Conference Call for Papers: Living Well With Books

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: by 1 June 2018.

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)


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Framing Texts: PGR Workshop

Framing Texts: PGR Workshop

30 May 2018 9.30am-4.30pm
Verdon Smith Room (Royal Fort House), University of Bristol

Framing Texts is a postgraduate workshop organised by the Centre for Material Texts at the University of Bristol. This one-day event aims to create a friendly space in which postgraduates and early career researchers can share current research thoughts and engender a conversation with established scholars on the theme of material texts.

Our informal study-day comprises two sessions. The morning round-table is dedicated to translation and paratexts, and it is followed by a lecture given by Dr. Carol O’Sullivan (University of Bristol) at 11.30am. Carol is a Senior Lecturer in Translation studies working on literary translation as well as audiovisual translation, film history, and film translation history. We find her work on the representation of translation in paratexts inspirational, and we are really glad that she will tell us more about her work, and answer some of our research questions. The afternoon round-table focuses on film and television paratexts, and it is followed by a lecture given by Dr. Phil Wickham (University of Exeter) at 3.30pm. Phil is the curator of the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in Exeter. We are very pleased that he will come to Bristol and give a talk about the importance of ephemera in the study of film and television texts.

During the morning and afternoon round-table there will be plenty of space for discussion. We welcome all postgraduates to give a mini 10-15 minute presentation about their research projects. You can notify us about your intention to present by sending an email to Our workshop is open to everybody. If you want to join us, please register using the following link by Tuesday 22nd May:

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‘What Are Libraries For?’ Roundup

On Tuesday 20 February, the Centre for Material Texts hosted our first major debate, ‘What Are Libraries For?’. Speakers Dr Suzanne Paul (Keeper of Manuscripts, Cambridge University Library), Philip Kent (Director of Libraries, University of Bristol) and Mimi Thebo (author and Reader in Creative Writing at University of Bristol) discussed what libraries mean to them, before opening the debate to the public audience.

Suzanne Paul began by talking about the importance of making materials accessible, and the effects libraries had on her own life.

Next, Philip Kent set out his vision for libraries.

Mimi Thebo then made a powerful economic case for libraries.

We then opened the debate to the floor.

Our chair for the evening, Professor Keri Facer, asked which physical books deserved a place in the library.

A key point that came out of the discussion is that skilled librarians make a library.

Another important area of discussion was how the university library can work with and support both school libraries and public libraries.

For our postgraduate member Marta, this was the take-home message.

After the event, responses came through Twitter, confirming the arguments made during the debate, and encouraging people to fight against library closures.


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In preparation for our What Are Libraries For? debate on Tuesday 20 February, we’ve been asking students, librarians and even a small child what they think libraries are for. The answers range from studying to ‘freedom’ via productivity, travel, and socialising.

You can still register for the debate for free via Eventbrite.

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Philip Kent, Suzanne Paul and Mimi Thebo to debate ‘What are libraries for?’

Inside Arts Debate: What Are Libraries For?

Tuesday 20 February 2018, 6-7.30pm
Great Hall, Wills Memorial Building, Park Street, Bristol


In preparation for our debate next week, here’s a little more about our three speakers.

Philip Kent

Philip Kent was appointed the new Director of Libraries at the University of Bristol in November 2017. He is currently leading the development of the new University Library. Philip has 30 years of experience in libraries and cultural collections, most recently as University Librarian and Executive Director of Collections at the University of Melbourne, where he focused on supporting teaching, research and engagement missions and the exposure of the library’s rich cultural collections. In an interview for the student newspaper Epigram, he affirmed that ‘the library is the laboratory for Arts and Social Sciences students’, and emphasised the need for the library to include a gallery space to showcase collections and art work.

Dr Suzanne Paul

Dr Suzanne Paul is the Keeper of Manuscripts and University Archives at Cambridge University Library.  She is a medieval historian by training, and has worked at libraries in Cambridge since 2007. Within the broad field of manuscript research, she has a particular interest in medieval sermons and preaching, and in the application of digital technologies to the study and curation of medieval manuscripts. You can read about her work at Cambridge University Library here.

Mimi Thebo

Mimi Thebo is an international writer for both children and adults. Her novels, often about recovery from trauma, are humorous and humane. Her first novel The Saint Who Loved Me was shortlisted for the McKitterick prize, and her novel for children Wipe Out was made into a Bafta-winning film.  Her work has been translated into twelve languages. Born in the USA, Mimi has lived in the UK for many years. She is Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol and is designing a new MA in Creative Writing for the University. You can read more about Mimi here.

Register for the debate for free via Eventbrite.

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The Object of our Affection arrives in Bristol University’s Special Collections

We are delighted that the University of Bristol Arts and Social Sciences Library has acquired two copies of The Object of our Affection, created by Angie Butler in response to our Making Books in Bristol events. 

The one of a kind leather-bound copy, as well as one cloth-bound copy, were presented to Michael Richardson in Special Collections yesterday. Anyone interested in viewing the books – or anything else in Special Collections – can make an appointment to do so for free.



