In an age obsessed with digital communication, it's easy to forget how the ancient texts like the Bible and Aristotle made it through the ages to us. This seminar is about manuscript culture: the world of medieval scribes who transmitted ancient books to posterity, and who wrote in scripts and in languages that the original authors of those texts could not have understood. In the process, they created extraordinary literary, scientific and artistic achievements of their own; we'll be examining a number of them. Using the unique resources at Penn and throughout Philadelphia, this course dives into all aspects of the manuscript book, from how manuscripts were produced to how they were consumed, from how systems of writing developed to how modes of reading changed. The course also looks at the impact of both the printing revolution and the digital revolution on the role of the manuscript in scholarship and society. Each student will be assigned a manuscript, and be expected over the course of the semester to develop a script for a video about it. (Penn's libraries provide ample and friendly support for research and video-making.)
The College allows every student to count one freshman seminar toward the General Requirement; in such an instance, this course would satisfy Sector III (Arts and Letters). In addition, within the English major it will fulfill Sector 1 (Theory and/or Poetics) or Sector 3 (Literature before 1660).