Spring 2005

SOCS 627
Texts in Context: The Book as Cultural Artifact

Taraba,Suzy

01/24/2005 - 05/02/2005
Monday 06:30 PM - 09:30 PM

Meeting in the Davison Rare Book Room at Wesleyan's Olin Library, this course explores various approaches to the history of the printed book using examples from Wesleyan's rich collections. Beginning with manuscripts and other formats that predate the invention of printing with moveable type in the 15th century, students will learn firsthand how the book has evolved over time and will examine the transformation of typefaces, layout, illustration methods, bindings, and other elements of the book through the present. We will explore both high and popular print culture and the role of the book in society. We will focus on the book's artifactual value and its place in the history of authorship, literacy, printing, publishing, and other areas, rather than on its content. By taking this approach, we will learn to analyze and appreciate the book as something more than a carrier of text. We will also examine the history of book-centered institutions, including libraries, and learn how to research the history of individual books.

Books to be studied range from such high spots of the Western canon as the 17th century Shakespeare folios to the workaday children's schoolbooks of the 19th century. We will examine the publishing phenomenon of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), which sold more widely than any book except the Bible ever had. We will look at underground print culture as manifested by the gay and lesbian periodicals before Stonewall and in the early days of the gay liberation movement.

Sources to be studied include: Carter, ABC FOR BOOK COLLECTORS; Steinberg, FIVE HUNDRED YEARS OF PRINTING; Drucker, THE CENTURY OF ARTISTS' BOOKS; De Hamel, THE BOOK: A HISTORY OF THE BIBLE; De Hamel, A HISTORY OF ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS; Casper, Chaison, and Groves, PERSPECTIVES ON AMERICAN BOOK HISTORY, and others.

Required course work includes: class participation, three in-class terminology quizzes, three short papers (two to five pages), one final research paper (10-15 pages).

The willingness and ability to handle fragile and valuable items with care is essential. Because of the nature of the venue and the rare materials used in class, students may not have food, drink, gum, or personal items (other than a notebook, textbook, and a pencil) in class. A secure storage area will be provided for personal items. During most class sessions, we will spend half of the class in discussion and the other half examining materials, usually in a group. Students should expect to spend a fair amount of time standing, since the rare materials cannot be passed around or easily viewed by a seated group. In order to complete their assignments, students should expect to spend some time most weeks outside of class working in Wesleyan's special collections or another local rare book collection. Note that most special collections have limited hours, often during the weekdays only. At the first class, we will identify (as a group) evening hours outside of the regular class schedule for students to work in Wesleyan's special collections.

Enrollment is limited to 12 students. This course may, by petition, count toward the arts and humanities concentrations. Additional fee: $45.


Suzy Taraba (B.A. Wesleyan University, M.L.S. Columbia University) is University Archivist and head of Special Collections at Wesleyan University and author of many essays and presentations about rare books, including "Now What Should We Do With Them?: Artists' Books in the Curriculum" in RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage (Fall 2003).


ENROLLMENT INFORMATION

Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 12

Texts to purchase for this course:
Nicholas Basbanes, A GENTLE MADNESS (Henry Holt), Paperback

Scott Casper, PERSPECTIVES ON AMERICAN BOOK HISTORY (University of Massachusetts Press), Paperback

John Carter, ABC FOR BOOK COLLECTORS (Oak Knoll Press), Paperback

Christopher DeHamel, THE BOOK: A HISTORY OF THE BIBLE (Phaidon Press), Paperback

Christopher DeHamel, THE BRITISH LIBRARY GUIDE TO MANUSCRIPT ILLUMINATION (University of Toronto Press), Paperback

Johanna Drucker, THE CENTURY OF ARTIST'S BOOKS (Granary Books), Paperback

Elizabeth Eisenstein, THE PRINTING REVOLUTION IN EARLY MODERN EUROPE (Cambridge University Press), Paperback

Lucien Febvre, THE COMING OF THE BOOK (Verso), Paperback

Jane Greenfield, ABC OF BOOKBINDING (Oak Knoll Press), Paperback

Sigrid Steinberg, FIVE HUNDRED YEARS OF PRINTING (Oak Knoll Press), Paperback

OPTIONAL TEXT:

Bamber Gascoigne, HOW TO IDENTIFY PRINTS (Thames and Hudson), Paperback

READING MATERIALS AVAILABLE AT BROAD STREET BOOKS, 45 BROAD STREET, MIDDLETOWN, 860-685-7323

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