Connectivity has become the dominant framework through which contemporary knowledge is increasingly understood. From networks to clouds to close reading to reconstructing historical social worlds, making connections is at the core of what we do. And yet the very ubiquity of the term has largely hidden it from critical view. This workshop is devoted to exploring the diversity of what it means to be connected. What constitutes a connection? How have different periods and different kinds of media constructed different understandings of connectedness in the past? How do different concepts of connectivity alter or inform the stories we tell about that past? And how do these understandings of historical connections inform our own connectedness to history? We are looking for contributions that explore some aspect of connectivity as it relates to historical media change and that can take a wide variety of possible avenues to what kinds of connections do print media make possible and how might those differ from their digital next of kin? how do notions of connectivity impact a changing sense of time and space; narrative form and the connections within texts; or the idea of scale itself? similarly, how do new notions of connectivity impact our own scholarly accounts of the past, changing the time-, space-, text-, and social-frames of analysis? In short, how does an understanding of connection, connectedness, and connectivity inform the work we do in the humanities, the questions we ask, and the way we go about answering them?


Dr. Mark Algee-Hewitt, Stanford University
“The Principals of Meaning: Networks of Knowledge in Johnson’s Dictionary.”

Like the “Encylopédie” of Diderot and d’Alembert, Samuel Johnson’s 1755 “Dictionary of the English Language” has all the hallmarks of an Enlightenment era project of knowledge creation. At once descriptive and prescriptive, highly idiosyncratic in design and universal in application, it offers a unique textual site in which to examine not only how Johnson himself understood the role of language in society, but also how this relationship was shaped in Britain for the next two centuries. Johnson’s most important addition to the dictionary projects that came before is his inclusion of quotations, intended to illustrate words “in their different significations.” His project then links meaning to use through references to predominately British authors (often literary authors) at a crucial moment of literary history when the novel was just beginning to assume the dominant form it would take in the nineteenth-century. This project uses a quantitative semantic and network-based approach to understanding the implicit patterns in Johnson’s Dictionary, between definition and citation, between words and their uses, and between the different domains of knowledge that are signified by the authors Johnson chooses to represent in the dictionary.

Dr. Rebecca Braun, University of Lancaster
“Authorship as Collaboration Actor-Network Theory and Literature”

This talk asks what literary studies can learn from science & technology studies’ actor-network theory, and what STS can learn from literature in return. Exploring first how Goethe’s ideas on world literature emerged from a larger conceptual programme of relatedness between people, things, and ideas, I then move to a discussion of 21st-century literary networks and the different ways they are sustained through physical and virtual spaces. Running throughout my talk is a concern with how we define agency, who or what comes together around literature, (how) have these connections changed over time, and what might my conclusions tell us about the way we conceptualise the social significance of creative work?

Dr. Michael Gavin, University of South Carolina
“A Mathematical Theory of Authorial Intention”

My presentation will turn to Warren Weaver’s and Claude Shannon’s Mathematical Theory of Communication (1949) to offer a new theory of authorial intention. When Weaver defined communication as the process by which one mind affects another mind, he was not aware that “intention” was being hotly debated in literary theory. Some critics, like I. A. Richards, embraced Shannon’s and Weaver’s theory, but others distrusted explanations that posited a causal mind at work underneath the text: W. K. Wimsatt and M. C. Beardsley inveighed against the “intentional” and “affective” fallacies; G. E. M. Anscombe, in Intention (1957), de- naturalized all forms of explanation that rely on reference to mental states; and Jacques Derrida critiqued speech-act theory with a force that threw the entire “communication” concept into doubt. In each case, these critics argued that intentions can only be modeled through observable phenomena: actions and texts. The function of language is to create effects that readers interpret as an author’s intention.

