About

About

Interacting with Print is an interdisciplinary, interinstitutional research group devoted to the study of European print culture in the period 1700-1900.

Since 2005, our group has developed and continues to elaborate an innovative approach to the study of print culture based on the concept of interactivity. We investigate how people interacted with printed matter, how they used print media to interact with other people and how printed texts and images interacted within complex media ecologies. ‘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, which emerged as the predominant communications technology in Europe in the period 1700-1900.

Print was undoubtedly important before and after this period, but European culture can most fully be described as a ‘print culture’ in these two centuries. From the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1695 that freed English printers from government control to the technological innovations of 1897 that allowed photographs to be printed in newspapers, our period saw print in all its forms move to the centre of cultural life, without eliminating other communications media.

Collaborative research allows us to build a solid understanding of the cultures of print in a way that disaggregated studies could not. Bringing together five scholars and three collaborators from departments of English, History, German, and Modern Languages, trained in the analysis of different media and working on different national contexts, our team’s own interactions aim to produce a distinctive new approach. Interactivity is both our topic and our method: in order to study the interactions of the past, we will create new kinds of interaction in the present.

Interpersonal Print (a two-day conference)

Date:
Thursday, March 21, 2013 – 09:30 to Friday, March 22, 2013 – 17:00
Location:
Arts Building, Room 160, McGill University
Organized by Interacting with Print
How did people in Europe between 1700 and 1900 use printed matter to mediate and structure their social and interpersonal interactions?  On one hand, silently reading a printed book is usually understood as a solitary activity, even an alienating one.  On the other, engaging with printed matter in particular ways helps to shape large-scale groups such as religious denominations and nation-states.  Between these two extremes, however, lies a world of interpersonal print that is more seldom discussed. This two-day conference brings together specialists in a number of disciplines from across North America and Great Britain to address the interpersonal dimensions of print culture from several angles.

Print entered interpersonal relationships in numerous ways: parents or care-givers reading to children, courting couples reading together, correspondents recommending and discussing printed books in their letters, reading societies pooling their resources to buy books and salons using a printed text to structure conversations are all examples. Print’s interpersonal dimensions will be addressed by our eight invited speakers: Angela Borchert (Western), Michael Gamer (University of Pennsylvania), Denise Gigante (Stanford University), Matthew Grenby (Newcastle University), Leslie Howsam (Windsor), Jon Klancher (Carnegie Mellon), Jon Mee (Warwick University), and Catherine Sama (University of Rhode Island).

An exhibition being curated in association with the conference will showcase examples of how people interacted with print in the period to cultivate new interpersonal interactions.  “Interpersonal Print” will interest anyone concerned with how how print mediates between individuals, shaping even some of our closest interpersonal relationships.

We welcome you to join us for the event in its entirety or for any part of it.

This is the third in a series of three two-day conferences on interactive aspects of print culture in this period.

Jonathan Sachs

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Institution:
Concordia University (Department of English)

Jonathan Sachs specializes in British literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with a particular focus on the uses of antiquity in forging literary and political modernity in Britain during this time. He has a PhD in English Literature from the University of Chicago and BA and MA degrees from the University of Cambridge.

Sachs is the author of Romantic Antiquity: Rome in the British Imagination, 1789-1832 (Oxford University Press, 2010). With the aid of a Standard Research Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, he is currently at work on a new book-length study of cultural decline which seeks to explain anxieties about decline in connection with three other major features of the late 18th century: the development of political economy, the rapid expansion of print media, and the emergent fascination with ruins. The book uses each of these categories to raise questions about how changing conceptions of progress and decline can help to index new Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment ways of understanding time and historical experience. Other research interests include eighteenth-century travel to antique lands, emergent understandings of orality, and the importance of place in literary interpretation.

Recently, Professor Sachs has been invited to present aspects of his current research at a number of venues including the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of York (UK), Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of Bristol, the University of Glasgow, the California Institute of Technology, Oxford University, Cambridge University, the University of Essex, the University of Reading, and the University of Western Ontario.  In addition to the SSHRC, Professor Sachs’s research has received support from the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art in London, the Huntington Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Fonds québécois de la recherché sur la société et la culture, the Keats-Shelley Association of America, and the Special Collections of the University of Chicago Library.

