The Journal of the History of Ideas, the JHI Blog, and the University of Pennsylvania invite graduate students from all institutions, disciplines, and stages of their degree to propose papers for our second annual Graduate Student Symposium on The Ends of Text on Friday, May 1, 2020 at the University of Pennsylvania.

The symposium coincides with and explores the theme of this year’s annual JHI Lovejoy Lecture, to be delivered immediately following the symposium by Professor Ann Blair (Department of History, Harvard University).

Where does a text end? Why does it end where and how it does? How do the factors that shape the size of the text influence the production, spread, and reception of the ideas it carries?

With these broad queries in mind, we invite papers that interpret “text” (within reason) as it appears in a range of forms. For instance: the written or printed word on the page; non-alphabetic stores and depictions of information (e.g., maps, astrological charts, non-alphabetic communication systems); archives; digital media; oral traditions; art.

Papers might engage with the following questions:

  • How do constraints of genre or of the methods and media of production shape the length, scope, and various material features of a text?
  • How do those constraints influence the content, circulation, and reception of a text?
  • How have these constraints or boundaries changed over time?
  • What can they show us about the social capital or position of authors? about the role of printers or other producers of the material text? and/or the expectations of readers?

The symposium will convene a diverse group of graduate students from different disciplines working on a variety of topics, periods, and regions. Each participant will pre-circulate an article-length paper. At the symposium, participants will deliver 15-minute panel presentations based on their papers. Later in the day, participants will workshop their article-length papers in smaller break-out groups.

The break-out workshops will include ample time for discussion of each paper, moderated by a faculty discussant. Participants will be invited to recraft their papers as posts for the JHI Blog. Please send your paper proposal (fewer than 500 words) and one-page CV to by December 15. The proposal should make clear how your paper responds to this call, the argument you intend to make, your source base, and how this project fits into your work (e.g., a seminar paper, dissertation chapter, article to be submitted to a journal, fledgling idea). We will notify selected participants by the end of January 2020. Funding reimbursement for some transportation expenses will be available.

All questions can be directed to the JHI Blog editors at