Centre for Material Texts, Richmond Building, University of Bristol
Wednesday 5 – Friday 7 September 2018

Since the invention of the codex, the lives (and afterlives) of books have been intertwined with the lives of people. This interdisciplinary, transhistorical, and transnational conference organized by the Centre for Material Texts, University of Bristol, aims to explore how books have affected and continue to affect our daily lives and well-being. How we have lived with books in the past, how do we live with them in the present, how we might live with them better in the future, and how might we help others do the same?

As readers, writers, creative practitioners, educators, researchers, curators, consumers and producers, how do books feature in our lives? How do they share our living and working spaces? How might books contribute to health and wellbeing? Do books keep us apart from each other, or can they enable us to connect with communities? What are the consequences of not living with books? How far do the answers to these questions depend on location, or income, class, gender and other variables? How might the answers to these questions have changed over time? What is the value of asking these questions in an increasingly digital age?

We welcome proposals from postgraduates, early career researchers, and established scholars  from all disciplines, embracing both qualitative and quantitative research paradigms.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  1. Living alongside books

How do books fit within our domestic spaces? What places do they occupy in our working lives? Where do we put books (and where shouldn’t we)? Which books live on shelves, in a pile, on the floor, by the bed? How has book storage, and book adjacency, changed over time? What is the relationship between changing book technologies, the places we put them, and how we use them? How do architecture and interior design structure our encounters with books?

  1. Books in our hands

What kinds of sensory experience do books enable? What meanings do the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of books carry? How do these experiences relate to memory? How do technological developments (manuscript to print, print to digital, digital to ambient) change our relationship with books? What impact do we have on books, through preservation, defacement, neglect, or destruction?

  1. Books, health, and wellbeing:

How do books contribute to our physical health and mental health? What role might books play in wellness, sickness, recovery, recuperation? What is the history and role of self help books? What are the therapeutic effects of writing books, reading books, or making books? What are the consequences of immersion, identification, and empathy?

  1. Books and communities:

How might books bring us together? What is the difference between reading aloud and reading silently? How does collaborative reading differ from solitary reading? How and why do book groups come together? How do book fandoms shape the collective and individual experience of books? How might networked novels and living-books allow us to think differently about literary communities?

  1. Getting hold of books

What are the obstacles to living with books? What are the consequences of not living with books? How do libraries (public, private, academic) shape our encounters with books? How are our encounters with books shaped and directed by the publishing and bookselling trades?

  1. Living badly with books

What are the dangers of books? What are the risks in encountering books? What are the consequences of losing oneself in a book?

We welcome abstracts for:

  • individual 20-minute presentations
  • posters
  • panels of 3 speakers
  • workshops (up to 60 min work-in-progress discussions with at least 3 presenting participants)
  • roundtables

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words (individual papers and posters) or 500 words (panels, workshops and roundtables), together with a short biography (max 150 words) to: arts-books@bristol.ac.uk by 1 June 2018.

The Centre for Material Texts at Bristol brings together scholars from across the Faculty of Arts, as well as librarians and creative professionals, in the exploration of material texts from the ancient world to the digital age. We embrace a broad understanding of the material text from scroll to codex to screen. Our research interests extend from the local to the global, encompassing the history of publishing and publishers, editing, manuscript and print cultures, reading history, reception, materiality, paratexts, book collecting and collections, miscellanies, and artists’ books.




Conference committee

Rhiannon Daniels (Italian, University of Bristol)
Jennifer Batt (English, University of Bristol)
John McTague (English, University of Bristol)
Richard Cole (Classics, University of Bristol)
Ondrej Vimr (Russian, University of Bristol)
Anezka Kuzmicova (Literature and History of Ideas, Stockholm University)