Thursday, November 1, 2007

the history of books and reading

I just enrolled in a USC grad seminar for next spring called "Image/Word/Object: Rethinking the History of Books and Reading."
It will be team-taught by Daniela Bleichmar, Assistant Professor, Depts. Of Art History and Spanish and Portuguese and Deborah Harkness, Associate Professor, Department of History.

I've always been interested in the material as well as theoretical and historical aspects of the printed word, and I'm particularly excited that this course will take up the question of the image alongside the word. This is something that we encounter in nearly all of our projects, constantly rethinking and reshaping the relation of one to the other. Images as we've used them do not simply "illustrate" the text, but suggest affective fields around them. In the same way, the words strike tonalities that draw different resonances from the images. Add to this a curiosity for what happens in the making. Lately we've been experimenting with inkless printing, just a deep impression that presses through to the other side. We like seeing both image and text sunk into the paper, falling into each other.

Here is the course description. I'll give updates as the semester progresses.

This seminar will rethink the history of the book and reading in the West from the Renaissance to the present by focusing on the visual and material aspects of books and book culture, in addition to the textual ones that have traditionally dominated the field. Our goal is to take a fresh approach to a field that is currently dominated by two questions: How fixed is print culture? How revolutionary was the print revolution? We propose in this course to move the study of the book in a new direction by approaching books as objects that contain both words and images. It is our contention that the history of the book should include a careful exploration of the material object of the book (delving into maters of design, manufacturing, codicology, and typography), was well as the complicated relationship between images and texts. Similarly, the history of reading can be fruitfully reconsidered by approaching it in terms of the history of seeing (albeit a specialized kind of seeing). In this way, we seek to rethink the history of the book from the vantage points of visual and material culture.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this sounds like a great class--wish i could take it! i hope you will post about it--and let us know if there are any public presentations & events!