Course No: 350:508
Index #: 12036
Distribution Requirement: B
Tuesday - 2:00 p.m.
MU 207

Methods in Book History and DH
Meredith McGill / Leah Price


Competing models of authorship, printing, and reading; changing practices in the production, circulation and use of the printed word; material vs. verbal evidence; book history as/vs literary history, cultural history, Digital Humanities.  Designed to broaden participants’ repertoire of methods and tools for analyzing material culture, this case-based course presupposes no prior knowledge.  Instead, each participant will identify a printed or inscribed object from their own field of interest to examine through a different rubric every week, presenting their findings to the rest of the group.  In order to ensure that the seminar provides practice in “teaching” your material to classmates in other time/place or disciplinary fields, students from across the humanities (other languages, art history, AMESALL…) are especially welcome. 

Distribution requirement: B

Learning goals:

  • Broaden your repertoire of methods for interpreting texts and analyzing material culture
  • Identify areas of interest for dissertation research, and situate those interests within theoretical and historiographical debates
  • Develop the ability to break a research project into stages, to identify tools needed to pursue each, and to plan the most efficient way to acquire them
  • Familiarize yourself with library resources on campus and beyond 
  • Practice constructing arguments and marshaling primary & secondary texts to support your claims
  • Gain practice in presenting your research to scholars in other time/place fields


  1. One 5-10-minute oral presentation, with handout that should summarize the week’s secondary readings, compare or contrast them with readings earlier in the semester, and identify a series of questions for the seminar to discuss.   
  2. One 5-minute max. presentation at the second class meeting of a “keyword” of your choice, for which you’ll take responsibility during class discussion for the remainder of the semester.  Please speak without notes or data projector, but you are encouraged to circulate a handout.
  3. bibliographic exercise on an object of your choice (due in Week 3), and …
  4. …an oral/visual presentation of a comparand held in a library elsewhere in the tristate area, selected in consultation with the instructor (in Week 9).  The latter will be informed by a mandatory field trip to a collection off campus; funding will be provided for the field trip as well as for individual research trips.
  5. proposal for the final paper or project (around 500 words);
  6. 10-minute oral presentation of your final paper or project (which will normally still be in draft at this point) at the final seminar meeting;
  7. And either a conference-length research paper or a different kind of summative project (an Omeka site; work on the Black Bibliography Project; a Descriptive Bibliography or Finding Aid).
  8. In class discussion, willingness to teach your subfield to seminar members focused on other genres/times/places, to think together about methods and models from case studies outside your field that can be applied to your future dissertation work, to argue for your ideas, and to back them up with evidence marshaled both in advance and on the spot.

Books on order and on reserve:

  • David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery (eds.), The Book History Reader (London: Routledge, 2006).
  • Guglielmo Chartier and Roger Cavallo, A History of Reading in the West (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003). 978-1558494114. $27.50.
  • Michelle Levy and Tom Mole (eds), The Broadview Reader in Book History (Ontario: The Broadview Press, 2014). 978-1554810888. $49.95. (Buy if possible).