Technologies of Writing (seminar)

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For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a spring 2005 semester seminar.

"Technologies of Writing" explored the variety of writing surfaces (parchment, paper, wax), implements (quills, fountain pens, styluses, pencils), material formats (sheets, scrolls, tablets, codices) and writing techniques (including stenography and ciphers) that were used in early modern England, Europe, and America. Participants studied at the implications of these different technologies and the various purposes to which they were put, from forming the letters of the alphabet, to book-keeping, to collecting commonplaces, to writing poetry. At the same time, the seminar examined the complex relations between reading and writing. Although reading and writing were usually taught as distinct practices, reading was for many purposes the precondition to learning not only how to write but also what to write. The seminar payed particular attention to interrelations between the oral transmission of written texts and written transcriptions of the spoken word, to the exchanges among manuscripts and printed books, and to the variety of note-taking practices. While drawing widely upon the Folger's rich collection of manuscripts and printed books, the seminar specifically examined the role that writing plays in the Bible, primers, letters, Hamlet, Don Quixote, Pepys's Diary, and Franklin's Autobiography.

Director: Peter Stallybrass is the Walter H. and Lenore C. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. He is coauthor, with Ann Rosalind Jones, of Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory (2000).

Roger Chartier is the Annenberg Visiting Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and Directeur d’Etudes at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Singly and collaboratively, he is the author of numerous works, including The Order of Books (English, 1994).