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Unit information: Global Cultures of the Book in 2021/22

Unit name Global Cultures of the Book
Unit code MODLM0015
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Rhiannon Daniels
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will introduce students to the theory and methods of the history of the book. This is a vibrant, interdisciplinary area of research which provides the ideal complement to literary studies. Using comparative case studies, which might range from early print shops in Venice to digital book culture in 21st-century Africa, we will challenge students to reflect upon and re-think their conceptions of literary texts by focusing on the containers which hold them, the circuits in which they travel, and the culture which produces and consumes them.

The unit is structured around three key aspects of book culture: book production, the book-object, and reception; under these headings, we will explore a range of topics which might include the development of 15th and 16th-century print culture; mass production and the rise of the paperback; the function and status of paratexts (e.g. title-pages, prefaces, indexes); marginalia; publishing houses and booksellers; Facebook fiction and blogging. Overlaying the tri-partite structure of the unit is a central concern with the significance of book technologies, including manuscript, print, and digital.

Students will be encouraged to reflect critically on the theoretical writings underpinning the field, as well as trained to handle rare books in the Library’s Special Collections, where some classes will be held. Students will be encouraged to exploit the particular strengths of Bristol’s research collections, such as the Penguin Archive.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

a) evaluate a wide range of theoretical and methodological writings relevant to the ‘history of the book’ and develop an understanding of how particular approaches apply to their own scholarly practice.

b) identify and evaluate the role played by a range of agents involved the production and reception of books.

c) understand and explore critically the relationship between the material construction of books and their semantic contents.

d) identify and reflect critically on the complex relationships that exist between production techniques, book objects, and reception.

e) reflect critically on the development of book technologies and their implications for production, object, and reception.

f) handle rare and fragile book material in an appropriate manner and undertake primary research in libraries and archives.

g) work independently to explore and analyse critically material that is relevant to a particular area of book culture in a language of their choice.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered online through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Information

Summative assessment will be divided between two written essays:

1 x 1500 words (30%); ILOs a-e

1 x 3500 (70%); ILOs a-g


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. MODLM0015).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.