Thursday March 14 to Friday March 15, 2019

Concordia University

How do scholars of print media constitute their object of study and what methods are used to study it? How do these questions and problems change as different disciplines encounter print media? For our next workshop, we are interested in exploring how changing paradigms of mediation have impacted norms of evidentiary and disciplinary relevance and how this bears on questions of method. Beginning with the saturation of print into everyday life in the eighteenth century, how did the new tools, communities, and practices that surrounded the development of print media influence what counted as print and what was—and wasn’t—accepted as a means of making sense of it? These types of questions were crucial for the creation of new disciplinary boundaries and new types of inquiry in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but they are also important within our own contemporary moment as new methods for digital analysis, print culture studies, media history, and media theory intersect and conflict in their analysis and understanding of print media.



Thursday, March 14

12.00-1.15: Lunch

1.15-1.30: Jonathan Sachs (Concordia University), Opening Remarks

1.30-2.30: Bradley Pasanek (University of Virginia), “Josephine Miles’s Hand Counts”

This talk juxtaposes life and works, contrasting archival materials from the Josephine Miles Papers, held at the Bancroft Library, with books and objects found in the author’s Berkeley home (now a residence for visiting poets). Miles, a poet and a critic, was also a pre-digital digital humanist, a quantitative formalist working most energetically in the trentes-glorieuses decades of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. The Bancroft holdings establish Miles busily producing sentiment analyses and term-document matrices as early as the late 1930s. One folder holds a thick printout of the complete rotations of a factor analysis processed on Berkeley’s IBM 701 machine in 1958. These counts and computations are one half of my interrogation of her methods; my interest in her biography and identity supply the complement. Miles was disabled, the first woman tenured in Berkeley’s English department, and the first woman to be made University Professor. My pursuit of the meaning of her work has led me to her home and into her personal library and extant effects. Her early efforts at distant reading are matched then by my “too close” readings of her baby book, the marginalia in her mother’s copy of an English poet, and a bric-a-brac mirror left behind in her home.

Brad Pasanek is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Metaphors of Mind, A Dictionary (Johns Hopkins UP, 2015). His overlapping areas of study include eighteenth-century literature and the digital humanities; his research and teaching focus on literary form and intellectual history, with a developing interest in fabrication owing to his work with the UVa Puzzle Poetry workshop ( Brad’s talk is part of a new book project on Josephine Miles and the pre-digital digital humanities.

2.30-3.30: Laura Kalba (Smith College), “La Finance Illustrée: A Visual History of the Paris Stock Exchange”

In London, the stock exchange was not only inaccessible to the public but also routinely dismissed by professionals and lay people alike as wholly “immaterial” to understanding the true nature and source of profits generated, seemingly out of thin air, by the financial industry. In Paris, by contrast, the building of the Bourse, a neoclassical temple dating back to the Napoleonic era, served a pivotal role in shaping collective conceptualizations of the modern credit economy. Focusing on representations of the Paris stock exchange printed in illustrated weeklies from the Panic of 1857 to the early twentieth century, this paper refines, and partially revises, scholarship on the role of print culture in shoring up the so-called abstraction and intangibility of finance. It asks: What did the illustrated press teach its readers about the financial market? How did these publications’ seemingly truthful depictions of financiers shouting orders; speculators awaiting updates on their investments; and the physical location where this daily ritual took place compare to the price lists, graphs, and ticker-tape machines that have generally attracted the attention of scholars? In short, how did different forms of print culture mediate and materialize the market differently? Highlighting how illustrated weeklies at once drew upon and undermined the notion that, in order to make sense of it all, one simply had to go to Bourse and see firsthand what took place there, the paper posits that, far from giving concrete visual form to financial abstractions, depictions of the Bourse self-reflexively documented the ongoing, generally frustrated, process by which individuals tried to make money and meaning from the relentless exchange of signs.

Laura Kalba is the Priscilla Paine Van Der Poel Associate Professor of Art at Smith College. She is the author of Color in the Age of Impressionism: Commerce, Technology, and Art, published in 2017 by Penn State University Press. This year, she is an ACLS Frederick Burkhardt fellow and a visiting scholar in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Irvine. Drawing upon the insights of economic anthropology and recent art historical scholarship on materiality, her current book project looks at the ways images, objects, and places encoded and enacted shifting understandings of economic value from the Railway Mania of the 1840s to the First World War.

