Points of Interest: Early Modern Punctuation, On and Off the Page

Event Date: 
10 Sep 2020 to 11 Sep 2020

English Faculty, University of Cambridge


Confirmed Keynotes: Laurie Maguire (University of Oxford) and Ian Burrows (University of Cambridge)


As Juliet Fleming has recently pointed out, ‘The question of whether its purpose is grammatical or elocutionary—whether its aim is to show what a sentence means or, alternatively, how it is spoken’, was not settled in England until the end of the eighteenth century. Mysterious punctuation, though, in texts before the eighteenth century—its rubrics, aesthetics, motivations and implications, pedagogies and practicalities—has, nonetheless, a lot to say for itself, and a lot to be said about it.

Almost three decades on from Malcolm Parkes’s pivotal Pause and Effect: 

Punctuation in the West, this conference will offer the opportunity for scholars of poetry, prose, drama, philosophical and religious writing the chance to think anew about the ways that typographical punctuation marks  (and their sometimes conceptual counterparts) organise—and sometimes simplify, sometimes complicate—our reading of early modern texts, and how they can teach us about what to do with them.


Topics for twenty-minute papers may include:

  • Typography, mise-en-page, and practical printing considerations
  • Punctuation in speech or performance
  • Punctuation and ‘grammar’
  • Particular punctuation marks, diacritics, or type ornaments
  • Musical notation
  • Punctuation and genre: for teaching, telling stories, religious writing, ‘How-to’ books
  • Punctuation and issues in editorial practice
  • ‘imaginary’ or ‘invisible’ punctuation


Registration fee waivers will be available to postgraduate students, early career scholars, and the precariously unemployed. Please indicate in your abstract if you wish to be considered for this funding.


Please email abstracts of no more than 200 words, along with brief speaker biography, to Esther Osorio Whewell and Harry R. McCarthy at pointsofinterestcam@gmail.com by 30th April 2020.


This conference is kindly supported by the Society of Renaissance Studies and the Cambridge English Faculty.

Submission date for papers: 
30 Apr 2020