ENGL 573

Introduction to the History of the Book: Theory and Practice
This course is designed to be what Meredith McGill called “an extended experiment in thinking about the relations of literary texts to their conditions of publication.”   In order to perform this experiment with a mixture of theoretical lucidity and historical accuracy, our readings will range from the abstract and deeply theoretical to more historically focused studies.  The goal in selecting the readings is to provide seminar members with a familiarity of foundational texts in the field as well as to develop significant exposure to more contemporary work.  Pushing beyond the limitations typical to literary analysis that focus on text as an abstract and stable product of a single-author, we will trouble the distinctions that constitute basic literary analysis through a close inspection of the material contingencies of publication and authorship.  We will organize our efforts around defining (and challenging) the meaning of several key terms that are essential to notions of literature in general and the book in particular including Author, Publisher, Editor, Edition, Book, and the Serial.  In addition to regular weekly meetings, we will hold “labs” where students will design and present mini-projects focusing on Melville’s Moby Dick or the poetry of Emily Dickinson several times during the semester.  Students will have the option of developing a larger group project in combination with a seminar paper.

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