3.30-4.00: Coffee

4.00-5.00: Chad Wellmon (University of Virginia), “Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age”

In this talk, I will give an account of what has to date been an irresolvable tension in the modern humanities: the conflict between the persistent desire for a more “human,” morally efficacious education, on the one hand, and the ethos of a modern university that demands detachment from any particular moral tradition in the name of scholarly rigor, on the other. We might consider this the tension between Bildung and method, between the humanities as a moral resource for becoming human and a form of disciplined, modern knowledge. My intention is not simply to historicize the contemporary sense of crisis after reading Ben Schmidt’s latest analysis of majors and enrolments. Instead, I will argue that the permanent crisis of the humanities is, at once, more focused and expansive. “Permanent crisis” refers not to a specific or limited set of conditions that will be overcome, reversed, or redeemed (through collective action, history, objective spirit, more enlightened administrators, or better educated politicians); rather, “permanent crisis” refers to a basic and irresolvable tension in what has come to be known as “the humanities.” And the tension is basically this: the very conditions that allowed for the modern humanities to be established and then flourish (in modern institutions that sustain them and those who ply them with salaries, health insurance, parking permits, retirement plans) also came to imperil them.

Chad Wellmon is a Professor of German Studies at the University of Virginia. His teaching and research interests include European intellectual history, media and social theory, and the history of education and technology. His published work includes articles and books on the emergence of anthropology, the rise of the research university, and the history of knowledge technologies. He is currently completing Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age

Friday, March 15

9.00-9.30: Welcome

9.30-10.30: Robert Rix (University of Copenhagen), “Methods for Studying Translations as Print History”

Although much effort is currently going into producing volumes of national book history, print historians are also increasingly looking beyond national boundaries. With a focus on the eighteenth century, I will discuss the transnational migration of texts through translation. Only very few studies link the fields of translation studies and the history of print, and fewer still examine how translations enter into new print markets as commodified objects. Thus, I will address some methodological and practical ways in which the trajectory of translations can be analyzed. My reflections in this respect will relate to an ongoing collaborative project on the bibliomigrancy/translation of vernacular ballads during the Romantic period. In this project, we are in the process of defining a methodology for cross-border analysis that may enrich our understanding of the formations and codifications of world literature. A particularly promising avenue is the possibility of integrating the theoretical frameworks from polysystem theory (i.e. the view of translated literature as an interference in a domestic network of relations and hierarchies) with an examination of print market infrastructure. As a significant case study, one area of mobility that the project will scrutinize is the translation of what was considered to be sub-literary texts. In my presentation, I will outline how the project is seeking to define new, mixed strategies for examining such transnational material.

Robert W. Rix is Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen. He has published widely in several areas relating to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: politics, religion, language, nationalism, Nordic antiquarianism, and print culture/book history. He has written a monograph and many articles on William Blake, focusing on the ideas and publications of his fellow radicals, revolutionaries, and religious enthusiasts in the 1790s. Rix has edited two collections of essays on book history and is currently involved in a project on Scandinavian text in English translation. He has also written on medieval ideas and manuscript culture in The Barbarian North in Medieval Imagination: Ethnicity, Legend, and Literature (Routledge, 2014). Rix is editor of the journal Romantik: Journal for the Study of Romanticisms and has for the past five years served as Deputy Head of Department.

10.30-11.00: Coffee

11.00-12.00: Catherine Clark (MIT), “Photographs in Print, Method in Magazines”

The photographic print – ideally vintage – holds pride of place in hierarchies of photographic value. But far more photographs have circulated since the invention of the medium in print rather than as prints. To look at photographs in print, in newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and books, however, is to confront problems of quantity. How do we deal with the flood of images produced and circulated in the twentieth century? This paper draws on my current research on the history of the circulation of photos taken by French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson in China in 1948-1949 in order to think through these methodological issues and engage with how my method for dealing with magazines is part of larger intellectual trends past and present. Cartier-Bresson provides a particularly interesting case because of the fundamental contradiction his career was built on. In his work as a photojournalist, his success depended on the widest possible circulation of his images in print, while his identity as an artist was constructed via the creation of artificial scarcity of photographs as prints and the control of access to his overwhelming backlog of production.

