As I adjust to my new position as Interim Director of Undergraduate Studies, I’ll also be teaching two courses this semester: one new, the other familiar.  In the latter, I’ll be of the team responsible for the online section of English 203: Introduction of World Literature, a course enrolled by more 500 students.  The new course, meanwhile, is a graduate seminar on Book History, a course I’ve been looking forward to for the past year.  I’ve copied the course description below, but check out the course website for a more detailed list of readings, resources, and assignments.

ENG 644: Methods in Book History

Course Description
This course provides a broad survey and introduction to theoretical issues in the history of the book. As our culture transitions from print to digital media, interest in the book as a material artifact has exploded, leading to a dynamic field of study that now encompasses both traditional disciplines like bibliography, antiquarianism, philology, and textual scholarship, as well as more recent theories in communication studies, material culture, and media theory.

This course will survey a few significant trends in book history through theoretical readings, historical scholarship, and literary case studies, with specific attention placed on reverse engineering the book as technology of writing—a material artifact for storing, processing, and transmitting the elementary bits of culture (the sounds, letters, and other notations that constitute texts, narrative, information, and history). Topics to investigate will include: the history of alphabetic writing; the invention of moveable type; the history of literacy and alphabetization, specifically as it registers in children’s literature; the circulation of information and other media in the Enlightenment; the industrialization of book production in the nineteenth century; the rise of authorship, copyright, and other publishing institutions; the evolution of design, format, and other diagrammatic interfaces of the book; the role of readers in the production of community; and the influence of digital technologies in reshaping the basic elements of literacy and publishing.

Critical and historical essays will include foundational work by Michael Foucault, Walter Ong, Roger Chartier, Jerome McGann, D.F. McKenzie, Elizabeth Eisenstein, and Peter Stallybrass, as well as selected readings in literary and media theory by Friedrich Kittler, Lisa Gitelman, Meredith McGill, Andrew Piper, Matthew Kirschenbaum, and N. Katherine Hayles. Literary case studies will include Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography and Mark Twain’s No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger, in addition to a few poems and short stories. Course requirements include active participation in discussions and writing assignments, a reading journal, an oral presentation, a short history of an archival object, and a final paper based on materials from the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.

Required Texts:

  • David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery, ed. The Book History Reader. Second Edition: 978-0415359481 (Amazon); First Edition: 978-0415226585 (Amazon)
  • Michelle Levy and Tom Mole, ed., The Broadview Reader in Book History, 9781554810888 (Amazon)
  • Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, 978-0393935615 (Amazon)
  • Mark Twain, No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger, 978-0520270008 (Amazon)
  • All other required readings listed on the course schedule (available through Dropbox folder).

A Series on Archives and Digital Humanities

The Digital Archives Research Group at USM, of which I’m a Co-coordinator, will be hosting a series of events this year on Archives and Digital Humanities. We’ve been planning the events all summer, and I’m excited to share our new poster, beautifully designed by Danielle Sypher-Haley in the College of Arts and Letters. As mentioned before, the series of events and workshops are designed to introduce USM faculty and students to the possibilities of working with archival materials in Special Collections. See below for a brief description of events.

Digital Archives Electronic Image

A Series on Archives and Digital Humanities

Archives and Digital Humanities 101

Wednesday, September 14 from 3:30 to 5:00 in LAB 203 

This is the first in a yearlong series of events designed to introduce educators, students, and community members to the creative and collaborative possibilities of working with archives and special collections at Southern Miss.  In this kick-off event, USM faculty and staff will speak about the current state of the digital humanities from a variety of different angles, sharing their experience and expertise on topics such as organizing digital collections, developing digital projects, curating special collections, and incorporating archives and digital assignments in the classroom.

Special Collections Open House

Wednesday October 12 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. McCain Library & Archives, Room 305

In celebration of National Archives Month, the A&L Digital Archives Research Group invites you to stop by and visit the Special Collections Open House organized by USM Special Collections. The Open House will feature a range of different artifacts from Special Collections and provide a wonderful opportunity for faculty and students to learn more about the collections available for further research, study, and use in the classroom.

Teaching with Archives: A Pedagogy Workshop

Friday, November 4 from 2:00 to 4:00 in LAB 203

This pedagogy workshop will focus on how to create, design, develop, and organize archival and digital-based projects in the classroom.  Faculty and staff from a range of different disciplines will share assignments, projects, goals, and practical advice on how to facilitate and organize digital projects, engage students in archival research, and work with the library and Special Collections to create innovative assignments. Workshop participants will walk away with a handful of sample assignments, projects, and other ideas to expand their pedagogical toolkit.

Digital Archives and the Future of Research

Wednesday, February 15 from 3:30 to 5:00 in LAB 203

The A&L Digital Archives Research Group invites you to a roundtable discussion on digital archives and the future of research at Southern Miss.  Faculty from the College of A&L will speak about the increasing role of digital humanities in their research, exploring how archives and digital collections challenge scholars to develop new methods, ask new questions, and experiment with new technologies.

Celebrating the Archives: Presentations and Reception

Friday, March 31 from 2:00 to 4:00 in Cook Library Art Gallery

The A&L Digital Archives Research Group invites you to our final reception in which students, faculty, and community members share their archival work in short presentations as we celebrate the Save our Stories projects selected as most impressive by the A&L Digital Archives Research Group.


Save our Stories: Preserving and Digitizing the Humanities at Southern Miss

An exciting part of this year’s series on Archives and Digital Humanities involves a university and community project involving the USM archives and special collections. Students, faculty, and community members will have the opportunity to locate, describe, and narrate an archival object from one of the USM collections, lending their hand in curating these objects for a public readership. This project is also a competition, where the strongest submissions will be curated and shared with public online, as well as celebrated during our final reception. More details coming soon!

Essay in American Literature

AL ImageI’m pleased to announce that my essay, “<A> and <B>: Marks, Maps, Media, and the Materiality of Ambrose Bierce’s Style,” has been published in the December 2013 special issue of American Literature (85.4).  You can read my essay and the other excellent contributions here.

Send me an email if you’d like to read the essay but don’t have a subscription to Duke University Press Journals.  I’d be happy to send you a copy.

C19 Panel on Media History and Material Practice

Exciting news!  I just learned that a panel I’m co-organizing with Blake Bronson-Bartlett (University of Iowa) has been accepted for the third biennial conference of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists.

The panel, currently entitled “Calculating Marks: Media History, Mathematics and Material Practice in Nineteenth-Century America,” aims to reevaluate literature, authorship, and aesthetic values at the “elementary level” of “calculating marks,” or the written notations and techniques that encode (i.e., “markup”) different forms of nineteenth-century cultural expression.  It features papers from myself, Bronson-Bartlett, and Thomas Augst (New York University).

Send me an email if you want to read the full abstract.




Essay in American Literary Realism

American Literary Realism CoverI’m happy to report that my essay, ‘“Reading Connectedly’: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the Index, and Her Librarian-Father,” has been published by American Literary Realism (45.3).  You can accces the article here.  Please email me if you don’t have a subscription to Project Muse and would like to read the essay.

The featured image to this post is Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s The Librarian (1566), which I reference in the essay.