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5ABA0007 The Book in the Modern World

Credit value: 15 credits
Module convenor: Dr Sebastian Truskolaski
Assessment: 1 x 4,000 word essay (100%); coursework reassessment in exam period 3
Teaching pattern: 1 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar weekly
Pre-requisites: None
Reassessment: Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Module description

In this module students will examine the evolution of the book during the European long eighteenth century (c. 1660-1830). During this period the book developed into the dominant vehicle of culture in Europe. The module asks: how and why? Overarching questions will include the following. How did the circumstances of production and circulation sustain or contradict ideologies of authorship that evolved in the modern period? In what ways does the book medium satisfy the different or even divergent interests of authors, publishers and readers? What do changing modes of book production and circulation tell us about reading as a social phenomenon? To what extent do distinct reading cultures, defined e.g. by social status or gender, develop in the period? What social and political problems did the book market encounter?

Educational aims and objectives

The module aims to enable students to understand books from what will probably be a new and unfamiliar point of view — books not as vehicles for literature, but as economic, social, and political entities; books viewed not from the inside, but from the outside. To this end students will develop an understanding of three aspects of book history in the long eighteenth century: the processes of book production and circulation; the roles of the different participants and institutions in book production and consumption (authors, publishers, readers, libraries); and the economic, social, and politico-legal constraints on book circulation (e.g. copyright, censorship). This will also require students to develop an understanding of the specific historical conditions of the period. 

Learning outcomes

On completion of the module students will be able to:

  • give a detailed and reasoned account of one aspect of book history during the period
  • assess and analyse relevant data from fields such as: publishing finances, bibliometrics, literacy studies etc 
  • critically analyse the relevant literature on book history
  • compare trends in book history in Britain, France and Germany
  • set the history of the book in relevant social, economic or political contexts 

Introductory/preparatory reading

David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery, An Introduction to Book History, London: Routledge, 2005

Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading, New York: Penguin, 1996. New York: Penguin, 1996

Phillip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography, Winchester: St Paul's, 1995. Winchester: St Paul's, 1995

Lucien Paul Victor Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin. The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing, 1450-1800, London: Verso, 1997. 

Additional Information

This module is open to students on degree programmes other than those offered by the Department of Comparative Literature (subject to approval by the module convenor and availability of places).

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.


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