Events > People in the World of Print

A two-day workshop


Day 1

Date: Thursday, March 10, 2011
Time: 9:30am - 5:00pm
Place: Blackader Lauterman Library

Day 2

Date: Friday, March 11, 2011
Time: 9:30pm - 5:30pm
Place: Ferrier Building, Room 456

Kindly RSVP to interactingwithprint@mcgill.ca.



The Interacting with Print research group brings together scholars from several disciplines (including English, German, History, Modern Languages and Art History) who share interests in European print culture between 1700 and 1900. Over the last five years, we have developed a new account of Print Culture, based on the concept of interactivity. ‘Interactive’ is a word most often associated with digital technologies, but we contend that a nuanced and historicized concept of interactivity is key to developing a deeper understanding of Print Culture.

This two-day conference brings together specialists in a number of disciplines from across North America and Europe to address one large question from several angles: how did people interact with printed matter in Europe between 1700 and 1900? Approaches to Book History and Print Culture have typically been grounded in the material culture of the book; we seek to supplement these approaches by considering how print materials were used, appropriated or encountered by individuals.

Alongside a history of artefacts, then, we also want to investigate a history of practices. Examining print objects such as almanacs, novels, poetry books, reproductive prints, evangelical tracts, school textbooks, and collections of private letters, and cultural practices such as advertising, illustrating, speed-reading, collecting, circulating and annotating, this conference offers a varied but focussed understanding of the media history of Europe and its colonies.

An exhibition being curated in association with the conference showcases representations of people interacting with print in the period, and makes these printed objects the occasion for new interactions. ‘People in the World of Print’ will interest anyone concerned with how the production, circulation, reception and uses of printed matter shapes our cultural heritage.



Workshop Schedule


Day 1: Thursday, March 10, 2011

9.30-9.45
Opening Remarks: Tom Mole

9.45-10.45
"Quick or Slow? A Media-philological Case Study"
Nikolaus Wegmann (Princeton University)

10.45-11.15
Coffee

11.15-12.15
"Personal Time: The Use of Almanachs at the End of the Ancien Régime"
Ryan Whyte (McGill University)

12.15-1.45
Lunch (provided)

1.45-2.45
"Interacting with Print in the Multinational Habsburg Monarchy: The case of Johann Thomas Trattner"
Johannes Frimmel (Ludwig Maximillians Universität)

2.45-3.15
Coffee

3.15-4.15
"Baptists, Books, and Idols in Early British Bengal, 1793-1813"
Dan White (University of Toronto)

4.15-4.30
Script and Print Exhibition Presentation

4.30-5.00
Exhibition Presentation
Ersy Contogouris, Jane Harbison

5.00
Reception

Day 2: Friday, March 11, 2011

9.30-9.45
Opening Remarks: Tom Mole

9.45-10.45
"Paradoxes of Print: Art Historical Knowledge and the Graphic Arts in the Eighteenth Century"
Kristel Smentek (MIT)

10.45-11.15
Coffee

11.15-12.15
"Ecologies of Character"
Sören Hammerschmidt (Ghent University)

12.15-1.45
Lunch (provided)

1.45-2.45
"Material Culture and the Objectification of Luxury in the Eighteenth-and Early Nineteenth-Century German Novel"
Matt Erlin (Washington University in St. Louis)

2.45-3.15
Coffee

3.15-4.15
"John Murray's Print Networks"
Dahlia Porter (Vanderbilt University)

4.15-4.30
Coffee

4.30-5.30
Round Table Discussion



Speakers


Nikolaus Wegmann
Princeton University

"Abstract: Quick or slow? A Media-philological Case Study"

Cultural criticism has long praised slowness. The “Slow Media Manifesto” now presents a demand for deceleration in the world of media as well. Taking the slow media debate as a point of departure, this paper poses the fundamental question of speed: can speed provide a parameter for a scholarly observation of media?

Considering print media, the paper will explore what happens when the tempo with which literary texts are read is varied. Is the speed with which a book is read at all relevant for the book as a medium? The question will be considered from the perspective of the scholarly, formative discipline of philology, which should be able to provide clues as to what takes place when the reading of a book is slowed down or accelerated. The lead-distinction between static (=“statarisch”) and cursory reading provides a historical starting point. Using material from the 18th to the 20th centuries, especially high school reading didactics, the paper will trace how this distinction has informed reading techniques over the course of time.

