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Divine Art, Infernal Machine

The Reception of Printing in the West from First Impressions to the Sense of an Ending

By Elizabeth L. Eisenstein

There is a longstanding confusion of Johann Fust, Gutenberg's one-time business partner, with the notorious Doctor Faustus. The association is not surprising to Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, for from its very early days the printing press was viewed by some as black magic. For the most part, however, it was welcomed as a "divine art" by Western churchmen and statesmen. Sixteenth-century Lutherans hailed it for emancipating Germans from papal rule, and seventeenth-century English radicals viewed it as a weapon against bishops and kings. While an early colonial governor of Virginia thanked God for the absence of printing in his colony, a century later, revolutionaries on both sides of the Atlantic paid tribute to Gutenberg for setting in motion an irreversible movement that undermined the rule of priests and kings. Yet scholars continued to praise printing as a peaceful art. They celebrated the advancement of learning while expressing concern about information overload.

In Divine Art, Infernal Machine, Eisenstein, author of the hugely influential The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, has written a magisterial and highly readable account of five centuries of ambivalent attitudes toward printing and printers. Once again, she makes a compelling case for the ways in which technological developments and cultural shifts are intimately related. Always keeping an eye on the present, she recalls how, in the nineteenth century, the steam press was seen both as a giant engine of progress and as signaling the end of a golden age. Predictions that the newspaper would supersede the book proved to be false, and Eisenstein is equally skeptical of pronouncements of the supersession of print by the digital.

The use of print has always entailed ambivalence about serving the muses as opposed to profiting from the marketing of commodities. Somewhat newer is the tension between the perceived need to preserve an ever-increasing mass of texts against the very real space and resource constraints of bricks-and-mortar libraries. Whatever the multimedia future may hold, Eisenstein notes, our attitudes toward print will never be monolithic. For now, however, reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.

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Early African American Print Culture

Edited by Lara Langer Cohen and Jordan Alexander Stein

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw both the consolidation of American print culture and the establishment of an African American literary tradition, yet the two are too rarely considered in tandem. In this landmark volume, a stellar group of established and emerging scholars ranges over periods, locations, and media to explore African Americans' diverse contributions to early American print culture, both on the page and off.

The book's seventeen chapters consider domestic novels and gallows narratives, Francophone poetry and engravings of Liberia, transatlantic lyrics and San Francisco newspapers. Together, they consider how close attention to the archive can expand the study of African American literature well beyond matters of authorship to include issues of editing, illustration, circulation, and reading—and how this expansion can enrich and transform the study of print culture more generally.

Published in cooperation with the Library Company of Philadelphia.

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Evening News

Optics, Astronomy, and Journalism in Early Modern Europe

By Eileen Reeves

Eileen Reeves examines a web of connections between journalism, optics, and astronomy in early modern Europe, devoting particular attention to the ways in which a long-standing association of reportage with covert surveillance and astrological prediction was altered by the near simultaneous emergence of weekly newsheets, the invention of the Dutch telescope, and the appearance of Galileo Galilei's astronomical treatise, The Starry Messenger.

Early modern news writers and consumers often understood journalistic texts in terms of recent developments in optics and astronomy, Reeves demonstrates, even as many of the first discussions of telescopic phenomena such as planetary satellites, lunar craters, sunspots, and comets were conditioned by accounts of current events. She charts how the deployment of particular technologies of vision—the telescope and the camera obscura—were adapted to comply with evolving notions of objectivity, censorship, and civic awareness. Detailing the differences between various types of printed and manuscript news and the importance of regional, national, and religious distinctions, Evening News emphasizes the ways in which information moved between high and low genres and across geographical and confessional boundaries in the first decades of the seventeenth century.

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The Fabrication of American Literature

Fraudulence and Antebellum Print Culture

By Lara Langer Cohen

Literary histories typically celebrate the antebellum period as marking the triumphant emergence of American literature. But the period's readers and writers tell a different story: they derided literature as a fraud, an imposture, and a humbug, and they likened it to inflated currency, land bubbles, and quack medicine.

Excavating a rich archive of magazine fiction, verse satires, comic almanacs, false slave narratives, minstrel song sheets, and early literary criticism, and revisiting such familiar figures as Edgar Allan Poe, Davy Crockett, Fanny Fern, and Herman Melville, Lara Langer Cohen uncovers the controversies over literary fraudulence that plagued these years and uses them to offer an ambitious rethinking of the antebellum print explosion. She traces the checkered fortunes of American literature from the rise of literary nationalism, which was beset by accusations of puffery, to the conversion of fraudulence from a national dilemma into a sorting mechanism that produced new racial, regional, and gender identities. Yet she also shows that even as fraudulence became a sign of marginality, some authors managed to turn their dubious reputations to account, making a virtue of their counterfeit status. This forgotten history, Cohen argues, presents a dramatically altered picture of American literature's role in antebellum culture, one in which its authority is far from assured, and its failures matter as much as its achievements.

