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ENGL 260
The Material Text
Last Offered n/a
Division I Writing Skills
This course is not offered in the current catalog or this is a previous listing for a current course.

Class Details

The conventions, compromises, collaborations and errors of the printing process can end up reinflecting or changing a writer’s words in unexpected ways. And the contexts in which we then encounter those printed words–in a purpose-designed edition; excerpted in an anthology; or far outside of discernibly ‘literary’ settings–can make more difference yet. As David Scott Kastan has observed, it is “self-evident… that the material form and location in which we encounter the written word are active contributors to the meaning of what is read.” In this course we will study what is now termed “the history of the book,” and theories of textual materialism. We will begin with the iconic Shakespeare First Folio of 1623, published as English conventions of orthography, spelling and printing were fast becoming regularized. We will investigate how the book was printed, and attend to the notoriously awkward problem of how to determine the “best” text of Hamlet. We will also trace the history of a series of Elizabethan and Jacobean poems from their origins to the present day, to chart changing conceptions of the very ideas of “publication” and of audience. The rotary press made printing much cheaper after 1850. We will read Dickens’s Great Expectations, attending to the effects of it being written for serialization in weekly magazines. Emily Dickinson’s poetry-almost all unpublished during her lifetime-will present a core challenge. Is it indeed possible to represent her work adequately in print? We will consider the presses set up by Yeats (Cuala) and Virginia Woolf (Hogarth) to more fully control the pragmatics and aesthetics of their publications; Scott Fitzgerald’s responses to editorial censorship; and the vexed history of Joyce’s Ulysses. We will close by weighing the gains and losses we face today as the material texts of the print era have ceded ground to digitization and hypertext.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 0
Requirements/Evaluation: three papers rising from 4-7 pages; three reading responses of two pages each
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: English and Comparative Literature majors
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
WS Notes: Three papers rising from 4-7 pages; three reading responses of two pages each. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses
ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses

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