Ryan Whyte
McGill University

"Personal Time: The Use of Almanachs at the End of the Ancien Régime"

While all printed matter can record its own history through the superimposition of manuscript on print in the form of annotations, the inscription of time in printed matter is uniquely formalized in the relatively unexplored phenomenon of printing-for-manuscript—printed works designed to be filled in by hand. The almanach that collapses the diaristic and the journalistic is a special case of printing-for-manuscript that it is more accurately called printing-for-temporality. In its interactive nature it suggests an alternative to conceptual models of print culture that focus either on the macro effects of the diffusion of printed matter or on the micro effects of individual reading practice, models that isolate either the role of the printer and publisher or the role of the reader and consumer. The explosion of such almanachs in France in the second half of the eighteenth century indicates that both printers and publishers and readers and consumers had already bridged the gap between macro and micro effects in their conceptualization of a form of printed matter whose purpose was the individualization of a standardized model—the personalization of time.

To illuminate the stakes of printing-for-temporality in the information and consumer societies of France in the final years of the Ancien Régime, this paper addresses a fashion almanach, the Souvenir à la hollandoise (1780) of Louis-Charles Desnos (fl. ca. 1757-1785) as a model of printing-for-temporality that both invited and visualized the reader/consumer’s agency in the inscription of time. First, this paper contextualizes the suite of hairstyle prints around which the Souvenir is assembled to elucidate their distinctively temporal nature within a culture of advertising. Second, it analyzes how the Souvenir in its functions as a calendar, notebook and ledger of gambling wins and losses, both afforded and represented the agency of its owner within the larger context of a transition from the printing of timely information to printing for the management of timely information. Third, it situates the almanach as a type of recombinant object of fashion, designed and marketed to be customized and renewed, to argue that the eighteenth-century information society developed a logic of distinction by which timely information became fashionable with the emergence of a printed form that invited its personalization and display.

This paper constructs a model of the reader/consumer as a kind of printer/publisher who aims not for diffusion but display, in order to show how, in the eighteenth century as today, the anxieties of managing timely information were constructed of and rooted in notions of distinction. It posits that the rhetoric of the proliferation of timely information created a commercial opportunity for the marketing of printed matter to manage that information. It argues that such humble printed matter as the almanach, through a combination of printing for personalization and marketing for customization, linked the rhetoric of consumer and information societies. Anxieties about the proliferation of information, then, were assuaged in the construction of a consumer identity through which the management of information became the management of time.

Johannes Frimmel
Ludwig Maximillians Universität

"Interacting with Print in the Multinational Habsburg Monarchy: The case of Johann Thomas Trattner"

During the second half of the 18th century, Austrian book production experienced a considerable upturn due to the planned economy of the mercantilist state. Generally, the 18th century book trade of the Habsburg  Monarchy can be characterized by opposing developments: state modernisation and centralisation measures taken on the one hand, and particularistic tendencies of the estates and the re-orientation towards national culture on the other. The multilingual book and journal production of Austria's capital Vienna reflects the situation of the multinational Habsburg monarchy at large. Modern grammars and early periodicals in Hungarian, Slovakian, Slovene or Serbo-Croat were published here. In Bohemia and Hungary the number of firms constantly increased; the book production in Czech and Hungarian was rising while it was decreasing for German and Latin. At the same time, the number of publications in German language multiplied in total.

In my talk, I will focus on Court printer Johann Thomas Trattner, who owed his success principally to the re-printing of literature from the German territories. Not burdened with the payment of honoraria, he was able to give books a typographically relatively pleasing appearance at a much lower price. Through local booksellers, his books were available even in the remotest provinces of the monarchy, granting readers there access to a certain stock of literature of the Enlightenment. Thus, Trattner serves as a perfect example for the international circulation of texts in the 18th century. His reprints can demonstrate how texts were adapted to a different cultural context.

Trattner adapted himself highly successfully to the multilingual book market of the Habsburg Monarchy. So far, his large publishing programme has not yet been well studied. I want to give some examples to show that his publishing strategy went in two directions: On the one hand his books addressed the established reading public whose lingua franca was German and Latin. On the other hand, through translations, the books of Trattner and of other enterprises such as the school book publishing house (Schulbuchverlag) had considerable influence on the development of the book production in different languages. This raises the question of possible relations between the rise of print culture and the standardization of national languages.

