Program Overview

During each week, Monday through Thursday, participants will gather in the morning to study readings, engage with visiting faculty, and examine the cultural history and significance of the book in its various forms. Each afternoon, participants will interpret the book-as-technology through the activity of making a range of historical, contemporary, and experimental books and book forms that relate directly to key scholarly readings. Fridays will be dedicated to independent study, open production space, and one-to-one assistance and instruction.

Week 1: Materiality & the History of the Book Form

The Institute’s first week will focus on the history of the book as a technology, from the traditional codex to digital iterations. For this first week, we will have two visiting faculty: Nicole Howard and Johanna Drucker.

Nicole Howard is Associate Professor of History at Eastern Oregon University and author of The Book: The Life Story of a Technology. Howard’s focus on the life history of the book as a technology will provide a framework for understanding how the book has evolved over time and how these changes have impacted culture and knowledge-making. Johanna Drucker, Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA, will share her experience as both a scholar and a book artist to explore the materiality of the book in both print and digital forms.

Week One will also include a visit to the nearby rare book collections at both the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. The University of Utah’s diverse and highly accessible collection includes a copy of Galileo’s Dialogo, illuminated manuscript facsimiles, Sumerian clay tablets, Arabic papyrus, a complete first printing of Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, and many contemporary artist books. Brigham Young University’s collection emphasizes the history of printing, with fine press examples dating from 1892 to the present. We will begin to consider how different iterations of the codex have been used to provide access to knowledge and human culture; for instance, Galileo’s Dialogo might elicit a discussion of vernacular knowledge versus authoritative tomes or Dickens’s Pickwick Papers might elicit a discussion of serialization, mass consumption, and popular writing.

Further, to understand the material history of the book, particularly the ubiquitous codex form, participants will create several simple book forms including a coptic-stitched book with an exposed binding and a case-bound book with multiple signatures. Through creating these variations on the codex form, participants will have an opportunity to reflect on the formation of the book as a physical object and begin to comprehend the impact that different book forms have on the creation and circulation of knowledge. Institute participants will create their own simple book forms and will receive guidance about how to use simple bookmaking in the classroom to help humanities students understand how human knowledge is shaped and constrained by specific material conditions.

Week 2: Circulation & the Social Patterns of the Book

During Week Two, we will move from a study of the material forms of the book, to consider how the book circulates between individuals and among communities--exploring the flux and fixity of the book through the human networks that produce, distribute, and consume texts. Visiting faculty for this week will by Jonathan Senchyne, Assistant Professor of book history and print culture in the Information School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is also the director of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture. Senchyne’s work focuses on the material textuality and digital humanities tools. We will investigate how various book forms alter dissemination patterns and access to humanities content by studying the transitional moments in the development of the book as a technology, arriving at the present moment and the future of digital book forms.

Our hands-on work during this week will begin with the production of ephemeral historical forms such as the broadside and move to digital authoring/publishing tools such as iBooks Author and Scalar. This contrast of historical and contemporary forms for disseminating information will encourage participants to consider the transitory and fixed nature of different book forms throughout history and in contemporary culture.

Week 3: Embodied Perspectives

The book, in any form, invites interaction and engages the body in certain and specific ways, through visual, aural, olfactory and tactile experiences of reading. In Week Three, we will study how specific book technologies and forms invite different bodily interactions and opportunities for engagement. We will also explore, through a disability studies lens, how certain book forms may limit or enhance access to content for diverse readers and bodily experiences.

Visiting faculty for this week will be Mara Mills, Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU. Mills’ research examines how bodies and books interact, particularly through the co-construction of disability and reading. Her recent archival research of disability-related reading formats includes a study of the Women’s Braille Press, a collective of women who worked in the 1970s and 80s to produce and circulate audio recordings and braille versions of feminist and queer content deemed to be too risqué by the Library of Congress’s accessible book program. These unofficial, underground adaptations of book content emphasize the need, throughout the history of the book, for flexible book formats.

Our hands-on project for this week will be creating a hybrid paper-based book, with integrated electronics, using Arduino circuit boards. Using sensors, switches, circuit board, and a case-bound book form, participants will create a programmable material book that interacts with the reader by responding to simple actions such as opening the book and turning the pages. We will explore these integrations of material and digital forms through the lens of history, considering how changes in book technology have changed reading over time.

Week 4: Alterations and Experimentations in Book History

In the final week of the Institute, we will study the book’s materiality, circulation, and embodiment through a history of alterations and experimentations with the formats and uses of the book. For this final week, our visiting faculty is Anna Arnar, Professor of Art History and Gender and Women’s Studies at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Arnar’s book, The Book as Instrument: Stephane Mallarme, The Artist’s Book, and the Transformation of Print Culture, examines the book as both a creative, literary endeavor and a multisensory, material object. Arnar’s study of Mallarme’s experimentations provides a historical model for reading as interactive, transformative, and empowering. Arnar’s work will frame discussion of how the book functions through a range of social and cultural forms, demonstrating how the book form has always been a site of cultural innovation and transformation.

In this final week of the Institute, participants will be invited to imagine and create a new book form that responds to multiple forms of embodiment and facilitates unique approaches to circulation. These experimental book forms will facilitate a deepened understanding of the possibilities within the humanities for diverse content, bodies, experiences, and purposes. Participants will be encouraged to make use of the research, technologies, and practices we have examined during the course of the Institute in order to design and shape their new book forms. We’ll also discuss the ways that participants can integrate what they’ve experienced in the Institute in their own classrooms. The Institute will conclude with a public and digital exhibition of the participants’ work to disseminate their books and research to the public.