Overcoming absence – The Rhetoric of the Love Letter

Activity: Talk or presentation typesLecture and oral contribution

See relations at Aarhus University

Camilla Skovbjerg Paldam - Invited speaker

Love and desire feed on absence and longing, while they constantly and simultaneously try to diminish the distance by different means. According to German art historian and media theorist Hans Belting, media may be seen as technical or artificial bodies which serve to substitute for bodies through a symbolic procedure. This talk will suggest that love letters for people in love work as substitutes for bodies; that the lover in her/his burning desire for presence animates the letters, as Belting would say, and feels a presence both during writing, reading and in the indexical materiality of the actual letter. However, the wish for presence, immediacy and transparency in epistolary exchanges is (of course) illusive. Blanks in and between the love letters give room for projection; the image of the beloved provided by the letters is a construction rather than a transparent transfer.
Taking Franz Kafka’s letters to Milena and James Joyce’s letters to Nora as its main examples, this talk addresses the rhetoric of the love letter – its different purposes, modes of communication, and meta-reflections on writing, media, absence and presence. The talk will address how love and the beloved are mediated in the articulated desire and longing of love letters. Finally, it will reflect on what it means for the communication of love and desire that the media landscape has changed and that now, instead of traditional letters, internet technologies have taken over the role once fulfilled by letters.

Invited speaker. Lecture hosted by School of English, University of Kent.
26 May 2015

Event (Seminar)

TitleKIASH visiting scholar
LocationUniversity of Kent
CountryUnited Kingdom


ID: 96033567