Correspondence and Embodiment: The Bluestocking Corpus Online

This conference, organized in collaboration with the Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online project, explores themes related to The Huntington’s Elizabeth Montagu Papers. Topics include the letter as object, historical document, linguistic artifact, as well as a carrier of objects and messages about friendship, health, the mind and body, and politics.

The Huntington’s collection of Elizabeth Montagu’s extensive correspondence has provided a rich source—as well as a practical challenge—for scholars working in a variety of fields, from social and economic history to the histories of medicine, aesthetics, authorial selfhood, and literary genres.

Elizabeth Robinson Montagu (1718–1800) combined many roles: pioneering Shakespeare critic, businesswoman, manager of coal mines and agricultural estates, philanthropist, and patron of artists and writers. She pivoted between several important social, political, religious, and intellectual networks. Her letters connect people, places, and concepts with graphic immediacy.

In 2017, the registered charity Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online was founded to fund the digitization of her 8,000 extant manuscript letters, most of which are curated by the Huntington Library.

This conference explores themes connected to the archive, the letter as object, historical document, linguistic artifact, as well as a carrier of objects and messages about friendship, health, the mind and body, and politics.

This conference is organized by Elizabeth Eger (King’s College London) and Nicole Pohl (Oxford Brookes University). Funding is provided by the Homer Crotty Lecture Endowment and the Edward A. Mayers Fellowship Endowment.

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Verso blog: Elizabeth Montagu and the Bluestocking Corpus Online
By Elizabeth Eger

Etching of women fighting, knocking drinks, tables, and each other to the ground.

Thomas Rowlandson. Breaking Up of the Blue Stocking Club, 1815, hand-colored etching. | The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

Conference Schedule

Friday, Dec. 8

8:45 a.m. | Registration and Coffee

9:15 a.m. | Welcome

  • Susan Juster (The Huntington Library) and Conveners

9:30 a.m. | Session 1: A History of the Montagu Collection at The Huntington

  • Vanessa Wilkie (The Huntington Library)
  • Karla Nielsen (The Huntington Library)

10:00 a.m. | Break

10:30 a.m. | Session 2: Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online (EMCO)

The Physical Archive and Its Virtual Other

  • Moderator: Joanna Barker (Durham University and EMCO Senior Editor)
  • Alexander Roberts (Swansea University)
  • Daniel Archambault (Swansea University)
  • Nicole Pohl (Oxford Brookes University and EMCO Editor-in-Chief)

Noon | Lunch

1:00 p.m. | Session 3: Gender and Knowledge

  • Moderator: Emily Anderson (USC)
  • Rachael Scarborough King (University of California, Santa Barbara)

    “Improving Letters: Self- and Literary Improvement in Women’s Epistolary Genres”
  • Nataliia Voloshkova (Kazimierz Wielki University)

    “Bluestockings and Science: Acquiring, Sharing, and Employing Knowledge”

    Read by Nicole Pohl

2:30 p.m. | Break

3:00 p.m. | Session 4: Absence and Presence

  • Moderator: Susan Carlile (California State University, Long Beach)
  • Elizabeth Eger (King’s College London and EMCO Consultant Editor)

    “Embodying Mind: Portraits of Elizabeth Montagu”
  • Felicity Nussbaum (UCLA)

    “The Beloved Absent: The Correspondence Between Elizabeth Montagu and Hester Thrale Piozzi”
Saturday, Dec. 9

8:30 a.m. | Registration and Coffee

9:00 a.m. | Session 5: Embodying Language: The Letter and Creative and Critical Modes of Writing

  • Moderator: Nicole Pohl (Oxford Brookes University)
  • Betty A. Schellenberg (Simon Fraser University)

    “Unclothed Bodies: The Problem of Enclosures in the Montagu Collection”
  • Mike Cousins (Historian)

    “Keeping Track of Mrs. Montagu: Challenges in Dating Her Correspondence with Lord Lyttelton, and a Comparison with Unpublished Letter Collections of Some Other Contemporary Women Writers”

10:30 a.m. | Tours of the Library and Gallery

Noon | Lunch

1:00 p.m. | Session 6: Bodies in Letters, Letters as Bodies

  • Moderator: Dena Goodman (University of Michigan)
  • Lisa Forman Cody (Claremont McKenna College)

    “Pregnant Pauses: Reproduction in—and as—Letter Writing”
  • Karen Harvey (University of Birmingham)

    “ʽWe must chat about invalids’: The Lived Body in British Women’s Letters, 1730-1800”

2:30 p.m. | Break

3:00 p.m. | Session 7: In Sickness and in Health: Bluestocking Friendship

  • Moderator: Karla Nielsen (The Huntington Library)
  • Anna Senkiw (Oxford Brookes University)

    “ʽSeveral weeks indisposition, a little dastardly fever lurking about me, has hinderd my coming to the Adelphi’: Friendship with the Garricks, in Sickness and in Health”
  • Helen Deutsch (UCLA)

    “Symptomatic Correspondences, Female Complaints: Authorship, Friendship, and Illness in the Montagu Letters”

4:30 p.m. | Concluding Remarks