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Text and Medium:

Theory of the Book and the Future of Reading

Morris Eaves (

Rachel Lee (

Thursday 2.00 - 4.40 (Morey 403)

Friday 12.00 - 12.50 (Goergen 102)

The goal of Text and Medium is to come to a basic understanding of the relationship between those two terms, the "text" that we generally assume is some kind of "content," and the "medium" that puts the content into some form that allows the content to be communicated. The guiding assumptions are two: that media are not peculiar to the modern world, and that all media - the human voice, books, paint, electronic files - shape their content - words, pictures, sounds, etc. - along with their authors and their audiences. There have always been media, and in literature there must be media, because literature cannot exist without them.

This year's focus is on the printed word - the dominant medium of communication for the past five centuries. Only very recently, because of the "digital revolution," has print begun to lose some of its power and influence as we experience a "digital revolution." This remarkable media shift puts us among the first explorers to arrive on the scene of what later generations will surely see as epoch-making change that we can't yet fully grasp. But we should take advantage of our own unique intellectual opportunity to look back on the history of print from the powerful new perspective of digital media. We will of course employ all the traditional tools that students of literature have developed and refined to help them analyze and understand poems, novels, and plays. We will begin with Clifford Siskin's 2007 essay, "Textual Culture in the History of the Real."

This is a special year for Text and Medium. We are participating in a series of College-wide experiments with Humanities Research Labs, where we will be able to extend our exploration of print by putting facts and theories into practice. Note that students in Text and Theory must register for the Humanities Research Lab when registering for this course. Work in the Humanities Research Lab will replace some of the research and writing that graduate seminars typically require, and members of the seminar will spend part of their Lab time working on individual projects.

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