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Fragile Minds and Vulnerable Souls

The Matter of Obscenity in Nineteenth-Century Germany

By Sarah L. Leonard

Fragile Minds and Vulnerable Souls investigates the creation of "obscene writings and images" as a category of print in nineteenth-century Germany. Sarah L. Leonard charts the process through which texts of many kinds—from popular medical works to stereoscope cards—were deemed dangerous to the intellectual and emotional lives of vulnerable consumers. She shows that these definitions often hinged as much on the content of texts as on their perceived capacity to distort the intellect and inflame the imagination.

Leonard tracks the legal and mercantile channels through which sexually explicit material traveled as Prussian expansion opened new routes for the movement of culture and ideas. Official conceptions of obscenity were forged through a heterogeneous body of laws, police ordinances, and expert commentary. Many texts acquired the stigma of immorality because they served nonelite readers and passed through suspect spaces; books and pamphlets sold by peddlers or borrowed from fly-by-night lending libraries were deemed particularly dangerous. Early on, teachers and theologians warned against the effects of these materials on the mind and soul; in the latter half of the century, as the study of inner life was increasingly medicalized, physicians became the leading experts on the detrimental side effects of the obscene. In Fragile Minds and Vulnerable Souls, Leonard shows how distinctly German legal and medical traditions of theorizing obscenity gave rise to a new understanding about the mind and soul that endured into the next century.

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"Hamlet" After Q1

An Uncanny History of the Shakespearean Text

By Zachary Lesser

In 1823, Sir Henry Bunbury discovered a badly bound volume of twelve Shakespeare plays in a closet of his manor house. Nearly all of the plays were first editions, but one stood out as extraordinary: a previously unknown text of Hamlet that predated all other versions. Suddenly, the world had to grapple with a radically new—or rather, old—Hamlet in which the characters, plot, and poetry of Shakespeare's most famous play were profoundly and strangely transformed.

Q1, as the text is known, has been declared a rough draft, a shorthand piracy, a memorial reconstruction, and a pre-Shakespearean "ur-Hamlet," among other things. Flickering between two historical moments—its publication in Shakespeare's early seventeenth century and its rediscovery in Bunbury's early nineteenth—Q1 is both the first and last Hamlet. Because this text became widely known only after the familiar version of the play had reached the highest pinnacle of English literature, its reception has entirely depended on this uncanny temporal oscillation; so too has its ongoing influence on twentieth- and twenty-first-century ideas of the play.

Zachary Lesser examines how the improbable discovery of Q1 has forced readers to reconsider accepted truths about Shakespeare as an author and about the nature of Shakespeare's texts. In telling the story of this mysterious text and tracing the debates in newspapers, London theaters, and scholarly journals that followed its discovery, Lesser offers brilliant new insights on what we think we mean by Hamlet.

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Inventing Exoticism

Geography, Globalism, and Europe's Early Modern World

By Benjamin Schmidt

As early modern Europe launched its multiple projects of global empire, it simultaneously embarked on an ambitious program of describing and picturing the world. The shapes and meanings of the extraordinary global images that emerged from this process form the subject of this highly original and richly textured study of cultural geography. Inventing Exoticism draws on a vast range of sources from history, literature, science, and art to describe the energetic and sustained international engagements that gave birth to our modern conceptions of exoticism and globalism.

Illustrated with more than two hundred images of engravings, paintings, ceramics, and more, Inventing Exoticism shows, in vivid example and persuasive detail, how Europeans came to see and understand the world at an especially critical juncture of imperial imagination. At the turn to the eighteenth century, European markets were flooded by books and artifacts that described or otherwise evoked non-European realms: histories and ethnographies of overseas kingdoms, travel narratives and decorative maps, lavishly produced tomes illustrating foreign flora and fauna, and numerous decorative objects in the styles of distant cultures. Inventing Exoticism meticulously analyzes these, while further identifying the particular role of the Dutch—"Carryers of the World," as Defoe famously called them—in the business of exotica. The form of early modern exoticism that sold so well, as this book shows, originated not with expansion-minded imperialists of London and Paris, but in the canny ateliers of Holland. By scrutinizing these materials from the perspectives of both producers and consumers—and paying close attention to processes of cultural mediation—Inventing Exoticism interrogates traditional postcolonial theories of knowledge and power. It proposes a wholly revisionist understanding of geography in a pivotal age of expansion and offers a crucial historical perspective on our own global culture as it engages in a media-saturated world.

