Workshop in the  History of  Material Texts
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Welcome to the website for the University of Pennsylvania's Workshop in the History of Material Texts! Here you can find announcements about upcoming events as well as a searchable database of seminars we have held since the fall of 1996. (Information about speakers and talks from the initial years of the Workshop has unfortunately been lost. If you have such information, please contact us.)


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we're going virtual for spring 2021. Our schedule is now posted on our Events page. We are also posting recordings of our talks online through our YouTube channel. Check back weekly for new videos.


Our next workshop will be on January 25th. Leah Price (Rutgers) will present on "Reading from Home." Leah writes:

Look for a bookcase, and you’ll find servants.  Nineteenth-century Britain (the society on which I work) is only one of many in which the kind of households that contained dedicated book-furniture were also the kind that included at least one servant.  This doesn’t mean that readers necessarily gave orders: wives or landladies often interleaved the men who owned books from the women who dusted them.  It does, though, make domestics one of the largest occupational groups to come into daily contact with a critical mass of printed books.

Although their high literacy rates have long attracted book historians’ interest, servants’ own reading appears only incidentally in materials I will talk about.  On the contrary, the project of which this material forms a first installment asks how recognizing the paradigmatic reader as a master would affect the Victorian book’s relation to abstraction, to autonomy, and to novelty.  My talk today will focus on the first of these three terms to ask how the master-servant dyad shaped ideas about cohabiting with books.

Leah Price’s books include What We Talk About When We Talk About Books (2019; Christian Gauss Prize),  How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (2012; Patten Prize, Channing Prize), and The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel (2000).  She edited Further Reading (with Matthew Rubery, 2020), Unpacking My Library (2011), and (with Pam Thurschwell) Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture.  She writes for the New York Times Book ReviewLondon Review of BooksTimes Literary SupplementPublic Books, and New York Review of Books, and is a section editor for Public Books.  She teaches at Rutgers University, where she is the founding director of the Initiative for the Book (@rutgersbook).


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