Book History

The English department is home to a number of scholars engaged with book history, a vital field that includes all aspects of the creation, dissemination, and reception of texts. Covering a period stretching from the sixteenth century, when the printing press was still a novelty, to today’s digital present, our work reveals how a book’s meaning is made and remade by the collaborations and clashes of multiple agents. These include most prominently authors and readers. But we are also interested in other figures such as typesetters and book designers, editors and publishers as well as the institutions that can endow or censor freedom of expression.  The history of the book attends to the material conditions of reading and writing in particular settings. At the same time, we want to know how political, spiritual, and aesthetic ambitions become embodied in the artifacts that are the subject of literary study.

The research opportunities in book history are exciting and evolving. Some subjects or topics more specifically addressed by our faculty include the following: books as vectors of intellectual property; press output as a gauge of political change and cultural inertia; print culture’s cloven function as scriptural religion’s bedrock and solvent; the press as a maker of nations and other forms of sociability; and small presses as microclimates in which creative adaptations are conceived.

Graduate students with interests in book history can look forward to working with mentors that will include a contemporary novelist and publisher, leading authorities on early modern textuality, and a few things in between. Please consult our individual web pages to learn more.

Faculty Experts