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Historiography of Books

ENGL 590.401
W 3-6

The first part of the course will introduce students to the basic history and historiography of early books and printing, with heavy emphasis on examination of late manuscripts and early printed books (drawing on resources in the Department of Special Collections). Topics to be considered will include: production, circulation, and audiences of the later manuscript book; the invention and spread of printing in the west; the worlds of printers, publishers, authors, and readers; the spread of literacy; and the nature of the printing "revolution." Readings will include works by (among others) Christopher de Hamel, Lucien Febvre, Henri-Jean Martin, Philip Gaskell, Walter J. Ong, Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, Roger, and Robert Darnton.

The second part of the course will be a seminar/practicum. In each class, students will lead oral presentations that examine the nature of, discuss resources available to help answer, and (where possible) answer, questions at the borders between "bibliography," "history," and "literature." The evidence of physical books, and the marks in them, or documentary evidence about them, as well as the texts these physical books contain, will provide the basis for such discussions. They are intended to function as case histories in the history of ideas and how cultures are transmitted.

Course requirements include: (1) the oral presentation mentioned above and (2) a final research paper, on a topic to be developed in consultation with the instructors, of about 20 pages.