Letter-Writing Practices in 17th and 18th-Century France

Chloe Edmondson

The objective of this project is to rethink the evolution of 17th and 18th-century letter-writing practices in France through an interdisciplinary approach that combines literary studies, cultural history, and media theory. My research charts the emergence of practices for building a socially-oriented persona through letters, and traces how letter-writers used these practices to present themselves in society to their social networks, from the court society of 17th-century France through the Enlightenment. This history of letter-writing practices in the Ancien Régime thus not only provides a new perspective on early modern epistolary culture, but it also speaks to issues of mediated social expression today. The research for this project relies heavily on analysis of letter-writing manuals, autograph letters, and epistolary novels in the holdings of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. With the École des hautes études en sciences sociales as my host university in Paris, I will have the opportunity to engage in intellectual exchange with French scholars in my field, and I will also be able to conduct the archival research necessary for the project.


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