If so — if language creates intention-effects — these effects should be measurable. Semantic models of large corpora like Early English Books Online approximate word meaning by measuring connections between words and representing them as a single, total system. Against this model of the language as a whole, individual statements are mathematically evaluated to see how their combinations of words deviate from statistical probability. Without ever engaging the question of “intention” as it’s debated in literary theory, computational linguists developed a robust theory of how human volition affects language. Based on their principles, I describe a method for keyword extraction that measures intention at the larger scales of the document, the author, and the historical period, to model how intentions push concepts in new directions.

Dr. Helge Jordheim, Oslo University
“Connecting and Disconnecting Times in Print: In and Out of Sync”

In this talk I will deal with a particular format or genre of print, the so-called «synchronistic table», which was used in 17th- and 18th-historiography to connect – and in a certain sense to disconnect – the multiple times of global space. In the brief historical moment after Christian chronology had all but collapsed, but before the profane teleology of progress had taken hold, inventive authors and printers found ways of representing a plurality of times across different forms of global space, both geo- and typographical, in order to think about their connectivity, in terms of «synchronisms» or Zeitzusammenhänge, «time connections». The tables were published in separate books, so that the students could bring them along to their history lectures, and use them to get a broader and more global view of universal history than the narratives of their professors could offer them – a view in which times and histories – were multiple.

Dr. Caroline Levine, Cornell University
“The Order of Networks”

Networks have often been seen as non-hierarchical and emancipatory, and connectivity implies the potential for ever new linkages and collectives. But as physicists and sociologists have shown, networks follow rules, and they organize bodies, texts, and ideas according to surprisingly orderly principles. This paper will investigate networks’ power to impose order, and will ask what kinds of political implications follow.

Dr. Dahlia Porter, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow
“Disjunctive Conjunctions”

In this paper, I want to illuminate the relationship between two forms of connectivity in the period from 1750-1850 and the way objects are connected in spatial organization of the museum and its textual counterpart the catalogue, and the affective connections between people and the natural world posited in Romantic poetry. The former has been examined in museum studies, art history, and anthropology as part of the large scale organization of knowledge that led to the consolidation of modern disciplines. The later has been central to eco-critical approaches to Romanticism, which have honed in on the desire for an integrated perception of, as Coleridge put it, “something great — something one & indivisible”—that “something far more deeply interfused” that Wordsworth’s older, wiser self discovers in “Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey.”

As I’ll argue here, both of these forms of connectivity rely on disjunctive conjunction. The museum and its catalogue are organized spatially: in the absence of narrative, things come into relation by proximity or contiguity—by being next to one another in space. The genre of the catalogue thus functions as a “conceptual propinquity engine” (Delbourgo and Müller-Wille) in which connections are forged imaginatively in the gaps (blank wall or blank paper) between items or entries. This process underwrites the conceptual work performed by the museum and catalogue for emergent disciplines like comparative anatomy: John Hunter’s unifying concept of life is subtended by his museum’s organization of detached organs into functional systems that transcend the physical structure of any individual organism. Affective connection to the world in Romantic poetry works on a similar principle: to perceive oneness, the lyric speaker or poetic subject fractures into multiple, temporally-distinct subjectivities that are subsequently spatialized in relation to other objects, sunny leaf and walnut tree and humble bee. Enumerated objects joined and parsed by conjunctions [“and…and”] create a world in miniature (as Charles Wilson Peale claimed of his Philadelphia museum) in which a “heap of little things” can express the unity of—and with—something great and indivisible. Such formulations in poetry, I suggest, are both trading on and extending the work of the anatomical museum. In conclusion, I’ll consider the implications of my argument for “green Romanticism” and for the role of poetry in the consolidation of scientific disciplines in the first half of the nineteenth century.

IwP Connectivity Workshop Schedule:

Thursday, 23 March 2017

12h30- 13h30: LUNCH

13h30-13h45: Dr. Jonathan Sachs (Concordia University), Welcome

13h45-14h45: Dr. Caroline Levine (Cornell University), “The Order of Networks”

15h00-16h00: Dr. Mark Algee-Hewitt, Stanford University, “The Principals of Meaning: Networks of Knowledge in Johnson’s Dictionary.”

