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The Long Life of Ephemeral Literature

La longue vie des imprimés éphémères

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Published on Thursday, March 07, 2024


From May 8 to 9 2025, the second international conference “The Long Life of Ephemeral Literature” will take place in Geneva. Geneva, an important city for the history of European printing, holds several collections of French and English printed sheets, Spanish pliegos de cordel and Brazilian prints. The aim of this conference is to make known the richness of these collections, to discuss the research currently being carried out in Western Europe and to consider this production from a transnational perspective with a broad chronological scale.




The organising team of the 1st international conference The Long Life of Ephemeral Prints (May 2022, Geneva), as well as the committee of the Swiss association Ephemera Helvetica, are pleased to organize the second edition of this event, which will take place in Geneva on Thursday 8th and Friday 9th May 2025.

For over half a century since the pioneering studies on ephemeral prints (which could also be described as “wide circulation printed matter”), the literary, documentary and material interest of these works has been recognised. To push research forward, it is necessary to embrace a broad perspective, both in the study of the phenomena and the analysis of its texts and images. This second edition, like the first, aspires to be international and interdisciplinary, just like its subject of study, which crosses eras, borders, and literary, publishing, and artistic genres. It will take stock of the current research on “non-books” and tackle these through a transnational lens, with a broad chronological spectrum. All disciplines are welcome: history, history of literature, history of books, sociology, anthropology, musicology, digital humanities, etc.

The conference will span two days and will include:

  • An opening talk given by Giles Bergel (Oxford e-Research Centre — Oxford University).
  • Various presentations.
  • A poster session.

Speakers are encouraged to think through one of the following three themes.

The role of the image

The image is common to many types of “wide circulation printed matter” from different periods and origins. Whether it occupies a relatively marginal place (borders, decorative elements), adorns certain pages (establishing a close connection with both the text it illustrates and the audience it addresses), or is predominant (as in the case of stamps, Épinal prints, or Spanish aleluyas), the image is essential to the definition of the editorial format of many prints.

What can the history of printing techniques (woodcuts, stone prints, metal prints, etc.) teach us? What does it tell us about how printers worked and about the (local, national, even international) connections between representatives of the trade? What are precisely the roles that the image plays in these different printed productions (advertising, transmission of practical knowledge, etc.)? What does the image reveal about the public's expectations, the formation of a visual tradition, and the dissemination of ideas and representations?

Propaganda and censorship

“Wide circulation printed matter” offered unprecedented opportunities for large-scale communication to political and religious authorities. This opportunity, however, was unevenly seized by different power players. Which of them invested in this communication channel to turn it into an ideological instrument? Was it effective in reaching the widest audience? Which publics were targeted? Like the debated concept of public opinion before the 18th century, can we, without risking anachronism, ascertain communication strategies through these prints?

Cheap prints also needed monitoring, as they provided an effective (and often covert) means for opponents of the incumbent power to transmit their ideas. How were these publications censored? What mechanisms of control and repression were applied to these texts, and what strategies were employed to circumvent censorship? It is also essential to consider which social groups had access to the printers’ workshops: was it only for the privileged, or could these prints be a space for expressing the ideas and concerns of all? The role of printers and their level of initiative in this process is crucial in this regard.

Lastly, from satires to lampoons, including songs, what forms were privileged in these texts? And what discourses were mobilised to convey an effective message (schemes of rulers in proto-journalistic texts, narratives of miracles defending the dominant morality, political pamphlets, etc.)?

State of the field

Communications falling within this theme will be the subject of a brief presentation accompanied by a poster in A0 format, which will be displayed throughout the duration of the conference. They will aim to provide an overview of the field, describe ongoing projects, their objectives, methodology, challenges, and solutions to address them.

Submission guidelines

Those wishing to participate in the conference must submit their communication proposals within the specified deadlines through the conference website (https://ephemeragva.sciencesconf.org, under the « Soumettre une contribution » / “Submit a contribution” tab).

Unless you already have one, you will be asked to create an account on the ScienceConf platform. This account will grant you access to the registration form. After providing your name and institutions, you can select the type of communication you plan to present (oral or poster), as well as the theme in which you wish to participate. You will also be required to submit your abstract in the form of a .docx or .pdf file, including the title of your communication, a summary not exceeding 1500 characters (including spaces), and a brief biography (approximately 500 characters, including spaces).

The deadline for submitting proposals is April 30th, 2024.

The organizing committee will review the received proposals and will contact the speakers involved in June 2024.

Registration fee

Once their proposal has been accepted by the committee, the speakers are invited to become members of the EPHEMERA HELVETICA association by paying the registration fee of 25 Swiss francs for at least one calendar year (https://www.ephemerahelvetica.ch/devenir-membre).


Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes and will be followed by discussion time. The primary languages for the presentations will be French and English. Communications in other languages may also be considered, provided that the accompanying documentation (mandatory in this case) is in French or English (presentation slides, printed materials, etc.).


The organizing committee plans to publish the works presented at the conference in the form of a collective publication, which will undergo peer review.


  • Constance Carta, Université de Genève
  • Thalia Brero, Université de Neuchâtel

Organising Committee

  • Luana Bermúdez, Université de Genève
  • Belinda Palacios, Université de Neuchâtel
  • Cristina R. Martínez Torres, Université de Genève


  • Geneva, Switzerland

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Tuesday, April 30, 2024


  • imprimé éphémère, patrimoine, image, propagande, censure


  • Ephemera Geneva
    courriel : ephemeragva [at] sciencesconf [dot] org

Information source

  • Elina Leblanc
    courriel : elina [dot] leblanc [at] unige [dot] ch


CC-BY-4.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International - CC BY 4.0 .

To cite this announcement

Constance Carta, Thalia Brero, Luana Bermúdez, Belinda Palacios, Cristina R. Martínez Torres, « The Long Life of Ephemeral Literature », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, March 07, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/vz30

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