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Comparative Textual Media

Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era

N. Katherine Hayles

Publication Year: 2013

For the past few hundred years, Western cultures have relied on print. When writing was accomplished by a quill pen, inkpot, and paper, it was easy to imagine that writing was nothing more than a means by which writers could transfer their thoughts to readers. The proliferation of technical media in the latter half of the twentieth century has revealed that the relationship between writer and reader is not so simple. From telegraphs and typewriters to wire recorders and a sweeping array of digital computing devices, the complexities of communications technology have made mediality a central concern of the twenty-first century.

Despite the attention given to the development of the media landscape, relatively little is being done in our academic institutions to adjust. In Comparative Textual Media, editors N. Katherine Hayles and Jessica Pressman bring together an impressive range of essays from leading scholars to address the issue, among them Matthew Kirschenbaum on archiving in the digital era, Patricia Crain on the connection between a child’s formation of self and the possession of a book, and Mark Marino exploring how to read a digital text not for content but for traces of its underlying code.

Primarily arguing for seeing print as a medium along with the scroll, electronic literature, and computer games, this volume examines the potential transformations if academic departments embraced a media framework. Ultimately, Comparative Textual Media offers new insights that allow us to understand more deeply the implications of the choices we, and our institutions, are making.

Contributors: Stephanie Boluk, Vassar College; Jessica Brantley, Yale U; Patricia Crain, NYU; Adriana de Souza e Silva, North Carolina State U; Johanna Drucker, UCLA; Thomas Fulton, Rutgers U; Lisa Gitelman, New York U; William A. Johnson, Duke U; Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, U of Maryland; Patrick LeMieux; Mark C. Marino, U of Southern California; Rita Raley, U of California, Santa Barbara; John David Zuern, U of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Electronic Mediations


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction. Making, Critique: A Media Framework

N. Katherine Hayles, Jessica Pressman

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pp. vii-xxxiii

As traditional print-based humanities move into the digital era, many strategies are emerging to support and retrofit academic departments. Some universities have established freestanding centers for digital humanities, including the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia, and the University of Nebraska. Others are hiring one or more faculty...

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Part I: Theories

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pp. 1-3

NEW MEDIA is an unfortunate term for at least three reasons: it is a temporal rather than a technical designation, and what is new now will soon become old (and do we then say “old new media”?); it is very imprecise as to what constitutes “new media”; and most troublesome, it implies through back-formation that there...

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1. TXTual Practice

Rita Raley

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pp. 5-32

Are text messages displayed on large video screens or mobile variable message signs, or projected on building facades or on open ground in public squares, meaningful or not meaningful? And what is the structural form or logic of these scenes of reading and writing that would command critical attention? Would a laudatory or skeptical tone...

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2. Mobile Narratives: Reading and Writing Urban Space with Location-Based Technologies

Adriana de Souza e Silva

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pp. 33-52

In his book Consumers and Citizens, Néstor García Canclini (2001) points to the fragmentation of the contemporary urban landscape, arguing that it refuses narrative form. The eclectic architecture of megacities, their multiple outdoor advertisements and their diversity of sounds and stimuli, contributes to the perception...

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3. The .txtual Condition

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

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pp. 53-70

In April 2011, scholars were buzzing with the news of Ken Price’s discovery of thousands of new papers written in Walt Whitman’s own hand at the National Archives of the United States. Price, a distinguished University of Nebraska literature professor and founding coeditor of the digital Walt Whitman Archive, had followed a hunch...

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4. From A to Screen

Johanna Drucker

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pp. 71-96

How do letters appear on our screens, these exquisite expressions of design, our Baskerville so clearly differentiated from the Caslon and Comic Sans that we recognize instantly what font families we are inviting into view? Do they come, like pasta letters in a can of alphabet soup, intact and already formed, down the...

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Part II: Practices

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pp. 97-99

Focusing on practice tends to cut through ideological baggage by encouraging close observation of what is actually happening on the ground. A case in point is science studies, which went through what might be called the “practice revolution” starting with Latour and Woolgar’s (1986) seminal Laboratory Life. Burdened with decades of pontifications...

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5. Bookrolls as Media

William A. Johnson

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pp. 101-124

When the Greeks adapted the “Phoenician letters”1 to create their alphabet in the early first millennium, they no doubt used whatever materials were at hand to write their alphas and betas and gammas. They would have used charcoal on pottery shards or stone, sharp metal on stone or wax, and paint on bark or leather. From...

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6. Dwarven Epitaphs: Procedural Histories in Dwarf Fortress

Stephanie Boluk, Patrick LeMieux

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pp. 125-154

With the rise of digital inscription technologies, the history of the twenty-first century will not be written by human hands alone. From surveillance systems to medical databases to networked computers, automated processes of information and exchange are already encoding an alternative history of humanity and coauthoring...

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7. Reading Childishly? A Codicology of the Modern Self

Patricia Crain

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pp. 155-182

“MY BOOK AND HEART / shall never part” goes the alphabet rhyme for the letter H in The New England Primer, a crucial late-seventeenth-century literacy manual, in print in the United States through much of the nineteenth century and an object of conservative nostalgia to this day...

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8. Print Culture (Other Than Codex): Job Printing and Its Importance

Lisa Gitelman

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pp. 183-197

The title of this chapter deserves explanation. Like others in the volume, it is meant to refer to a form of textual media, yet it is doing a lot of other work besides. It is inclusive, appealing to the category “print culture,” as well as exclusionary, excepting anything “codex.” Both categories warrant scrutiny...

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Part III: Recursions

Why would a media framework tend to encourage recursive strategies? But we are getting ahead of ourselves; first it would be useful to define recursive strategies. Recursion can be understood as folding a work’s logic back on itself. The mousetrap play in Hamlet is recursive on several different levels, from the...

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9. Medieval Remediations

Jessica Brantley

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pp. 201-220

A deep assumption underlying the field of media studies is that media consciousness is necessarily modern, or even postmodern. The institutionalization of the field along these lines perpetuates the view, leading to the belief in many quarters that media studies is necessarily the study of...

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10. Gilded Monuments: Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Donne’s Letters, and the Mediated Text

Thomas Fulton

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pp. 221-253

Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman’s screenplay Shakespeare in Love offers a splendid, though necessarily imaginary, contextualization of Shakespearean sonnetteering. On the stage of Philip Henslowe’s Rose Theatre, in the year 1593, Shakespeare directs a rehearsal of an unfinished play that would become...

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11. Reading Screens: Comparative Perspectives on Computational Poetics

John David Zuern

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pp. 255-282

On July 27, 1929, Lindbergh’s Flight, a cantata for radio written by Bertolt Brecht (2003), with a score by Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill, premiered as a live performance at the Festival for German Chamber Music in Baden-Baden. At once celebrating and commenting critically on Charles Lindbergh’s historic solo crossing...

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12. Reading exquisite_code: Critical Code Studies of Literature

Mark C. Marino

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pp. 283-309

For over a decade, since Lev Manovich’s (2002) call for “software studies” and N. Katherine Hayles’s call for media specific analysis (Hayles and Burdick 2002), critics have been turning to examine the computational artifacts used to create these works of art, examining the platforms, the broader networks...


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pp. 311-313


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pp. 315-331

E-ISBN-13: 9781452940571
E-ISBN-10: 1452940576
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816680047

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Electronic Mediations
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 867631174
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Comparative Textual Media