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Thinking, once again, about the history of the book

April 1, 2010

This is for an independent study I hope to do next semester, with a bunch of professors covering different periods in time. This syllabus I have set for myself is still under development so I would be grateful if anybody wants to interject or offer suggestions. I see this as something I would like to think about and work through within a longer term. I’ve managed to speak to professors within and outside Duke in the process of formulating this very rough draft (sans bibliography at the moment). I see myself thinking about this topic and the ideas surrounding this topic for some time to come. This is a partial syllabus as I did not include course procedure and the people involved in here.

History of the Book: from Antiquity to Digitality

The purpose of this reading course is to study the history of the book across histories, media, and institutions. This course attempts to trace the beginnings of the book from papyri and manuscripts to the rise of digital publishing, to investigate the formation of reading culture(s), to understand the politics/ontology of publication and authorship, and to analyze the institutions involved. The course begins with classical western antiquity (through the analysis of Greek and Roman reading traditions) and concludes (but not conclusively) with an interrogation into the futurity of the book in whatever form it may take. This reading course also intends to look at various critical theories and philosophies that may inform our analysis of reading. I see this course as helping to inform my understanding of the meaning of the book (in its broadest intellectual historical sense) and its making/unmaking across a period of time.

Thematic Blocks (Under development)

Week 1
Introduction: the making of the book and how are texts/books studied?

Week 2 & 3
Libraries: from ancient libraries to digital bibliography.

Week 4 & 5
Literacy, bibliophilia and the rise of a reading culture

Week 6 & 7
Evolving book technologies: from manuscripts to e-books.

Week 8
Publics: Who Reads What and How Do We Know?

Week 9
History, Politics and Culture of Publishing

Week 10
Intellectual Freedom, Censorship and Copyright

Week 11
Books as archives and ephemera: networks, records, memories and invisible/non-existent

Week 12 & 13
Authorship, critical reading and gender

Week 14

2 Comments leave one →
  1. fionally permalink
    April 1, 2010 12:48 pm

    This looks fabulous! I’d love to see how this develops and would appreciate whatever you’re willing to share.

    Am especially curious about Weeks 6 & 7. It seems to me that that there might be detours on the way from paper to screen, as your subtitle suggests. As in, I think one would have to factor in cinema and television factor into the development of the e-book screen. How are those technologies situated in relation to the book? In what ways have film and television genres shaped book genres and vice versa?

    Have you a specific project in mind that you’re working toward with this course?

  2. AiLL permalink*
    April 1, 2010 12:55 pm

    Hey Fiona,
    I hope this course will help me in some way in my dissertation. But more importantly, I am doing this because I am a closet bibliophila and have a strong interest in the history of the book for a long time (I hope to teach various variations of such a course in the near future!) I’ve always wanted to explore the potentialities of the book and broaden the way in which we look at it, in the same way many philosophers and theorists have broadened the way we look at the body. You’ve a really good suggestion about the e-book and screen, and there is a possibility it will be explored even within the ambit of the other themes. I’m excited over the prospect of exploring these topics with a number of professors who’ve agreed to work with me, bringing their interests and expertise to the table.

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