Dan White
University of Toronto

"Baptists, Books, and Idols in Early British Bengal, 1793-1813"

During the early years of the British Empire in India, two unique kinds of objects were crossing each other regularly at sea. Ships leaving England in the winter, aiming to catch the southwest monsoons between April and September and arrive in Bengal in late summer or fall, would invariably bear boxes of books, to be advertised in the newspapers and sold at the various auction houses of Calcutta. But a surprising number of ships leaving Calcutta carried a form of freight you might not expect. The first Baptist missionaries, William Carey and John Thomas, arrived together in Bengal in November 1793, where they were joined by John Fountain in 1796 and by William Ward, Daniel Brunsdon, William Grant, and Joshua and Hannah Marshman in 1799. Entries such as the following from the printer William Ward’s journal (on February 4, 1801) appear frequently in the Baptist missionary diaries and correspondence: “Yesterday Bro. B. [Brunsdon] was packing up a number of idols for the Bristol Museum.”

In their encounters with idolatry, the missionaries found themselves confronted by a special class of objects: brass, bronze, clay, stone, wood, and marble images or murtis, which in their material form constituted systems of visual signs. Like the form of the idol, the materiality of the book held a special place in evangelical rhetoric, and book production was an important part of the Serampore mission, involving numerous pandits who assisted in the translation work, and, after 1809 when the mission started producing its own paper, many laborers to work at the mill. In his study of the “lives and loves of images,” W. J. T. Mitchell asks, “What happens to objects when they undergo a ‘worlding’ in their circulation, moving across frontiers, flowing from one part of the globe to another?” In the context of the early empire in India, two intimately related classes of “worlded” objects include English books and Hindu idols. According to the evangelical language of conversion, faith was a “communicative principle” that circulated between and among missionary, book, prospective convert, and God. Popular Hindu devotion seemed to involve viewing objects similar to the book but with one chief difference: in idols – not “things of God” but “things of earth” – spirit was supposed to be immanent and actually visible, not just legible, to the eye.

Attending to the roles of books and idols as object of sight within Calvinist depictions and practices of conversion, this paper and presentation will consider the kinds of work that these two special classes of circulating things performed in their interactions with Britons, both evangelical and non-evangelical, and, to a more circumscribed extent, with Indian converts and interlocutors.

Kristel Smentek
MIT

"Paradoxes of Print: Art Historical Knowledge and the Graphic Arts in the Eighteenth Century"

Eighteenth-century print albums and publications make clear the paradoxical function of printed images in nascent discourses about the history of art. Reproductive prints (as we call them now) were collected as important monuments of past art, and they were mobilized by eighteenth-century connoisseurs as particularly effective tools for the dissemination of works of art to audiences unable to see the originals they documented. But if such prints recorded the ideas of artists as realized in their compositions, eighteenth-century viewers also increasingly recognized that prints could misrepresent both personal style, the artist’s ‘hand,’ and the characteristic style of the period in which he or she worked.

Focusing on the taxonomic schemes deployed in extant eighteenth-century albums, and on published and manuscript texts about prints, particularly those compiled by the celebrated Parisian print dealer, publisher and collector, Pierre-Jean Mariette (1694-1774), this paper examines how conceptions of personal and period styles, both fundamental categories of art historical analysis until recent times, were articulated through the study of prints. The archive with which an eighteenth-century print collector or dealer like Mariette grappled was enormous, and from attempts to discipline it, emerged an ever more precise isolation of an artist’s autograph oeuvre and the ‘naming’ of the artist-author through the empirical determination of his or her distinctive caractère. This conceptualization of a master’s individual manner depended upon the material construction of a complete or nearly complete oeuvre, something achievable only through the collation of prints. This massive work of classification led to a visualization of temporal change and progression, and an understanding of style as a historical phenomenon. At the same time, such collations made plain the limits of the print for art historical knowledge, for if style was at once individual and historically determined, how could the reproductive print adequately communicate the art of past centuries, much less the ‘hand’ of another?