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Jeremiah's Scribes

Creating Sermon Literature in Puritan New England

By Meredith Marie Neuman

New England Puritan sermon culture was primarily an oral phenomenon, and yet its literary production has been understood mainly through a print legacy. In Jeremiah's Scribes, Meredith Marie Neuman turns to the notes taken by Puritan auditors in the meetinghouse in order to fill out our sense of the lived experience of the sermon. By reconstructing the aural culture of sermons, Neuman shifts our attention from the pulpit to the pew to demonstrate the many ways in which sermon auditors helped to shape this dominant genre of Puritan New England.

Tracing the material transmission of sermon texts by readers and writers, hearers and notetakers, Jeremiah's Scribes challenges the notion of stable authorship by individual ministers. Instead, Neuman illuminates a mode of textual production that pervaded communities and occurred in the overlapping media of print, manuscript, and speech. Even printed sermons, she demonstrates, bore the traces of their roots in the oral culture of the meetinghouse.

Bringing material considerations to bear on anxieties over the perceived relationship between divine and human language, Jeremiah's Scribes broadens our understanding of all Puritan literature. Neuman examines the controlling logic of the sermon in relation to nonsermonic writing—such as conversion narrative—ultimately suggesting the fundamental permeability among disparate genres of Puritan writing.

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Knowing Books

The Consciousness of Mediation in Eighteenth-Century Britain

By Christina Lupton

The eighteenth century has long been associated with realism and objective description, modes of representation that deemphasize writing. But in the middle decades of the century, Christina Lupton observes, authors described with surprising candor the material and economic facets of their own texts' production. In Knowing Books Lupton examines a variety of eighteenth-century sources, including sermons, graffiti, philosophical texts, and magazines, which illustrate the range and character of mid-century experiments with words announcing their status as physical objects. Books that "know" their own presence on the page and in the reader's hand become, in Lupton's account, tantalizing objects whose entertainment value competes with that of realist narrative.

Knowing Books introduces these mid-eighteenth-century works as part of a long history of self-conscious texts being greeted as fashionable objects. Poststructuralist and Marxist approaches to literature celebrate the consciousness of writing and economic production as belonging to revolutionary understandings of the world, but authors of the period under Lupton's gaze expose the facts of mediation without being revolutionary. On the contrary, their explication of economic and material processes shores up their claim to material autonomy and economic success. Lupton uses media theory and close reading to suggest the desire of eighteenth-century readers to attribute sentience to technologies and objects that entertain them.

Rather than a historical study of print technology, Knowing Books offers a humanist interpretation of the will to cede agency to media. This horizon of theoretical engagement makes Knowing Books at once an account of the least studied decades of the eighteenth century and a work of relevance for those interested in new attitudes toward media in the twenty-first.

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The Literary Market

Authorship and Modernity in the Old Regime

By Geoffrey Turnovsky

A central theme in the history of Old Regime authorship highlights the opportunities offered by a growing book trade to writers seeking to free themselves from patrons and live "by the pen." Accounts of this passage from patronage to market have explored in far greater detail the opportunities themselves—the rising sums paid by publishers and the progression of laws protecting literary property—than how and why writers would have seized on them, no doubt because the choice to do so has seemed an obvious or natural one for writers assumed to prefer economic self-sufficiency over elite protection.

In The Literary Market, Geoffrey Turnovsky claims that there was nothing obvious or natural about the choice. Writers had been involved in commercial book publication since the earliest days of the printing press, yet had not necessarily linked these activities with their freedom to think and write. The association of autonomy and professionalism was forged, not given. Analyzing the literary market as a key articulation of the association, Turnovsky explores how in eighteenth-century polemics a rhetoric of commercial authorship came to signify independence for intellectuals. He finds the roots of the connection not in the claims of entrepreneurial writers to rights and income but in a world to which that of the modern author has been contrasted: the aristocratic culture of the seventeenth century. Aristocratic culture, he argues, generated a disparaging view of the professional author as one defined by activities tainting him or her as greedy and arrogant and therefore unworthy of protection and socially isolated. The Literary Market examines the story of the "birth of the author" in terms of the revalorization of this negative trope in Enlightenment-era debates about the radically changing role of writers in society.

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