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Ital 553 A: Topics In Print Culture

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
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Joint Sections: 
Geoffrey Turnovsky

Syllabus Description:

A hands-on workshop that explores the history, current status and future of print as a publication technology. From the 15th through the 20th centuries in Europe, print was the dominant media form for the publication and circulation of information, news, literary texts, entertainments, scientific knowledge, religious truths, and laws. Its impacts were felt in every aspect of political, social, and cultural life: from the birth of a modern public sphere to changes in religious practice and in private life. Today, print’s status is more ambiguous. We still value the printed book; but its dominant role is being superseded by digital sources that now offer the content printed books used to provide, including the “physical” book itself, which libraries now make available in digitized images – great for remote access, but sometimes a pretext for either withholding access to the actual book or, more ominously, for offloading the book.

We’ll study the nature, history and impacts of movable type printing, from its development in Asia to the “printing revolution” of 15th-century Europe to its global spread in the early modern and industrial eras. And we’ll investigate the present and future of print in the digital age through individual or small-group digitization projects. Students will prepare a printed text or a collection of printed texts (not under copyright) of their choosing for digital publication. Students will, in the process, reflect on the history of the text’s creation, publication, circulation, and reception, as well as on a range of issues pertinent to publication in general and digital publication, specifically: questions of access (publication implies a public; who is the public? How will the public find and engage the text?), preservation (what is the relationship of the digital copy to the printed copy?), durability/sustainability (the bane of digital projects), and copyright, among others.

We’ll learn to work with early printed books and archival materials in UW Special Collections. And we’ll learn and work with a range of technologies useful for migrating printed text into the digital sphere, and presenting it. These include Optical Character Recognition (OCR) as well as a common protocol for the digital editing of cultural, historical, and literary texts: the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative, based on XML, along with related publishing technologies. Various approaches and methods are possible, depending on the project.

No technical background is needed. All readings and discussions in English, though students are welcome to work with texts in other languages or to work across languages. Please contact me ( if you have questions.



Catalog Description: 
Key readings, theoretical questions, and critical approaches in book history, focusing on printed texts from Gutenberg to today. The impacts of evolving technologies, material forms, and circulation within French, Italian, and other literary traditions. Methods and tools for evaluating an interpreting these impacts (bibliography, historie du livre, and textual scholarship). Offered: jointly with FRENCH 553.
Last updated: 
September 28, 2020 - 9:51pm