ENGL 540-01: Early Modern Text Culture

Section Description:

All literature is mediated by the creation and transmission of texts. This seminar will cover the material culture of handwritten documents and early books—that is, manuscripts and paleography; technologies of printing and binding; histories of ownership and readership. The web has made an increasing number of early texts available as digital scans (EEBO, ECCO, and others), and we will consult these knowledge troves, but we will also work with Georgetown’s own remarkable Special Collections: leaves printed by Wynkyn de Worde; the documents of the Catholic center, Milton House; a Shakespeare First Folio; early Bibles, broadsides, commonplace books, books owned by women. Our extended case study in textual transmission and textual instability will be Hamlet, which survives in three different printed versions (the First Quarto of 1603, the Second Quarto of 1604-1605, the First Folio of 1623). Other topics will include authorship, censorship, the popularization of print, and print as an agent of intellectual, social, and religious change. There will be exercises in transcription and editing, key word searching, database evaluation, and image analysis. The capstone project may be in literary interpretation, analytical bibliography, text editing, or any other direction the resources lead to.