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Literary Papers and Beyond: The Archive in Theory & Practice

ENGL 799.301
R 12-3:00
6th Floor of Van Pelt Library, Seminar Room 626

This graduate seminar is designed to immerse students in both current theories of the archive and in modern archival practices. Although we will be addressing “the archive” from multiple perspectives, the course will hold a special focus on literary papers, themselves a subgenre of personal papers, and on literature-as-archive. We will perform research tasks among disparate collections in various stages of processing from Penn’s own collections, read key theorizations of the archive (including the oft-neglected scholarship of archivists themselves), and assess literary works that directly or otherwise engage the archival. Even though the majority of the literary texts we will consider are 20-21C, the seminar’s methodological component should speak to any scholar interested in undertaking archival research. The course is meant to bridge—or think together—theory and praxis, as well as demystify the work that takes place behind the reference desk prior to making collections available to researchers. Our readings will consist of a mélange of theory, criticism, practical guides & histories, original sources, and literary fiction. The class will meet in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library on the 6th Floor of Van Pelt Library in Seminar Room 626, and will also take advantage of current and ongoing exhibition projects and recent collections in Penn Libraries, notably the Gotham Book Mart records.