Talking in Private: Tracing Everyday Conversations in Early Modern Europe

Natacha Klein Käfer's picture
Call for Publications
April 11, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Early Modern History and Period Studies

People of early modern Europe had various reasons to talk in private. From sharing personal matters to discussing important secrets, all layers of society had their reasons to want to keep certain exchanges out of public ears. However, detecting notions of private conversation in historical sources typically becomes a complex pursuit, full of subtle references that require creative approaches, especially when it comes to more informal practices. Yet, in a reading against the grain, different sources can offer us hints of how these conversations took place. Notions of private conversations were also shaped by legal and religious norms, literary models, and practices of everyday life. To examine private conversations is, therefore, a challenge that calls for an interdisciplinary and in-depth study.

This workshop aims to increase our understanding of what norms and needs people of early modern Europe had to talk in private. Elements of this challenge include detecting how private conversations were theorized and performed in practice, formally and informally, spatially and socially, in order to hone intimacy, confidentiality or friendship, or protect communication from being exposed in public, either because it was considered shameful, personal, or trivial.

The format of this two-day workshop is text-oriented. The texts should be handed in three weeks in advance (15 September 2021), and are expected to be work-in-progress. Instead of preparing oral presentations, all participants read each others’ texts beforehand in order to contribute to the discussion of each text. Deadline for the final draft for a joint publication is 15 March 2022.

To apply for the workshop, please submit an abstract (350 words) and your CV through the Centre for Privacy Studies website.

We welcome abstracts related to various aspects of private conversations, such as (but not limited to):

  • Privacy in formal and informal conversation
  • Everyday notions of talking in private
  • Spaces for private conversation (chambers, hallways, outdoors etc.)
  • Legal distinctions of private and public procedures
  • Theological distinctions of private and public confession/admonition
  • Public exposure of conversations
  • Staged private conversations
  • Private conversations as a literary genre
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