Call for Papers


edited by Sarah Jackson, Philip Leonard and Annabel Williams

Call for Papers

From the ‘waves of sound, transmitted o’er the line’ in Jones Very’s ‘The Telephone’ (1877) to the ‘thin voice speak[ing] / from a drowning world’ in Imtiaz Dharker’s ‘Six Rings’ (2018), telephones have been calling in and across literary texts for almost one hundred and fifty years. But although considerable research on the smartphone has been undertaken in recent media and cultural studies, the relationship between telephony and literature remains largely neglected. In fact, as Nicholas Royle points out in Telepathy and Literature (1991), ‘really we have no idea what a telephone is, or what a voice is, or when or how. Least of all when it is linked up with the question of literature’. Taking the ‘question of literature’ as its starting point, this edited volume of essays will address the telephone’s propensity to mediate but also to interrupt communication, as well as the ways in which it taps into some of the most urgent concerns of the modern and contemporary age, including surveillance, mobility, resistance, responsibility, power and warfare. Exploring its complex, multiple and mutating functions in literary texts from the nineteenth century to the present day, the proposed volume will consider both historical and recent manifestations of the telephone, and its capacity to call across borders, languages, and cultures.

Building on the 2020 Telepoetics online conference, and following strong interest from publishers including Edinburgh University Press, we invite proposals for essays (6500-8000 words) that explore the relationship between literature and telephony in a range of global contexts and from the nineteenth century to the present day. Topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • privacy and surveillance
  • communications warfare
  • mobility, migration, and globalization
  • technologies of desire
  • telephony as translation
  • textual interference, interruption or interception
  • lyric calling and texting
  • telephony and D/deaf experience
  • telephony and labour
  • ethics and answerability
  • voice and address
  • networks and communicative landscapes
  • distraction and attention
  • telephony and the embodied/disembodied voice
  • telephony and catastrophe
  • telephony and contamination

EXTENDED DEADLINE – Please submit to the editors by 25 September 2020:

  • The title of your essay
  • A 300-word synopsis outlining the content of your essay
  • A list of the key authors and/or texts covered in your essay
  • The estimated word count for your essay (this should be between 6500-8000 words)
  • The number and details of any illustrations that you wish to include, and a brief statement about why these illustrations are essential to accompany the text
  • A 150-word author biography, including your institutional affiliation and contact details

Please note that if you plan to include material in copyright (e.g. substantial prose extracts), you will be responsible for securing the necessary permissions.

To submit your proposal, please email:

We will notify authors of acceptance by 1 December 2020 and will require the final draft of essays to be submitted by 1 September 2021.

About the editors

Sarah Jackson is Associate Professor of Literature at Nottingham Trent University, an AHRC Leadership Fellow (2018), an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker (2016) and a Vice-Chancellor’s Outstanding Researcher (2017). Specialising in modern and contemporary literature and theory, her publications include Tactile Poetics: Touch and Contemporary Writing (Edinburgh University Press, 2015), a poetry collection Pelt (Bloodaxe, 2012), which won the Seamus Heaney Prize and was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, and a co-edited special issue of parallax on the ‘Unidentifiable Literary Object’. She is currently working on an AHRC-funded project on literature and telephony.

Philip Leonard is Professor of Literature and Theory at Nottingham Trent University. His research focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature and theory, globalization and the concept of ‘world’, and technology. He is author of Orbital Poetics: Literature, Theory, World (Open Access; Bloomsbury, 2019) and Literature after Globalization: Textuality, Technology, and the Nation-State (Bloomsbury, 2013). In 2019, Prof. Leonard was elected Chair of the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies.

Annabel Williams is currently completing her first monograph ‘Off-stage a war’: Cosmopolitanism, Travel, and Late Modernism. From September 2020 she will be a Library Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, researching the work of Arthur Koestler and Muriel Spark as part of her next book project on modern remote-control culture. She has published on writers including Rebecca West, Ezra Pound, Cyril Connolly and Evelyn Waugh in Modernist CulturesTextual Practice and Twentieth-Century Literature (forthcoming).