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Lecture | two short interdisciplinary lectures, with room for discussion afterwards

With kind regards: convention, standards and breaking the rules in letter-writing

Tuesday 28 June 2022
UB Leiden
Witte Singel 26-27
Vossius - University Library

Note: This lecture has been moved from 31-5 to 28-6 

In this lecture within the series: 

Olivia Elder (University of Oxford): “(Re)public affairs: language, politics and friendship in Cicero’s letters”

Peter Webb (Leiden University): "Ibn Zaydūn’s al-Risālah al-hazaliyyah"

Ibn Zaydūn’s (d. 463/1071) al-Risālah al-hazaliyyah – the ‘Witty Letter’ or the ‘Flippant Letter’ was, at the point of its composition, an exercise in anti-convention. Ibn Zaydūn pretended he was a woman and wrote the letter as an overt, insulting lampoon. Yet it was also a quintessentially conventional letter: the language is impeccable, the style erudite, and it seems that Ibn Zaydūn’s ulterior intention was to demonstrate his mastery of epistolographic conventions. The Letter’s afterlife further embedded its conventional-ness as it became one of the most famous exemplars of high literary style letter writing in Arabic. This lecture will consider what rules Ibn Zaydūn broke, and which rules his Letter wrote for the traditions of Arabic literary epistolography. 

Aim of the series:

Whenever one writes a letter, one engages with different kinds of conventions: social conventions dictating the interaction between sender and addressee, like forms of address, appropriate contents, and suitable levels of formality; but also, conventions related to the medium and genre of the text, such as lay-out and formulae that are specific to the letter-genre. In practice, however, we find a lot of variation in the language use, and use of conventions in letters. Such variation can have numerous causes. The author’s education can play a role, the formality of the letter, the relationship between the sender and the addressee and the sender’s communicative goals.

In this lecture series we want to focus on variation in language use, and the use of conventions in letters from different regions and periods. What are the conventions in a specific cultural and linguistic area ? Do the senders of letters abide by them, or do they break them, and for what purpose? In other words: how do authors use conventions in language use and materiality to convey their message?

For additional information on this series see here

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