From the receiver’s ‘black mouth’ in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves (1931) to the ‘five hundred-quid worry bead’ in Will Self’s Phone (2017), telephones repeatedly ring, buzz and ping in modern and contemporary literature. Crossed Lines explores the ways that the telephone has been conceived by writers from the 19th century to the present day. Its aim is to think creatively and critically about the implications of telephony from a range of global contexts, considering how literary telecommunications can help us to find new ways of talking and listening across cultures.

Crossed Lines is led by Dr Sarah Jackson and is supported by Sam Buchan-Watts. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Nottingham Trent University, the project benefits from collaborative partnerships with the Science Museum, whose world-class resources include significant collections on global developments in telecommunications, and the BT Archives, the repository of the world’s oldest communications company.

In addition to academic research, Crossed Lines explores the possibilities of the telephone within contemporary cultures and communities. Engaging writers, artists, musicians, scientists and members of the public, it incorporates a number of innovative activities including a mobile app, a sound installation in Nottingham, a nationwide student poetry competition, writing workshops and events at the Science Museum in London.

The images used throughout this website have been kindly supplied by BT Heritage & Archives.