You are here

Histories and Futures of Publication: On disassembling the book

Deidre Lynch (Harvard)
Textual Studies Program speaker series schedule
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 3:30pm
HUB 145

Deidre Lynch

Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature, Harvard University
Chancellor Jackman Professor of English, University of Toronto

"Paper Slips: The Nineteenth-Century Album and Other Misadventures in Bookkeeping"

Historians of the book have only recently come to acknowledge the extent to which in the nineteenth century the blank book -the book whose pages incite not reading, but writing (as well as, e.g., sketching, painting, decoupage, and embroidery)— helped to motor the print market. In the early nineteenth century, thousands of Anglo-American amateurs of both sexes patronized that branch of the book trade when they took to compiling albums, as they were called. Participating in this fashionable leisure activity, they cashed in one promise underwriting that retail sector’s profitability --the promise that it would possible for everyman and everywoman to become his or her own book maker. My paper looks to their home-made books and the practices of excerpting, transcribing, clipping, and de- and re-contextualizing that found them in part to recovery the diversity of the book at just the moment when we tend to assume its unity is assured, a moment which retroactively appears to us as the
high-water mark in the long history of the emotional investments that the codex form has prompted. I explore how often the creation of an album, though in some respects a bibliophilic practice, depended on an almost indecent readiness to demolish and remake books and to conceptualize text and image, poems and pictures as detachable and re-attachable slips and scraps . And I track the evident awareness amongst those who compiled such volumes that in their hands the book behaved badly --was more mobile in its contents, more porous in its relationship to the world--than the book form was supposed to be.

Deidre Lynch is the author of The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning (Chicago, 1998), winner of the MLA Prize for a First Book; editor of Janeites: Austen’s Disciples and Devotees (Princeton, 2000); and author of Loving Literature: A Cultural
History (Chicago, 2015), which has recently been recently written about in The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Times Higher Education. At Harvard and the University of Toronto, she works on eighteenth-century and Romantic-period British literature and culture, the theory and history of the novel, the Gothic, the Englishtement, book history and the history of reading, affect theory, and the history of English studies. 

Reception to follow 

Co-sponsored by the Simpson Center for the Humanities and the Textual Studies Program.

 * * * * 

Histories and Futures of Publication

An interdisciplinary speaker series in manuscript, print, and digital cultures.

Sponsored by the Simpson Center for the Humanities, the Textual Studies Program, UW Libraries, the Information School, Modern Language Quarterly, and the departments of Classics, Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media, English, and French & Italian. 

Updated information at:


Histories and Futures of Publication Speaker Series Poster (PDF)

Event Type: 
Related Fields: