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publication : Tuesday 19 September 2017

Cultural encounters: What’s in a letter?

As part of the Being Human Festival, we are hosting special lunchtime conferences between Monday 20th and Friday 24th November, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut.

Cultural encounters: what’s in a letter?

How do people around the world connect with each other? For centuries, letters have brought the world to Scotland and Scotland to the world. Join us to rediscover some of Scotland’s letter-writers, from scientists and musicians to politicians, prisoners and royalty. With five talks to choose from, each with live music and a different letter-writer, we consider current global and international relationships and explore the place of letters in history, musical culture and everyday life. What is lost in transit and what connections can be found, both between the original letter-writers and readers today?


- Monday 20th November
Contemporary: Letters between John Cage and Eddie McGuire

Glasgow composer Eddie McGuire will be interviewed by Bjorn Heile (Head of Music at the University of Glasgow) about his letters to John Cage.

- Tuesday 21st November
20th Century: Virginia Woolf’s letters from Scotland

Bryony Randall (English Literature, University of Glasgow) discusses Virginia Woolf’s letter from Skye along with a less well-known letter she wrote while travelling on a train between Glasgow and Edinburgh

- Wednesday 22nd November
19th Century: Lord Kelvin as letter-writer and horn player

Thomas Sefton (School of Geography and Earth Science, University of Glasgow) discusses the letters of Glasgow’s Lord Kelvin as part of the findings of his Leverhulme PhD project "Considering the life and work of Lord Kelvin from the perspective of the history of environmental science".

Music: Andy Saunders (Director, The Chamber Project) will perform a specially commissioned piece of music written for this event by composer Jane Stanley from the University of Glasgow.

- Thursday 23rd November
17th/18th Century: A letter from Mozart

Johanna Green and/or Bob MacLean (tbc) will discuss the wonderful holdings of letters in the University of Glasgow’s Archives and Special Collections, focusing on how a letter from Mozart came into the University’s hands

- Friday 24th November
16th Century: New stories from the letters of Mary Queen of Scots

Alison Wiggins (English Language & Linguistics, University of Glasgow) will discuss letters from Mary, Queen of Scots written from the 1550s until her execution in 1587. They cover public, private, political and personal topics and were written from various locations in Scotland, including Glasgow.

Music: Aaron McGregor

Venue: Alliance Française Glasgow / Goethe-Institut

Dates: Monday 20th to Friday 24th November, 12.30-1.10pm

Free events

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