Catherine Clark is Associate Professor of French Studies and Class of 1947 Career Development Chair at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the author of Paris and the Cliché of History: The City and Photographs, 1860-1970 (Oxford University Press, 2018), which was named a Choice 2018 Outstanding Academic Title. Her research about the histories of photography and modern France has appeared in the American Historical Review, Etudes photographiques, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Contemporary French Civilization. She has held residential fellowships at the Camargo Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

12.00-1.30: Lunch

1.30-2.30: Amanda Jo Goldstein (UC Berkeley), “Neural Literacy: Erasmus Darwin and the Biosemiotics of Reading”

This talk explores a key episode in the genealogy of the “new” sciences of biosemiotics and neural plasticity, uncovering how print was thought to impact physiological development and direct embodied imagination in the period that first grasped the nervous system as a “system of communication.” I show how Erasmus Darwin’s influential biomedical masterwork, Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life (1794-96) cast animal bodies as mimetically, tropologically, and semiotically active and reactive at the level of their very nerves, grasping animation itself – the suite of motions distinctive of coming-to-life as an event of ontogeny, cosmology, medicine, or art – as the semiotic passion of a nervous system born as the bond between parts that are not the same. In Darwin’s understanding, differentiating embryonic organs, in their diverse modes of communicating stimulus across the nervous system they mutually comprise, introduce habits of substitution, combination, and translation that set the pattern for language, printing, and reading in the narrowly verbal sense in which we typically mean them. This is how, I suggest, we ought to understand the most baffling feature of Darwin’s own use of words: his commitment to expressing evolutionary neuroscience in, or better as, best-selling poetry. Since Darwin produced his magnum opus twice, once as the prose treatise Zoonomia (1794-1796), and once as a rhyming, two-thousand line didactic epic, The Temple of Nature; or, The Origin of Society: A Poem (1803), we need to grasp Darwin’s poetry as a neurologically-informed pedagogical strategy: a targeted means of setting human animals into semiotic motion, premised on their neural susceptibility to the poetic address of the printed word.

Amanda Jo Goldstein specializes in Enlightenment and Romantic poetry and science, with particular interests in the early life sciences and materialist theories of history, rhetoric, and nature. Her recent book, Sweet Science: Romantic Materialism and the New Logics of Life (University of Chicago Press, 2017), was awarded this year’s MLA Prize for a First Book and the Kenshur Prize for an outstanding monograph of interest to eighteenth-century scholars. She is also the author of articles on Goethe and the botany of senescence, Herder’s poetics of sensation, Erasmus Darwin and neuroplasticity, William Blake’s reluctant ecology, and non-Kantian theories of epigenesis. A new research project takes up the ecology of utopia in the early socialist projects dubbed “Romantic”; another seeks the genealogy of the “new” concepts of biosemiosis and plasticity in the long history of epigenetic life science. She joined the Berkeley English faculty last year after working as an assistant professor of English at Cornell University (2012-17) and a postdoctoral fellow in Biopolitics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2011-12).

2.30-2.45: Coffee

2.45-3.45: Tom McEnaney (UC Berkeley), “Print’s Problems with Sound”

Against the backdrop of Nixon’s Watergate tapes and Fidel Castro’s paranoid recording apparatus, as well as contemporaneous musical experiments with tape, this talk turns to a series of objects from the 1960s and 70s that were entextualized by transcribing tape-recorded interviews. Taking up these books, I will explore why print remained a kind of talisman to enregister or represent marginalized voices amidst a media ecology of popular radio drama, audiobooks, and spoken word recordings. While the tape format destabilized familiar print categories—authorship, copyright, realism—and threatened to reorganize or undermine print’s literary institutions, writers and publishers otherwise quick to flash their avant-garde credentials or celebrate their challenge to fictionality or the novel remained faithful, then and now, to sustaining the power of the printed word. From Miguel Barnet in Havana and Andy Warhol in Manhattan to Rodolfo Walsh in Buenos Aires and Paul Bowles in Morocco, writers prohibited listeners from hearing the voices of the interlocutors ostensibly responsible for speaking the words printed in these tape-recorder books. Borrowing from linguistic anthropology, sound studies, and narrative theory, and in dialogue with work from Michael Warner, Virginia Jackson, Michael Allan, and others, I ask why were these voices kept from readers’ ears? What inspired and sustained the mania for print? And why do archives, even today, let us read, look, and scan what we want, while they keep their recorded sounds silent?

Tom McEnaney is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Spanish & Portuguese at the University of California, Berkeley. His book Acoustic Properties: Radio, Narrative, and the New Neighborhood of the Americas was shortlisted for the 2018 MSA Prize for a First Book. His work brings together sound studies, linguistic anthropology, cultural analytics, and literary theory to examine the history and ongoing interaction between print and other media technologies in Argentina, Cuba, and the United States.

4.00-5.00: Closing Discussion: Jonathan Sachs (Concordia University), moderator