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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: Rethinking the Early Modern Book (ENLI11275)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryDo you annotate your books, or does the thought make you shudder? Does it feel different to read a beautiful hardback and to listen to an audiobook? What happens when a book is misprinted and why do your lecturers recommend specific editions when others might be cheaper? Where do library books come from? And are these questions specific to our historical moment, or were they just as relevant to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
Course description This course explores the things we think of as 'books' and asks how the way we encounter texts changes them. By focussing primarily on early modern texts, students can expect to gain a familiarity with basic book historical terms and a grasp of the development of the book as we know it today, whilst also engaging with theories of materiality and the text more generally. The course will also include working with the University Library Special Collections, developing archival research skills and thinking critically about the things which survive and the things which don't.

The discipline broadly conceived of as 'book history' takes on a number of aspects, from bibliographic discussion of the singular material object to more theoretical approaches challenging the distinctions of where a text might end and a book begin. In recent years, these approaches have begun to merge, with attention being paid to the impact for literary interpretation of printed features such as the index (Dennis Duncan), catchwords and printing errors (Book Parts). In this course we will explore different understandings of what a book is (or can be), primarily through a series of case studies of a wide range of early modern 'books' and texts. Students will be introduced to authors including Isabella Whitney and Margaret Cavendish and re-encounter familiar names such as Shakespeare, developing a more thorough knowledge of the literature of the period whilst also learning about the technical development of the book. They will be strongly encouraged to think about their own experiences and reactions to these works as well as the associations being brought to them.

We will ask what, if anything, makes a book a book by looking at things which are unreadable, untextual, and digital. Topics to be covered may include: paratexts and the economic relationships that go into making a book; the relationship to scientific, botanical and poetical writing to books of dried plants; the ways in which material metaphors shaped early modern literature; the way in which we engage with the visual page including images, 'shape' or concrete poetry, and typography; the question of what to do with a book in a language that can't be read, and the relationship between early dictionaries, missionary work and colonialism; what it means to print and read a play, a letter, or a speech, turning in from something aural/oral and visual into something textual; what it means to read something online, including archival and manuscript material; the history of libraries and the relationship between heritage institutions and literary study.

Students will also be supported in using and thinking critically about research libraries and in developing research skills. This course will be of particular interest to students who: are interested in the early modern period or the history of the book; are interested in a career in publishing; are interested in going into the heritage sector (library / museum / archives); are interested in future research regardless of period, as this course will explore archival research skills.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  3
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% 4,000 words project. «br /»
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The nature of the project will be determined after a discussion between the student and the course organiser. This might be an essay which reflects on reading the same poem across multiple contemporary editions, it might be an analysis of the difference between a manuscript copy and a printed copy of a text, or on the experience of reading a text on a kindle vs. in the library. In addition, there will be a list of essay questions for students who might need more direction.
Feedback Students to submit and receive formative feedback on a «1,000 word proposal ahead of final essay submission.

Written feedback will be provided, with additional verbal feedback available from the course organiser on request.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Analyse a wide variety of early modern texts and genres, beyond those which may be traditionally considered literary, using a wide range of critical methods.
  2. Use technical bibliographic language in describing and identifying a variety of early modern printed material.
  3. Critically reflect on the core ideas of material studies as it relates to the history of the book, and use those ideas alongside recognised methods of literary criticism such as close reading in order to demonstrate a complex understanding of how the two advance each other.
  4. Articulate the ways in which institutional and material frameworks may shape the way in which books and texts are encountered, ultimately affecting the work of literary criticism.
  5. Use research tools in order to carry out independent or small-group research on a special collections item.
Reading List
Reading List:
Edmund Spenser, selections from the Faerie Queene (1590; 1596)

Thomas More, Utopia (1516)

George Psalmanazar, An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island subject to the Emperor of Japan (1704)

John Wilkins, 'Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language' (1668)

George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (1589)

George Herbert, The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (1633)

Random Cloud [Randall Mcleod], 'FIAT fLUX', in Randall M Leod, ed., Crisis in Editing: Texts of the English Renaissance, AMS (1994)

Isabella Whitney, A Sweet Nosegay (1573)

Margaret Cavendish, The Convent of Pleasure (1668)

William Shakespeare, King Lear (1608; 1619; 1623)

Sarah Werner, Studying early printed books, 1450-1800: a practical guide (Wiley, 2019)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Knowledge and Understanding: Students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their detailed knowledge of early modern literature. Students will also have the opportunity to develop a confident and critical grasp of the key approaches that make up the interdisciplinary field of book history, and will be able to see where and when such approaches might be productively applied to the texts under discussion.

Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: Through preparatory work for seminar discussions and during the research and writing of formal assessment tasks, students will have been able to practice the application of these concepts in their construction of arguments about the course material.

Communication: through participating in preparatory and in-seminar tasks students will also have demonstrated the ability to communicate ideas and information about specialised topics in the discipline to an informed audience of their peers and subject specialists.

Autonomy and Working with Others: students will also have shown the capacity to work autonomously and in small groups on designated tasks, develop new thinking with their peers, and take responsibility for the reporting, analysis and defence of these ideas to a larger group.
KeywordsMaterial culture; libraries; Early Modern; book history; print; heritage; archives;
Course organiserDr Alice Wickenden
Course secretaryMrs Vivien MacNish Porter
Tel: (0131 6)50 3528
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