In March 2010, Sachs was the Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol, and in 2011 he held Visiting Fellowships at Clare Hall, Cambridge and Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

Andrew Piper

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Institution:
McGill University (Department of German Studies)

Andrew Piper (Principal Investigator) is Associate Professor of German and European Literature and an associate member of the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. His work focuses on the intersection of literary and bibliographic communication from the eighteenth century to the present. His new book, Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times (Chicago), addresses current debates about the future of reading through a study of the long history of our embodied interactions with books. Prof. Piper is also the author of Dreaming in Books: The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age (Chicago, 2009), which The New Republic named one of the best art books of 2009 and which was awarded the MLA Prize for a First Book as well as honorable mention for the Harry Levin Prize for the American Comparative Literature Association. He is currently at work on two new research projects. The first is a comparative study of the interconnections between the genre of autobiography, the life sciences, and the medium of the book at the turn of the nineteenth century entitled, “Writing Life.” Its aim is to understand the history of how “life” emerged as a key graphical object of knowledge around 1800 and the ways it traversed two distinct modes of knowledge, from the literary to the scientific. The second project is an exploration of new quantitative ways of understanding the relationship between the novel and eighteenth-century writing. Through the use of topological maps of lexical relationality, “The Werther Effect” seeks to understand the discursive impact of some of the most important literary publishing events of the eighteenth century: epistolary novels such as Goethe’s Werther, Rousseau’s Julie, or Richardson’s Pamela.

website

Marie-Claude Felton

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Institution:
McGill University (Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures)

Marie-Claude Felton is a Banting postdoctoral fellow at McGill University. As a member of the Interacting with Print group, Marie-Claude is undertaking the first comparative and broader study of self-publishing in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Working with Professor Andrew Piper, she will ask: How did different legislative, economic, and cultural contexts influenced the practice and significance of self-publishing?  What was the place of self-published writers in the book market and what was their reception among readers? Can their activity challenge traditional depictions of a larger domination of publishers at that time? What was the role of these authors’ experience and their claims within the genesis of modern copyright? At the center of her analysis, primarily based on archival research in Paris, Leipzig and London, Marie-Claude will take a closer look at the role of authors-publishers on the European book market, the reception of their works, and the significance of their claims within the genesis of modern copyright. Her argument is that only by understanding the place of these numerous, yet little studied authors can we gain a more nuanced understanding of the history of authorship in the modern period.

Marie-Claude Felton holds a B.A. from McGill, an M.A. from the Université Laval, and a Ph.D. from UQÀM and the EHESS (École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris).  She also completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University where she investigated the role of self-publications in the dissemination of scientific knowledge in France before the Revolution. Her monograph Maîtres de leurs Ouvrages. L’édition à compte d’auteur à Paris au XVIIIe siècle will come out with Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment in March 2014.

Peggy Davis

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Institution:
Université du Québec à Montréal (Department of Art History)

Peggy Davis earned her degrees in Art History from UQAM (BA 1993), University of Montreal (MA 1995) and Laval University (Ph.D. 2003). Since 1996, she has taught Art History at the college and university levels before joining as a professor in the Department of Art History at UQAM in 2004. She teaches mainly European Art History in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in which she focuses on the interactions between art and history-political, colonial, social, culture and literature. She is also interested in theoretical and aesthetic discourses developed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and the historiography of art of this period.

Peggy Davis works on representations of America in European art, particularly in printmaking and illustration-fiction, Viaticum, and ethnographic-France in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her research has two focuses: firstly on Americanism as discourse and representation, and secondly on the print as a material object at the heart of intermedial practices. Questioning ethnocentrism and European imaginary through the prints, her research seeks to explain the interaction of the iconography with the Americanist discourse ethnographic, anthropological, historical, primitivists, (anti)-abolitionists (anti)-colonialists (anti)-racialist, etc.-developed at the turn of the Enlightenment. Print, which became increasingly accessible to a wider public since the mid-nineteenth century, interacts with other fields of high culture, bourgeois and popular books such as prints, arts and the decorative arts. For its central role in the dissemination of new knowledge, printmaking supports the story of the encounter between Europe and America.

