The book and reading
The print book is a primary instrument for humanities. This is what people in the humanities are supposed to produce, how they package and distribute our knowledge (although package makes the act sound more neutral than it is). And it’s the instrument we – you as students, me as professor – typically use to work with that knowledge. If we think of books as a practice, we can see we have learned to read books in ways particular to those practices: skimming, reading closely, re-reading, making marginal notes, underlining, dog-earring pages, using indexes and tables of contents … and that these are both physical and mental acts.
1. For an overview, it’s Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_books. This entry is not the best; there are lots of unexplained matters and holes in the history. But it’s worth a skim to get oriented.
2. I’d like us to get a sense of the book as a historical and material object, so search Google for images. Type in the search term, then click on the Images tab. Then click through to those that look interesting. Get a sense of how books developed from manuscript to contemporary objects by looking at them.
- manuscript – before printing
- codex – bound volumes
- incunabula – early printing, while printing and reading conventions were developing
- “artists books” – books that have been physically manipulated in ways that highlight what books are about, what they do. books as objects of art
I’d suggest that you start to collect images for an upcoming image and text curating project. Bookmark them, or copy and paste them into a document, or whatever. We’ll talk more about this on
3. Then, a video, Medieval Helpdesk.
4. And two readings from A Companion to Digital Literary Studies
- Drucker, The Virtual Codex from Page Space to E-space
- Vandendorpe, Reading on Screen: The New Media Sphere
We’ll take a couple of weeks to consider and talk about and add to this material.
See you on
- On deck: Gervais, Is There a Text on This Screen Reading in an Era of Hypertextuality
- On deck: Esposito: The Processed Book