Colloquium | "The Virtual Materiality of Texts: Book History during a Pandemic"

Friday, November 20, 2020, 1:00 pm4:30 pm


Event Description

"The Virtual Materiality of Texts: Book History during a Pandemic"

A virtual colloquium on teaching, reading, and research in the time of Covid-19

Welcome & Panel I


Panel II & Closing Remarks


The global pandemic and consequent ‘lockdown’ in most nations around the world have affected academic activity across all disciplines, but the impact has been especially profound for scholars whose research and teaching depend on accessibility to material texts and media. Yet, these unexpected challenges have also opened new opportunities. The purpose of this one-day colloquium is to provide the basis for discussion among scholars of book, manuscript and media history about the status of the field during this moment of difficulty in accessing archival resources, and to share experiences and ideas for teaching and research with material texts in the time of Covid-19. 

Schedule of Events:

1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. | Welcome & Panel 1 | "Learning and Teaching through the Screen"

  • Leah Price (Rutgers University) | “Book Learning, Hands-Off?”
  • Jesse Erickson (University of Delaware) | "Proximal Surrogates: Reimagining Bibliographic Spatiality in Domestic Research Interiors"
  • Tia Blassingame (Scripps College) | "Scripps College Press: Teaching, Learning, & Making Meaning Remotely"

2:30 p.m. - 3 p.m. | Break

3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. | Panel II | "Closed Archives, Open Access"

  • Nigel Smith (Princeton University) | "Scan and Deliver! Archives in the Pandemic"
  • Whittney Trettien (University of Pennsylvania) |  "Piecing Together Manuscripts, Digitally"
  • Emmanuel Bourbouhakis (Princeton University) | "Does Byzantine Palaeography Have An Image Problem?"

4:30 p.m. | Closing Remarks

Sponsored by: Committee for the Study of Books & Media, Committee for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, and Rutgers University Initiative for the Book.

Organizers: JIn-Woo Choi (Princeton University), Anthony Grafton (Princeton University), Jennifer Loessy (Princeton University), Leah Price (Rutgers University), Nigel Smith (Princeton University), and Anna Speyart van Woerden (Princeton University).

Speaker Bios:

Emmanuel C. Bourbouhakis teaches Greek literature of the classical and mediaeval periods at Princeton’s Classics department. He earned a B.A. in History and Liberal Arts at the universities of McGill and Concordia in Montréal, an M.A. in Classical Philology at the University of Western Ontario, and holds a PhD in Classical and Byzantine Philology from Harvard University, after which he was fortunate enough to obtain post-doctoral fellowships in Germany prior to returning to the United States. In addition to a critical edition and study of Byzantine imperial funerary oratory titled Not Composed in a Chance Manner: The Epitaphios for Manuel I Komnenos by Eustathios of Thessalonike (2017), he has published on varied subjects, including rhetoric, hagiography, narrative aesthetics, historiography, and the reception of the ancient Greek literary canon in the middle ages. He is currently at work on a monograph about Byzantine epistolary culture and, with David Jenkins, on a critical edition of the rhetorical and literary criticism of the eleventh-century intellectual Michael Psellos for the Teubner series.

Tia Blassingame is an Assistant Professor of Book Arts at Scripps College and serves as the Director of Scripps College Press. A book artist and printmaker exploring the intersection of race, history, and perception, Blassingame often incorporates archival research and her own poetry in her artist’s book projects for nuanced discussions of racism in the United States. Her artist's books are held in library and museum collections including Library of Congress, Stanford University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, and State Library of Queensland. In 2019, she founded the Book/Print Artist/Scholar of Color Collective to bring Book History and Print Culture scholars into collaboration with artists of color.

Jesse R. Erickson is the Coordinator of Special Collections and Digital Humanities, Assistant Professor in the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Associate Director of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center at the University of Delaware. He previously worked as a bibliographic researcher and archival processor in the Manuscripts Division of the Charles E. Young Research Library and the Center for Oral History Research at the University of California, Los Angeles. He served as the Vice President for Programs for the American Printing History Association from 2017 to 2019, and he serves on the editorial boards of the University of Delaware Press and Birmingham City University Centre for Printing History and Culture’s journal, Publishing History. His research specializations are in ethnobibliography, alternative printing, non-canonical textuality, African American print culture, and the transnational publishing history of the works of Ouida.

Anthony Grafton Is the Henry Putnam University Professor of History and the Director of the Program in European Cultural Studies at Princeton University. Grafton’s special interests lie in the cultural history of Renaissance Europe, the history of books and readers, the history of scholarship and education in the West from Antiquity to the 19th century, and the history of science from Antiquity to the Renaissance. Grafton is the author of Inky Fingers: The Making of Books in Early Modern Europe (2020); The Footnote: A Curious History (1997); Defenders of the Text (1991); Christianity and the Transformation of the Book (2009); and Forgers and Critics (2019), among other books. He writes regularly for the New York Review of Books

Leah Price’s books include What We Talk About When We Talk About Books (2019; Christian Gauss Prize),  How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (2012), and The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel (2000).  She edited Further Reading (with Matthew Rubery, 2020), Unpacking my Library, and (with Pam Thurschwell) Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture.   She writes for the New York Times Book Review, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Public Books, and New York Review of Books, and is a section editor for Public Books.  She teaches at Rutgers University, where she is the founding director of the Initiative for the Book.

Nigel Smith is William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature and Chair of the Committee for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies at Princeton University.   His major works are Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon (Yale UP, 2010), Is Milton better than Shakespeare? (Harvard UP, 2008), the Longman Annotated English Poets edition of Andrew Marvell's Poems (2003), Literature and Revolution in England, 1640-1660 (Yale UP, 1994) and Perfection Proclaimed: Language and Literature in English Radical Religion 1640-1660 (Oxford UP, 1989). He has also edited the Journal of George Fox (Penguin, 1998), the Ranter pamphlets (Junction Books, 1983; Pluto Press, rev. 2014), and co-edited with Nicholas McDowell the Oxford Handbook to Milton (2009), with Sara S. Poor, Mysticism and Reform, 1400-1750 (Notre Dame UP, 2015), with Laurent Curelly, Radical voices, Radical ways: Articulating and Disseminating Radicalism in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-century Britain (Manchester UP, 2016) and with Jan Bloemendal, Politics and Aesthetics in European Baroque and Classicist Tragedy (Brill, 2016). 
Polyglot Poetics: Transnational Early Modern Literature, forthcoming, compares English with literatures in other European vernaculars (especially Dutch, German, French and Spanish) in the context of political and religious transformation between 1500 and 1700. 

Whitney Trettien is a scholar, teacher, and assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work explores the deep history of literary technologies, from early printed books and library classification systems to digital forms and formats. Her first book project, Cut/Copy/Paste, tells the story of three marginal early modern communities that published bespoke books with scissors and paste. It is being staged digitally on the Manifold platform, where the text is enriched with digital resources like datasets, facsimiles, and social network visualizations. She is currently writing about the intersection of media studies and book history and collaborating on a digital edition of an early modern woman’s commonplace book. 



Co-Sponsored by:

Committee for the Study of Books & Media, Committee for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, and Rutgers University Initiative for the Book.

Jin-Woo Choi
Area of Interest
Book History
Digital History
Scholarly Series
Committee for the Study of Books and Media