Tom Mole

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Institution:
University of Edinburgh (Department of English Literature)

Tom Mole is Adjunct Professor of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at McGill University and Director of the Centre for the History of the Book at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. His book, Byron’s Romantic Celebrity: Industrial Culture and the Hermeneutic of Intimacy (Palgrave, 2007), won the Elma Dangerfield Prize. It argues that modern celebrity culture emerged in the early nineteenth century, and that Lord Byron should be studied as one of its earliest examples and most astute critics. Under that rubric, Mole investigates the often strained interactions of artistic endeavour and commercial enterprise, the material conditions of Byron’s publications, and the varieties of printed ephemera that supported celebrity profiles. This approach was extended in an edited collection of essays, Romanticism and Celebrity Culture (Cambridge, 2009). Mole has also edited one volume in a six-volume set of Blackwood’s Magazine 1817-1825: Selections from Maga’s Infancy (Pickering and Chatto, 2006). This is the first time extensive and fully annotated selections from this important nineteenth-century literary journal have been published. Mole is currently working on the reception of Romantic authors in later nineteenth-century Britain, focussing on the material objects and cultural practices that brought texts and authors to the attention of later audiences.

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Susan Dalton

susan

Institution:
Université de Montréal (Department of History)

Susan Dalton is an associate professor in the History Department at the Université de Montréal, and was Principal Investigator in this team’s emergence phase. She works on political culture, sociability, and gender in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century France and the Veneto. Building on her previous work on French and Venetian salon women’s correspondence (Engendering the Republic of Letters, McGill-Queen’s 2003), she is currently examining the links between civility and aesthetics in the published writing of two Venetian salon women: Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi (1760-1836) and Giustina Renier Michiel (1755-1832). Although their writing took a number of forms (including descriptions of festivals and sculptures, literary portraits, and translation), they all encouraged readers to identify with moral models presented in human form; furthermore, in each text, Renier Michiel and Teotochi Albrizzi pushed their audience to read aesthetically by monitoring their emotional reactions to the authors, characters, and revellers the women had reproduced on the page. By charting the evolution in the type of model and the nature of identification over time, Susan Dalton argues that it is possible to find the origins of nineteenth-century Italian romantic nationalism in eighteenth-century Enlightenment universalism.

Nikola von Merveldt

nikola1

Institution:
Université de Montréal (Modern Languages Department)

Nikola von Merveldt is an assistant professor and director of graduate studies in the Modern Languages Department at the Université de Montréal. By training a medievalist, she has worked and published on manuscript and early modern print culture, focusing on the complex interactions between oral, visual, and textual modes of communication from the Middle Ages to the Reformation. Her current project, The Circulation of Knowledge: Printed Images in Children’s Literature of the European Enlightenment (funded by FQRSC), explores the multiple interactions between text and image, book and reader, parent or tutor and child in illustrated children’s books. It argues that eighteenth-century pedagogical discourses, changing social structures, and new developments in the printing industry led educators to rethink the object of the book as a didactic tool and to devise new interactive formats of children’s literature. She has also curated two exhibitions: one on historical children’s books at the International Youth Library in Munich in 2007 and the one on the tradition of physiognomy at the Osler Library in Montreal in 2008.

About

Interacting with Print is an interdisciplinary, interinstitutional research group devoted to the study of European print culture in the period 1700-1900.

Since 2005, our group has developed and continues to elaborate an innovative approach to the study of print culture based on the concept of interactivity. We investigate how people interacted with printed matter, how they used print media to interact with other people and how printed texts and images interacted within complex media ecologies. ‘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, which emerged as the predominant communications technology in Europe in the period 1700-1900.

Print was undoubtedly important before and after this period, but European culture can most fully be described as a ‘print culture’ in these two centuries. From the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1695 that freed English printers from government control to the technological innovations of 1897 that allowed photographs to be printed in newspapers, our period saw print in all its forms move to the centre of cultural life, without eliminating other communications media.

Collaborative research allows us to build a solid understanding of the cultures of print in a way that disaggregated studies could not. Bringing together five scholars and three collaborators from departments of English, History, German, and Modern Languages, trained in the analysis of different media and working on different national contexts, our team’s own interactions aim to produce a distinctive new approach. Interactivity is both our topic and our method: in order to study the interactions of the past, we will create new kinds of interaction in the present.