English 419

From Codex to Code - The History of the Book

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Office hours for winter term: Wednesdays at 10:00, or by appointment (sian@mail.ubc.ca)

Office: Buchanan Tower 225; note that I am currently Head of Department, so it is possible I might have to change my hours. If you need to see me outside my office hours, please do feel free to e-mail me.

“Never judge a book by its cover,” we are often told, and yet we do judge books, not only by their covers, but also by their typefaces, their illustrations, where they are filed in the bookstore or the library, and any number of other factors not apparently directly related to their content. This course will introduce students to book history, a discipline that unravels the complex relationships between particular books, the texts they contain, the cultures that produced them, and the readers who encounter them.

D.F. McKenzie famously described bibliography as the sociology of texts. Through a series of case studies centered on important texts and the books that transmit them, we will explore how materiality and meaning interact, in a range of historical and cultural contexts. Along the way, students will learn about the many forms texts have taken over the centuries, from oral recitations to ebooks, and everything in between.

A unique feature of this course is that we will meet regularly in Rare Books and Special Collections in the Barber Learning Centre. Here, students will have the opportunity for hands-on experience with a wide collection of rare materials dating from the Middle Ages to the present. Course assignments will include contributions to a class book blog (we will use the Wordpress platform available at http://blogs.ubc.ca). Each class member will adopt a favourite item from the RBSC collection, and will research and write about it, to introduce it to a wide audience. Because of the limited size of the RBSC seminar room, the class will periodically be split in half; on the day that your group is not meeting in the RBSC seminar room, you will be undertaking your own original research in the RBSC reading room. Students will leave this course with both theoretical knowledge and practical experience concerning the history, and future, of media-text interactions.

Click here to go to a list of all the books that we have viewed in our sessions at RBSC. I will update this list as the course progresses.

Course text: Michelle Levy and Tom Mole, eds., The Broadview Reader in Book History

See the Assignments Page for details about course assignments, requirements, and weighting.

This version of the syllabus will be updated throughout the course. You should get in the habit of checking it regularly. You can download a PDF version of the syllabus that was current as of January 4, 2018, by clicking here.

 

Schedule: January

Th 4

There will be no class today, because I am away at a conference. However, you should look at the readings listed to the right, so that they can inform our discussion on Tuesday, January 9

• W.W. Greg, “What is Bibliography?” (pp. 3 – 13)

• D.F. McKenzie, “The Dialectics of Bibliography Now” (pp. 45 – 61)

• Robert Darnton, “What is the History of Books?” (pp. 231 – 50)

T 9

What is book history?

Books in the World #1: Bring some kind of text-object to class: it could be a favourite book from your past, something you’re reading now, or something you just think it might be interesting to talk about. Come prepared to discuss Come prepared to discuss.

Bring some kind of text-object for discussion

Th 11

Introduction to Special Collections:

Group A (Avery to McNeilly), 9:30

Group B (Odera to Yu), 10:10

 

This class will be held in the seminar room of Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC), in the Irving K. Barber Library. Please arrive a little early if you can, as you will have to check in and leave your things in a locker.

T 16 Before Print

Medieval Manuscripts: Scripts, Materials, Techniques

• Andrew Piper, “Turning the Page (Roaming, Zooming, Streaming)” (pp. 512 – 24)

Th 18

In-class workshop: Manuscript copying

Bring your feather pen (here are two links with suggestions for how to turn your feather into a pen: Instructables: Making a Quill Pen; Wikihow: How to Make a Quill Pen).

I will provide parchment and ink. Also bring ordinary writing materials (pen or pencil and paper), so that we can do a textual transmission exercise.

• G. Thomas Tanselle, “The Editorial Problem of Final Authorial Intention” (pp. 139 – 55)

• Roger Chartier, “Communities of Readers” (pp. 251 – 66)

T 23 - Th 25

Rare Books and Special Collections sessions

 

Group A will be in the RBSC seminar room on Tuesday, and Group B, on Thursday. On the day you are not in the seminar room, you will be working on your own projects in the RBSC reading room

T 30 Early Print

The Coming of Print: Transitions and Technologies

 

• Michael Twyman, “What is Printing?” (pp. 37 – 44)

• Paul C. Gutjahr and Megan L. Benton, “Reading the Invisible” (pp. 63 – 72)

February

Th 1 Print and the Reformation

Printing the Bible

Books in the World #2: What books have been banned? Where? Why? Have you read any of them? Come prepared to discuss.

• Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, “The Unacknowledged Revolution” (pp. 215 – 30)

• James Raven, “Markets and Martyrs: Early Modern Commerce” (pp. 289 – 312)

T 6 - Th 8

 

Group A will be in the RBSC seminar room on Tuesday, and Group B, on Thursday. On the day you are not in the seminar room, you will be working on your own projects in the RBSC reading room

T 13 Printing Early Modern Authors

Making a Canon: Print and the Early Modern Author

 

• David Scott Kastan, “From Playhouse to Printing House; or, Making a Good Impression” (pp. 353 – 73)

• Margaret J.M. Ezell, “The Social Author: Manuscript Culture, Writers, Readers” (pp. 375 – 94)

Th 15

In-class workshop: Making a Quarto

What’s your type? assignment due Thursday, February 15: e-mail to sian@mail.ubc.ca no later than 11:59 pm. See Assignments page for details.

 

T 20 - Th 22

Reading Week

 

T 27

Rare Books and Special Collections sessions

Group A will be in the RBSC seminar room on Tuesday, February 27th, and Group B, on Thursday, March 1. On the day you are not in the seminar room, you will be working on your own projects in the RBSC reading room

March

Th 1

Rare Books and Special Collections sessions

Group A will be in the RBSC seminar room on Tuesday, February 27th, and Group B, on Thursday, March 1. On the day you are not in the seminar room, you will be working on your own projects in the RBSC reading room

T 6 Atlases, Encyclopedias, Diaries: The World in Print

Books for Reference: Fonts, Maps, Pictures

Books in the World #3: Do you ever use reference books? What kinds? In what formats? How are they different from other kinds of books or reading experiences? Come prepared to discuss.

Judging a book by its cover assignment due this day: e-mail to sian@mail.ubc.ca no later than 11:59 pm.

See Assignments page for details.

• Adrian Johns, “Introduction: The Book of Nature and the Nature of the Book” (pp. 267 – 88)

• Jonathan Rose, “The Welsh Miners’ Libraries” (pp. 313 – 31)

Th 8 - T 13

Rare Books and Special Collections sessions

Group A will be in the RBSC seminar room on Thursday the 8th, and Group B, on Tuesday the 13th. On the day you are not in the seminar room, you will be working on your own projects in the RBSC reading room

Th 15 Connoisseurs and Collectors

Printing in the Nineteenth Century: Mass Production and Fine Press

• Pierre Bourdieu, “The Field of Cultural Production, or: The Economic World Reversed” (pp. 335 – 52)

• Meredith McGill, “Circulating Media: Charles Dickens, Reprinting, and Dislocation of American Culture” (pp. 439 – 56)

T 20 - Th 22

 

 

Group A will be in the RBSC seminar room on Tuesday the 20th, and Group B, on Thursday the 22nd. On the day you are not in the seminar room, you will be working on your own projects in the RBSC reading room

T 27 Children’s Literature

Books for Children: Illustrated Books, Text Books, Collectibles

Books in the World #4: Go to a children’s bookstore (like Kidsbooks), or to the children’s section of a store like Chapters, or to the children’s section of an online book retailer like Amazon. What is highlighted? How are the books organized, advertised, designed? Did you have a favourite childhood book? Is it still available today? Does it look the same? Come prepared to discuss.

Parchment, pixels, and print assignment due this day: e-mail to sian@mail.ubc.ca no later than 11:59 pm.

See Assignments page for details.

• Franco Moretti, “Style, Inc. Reflections on Seven Thousand Titles (British Novels, 1740 – 1850) (pp. 525 – 40)

Th 29

Rare Books and Special Collections sessions

Group A will be in the RBSC seminar room on Thursday the 29th, and Group B, on Tuesday, April 3. On the day you are not in the seminar room, you will be working on your own projects in the RBSC reading room

April

T 3

Rare Books and Special Collections sessions

Group A will be in the RBSC seminar room on Thursday the 29th, and Group B, on Tuesday, April 3. On the day you are not in the seminar room, you will be working on your own projects in the RBSC reading room

Th 5 Digitization and Hypertext

Remediating Textual Media

Books in the World #5: What is on your bookshelf right now? Do you have e-books as well as regular books? Has how you think about your books changed as a result of this course? Come prepared to discuss.

Hand in your Research and Reading Journal in class on this day

• Jerome J. McGann, “The Rationale of Hypertext” (pp. 459 – 74)

• Anthony Grafton, “Codex in Crisis: The Book Dematerializes” (pp. 555 – 73)

• N. Katherine Hayles, “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine” (pp. 491 – 510)

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