Friday, 24 March 2017

9h30-10h30: Dr. Helge Jordheim (Oslo University), “Connecting and Disconnecting Times in Print: In and Out of Sync.”

10h30-11h00: Coffee

11h00-12h00: Dr. Dahlia Porter (University of Glasgow), “Disjunctive Conjunctions”

12h00-13h30: LUNCH

13h30-14h30: Dr. Michael Gavin (University of South Carolina), “A Mathematical Theory of Authorial Intention”

14h45-15h45: Dr. Rebecca Braun (University of Lancaster) “Authorship as Collaboration: Actor-Network Theory and Literature”

15h45-16h45: CLOSING DISCUSSION, led by Dr. Chad Wellmon (University of Virginia)


The Question of Relevance

APRIL 7 & 8, 2016


10:30 – Welcome and Coffee
11:00 – Elisa Tamarkin, University of California, Berkeley
“Fit to Print: A Natural History of Relevance
12:00 – Lunch
14:00 – Maurice S. Lee, Boston University
“‘When Found Make a Note of’ Information: Literature as ”
15:00 – Coffee
15:30 – Meredith L. McGill, Rutgers University
“What’ s the Matter with the History of the Book?”

9:30 – Welcome and Coffee
10:00 – Darin McMahon, Dartmouth College
“Illuminating the Enlightenment”
11:00 – Mark Curran, Queen Mary University of London
“Selling Enlightenment: the relevance of space in the eighteenth-century francophone book trade
12:00 – Lunch
13:30 – Chad Wellmon, University of Virginia
“Googling Before Google: A Brief History of the Search”
14:30 – Christina Lupton, University of Warwick
“Reading and the Relevance of the Future”
15:30 – Coffee
16:00 – Jon Klancher, Carnegie Mellon University

McGill University
Thomson House, Room 404
3650 rue McTavish
Montreal, QC H3A 1Y2

Poster (pdf)


Reading the Body: Johann Caspar Lavater and the Tradition of Physiognomy

Saturday, March 1, 2008 – 09:00 to Monday, March 31, 2008 – 17:00
Osler Library, McGill University
Organized by Interacting with Print

In his Essays on Physiognomy, Johann Caspar Lavater (1741–1801) defines physiognomy as “the Science of discovering the relation between the exterior and the interior.” The Swiss pastor proposes no less than “to decipher the original language of Nature, written on the face of Man, and on the whole of his Exterior” and “to trace a few of the Characters of that divine Alphabet.” This practice of reading the body, of interpreting facial features and expressions as signs to be decoded, draws on a long tradition, which begins with Aristotle and continues to inform modern sciences such as Emotion Psychology and Physical Anthropology.

As this exhibition wants to show, both the elaboration and the distribution of this physiognomic knowledge depended heavily on media other than the human body. Manuscripts and printed texts and especially images were called upon to render the body legible by illustrating the hidden relations between human physical features, character, moral disposition, animal traits, ethnicity, cosmic order, and divine providence. However, what qualified as signs, how these signs were to be decoded to count as evidence, and who was entitled to interpret them, depended on which scientific methods and cultural techniques were considered to best “promote the knowledge and the love of mankind.” Condemned in Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie as an “imaginary science” and praised by Lavater as the “science of sciences,” the history of physiognomy — and its deployment through the medium of the illustrated book — has much to tell us about the intersecting fields of science and art in the eighteenth century and their mutual quest for a universal legibility, whether of books, bodies, or images.