Sören Hammerschmidt
Ghent University

"Ecologies of Character"

In my paper I propose that investigations into the mediality of interactions between people can serve to broaden our understanding of the concept of “character” in the eighteenth century. My aim is to suggest ways in which the study of media ecologies can provide us with a new angle on topics that usually fall under the auspices of the history of ideas. Deidre Lynch and David Brewer worked in this vein when they based their pioneering studies of novelistic character on the materiality of representation and identity-formation. Yet the vast majority of meanings attached to “character” during the period remain unexplored from a media-historical perspective. This continued oversight is all the more striking since “character” (in the sense of personal and social identity) was throughout the long eighteenth century associated primarily with the letter form. Above all, it tended to be linked with familiar correspondence, that is, with letters exchanged between family members and friends. Attention to the dissemination of such letters has the potential to reveal the role of “character” as an interface between individuals and society, as a nexus of practices of reading and writing, printing and retailing within which social identities were constructed and circulated.

To illustrate my argument, I discuss a pivotal moment in what I call the “Letters media event”: an outpouring of print sparked by Alexander Pope’s publication of his familiar correspondence on a massive scale, c.1735-42. In 1736, Alexander Pope asked his friend, the painter Jonathan Richardson, to contribute a portrait for the title page of the forthcoming Letters of Mr. Alexander Pope (1737). Richardson complied and also supervised the engraving and printing of the portrait as well as of an elaborate headpiece and initial capital for the Letters’ “Preface.” In March 1737, Pope wrote again to thank Richardson for taking good care of the poet’s business because “the least Dirt thrown on the best Work, or best character, will spoil the whole Grace of it.” Playing on the versatility of the term “character,” Pope proceeded to connect the portrait; the quality of its engraving; the clean typeface and monumental appearance of a poet’s œuvre; and the poet’s professional as well as personal reputation with each other. He thus implied that his likeness on the title page bespoke his social status, that his literary eminence rose or fell with the skill of the headpiece’s engraver, and that the print quality of his Letters reflected on his moral reputation. The poet’s person and profile, his representation in image and text, the metal type and engraved plates, and the marks in ink that they left on the paper composing his books: in Pope’s formulation, these “characters” all relied upon and constituted each other.

Taking the initial capital “I” (at once image, engraving, type, and lexical mark) that opened the “Preface” as emblematic, I argue that Pope’s concerns surrounding the production of his Letters suggest the intense intermediality and materiality of eighteenth-century “character.” It demonstrates that visual and textual negotiations of a person’s professional and personal reputations cannot be considered apart from each other at a time when the production of books and portraits alike was intimately linked to marks on metal, paper, and faces. In rearticulating the publication of familiar letters with the formulation of personal and social identities, I indicate how the study of media ecologies offers new methods of tracing the networks of writing, reading, and print that connected individuals with each other in eighteenth-century Britain.

Matt Erlin
Washington University in St. Louis

"Material Culture and the Objectification of Luxury in the Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century German Novel"

Eighteenth-century Western Europe, we now know, was the site of a consumer revolution. Commodities ranging from coffee, tea and spices to eyeglasses and underwear began to circulate as never before. Hopes and fears regarding the impact of this emerging consumer culture converged in the period in debates about the legitimacy of luxury, debates that led to the publication of literally hundreds of books, treatises, and journal articles by some of the major intellectuals of the period. The past ten years have seen a growing scholarly interest in luxury, and in eighteenth-century consumer culture more generally, but the pivotal role played by literature in the negotiation of these societal transformations remains underexplored. Eighteenth-century works of literature provide a rich resource for representations of luxury, of the consequences of self-interest, and of the ongoing efforts to rethink the relationship between people and things in the period. Concerns about excess, ornamentation, and consumerist desire were also central to eighteenth-century reflections on the social function of literature, especially with regard to the highly commercial genre of the novel, and especially in Germany, which experienced an extraordinary expansion of the literary market after 1750. Literature itself, in other words, both as object and activity, is also understood as a form of luxury, as frequent (largely derogative) references to Bücherluxus [book luxury] and Leseluxus [reading luxury] make clear.

My presentation will relate the results of an initial attempt to address one facet of this larger field of inquiry from the perspective of recent work being done under the rubric of the digital humanities. The project, inspired by Franco Moretti’s notion of distant reading, seeks to make use of new tools and techniques from the disciplines of machine learning and natural language processing in order to achieve two aims. The first, simply put, is to establish how many and what kinds of artifacts appear in a range of approximately 115 novels written between 1750 and 1815, and to determine whether one can identify significant shifts over time in either the quantity or the constellations in which these objects appear. The second, related aim is to determine whether it is possible to establish what might be termed the “luxury quotient” of a given novel, luxury being understood in the period in much broader terms than merely that of consumer goods narrowly understood. The more immediate research question to which I am seeking an answer is whether the literary evidence from the period can be used to substantiate a claim made in the 1920s by the sociologist Werner Sombart, namely, that the eighteenth century is a period in which luxury undergoes a dramatic “objectification” or Versachlichung, as the focus shifts from events or practices (hosting lavish feasts and keeping swarms of servants) toward things (refined fashions and expensive artifacts). My hypothesis is that in eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century German literature, the concern with luxury remains constant, but it increasingly comes to be identified with material culture and with the sphere of cultural consumption in particular.

