2014-2015 Theme:

This year, we seek to explore the various kinds and forms of making. From manufacturing a sheet of paper, to printing a ballad, to conducting an experiment, to producing a play, to self-fashioning an identity, to consolidating a monarchical and political body, we are broadly interested in the concept of early modern making. Yet, while making offers a model of potential – we can make all manner of subjects and objects – it also gestures towards fixity and boundaries – things are made in certain ways for certain purposes, necessarily limited by design. We are interested in exploring: What are the factors and who are the human and non-human actors implicated in making? How does learning about the processes of making offer new insights into the final product? What is the value in conceptualizing the formation of texts, artifacts, ideas, governments?

2014-2015 Events

Theme-Related Courses

Fall 2014

ENGL 231 | Studies in Renaissance Literature: Sequels and Series – Publishing “The Making of a Broadside Ballad” (Graduate)
This course is designed as a sequel or extension of the course I taught last year in Winter ’14 on early modern ballad culture and popular print. As the students and I explored making ballads in all their materiality, from ourselves making paper broadside sheets in UCSB’s Art Studio, to learning the distinctive tricks that go into ballad writing, to fitting tunes to such texts (with the help of EBBA’s ethnomusicologists), to setting type and printing our own self-created ballads on our own self-created paper at the UC Riverside Print Shop, the entire class (instructor included) underwent a radical discovery. In a major way we came to understand that so much that is involved in the “making” of a printed artifact – especially of a single ballad sheet of printed, illustrated, and (as indicated in the printed tune title) sung text – influences our perception of what ballads “are” and how they would have been received in their own time. So much did our “makings” change our “interpretations,” that we realized we had in a fresh and important way redefined the methods of research on print and material culture. We thus decided to publish our discoveries in a six-issue special series of the Early Modern Center’s emcImprint (a new refereed, online journal produced by the EMC). Co-editing these special issues with myself are Professor Andrew Griffin and Dr. Carl Stahmer (EBBA Associate Director).

Winter 2015

ENGL 197 | Upper-Division Seminar: Epistolary Literature (Undergraduate)
‘A letter is a joy of Earth,’ wrote Emily Dickinson in 1862. In the age of email and Facebook, letters are both ubiquitous and rare: we spend all day sending each other written communication, but we rarely do so in a way earlier writers would recognize. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when postal systems first became accessible to everyday letter writers’ letters were everywhere in popular culture. Almost as soon as there were newspapers, people began writing letter to their editors, and the first novels also structured themselves as series of letters between characters. This course focuses on the theme of correspondence, examining both fictional and authentic letters, and its role in works of philosophy, history, journalism, fiction, and personal letters. While commentators have often seen the letter as a particularly feminine, introspective genre, we will see it showing up across literary realms from the late 1600s to today. Along the way, we will explore a number of questions: is the letter public or private? Is it a democratic or exclusive genre? And why do letters seem to pop up at moments of intellectual, political, and technological change? By reading a variety of epistolary genres in addition to adopting the epistolary form for some of our critical responses, we will investigate the letter’s impact on concepts of literature, originality, and the self.

Spring 2015

ENGL 169 | Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama: Performing the Restoration Playhouse (Undergraduate)
When the English monarchy was restored in 1660, English theaters were re-opened as well, but with big changes to the playhouses, the plays, the personnel, and the audiences from when they’d been shut down 11 years before. King and courtiers were enthusiastic patrons of the theater, especially its comedies, which drew on traditional roles including fops and fallen women, cuckolds and witty couples, curious virgins and male and female rakes. In this class, we will read, discuss, and write about five Restoration comedies and their contexts, along with current scholarship on them. Our ambitious final project will be to recreate the atmosphere of a Restoration playhouse during an afternoon performance.

ENGL 197 | Upper-Division Seminar: Premodern Literature and Early Media (Undergraduate)
Course Description: We encounter most medieval and early modern literature in the form of carefully edited, mass-produced printed books, often with rigorously researched footnotes and explanatory introductions. This format is in striking contrast to the actual ways in which these texts are preserved: on animal skin or handmade rag paper, and meticulously and laboriously laid out, lettered, and illustrated. This course will explore how premodern literature is intertwined with, and comments upon, the material realities of book creation.

We will read literary works from three enduringly significant codices: the Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book, the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and the First Folio of Shakespeare’s Complete Works. Throughout, we will pay attention to both the material books and the literature they contain, asking questions about how (and whether) the two facets are intertwined; how (and if) this literature breaks with the media which conveys it; and how the increasingly digital-born literature of our own day is like and unlike literature which appears in these earlier formats.

We’ll supplement this study with briefer looks at other important literary artifacts, such as the early medieval Lindisfarne Gospels and seventeenth-century broadside ballads. We will also visit UCSB Library’s Special Collections to view real premodern books; try our hands at medieval lettering and illumination; and visit UCSB’s Papermaking Studio to make our own rag paper. Your final project will involve close study of how a piece of literature of your choice – from ancient Sumerian epic to contemporary video game narrative, and anything in between – informs and is informed by its material form.

ENGL 232 | Studies in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature: The Expanded Epistolary Literature (Graduate)
Jürgen Habermas has argued that the epistle is the preeminently private genre, a quasi-diary in which ‘the individual unfolded himself in his subjectivity.’ Jacques Derrida, meanwhile, has described the letter as ‘not a genre but all genres, literature itself.’ As these influential accounts show, letters can be hard to define; they appear to be both historically specific and universal, both constraining and versatile. While the letter has a long history in literature, beginning at least with Ovid’s Heroides, it was with the expansion and systematization of state postal systems that this old genre exploded into the print public sphere. Almost as soon as there were newspapers, people began writing to their editors, and the first novels also structured themselves as series of letters between characters. This course focuses on the theme of correspondence ‘examining both fictional and authentic letters’ as it became a key basis of literary production for philosophers, historians, journalists, novelists, biographers, and academics in the modern period. Is the letter public or private? Is it a democratic or exclusive genre? And why have such forms of communication proved central to moments of intellectual and disciplinary change? By reading a variety of epistolary genres as well as adopting the epistolary form for some of our critical responses, we will investigate the impact of the letter on concepts of literature, originality, and the self.

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