The end of the End of the Book…for now

What a fabulous time we had at the End of the Book conference! Thank you so much to all of our fabulous speakers, participants, and helpers who came together on 18 November to investigate what happens when we reach the end, how the end may twist round to become a beginning, how ends function to create expectations, and how one can creatively interact with and subvert this teleological anticipation in literature.

Topics of individual papers ranged from unresolved endings in Homer and frame-breaking in the endnotes of historical fiction, to editorial power over what constitutes an ending in Middle English and Renaissance texts. We heard how seriality in 18th century literature blurred the line between end and sequel, and how the Story of O functions as series of love letters to an absent lover, thus reaching beyond the book. It was demonstrated how artists can alter reader interaction with books, either through the creation of hypertexts that engage with pre-existing texts, or through a self-conscious unravelling of the format of the book. Finally, we learned how Latin American graphic fiction augments the physical world, creating a new kind of reader-text engagement, and how ambient literature offers the possibility of moving beyond traditional book format, with technology helping to bring literature into the reality of the reader.

The first keynote speaker of the day, Dr Laura Jansen (University of Bristol) spoke about the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, and drew upon the metaphor of the Möbius Strip to understand Borges’ conception of literature, how an author’s life ends where his/her literary production begins, the two caught in a recurrent loop. Our second keynote speaker, Professor Kate Pullinger (Bath Spa University) took the discussion in another direction, highlighting contemporary innovations in digital storytelling, and how collaborative projects with ongoing storylines and audience participation challenge our familiarity with traditional formats; the beginning, middle, and end of a book.

There was a large audience from across the University and much praise for the fundamentally interdisciplinary – and chronologically broad – scope of the programme, as well as the strong quality of the papers. We would like to record our sincere thanks for the generous financial and organizational support received from the IGRCT and BIRTHA, which helped to make the event such a success.

Watch this space for news of future events…

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