The Multigraph Conference: A Collaborative Monograph on the History of Print Interactivity

Thursday, November 15, 2012 – 09:00 to Friday, November 16, 2012 – 17:30
688 Sherbrooke, McGill University
Organized by Interacting with Print
For the next two days, 22 researchers from 3 different countries will assemble at McGill University to continue the work of collaboratively writing a monograph on the history of print. Over the course of the past year, contributors have been writing “seeds” and “grafts” using a wiki platform to address the history of print interactivity — how individuals interacted with print, how print interacted with other media, and how new kinds of social communities were brought into existence through these mediated interactions. The online contributions will be consolidated through this two-day event of collaborative editing and writing. The process will then culminate at the end of the year in the form of a printed book. By engaging in a multi-platform, collaborative writing process, the aim of the project is to change how we think about the history of media by changing how we as scholars communicate through media.

The project is organized by the Interacting with Print Research Group and is generously supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. It is being led by Andrew Piper.

For a fuller description of the multigraph, you can go here.


Graduate Student Symposium



Tuesday, January 15, 2013 – 14:00 to 17:30
Ferrier Building, Room 470
Download the PosterDownload the Schedule
Organized by Interacting with Print
On Tuesday, January 15, the Interacting with Print Research Group will host its inaugural Graduate Research Symposium. The event runs from 2:00 to 5:30 pm, in the Ferrier Building (McGill Campus), Room 470


Text Mining the Novel: A Workshop

Thursday, September 26, 2013 – 03:00 to Friday, September 27, 2013 – 17:00
McGill University, 688 Sherbrooke
Organized by Interacting with Print
Text Mining the Novel will bring together eight researchers in the field of digital humanities for a two-day conference as part of a proposed SSHRC Partnership Grant. The aim of the partnership is to establish the foundations for the cross-cultural study of the novel according to quantitative methods. Text mining is arguably one of the most important fields driving growth, innovation, and indeed citizenship within a modern information economy, impacting a range of fields that include business management, human resources, bioinformatics, cultural production, and even voter participation. In establishing the analytical foundations of large-scale literary text analysis, this project will bring the unique knowledge of literary studies to bear on larger debates about text mining and the place of information technology within society. In so doing, it will also impact how we think about the nature of reading and the way we increasingly access our cultural heritage today.


From Texts to Maps or How to Visualize the Literary Landscape: A Public Lecture by Barbara Piatti

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 – 17:30
McGill University, Leacock Building, Room 232
Organized by Interacting with Print
In this public lecture, featured speaker Dr Barbara Piatti, Director of the Institute for Cartography and Geoinformation at the University of Zurich and co-founder of the Literary Atlas of Europe Project, will examine the intersections between art and cartography, with a particular emphasis on the geography of literature, but also the nature of urban space. She is one of the leading examples of new work in the digital humanities and geo-spatial analysis. See also the graduate workshop “Critical Space Theory: Uncertainty and Ambiguity in Cultural Cartographies,” taking place the same day at 1PM.


Interpersonal Botany

Friday, October 25, 2013 – 00:00
Organized by Interacting with Print
Exhibition Website
By focusing on materials of a botanical nature, the new digital exhibition Interpersonal Botany examines how people used print to structure and mediate social relationships in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. During this period of global quest for botanical specimens and popular preoccupation with botany, printed matter fostered relationships between individuals within familial settings and intellectual networks, across national boundaries, and among friends. Reading, studying, gifting, and producing printed matter established, reinforced, and even modeled relationships between distant strangers and close companions. Interpersonal Botany includes books, periodicals, letters, friendship albums and birthday books, which variably demonstrate friendly, intimate exchange, act as guides for proper female conduct, or enable the pursuit of scientific investigation. These rare items show the diverse social dimensions of botanical printed materials, suggesting they were something more than items to be read in a solitary fashion; rather, they served as ways of creating community, forming bonds, and sharing information between colleagues and friends.

This special digital exhibition was curated by Parvaneh Abbaspour and Martina Chumova under the direction of Interacting with Print members Tom Mole and Nikola von Merveldt. We gratefully acknowledge the support and collaboration of the staff at McGill Library, especially Ann Marie Holland in Rare Books and Special Collections.

