Letters and Letter Writing in Early Modern Culture: An Introduction
The recently renewed scholarly interest in historical letters and letter writing has given rise to several studies which explore the culture of epistolarity from different perspectives. The article offers an introduction to recent scholarship on epistolary discourse and practices in early modern culture. Given the importance of letters as data for several types of diachronic investigation, the article focuses on three points that are crucial for an understanding of the relevance of epistolary discourse itself in early modern European culture. Firstly, letters are invaluable data for historical linguistics, to which they provide information for the history of languages, and sociohistorical and sociolinguistic research. A second recent field of investigation considers letters as documents and material items; the results of research in this area have contributed to the reconstruction of official relationships and information exchanges in past cultures and shed light on social interaction. A third, more traditional area of study, deals with the letter as a form that has given rise to many different genres across the centuries, both practical and literary.
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