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Manuscript and Handpress

ENGL 297.401
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30

This course looks at some of the questions that arise as a result of the transition in the West from handwritten books to books made by a new technology, printing from movable type. It covers a time period running from the fifteenth through the end of the eighteenth centuries. How were books actually made during these centuries? What technological changes affected their production? How were they distributed? Who were their audiences? Did these audiences change during the period in question? What were their expectations with respect to books?-- with respect, that is, to the texts they contained, of course, but also to their form, their appearance, and their illustrations (if any)? What kinds of books and other printed materials were produced? How were they used? The class will work with many primary examples of manuscript and printed books in the Department of Special Collections. Students will be expected to learn the basic taxonomy of the book, that is, to be able to name and identify its parts. Students should be at least generally familiar with European history at the end of the middle ages and during the early modern period and be prepared for readings that are historical as well as literary. In addition to histories, however, several literary works will be read for evidence that may help us to answer questions such as those posed above. Works will be chosen from both English and other European literary traditions; if the latter, they will be read in translation. The course requires class participation and three papers (two short and one long). It has no final exam.