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.)
We will meet in person on the 6th floor of Van Pelt Library, and we will also live-stream all events. For updates and Zoom links, please sign up for our listserv.
Recordings of previous talks are available on our YouTube channel.
On Monday, October 3rd at 5:15 PM, we will be welcoming Peter Barberie (Philadelphia Museum of Art) for a workshop entitled “Richard Benson and the End of Printed Pictures.” Peter writes:
What is genius? For Richard Benson (1943–2017), a polymath and autodidact who was among the greatest technicians in the long history of printing, genius resided not so much in incandescent moments of discovery and invention as in the cumulative knowledge of generations, tinkering and improving things. He prized the knowledge and effort required to make anything well, and he embraced both new and antique technologies with equal fervor. This presentation will explore his lifelong work making and printing photographs, both as works of art and as reproductions in books—tasks, that for Benson, held equal fascination and reward, and informed each other over the course of his career.
Peter Barberie is the Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since 2005 he has organized more than twenty-five exhibitions, many of which manifest his efforts to connect the museum with broad public audiences. His projects include WILD: Michael Nichols (2017), a survey of Nichols’ photography of the natural world installed with art on similar themes from across the Museum’s collection; Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography (2014), an in-depth retrospective of Strand’s photography and films that traveled to several European venues; and Zoe Strauss: Ten Years (2012), a mid-career survey of Strauss’s photography and her closely related efforts at public engagement. His most recent project, Richard Benson: The World Is Smarter Than You Are (2021), examines Benson’s photographs in the context of the artist’s printing, teaching, and writing.
The Stallybrass Prize in the History of Material Texts will be awarded annually to the two best essays by students in any school at Penn—one by an undergraduate, one by a graduate student—on any aspect of how texts take material form and circulate in the world. Our field covers texts of all kinds, from printed books, manuscripts, scrolls, and tablets, to e-readers, websites, hard disks, and server farms; from illuminations, woodcuts, and engravings, to GIFs and TIFFs; from title pages, flyleaf advertisements, and dealer catalogues, to listservs and email signatures. We are interested in printing and publishing histories, authorship, reception, piracy, censorship, and all themes related to the networks through which these texts circulate.
The Prize honors Peter Stallybrass, Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor Emeritus of English, who founded Penn's Workshop in the History of Material Texts in 1993. The seminar has been meeting every Monday evening since then, at 5:15 in the Kislak Center, Van Pelt Library. It has been one of the most influential institutions in the field and has led to numerous similar workshops around the world.
Like the Workshop itself, we encourage work that brings together the technical, material, and cultural aspects of texts. Essays will be judged by the directors of the Workshop and members of its Advisory Board, listed on the About page.
Congratulations to our Spring 2022 winners!
Winner: Katherine Hann, "An Analysis of the History of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels"
Honorable Mention: Quinn Gruber, “Crestomazia dei poeti italiani del Cinquecento: un manoscritto ignoto ed enigmatico”
Matthew G. Aiello, "Trauma, Aurality, and the Wounded Orrmulum Manuscript (c. 1170)"