Texts and Textiles (Cambridge, 2012)


A conference organised by the Centre for Material Texts, University of
Cambridge to be held 11-12 September 2012 at Jesus College, Cambridge

The shared origin of ‘text’ and ‘textile’ in the Latin ‘texere’, ‘to
weave’, is a critical commonplace. Many of the terms we use to describe
our interactions with words are derived from this common linguistic
root, and numerous other expressions associated with reading and writing
are drawn from the rich vocabulary of cloth. Textiles are one of the
most ubiquitous components of material culture, and they are also
integral to the material history of texts. Paper was originally made
from cotton rags, and in many different cultural and historical settings
texts come covered, wrapped, bound, or decorated with textiles. And
across the domestic, public, religious, and political spheres, textiles
are often the material forms in which texts are produced, consumed, and

In the light of the CMT’s current research theme on ‘the material text
in material culture’, we invite papers which consider any of the many
dimensions of the relationship between texts and textiles. There are no
historical, geographical, or disciplinary limitations. Areas to be
addressed could include:

the shared language of texts and textiles – construction and
deconstruction: to weave, spin, stitch, knit, stitch, suture, tie up or
together, piece, tailor, gather, fashion, fabricate, mesh, trim,
stretch, wrap, unfold, unpick – challenges and problem-solving: knots,
tangles, holes; to lose the thread, iron out creases, unravel, cut, keep
on tenterhooks – pieces and fragments: rags, patches, patchwork, scraps,
strands, threads, rhapsodies, patterns, seams, loose ends, layers

the stuff of books
– bookbindings and covers
– incunabula – ‘swaddling clothes’
– medieval girdle books, book chemises
– paper and paper-making
– cutting, sewing, and stitching in and on books
– scrapbooks, albums, collages
– book ribbons and bookmarks
– carpet pages
– textiles in illustrations, frontispieces, title pages

textile texts – needlework and words: tapestry, embroidery, samplers,
quilts, hangings, carpets, banners – the needle and the pen – printed
textiles – sacred/religious texts and textiles – love-tokens, keepsakes,
charms, and relics – cushions, badges, handkerchiefs, flags, scarves,
uniforms, livery and other textual/textile ephemera – professional and
amateur work – relationships and networks of gifts, patronage, exchange
– pattern books, sample books, costume books

Proposals of up to 25O words for 20-minute papers should be sent to
Jason Scott-Warren (jes1OO3 [at] cam. ac.uk) and
Lucy Razzall (lmfr2 [at] cam.ac. uk) by 30 April 2012.