Assignments

First Paper

Five pages–due session 4

Please write a five-page, double-spaced essay in response to one of the topics below. Read more…

Proposal for Final Paper

One page–due session 7

Please submit a one paper proposal for your final paper.

Final Paper

Fifteen pages–due session 12

You have several possibilities for your final project. The end product should be a double-spaced paper, ca. fifteen pages in length, on one of the topics listed below. In some cases, with my consent, it may be possible to substitute a substantial, well defined project prepared in a different genre or medium. Read more…

Study Questions for Sessions

SES # TOPICS QUESTIONS KEY DATES
Part I: Book History
1 Introduction–Posing Questions How do Ong and McLuhan frame issues that will be relevant to our study of media change this term? What are the strengths and limitations of technological determinism as a strategy for interpreting media change? What is the "Eisenstein Printing Revolution Thesis?"  
2 Rethinking the "Gutenberg Revolution" I: The European Context How do this week's authors pose alternatives to Eisenstein's "Printing Revolution" thesis? What are some of the medievalist perspectives on the advent of the printing press in the West? How does Johns disagree with Eisenstein? In what ways does Chartier go beyond Eisenstein's perspective?  
3 Rethinking the "Gutenberg Revolution" II: Examples from China and Japan (with MIT Historian Christopher Leighton) What is the chronology, and what are the key issues, in the history of the book in China and Japan? How does a non-Western perspective alter the debates generated by the Eisenstein thesis?  
4 A Visit to the MIT Rare Books Collection (with MIT Program Manager for Rare Books Stephen Skuce); Menocchio and Qian Jinren Compared This week we will devote most of our class time to examining examples of early modern books in the MIT Rare Books collection. We will also find some time to compare two non-elite readers in the period, one Italian and the other Chinese. This comparison will be the subject of your first paper, to be due the following week. Five page paper due.
Part II: Visuality and Media
5 A Visit to the MFA Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs (with MFA Curator of Visual Culture Benjamin Weiss) Today we will meet in the Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where we will consider the way technological change from the early modern period to the early twentieth century altered the means of reproducing, circulating, and viewing visual material. Our explorations with MFA Curator Ben Weiss, and the readings in Burke & Briggs and the classic Benjamin essay, will help us frame the critical questions about visuality and media for the next several weeks.  
6 Page and Stage to the Late Nineteenth Century What does Peters mean when she claims that the book and the theater "grew up together" from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries? Why is book history alone inadequate to a history of live performance in these centuries? Do you think the end of the nineteenth century is the right stopping point for Peters' history?  
7 Conceptualizing Change in Visual Media How does "visual thinking" begin to change in the West in the eighteenth century? Is the Encyclop├ędie of Diderot and d'Alembert a cause or a consequence of that shift? To what extent are we the heirs of the shifts in media and epistemology that Bender and Marrinan illuminate? One page final project prospectus due in class
8 Early Film Can we explain the emergence of early film primarily as a result of new technologies? To what extent does early film relate to the changes in performance and visuality that we have been discussing for the last two weeks? At what point, if at all, did film emerge as a medium primarily devoted to entertainment? (And what does "entertainment" mean?) How would you describe the differences and similarities in the early French and American film scenes?  
Part III: The "Digital Revolution" in Historical Perspective
9 Histories of Information Management (Guest Visitor: Dr. Gretchen Henderson, Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow, CMS) It turns out that we are not the only generation to struggle with data management issues. How was information stored and accessed ca. 1500? 1700? 1900? Were contemporaries in each of these moments pleased with the solutions? How did the timeline emerge as a particularly promising approach to these questions, and how successful has it been? Might this week's readings inform a critique of today's computational approaches to "Big Data?"  
10 Historicizing the Internet After a semester of historicizing media change, this week's readings pose the major question of the moment, and one that has echoes of the Eisenstein debates: how revolutionary is the "Digital Revolution?" How do Burke and Briggs frame this question? What answers does Poe provide? Do you agree with him?  
11 Student Presentations I    
12 Student Presentations II   Final paper due