Cultures of the Book:
From Papyrus to Cyberspace
Classical Civilization 346b/Humanities 337b
Tuesday 1:30-3:20, WLH 112
Jim O'Donnell
311 Phelps/432-0982

The "book" is a human-made artifact, a bearer of cultural significance.  This seminar will explore the histories of the written word in (mainly) western cultures, from Plato to the present.  The challenge posed to traditional ideas of texts and books by the rise of electronic texts and the Internet will provide a constant context and point of departure for re-reading the cultural past.  The focus will be on the way material books have been used to make cultures.  The sequence will be mainly chronological.  Readings will include primary texts (e.g., Plato, Augustine, Cassiodorus, Erasmus, early modern 'pornography', as well as contemporary WWW presentations of such texts) and modern critical works.  Regular weekly seminar to be supplemented by discussion and assignments utilizing the WWW.

Course requirements:
    Weekly reading assignments with short informal writing assignment for on-line discussion each week
    individual assignments to lead or co-lead classroom discussion
    two short papers (5-10 pages, due 2/16 and 3/23, both Fridays, 9 a.m.) during the term
    substantial final paper/presentation posted to the WWW (due 5/1/01).

Grading:  Participation and short exercises --30%
   Short papers  -- 30%
   Final paper-- 40%

        Alberto Manguel, History of Reading
        Richard Lanham, The Electronic Word
        J.J. O'Donnell, Avatars of the Word

In lieu of a "bulkpack", this course is using the experimental "course support" service provided by Yale University Libraries and Information Technology Services.  In the syllabus below, you will find individual readings marked in red with hyperlinks (fading to pale blue once you have used them).  In some cases you will be asked for a password:  the word 'papyrus' will suffice.  If you have difficulties, contact the instructor.  "Supplemental" readings will be assigned to one or two individuals, but are recommended to all.  Some items do not yet have references, but these will be supplied shortly.


Seminar Schedule
1/9/01     Introduction and Issues

1/16/01    The paradoxes and practices of reading
                    J. Borges, "The Library of Babel"
                    J. Borges, "Funes the Memorious"
                    J. Borges, "Pierre Menard:  The Author of Don Quixote"
                    A. Manguel, A History of Reading, pp. 3-107

1/23/01    The management of reading (MEET AT STERLING MEMORIAL LIBRARY, "Arts of the Book" room)
                    Reading:   A. Manguel, A History of Reading, pp. 109-319

1/30/01    Thinking about media of communication
                    Reading:  Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media pp. 3-40 and pp. 77-105
                    Supplemental:  M. McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage

2/6/01     Theorizing writing
                    Reading:  J. O'Donnell, Avatars of the Word, pp. 1-43
                                   Plato, Phaedrus
                                  Reynolds and Wilson, Scribes and Scholars, pp. 1-43 and also pp. 79-121
                    Supplemental:  J. Derrida, On Dissemination
                     A fuller bibliography on ancient and late antique textual practices may be found on the syllabus of a course I taught some years ago.

2/13/01    Ancient high-tech culture (MEET AT BEINECKE RARE BOOK LIBRARY: 
enter on Beinecke Plaza, then meet downstairs at the public service desk)

                        Reading:  J. O'Donnell, Avatars of the Word, pp. 50-63
                            Augustine, On Christian Doctrine:  complete or in substantial excerpts -- emphasize book 2
                            Cassiodorus, Institutiones -- emphasize "bibliography" in book 1
                        Supplemental:  W.V. Harris, Ancient Literacy

2/20/01    Gutenberg mania
                        Reading:  J. O'Donnell, Avatars of the Word, pp. 71-91
                        Supplemental:  Febvre, Eisenstein, Jardine

2/27/01   From treasure to commodity
                        Reading:  J. O'Donnell, Avatars of the Word, pp. 99-123
                        Supplemental:  M. Rose, Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright

3/6/01     Spring Break
3/13/01   Spring Break

3/20/01   Non-western contributions
                        Reading:  individual choice from bibliography
                        Supplemental:  M. Ascher, Code of the quipu:  a study in media, mathematics, and culture

3/27/01   The economics of attention (1)
                         Reading:  Richard Lanham, The Electronic Word
                      Supplemental:  Wired magazine:  current issue

4/3/01   After the book
                         Reading:  Lanham, The Electronic Word
                        Supplemental:  S. Turkle, Life on the Screen
                                J. Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck

4/10/01   the superstore and the web store:  B&N vs. Amazon:  ebooks, web sites, etc.
                        Reading:  G. Nunberg, "Farewell to the Information Age," in The Future of the Book
                                     R. Chartier, "Libraries without Walls," representations, 42(1992) 38-52
                        Supplemental:  Nicholson Baker

4/17/01  Controversies