Reception to launch the “Writing in Company” Rare Books Exhibition

Thursday, April 10, 2014 – 17:00 to 19:00
4th floor lobby, McLennan Library Building, McGill University
Organized by Interacting with Print

wic_image_webInteracting with Print, in collaboration with the Rare Books and Special Collections of McGill Library, launches the exhibition “Writing in Company. Forms of Collaboration in Artistic Works and Scientific Knowledge (1700-1914)” with a reception and special presentation, to be held from 5-7PM on Thursday, April 10, on the 4th floor of the McLennan Library Building. Hors d’oeuvres and light refreshments will be served. The presentation will begin at 6PM. Space is limited—we kindly ask that you let us know by April 9th if you plan to attend.

About the exhibition
In its production, as in its circulation, print relies on a web of institutional and personal interactions. Collaboration is integral to print’s very existence. This exhibition aims to demonstrate the essentially collaborative nature of print and thus call into question the commonly perceived equation, “one work = one author.”

Shaped by the contexts of sociability in which it takes place, collaboration factors into a wide array of practices, from simple parlour games to institutional protocol. It arises from the definition of a group identity, confirming this identity or questioning it through rebellion. As the expression of a community of thought, collaboration is inherent to scientific undertakings that surpass the competence of an individual, or of artistic visions that transcend disciplinary boundaries.

Whether concealed in anonymity or institutional patronage, or, on the contrary, revealing the signatures of all participants, collaboration invites us into a fascinating exploration of its innerworkings. Collective creativity occurs in delicate balance between unity and diversity, partnership and competition, equality and power. A more or less explicit reflection of interpersonal cooperation, collaborative work often contains, within the laboratory of its production, references to other works and themes. In this way, the complexity of collaborative projects is often increased through intertextual and intermedial dialogue, fostering the production of new works.

“Writing in Company” features examples of collaboration among writers associated with the rise of popular literature (novel and theatre), among writers and illustrators, among members of a salon, an artistic movement, a religious order, an academic institution or a scientific expedition. The performing arts may present the most striking example, illustrating how even the interpretation and the mise-en-scène become integral parts of the creative process.

Curators: Stéphanie Favreau and Adina Ruiu, under the direction of Marie-Claude Felton (McGill University), Ann-Marie Holland (McGill Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections), Nikola von Merveldt (Université de Montréal)
– See more at:


“Book-Men, Book Clubs, and the Romantic Literary Sphere”: A Round Table with Author Ina Ferris

Friday, November 6, 2015 – 15:30 to 17:00
LB 646, McConnell Building, 6th Floor, Concordia University, 1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., Montreal, Quebec
Organized by Interacting with Print
book_menAs outliers inserting themselves into the matrix of literary production rather than remaining within that of reception, both book-men and book clubs stepped on literary toes by producing, writing, and circulating books. In the process they expanded fundamental points of literary orientation in directions not coincident with those of the literary sphere, provoking controversy and debate. Using a wide range of historical, archival and literary history, this study makes visible a bookish array of alterative networks, genres, and locations that were obscured as the literary sphere secured its authority as arbiter of the modern book in the early nineteenth century.

Book-Men, Book Clubs, and the Romantic Literary Sphere, written by Ina Ferris, was published in 2015 as part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Cultures of Print series. Ina Ferris is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Ottawa, Canada. Her books include The Achievement of Literary Authority: Gender, History and the Waverley Novels, The Romantic National Tale and the Question of Ireland, and Bookish Histories: Books, Literature, and Commercial Modernity, 1700-1900 (co-edited with Paul Keen).

Jon Klancher (Carnegie Mellon)
Deirdre Lynch (Harvard)
Andrew Piper (McGill)
Ina Ferris (Ottawa)
Jonathan Sachs (Concordia)

Open to the Public.

– See more at: