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  • Monday, October 22, 2018 - 5:15pm to 7:00pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center, 6th Floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

We will be welcoming Katie Chenoweth for a talk entitled: “Printers’ Devices, or, How French Got Its Accents.” Katie writes:

In 1529, the French typographer and future imprimeur du roy (royal printer) Geoffroy Tory lamented that the French language had no accents.  “In our French language,” he writes, “we have no figures of accent in writing […].  I wish that it were so.”  Just two years later, all five of the accents found in modern French had appeared in vernacular printed books.  This talk explores the role of printers and printing technology in the introduction of accents in French during this remarkable period around 1530.  My claim will be that one of the primary roles accents serve for French printers is the reproduction of a “native” vernacular voice on the page, allowing them to deploy typography as a phonographic apparatus.  Challenging longstanding assumptions about the turn to the visual and spatial occasioned by printing technology, I suggest that printing brings about a phonetic turn and a new emphasis on the auditory that will ultimately drive the “rise” of French as a national idiom.

Katie Chenoweth is Assistant Professor of French at Princeton University.  Her research focuses on the history of books and other media, with a concentration on the sixteenth century.  Her first book, The Prosthetic Tongue: Printing Technology and the Rise of the French Language, is forthcoming with Penn Press.  She is also the director the Bibliothèque Derrida collection at Éditions du Seuil in Paris, which publishes the seminars and other posthumous works of philosopher Jacques Derrida.  At Princeton, she is the director of “Derrida’s Margins,” a digital humanities project dedicated to the marginalia in Derrida’s personal library.

All are welcome! Those who do not hold University of Pennsylvania ID cards should bring another form of photo identification in order to enter the library building.


Sep. 17: Nicholas Herman (Penn): “The Book-Shaped Object in Renaissance Europe”

Sep. 24, 25, 27 - Rosenbach Lectures: Carlo Ginzburg (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa): Fossils, Apes, Humans: A Chapter in the History of Science, Revisited

- Sep. 24: “Paleontology and Connoisseurship”

- Sep. 25: “Gods, Humans, Apes: Art History and Evolution”

- Sep. 27: “Medals and Shells: On Morphology and History, Once Again”

Oct. 1: Whitney Trettien (Penn): “Digital Book History”

Oct. 8: Priyasha Mukhopadhyay (Yale): “Unread: A History of the Book in Colonial South Asia”

Oct. 15: J.M. Duffin (Penn): “Draining the Swamp of Arcane Legal Text: Reclaiming the Geography of Eighteenth Century Philadelphia”

Oct. 22: Katie Chenoweth (Princeton): “Printers’ Devices, or, How French Got Its Accents”

Oct. 29: Sarah Guérin (Penn): “On Ivory, Wax, and Paint: New Insights on Devotional Booklets”

Nov. 5: Margo Natalie Crawford (Penn): “The Textual Production of a Shared Black Edge

Nov. 12: David Norbrook (Oxford): “‘But a copie’: Lucy Hutchinson’s Life in her Texts”

Nov. 19: Samantha Sommers (Ohio State): “Reading in Books”

Nov. 26: Gary Dyer (Cleveland State): “John Hunt's Lord Byron"

Dec. 3: Mitch Fraas (Penn): “Boilerplate: Documentation, Paperwork, and the Persistence of Form across the Early Modern and Modern Worlds”

Dec. 10: Arthur Kiron (Penn): “Hidden in Plain Sight: Christian Readers of Rabbinic Literature in the Colonial Americas”