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Research Portrait: Re-writing Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the Italian Renaissance

Today’s Research Portrait comes from one of our postgraduate members, Marta Balzi, who recently organised the Ovid Across Europe conference here at Bristol. Marta works on how Ovid’s Metamorphoses were translated, published and re-imagined in Renaissance Italy. In this post, she introduces some of her work focused on paratexts and presentation.

metamorphoses 1

Fig. 1 Fabio Marretti, Le Metamorfosi d’Ovidio (Venitiis: apud Bologninum Zalterium et Guerreos fratres, 1570), fol. *2r. Digitized copy held at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma.

The Metamorphoses is a Latin poem written by the Roman poet Ovid, and it tells the story of the world from its creation to the deification of Julius Caesar through a series of over 250 myths. This poem has exerted an enduring influence on Western culture, and today, two thousand years after the death of its author, it is still an object of study and reflection among academics and non-academics. The capacity of this poem to be constantly present in our world has been attributed to its innate transformative ability. In the Middle Ages, for example, the Metamorphoses was often read as a philosophical text in which to find advice on Christian morality and ethics. In the early modern period, it constituted the most important repertoire of myths, an encyclopaedic work plundered by writers, musicians, and painters. My research sheds further light on the power of Ovid’s poem to ‘metamorphose’ itself. The object of my investigation are three Italian translations of the Latin poem written and printed in the sixteenth century, the Trasformationi by Lodovico Dolce (1553), the Metamorfosi by Giovanni Andrea dell’Anguillara (1561), and the Metamorfosi by Fabio Marretti (1570). Analysing the text, the paratext, and the physical structure and presentation (support material, script or type, size, layout and decoration) of these three translations, the aim of my research project is to unveil the ways in which Ovid was repurposed and received in Renaissance Italy.

metamorphoses 2

Fig. 2 Publius Ovidius Naso, Metamorphoses libri XV. (Venice: Giovanni I Griffio, 1574), fol. Ar. Digitised copy held at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

On a paratextual level, at the beginning of all the editions of the Italian Metamorphoses, for example, there is an epistle that dedicates the translation to a political authority. Dolce dedicated his translation to Charles V, Anguillara to Henry II, and Marretti to Alfonso d’Este (Fig. 1). This dedication epistle conceals Ovid’s dedicatee, the Roman Emperor Augustus. This change of dedicatee repurposes the translation for a new audience, while also giving prestige to the translator by associating his work with a famous contemporary authority. Furthermore, the epistle foregrounds the translator and his work, concealing the primary author (Ovid) and the aims of his literary endeavour. The visibility of the translator is another object of investigation of my research project, which unveils the strategies of authorial construction in the Italian Metamorphoses, and the influence of print culture on the medieval conception of authorship.

metamorhposes 3

Fig. 3 Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso (Venice, Gabriele Giolito dei Ferrari: 1543), fols. (Avii)v-(Aviii)r. Digitized copy held at the Bibliotheque Municipal de Lyon

The transformation of the Latin Metamorphoses in the Italian Renaissance is also implemented  through the layout, or mise-en-page, of the Italian translations of Ovid’s poem. In the edition of Latin Metamorphoses printed in 1492/1493 together with the commentary of the humanist scholar Raphael Regius, the pages are arranged as a mirror to each other. The Latin text is placed on the right of the verso and on the left of the recto, while the commentary frames the Latin text. A later edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses with the commentary of Raphael Regius, printed in 1574, still maintains a similar layout (Fig. 2). The Latin text is central to the page, framed on all sides by the Latin commentary. This well-structured disposition of Latin text and commentary is completely lost in the Italian translations of the Metamorphoses, which show striking similarities with the mise-en-page of the editions of the Orlando furioso, the Italian epic poem by Ludovico Ariosto. In the 1543 edition of the Furioso printed by Giolito, on the verso, at the beginning of each canto, there are an illustration, a decorated initial, and two columns of three ottave (Fig. 3). On the recto, there are two columns of five ottave. A similar layout is maintained in all the following editions of the Italian Metamorphoses (Fig. 4; Fig. 5). The intention to imitate this layout is particularly evident in the bilingual edition of the Metamorfosi by Marretti, in which the Latin hexameters on the right-hand column are split and arranged on the page to fit in the square space of the ottava (Fig. 5). The transformation of the layout of the Latin text lends support to the view that the Italian Metamorphoses are the result of a collaborative effort of printer and translator. My research aims to shed light on the competences of these two agents in the re-fashioning of Ovid’s text, unveiling the influence of print culture on the making of the Italian Ovid.


Combining the analysis of the textual and non-textual elements of the Italian Metamorphoses, my projects charts the changing face of Ovid in Renaissance Italy while also addressing wider questions concerning the culture of the Renaissance. As emerges from these examples, this project has a multidisciplinary character: it stands at the crossroads between the history of translation, classical reception, and history of the book. It is this multidisciplinary approach that allows this research to explore the Italian Ovid under a completely different light.

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