Call for Proposals

Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

Moving texts: from discovery to delivery

SHARP 2021 annual conference
Hosted virtually by the University of Muenster, in collaboration with the Law and Literature research group (DFG SFB 1385)
26-30 July 2021

As Sydney Shep writes in the Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book, “Books as transactions chart complex and often fluid networks between authors and readers, producers and consumers.” (2015, 53) The movement of texts within these networks is facilitated by a range of intermediary agents who shape the life cycle of a textual object from discovery to delivery. SHARP 2021, held as a virtual conference hosted by the University of Muenster, Germany, will be dedicated to sketching out the processes of textual movement, as well as the role of intermediaries in the life cycle of the book, here understood broadly to include literary agents, translators, editors, wholesalers and booksellers, used and rare book dealers, librarians and archivists.

The conference, held in close collaboration with the collaborative research center for Law and Literature funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG SFB 1385 Recht und Literatur), will seek to emphasize the legal frameworks, informal norms, and business practices that enable, hinder or promote distribution of and access to books and texts.

We encourage participants to help us chart and understand the complex and fluid networks between authors and readers by focusing on processes of displaying, discovery, distribution and delivery, today and throughout history.

Areas of inquiry may include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • Distribution and the book supply chain in historical and contemporary perspectives
  • Bookselling, bookstores and used and rare bookdealers
  • Distribution spaces and alternative uses (as social spaces etc.)
  • The range of choices affecting discovery (titles, keywords and abstracts, genre classifications, library subject classifications, etc.)
  • The role of bibliography, metadata and algorithms within discovery and distribution processes
  • The role of libraries and archives in making texts accessible and available to readers
  • Readers and their access to texts
  • Open Access and its challenges and opportunities
  • Censorship and restricted circulation
  • Book policies and legal frameworks (fixed book prices, copyright, etc.)
  • National and transnational flows (smuggling, translation, piracy)
  • Commodification of texts throughout history
  • Texts in other formats, i.e. audiobooks, e-books, apps, etc.
  • Global textual politics, such as colonialism and post-colonialism
  • Movements of texts and peoples: migration and immigration

Call for Proposals

In an effort to make the most of the virtual conference experience, SHARP has decided to deviate from the traditional 3-speaker, 90-minute panel and propose several different formats. We ask that all proposals reflect SHARP’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by including a mix of speakers in terms of gender, ethnicity, career stage, institutional affiliation, etc.

Please note that individuals may only present once (regardless of the type of session), but may also serve as a moderator on a second session.

We are seeking proposals for the following types of sessions:

  • Pre-organized live panel of two speakers plus one moderator: 2 speakers giving formal 20-minute papers on a related theme or methodology, plus moderated discussions (60 minutes total)
    • Submission for review: Panel title, panel abstract (300 words max.), abstracts of the individual papers (300 words max.) speaker and moderator bios (150 words max).

  • Pre-organized pre-recorded panel of two speakers plus one moderator: 2 speakers circulate pre-recorded videos of 15-20 minutes length. The zoom session consists of brief comments by the paper authors, and the focus is on moderated discussions (60 minutes total)
    • Submission for review: Panel title, panel abstract (300 words max.), abstracts of the individual papers (300 words max.) speaker and moderator

  • SHARP research lab involving intensive discussion of pre-circulated papers on a shared theme:
    • The lab leader chooses the theme and recruits lab contributors (by circulating a CFP, for example) and then acts as moderator during the live discussion session. The lab can last for 90 minutes (if there are 3 papers) or 120 minutes (4 papers). Authors must commit to providing their papers at least four weeks in advance of the event and allow their papers to be made available to registered conference participants. Papers should be no more than 6,000 words, but may consist of a section from a longer work in progress (dissertation, book, article, grant proposal…) Submission for review: title of the proposed SHARP research lab, abstract of 300 words max., titles and abstracts of the individual papers (300 words each), bios of the lab leader and authors (150 words max.)
    • Early career researchers are particularly encouraged to participate in this format.

  • Roundtables with three or more participants, including a moderator: Roundtables may focus on questions related to research, teaching, or other aspects of the broader field of book history. Although the number of participants is not strictly limited, all roundtables will last one hour, and to facilitate discussion it is suggested that the moderator work with panelists to prepare a list of questions and topics for discussion rather than having panelists deliver lengthy prepared remarks.
    • Submission for review: Roundtable title, abstract of 300 words max., speaker and moderator bios of 150 words max.

  • Advanced MA students and PhD students may also be interested in participating in our 5-1-5 sessions, which will offer, per session, five speakers the opportunity to share 1 slide about their ongoing project (e.g. PhD project) in exactly 5 minutes. The discussions will be moderated by a chair (session length: 60 minutes total)
    • Submission for review: Project (working) title, abstract of 150 words max., speaker bio of 150 words max.

Part of our conference programming will be virtual tours of “bookish Muenster”: video installments in which bookstores, libraries and museums introduce conference delegates to Muenster and its bookish highlights. Following up on discussions at #SHARPinFocus in June 2020, we would also like to explicitly invite booksellers and librarians from around the world to share their spaces of discovery, distribution and delivery as well as their research. Proposals coming in could be either in the formats mentioned above or through:

  • Pre-recorded virtual tours of bookstores, libraries and other bookish institutions (max. 15 minutes). [Please note that to submit these virtual tours, SHARP membership is not required.]


We are also open to considering other options that are workable in a 60-minute virtual timeframe.

In addition to the scholarly sessions, we will be offering optional sessions to foster community and conviviality, such as the

  • SHARP coffeehouses
  • Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) launch party
  • Early Career Researcher Meet-Up


Submissions will be handled via Indico, as will the conference. The sessions will primarily take place via Zoom. Please indicate your time zone when applying, so that we can adapt the schedule accordingly. We will do our best to accommodate a wide range of time zones.

We are pleased to welcome proposals in English and German. The deadline for all proposals is January 15, 2021, and presenters will be notified by the end of March.

Membership & fees

Membership is not necessary for the submission of a proposal but those whose proposals are accepted must be SHARP members by the time of conference registration: http://www.sharpweb.org/main/join/

In addition to membership, there will be a conference fee to offset the costs of organization and infrastructure. We are working to make it as low as possible, and will communicate the amount when we send out notification of acceptance.