The History of the Book and the Idea of Literature
Deadline for submissions: 28 May 2004
Coordinators: Seth Lerer (Stanford Univ.) and Leah Price (Harvard Univ.)
The past three decades have seen a growing awareness of the book as a technological production, as a cultural artifact, and as a marker in a set of social, political, and economic relations. From an earlier study of books as mere repositories of canonical texts, or as aesthetic objects, or as “evidence” for positivist bibliographic scholarship, a history of the book has emerged that understands print as not simply a technology but a form of social behavior located in encounters with the published word that define both a public life and a private subjectivity. As Roger Chartier put it, “We necessarily hold reading to be an inventive and creative practice that seizes commonly shared objects in differing ways and endows them with meanings that cannot be reduced to the authors’ and publishers’ intentions alone.” How does this new history of the book inflect the study of literary culture? Invited are submissions that consider any aspect of book history as it bears on literary study and that address such questions as the following: What are the relations between the institutions of book production and the rise of authorial identity, of literary canons, and of academic disciplines? How might scholars now and in the future apply such traditional disciplines as bibliography, codicology, and paleography in understanding literary history? How do the history and study of the book contribute to the sociology of knowledge in the large? How does the culture of collecting (e.g., bibliomania) affect the socioeconomics of the book, the production and reception of literature, and the academic study of book history? Do non-Western histories of the book (e.g., in China, in the Islamic world) challenge or reaffirm the discipline of book history as it has emerged in Europe and America?
Articles on the general topic are invited; the subtopics listed are provided by way of example and suggestion only. Submissions must be by MLA members and meet the other requirements in the statement of editorial policy, printed in each January, March, May, and October issue of PMLA. Manuscripts should be submitted by the deadline to the Managing Editor, PMLA, Modern Language Association, 26 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10004-1789.