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Unit information: Global Cultures of the Book in 2015/16

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Unit name Global Cultures of the Book
Unit code MODLM0015
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
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

Seminars; workshops in Special Collections

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

Reading and References

Set reading for each section of the unit will depend on the staff specialisms of those teaching it each year. Introductory reading might include:

Sarah Brouillette, Postcolonial Writers in the Global Literary Marketplace (London: Palgrave, 2007)

Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters, trans. by M.B. Debevoise (Cambridge, MA; Harvard University Press, 2007).

Roger Chartier, The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries, trans. by Lydia G. Cochrane (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994)

Robert Darnton, The Case for Books: Past, Present and Future (New York: Public Affairs, 2009)

David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery (eds), The Book History Reader, 2nd edn (London: Routledge, 2006)

D. F. McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (London: British Library, 1999)