The Internet of Letters: Comparing epistolary and digital audiences

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Based on a growing body of recent historical work, this article compares the audiences of two media: the letter and the Internet. Researchers of the digital world have claimed that the net is characterized by a blurring of borders between the one-to-one dialogue (long idealized by literary research), and the one-to-many dissemination (best exemplified by broadcasting). However, the ancient medium of the letter too had long blurred boundaries, from local leaks to full-fledged publications of collections of letters. The article first discusses various types of epistolary disseminations, mainly voluntary ones (for glory, for
political aims, for managing communities and for family and community relationships), but also involuntarily disseminations for private or political surveillance. It concludes that in the longue durée of media history, the Internet exemplifies historical trends which started before the digital world: the demand for absolute privacy, and the risk of total political surveillance.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)350-373
Number of pages23
JournalParticipations : journal of audience and reception studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • epistolary
  • context collapse
  • Internet
  • dissemination,
  • dialogue


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