Research Forum Visiting Professor Lecture


Letter-writing and Painting 1500-1900

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

17.30 - 18.45, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

young woman reading a letter, wearing yellow dress and blue bodice
Jean Raoux, Young Woman Reading a Letter [detail], ca.1730. oil on canvas. 99 x 81cm. Louvre Museum, Paris

Speaker(s): Peter Stallybrass (Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English and of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, University of Pennsylvania)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Professor Caroline Arscott

In this lecture, Peter Stallybrass will focus both on the material practices of letter-writing in Europe from 1500 to 1900 and on painted representations of the reading and writing of letters in this period. The lecture will include hand-outs of exact facsimiles of four letters (dated 1557, 1762, 1828, and c.1888) as an aid to examining continuities and transformations in letter-writing practices and to help understand how folding patterns and filing systems are represented in paintings.


Peter Stallybrass is Annenberg Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English and of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the History of Material Texts. He is also a member of the American Philosophical Society and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at the University of London. Peter began his career as a mortician, but he has been teaching since 1973, first in England at the University of Sussex, and, since 1988, at Penn. He has also taught in Paris at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and at the Collège de France. Among his awards are the Andrew Lang Gold Medal from the University of St. Andrew’s, the James Russell Lowell Prize from the Modern Languages Association, and four teaching awards from Penn. His books include The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (1986) with Allon White, Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory (2000) with Ann Rosalind Jones, and Benjamin Franklin, Writer and Printer (2006) with Jim Green. He has also collaborated with Jim Green in curating exhibitions on “Material Texts” at the Library Company of Philadelphia and on Benjamin Franklin and at the Grolier Club, and with Heather Wolfe on “Technologies of Writing in the Renaissance” at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Peter Stallybrass’ Rosenbach Lectures in Bibliography on “Printing for Manuscript” will be published next year by the University of Pennsylvania Press. He is at present working with Roger Chartier on a history of the book from wax tablets to e-books.



Back to Events Calendar