In terms of the history of consumer culture, the validity of this hypothesis is interesting in its own right. But the density of objects in a given text also has profound implications for a number of traditional areas of scholarly interest in literary studies, from narrative structure to characterization. The question of whether an expansion in the availability of real-existing consumer goods leads to a corresponding rise in the literary careers of these objects returns us to what is in many respects the foundational inquiry of literary sociology, namely, the question of how literature as a cultural practice reflects, responds to, or resists transformations in the concrete social contexts out of which it arises. To map out the presence of these objects can thus be seen as a contribution to both a sociology of literary forms and a materialist literary history, but a contribution that focuses on the transformation of material culture in a broad sense, rather than restricting itself to questions of social class or transformations in media.

Dahlia Porter
Vanderbilt University

"John Murray’s Print Networks"

This paper will build a model of print interactivity from a case study of how John Murray II advertised Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1816 volume of poems Christabel &c. The list of “recent publications” appended to the volume opens with a series of dramas, capitalizing on the successful run of Coleridge's play Remorse earlier in 1816. Quoting Byron’s praise and positioning Christabel amidst Byron’s Oriental tales, the list elides the implicitly German locale and gothic content of the title poem and substitutes a genre more likely to sell in 1816. Most strikingly, Murray embeds Coleridge's book in the Parliamentary debate over the removal of the Elgin marbles from Greece—a debate focused on issues of fragmentation, singularity, antiquity, hoarding, and public curiosity. The terms of this political controversy in turn galvanize both positive and negative reviews of Coleridge's book—one review actually compares “Christabel” to a “mutilated statue.” In his prefatory statement, Coleridge justifies the poem in precisely the same terms, mirroring and refracting the associations generated by Murray's booklist. Together, these distinct advertising mechanisms—the publisher’s booklist, periodical review, and author’s preface—project an audience manifestly different from the small coterie involved in writing, puffing, and selling the book. This broader audience is one whose tastes amalgamate a professional stake in the emergent discipline of anthropology, the amateur naturalist’s (somewhat illicit) curiosity, and the polite, highbrow classicism of an aristocratic gentleman. Such an audience—brought into being via modes of advertising with fundamentally different agendas—makes visible how a set of literary professionals forged their identity by imagining a public defined by its lack of specialization.

As this case suggests, I am claiming that advertising lists are about more than just selling books; they also function as print networks through which publishers, authors and critics interact to imagine readerships and produce the meaning of texts. In addition to analyzing how this process work in the specific case of Christabel, I’d like to broaden outward to address framework of the larger project, Advertising the Romantic Book. This study combines book history, genre studies, quantitative analysis of datasets, and readings of individual texts and their paratexts to address two related critical questions: First, how and for what ends did literary authors and texts draw authority from other genres—natural history, travel writing, antiquarianism, ethnography, medicine, chemical philosophy, history, law—in the early nineteenth century? And second, what factors contributed to (or worked against) the development of modern deep disciplines with specialized languages and audiences in the same period? As I argue, advertising provides an as yet unexamined key to these questions. Publishers’ catalogues and book lists, authors’ Advertisements, and periodical reviews and lists of recent publications all explicitly forge associations between genres, creating networks of texts via older humanist models of knowledge, new disciplinary configurations, and (perhaps unexpectedly) the tastes and desires of specified but seemingly amorphous reading audiences. As John Klancher suggests, audiences are not merely aggregates of readers, but “social and textual formations” with particular “interpretive tendencies and ideological contours.” Advertising puts such formations on display, while bringing audiences bounded by professional, polite, and commercial “semiotic mentalities” into conjunction and often conflict. The project traces how publishers shifted the reception of texts and the construction of audiences, while at the same time locating literary works as a key site for understanding how bodies of knowledge were demarcated in the early stages of discipline formation.



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