernan@depaul.edu, by 1 October 2018. Papers will be 15 minutes.