The death of the letter? Letterness and the many ends of letter-writing

The death of the letter? Letterness and the many ends of letter-writing
Liz Stanley, University of Edinburgh, UK

Submitted to: Cultural Sociology

Abstract: Is the letter now ‘dead’, in terminal decline because of the impact of new digital technologies? Such arguments raise interesting and important points. However, they fail to distinguish between prevailing conventions about letter-writing in particular time-periods, and the underpinning fundamentals of ‘epistolary intent’ and ‘letterness’, and so they overstate the newness of the features discussed. Examples of departures from ‘the letter’ but which display clear epistolary intent and inventive letterness are discussed in support, including the letters of Olive Schreiner, St Paul’s letters, Roman legionary letters, World War 2 love letters, letters between mathematicians, and student emails.

Keywords: digital communications, email, epistolary intent, epistolary theory, letters, letterness

Last updated: 23 October 2014


 

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