ENGL4290: Topics Medieval Lit (45788)

Camp, Cynthia

TR 12:45 PM

Park Hall 61

It's a rare English class in which you don't read original texts, but that's what's happening in this class. Instead of studying texts, we'll study the technologies through which texts circulate, paying particular attention to medieval and early modern (before 1700, mostly before 1600) books. We will especially attend to how the technology informs the presentation of the text, and vice-versa. The first unit will get you practical and theoretical tools to talk about text-technology interplay in handmade manuscripts and early printed books; the second unit will build upon that foundation to consider later adaptations and reuses of early book technologies, to include the digital technologies through which we commonly access those earlier technologies. In the final unit, you'll be engaging in an extended project on one complex and intriguing text.

This is therefore less a “History of the Book” class (which it admittedly resembles) than a study of some particular issues for understanding why early books are as they are, and the shadows that those early technologies still throw over modern textual dissemination. Additionally, while most History of the Book classes focus on the production of western (Latin alphabet) texts, in this class we will also make brief forays into non-western textual production, especially Arabic and Persian language texts. Why? Because UGA owns some lovely non-Western texts, and because the two textual production milieus can be profitably compared. Also texts written in non-Latin characters, both printed and handwritten, are great for complicating Western-focused narratives of technological innovation and advancement.


Much of our reading and viewing will be done online, but there are three required books. You are welcome (encouraged, even) to get used copies of these books. Treharne/Willen and Werner are both available as ebooks, which you can purchase straight from the publisher; those links will take you to the publisher's website. You will need all three books from Week 1.

Attendance and Activites Policy

All of our hands-on work will be done in the Special Collections Library; if COVID learning conditions remain in place, students will be able to do their hands-on work with digital objects and/or objects they already own, if they prefer. I will update this section of the course description with information on attendance expectations and course delivery methods after UGA has announced how campus will be run in Fall 2021.