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Current Program

The Fifth Annual J. R. de J. Jackson Lecture
James Raven (University of Essex/Magdalene College, Cambridge)
“How Can There Be A History of the Book? A History of Book History”
Thursday, 29 September 2016, 4:15 pm
In Association with the Friends of Victoria University Library
Victoria College Chapel, 91 Charles Street W., Room VC213
Abstract and Biography

For some contributors to the history of the book, the subject appears bounded and specific, for others it is more indefinite, more a label than a discipline. This lecture explores how these differences relate to parent disciplines and the training of respective contributors from literary, historical, bibliographical, codicological, digital, library and conservation studies. In ways akin to the elision between ‘the history of art’ and ‘art history,’ there are in the English-speaking world subtle semantic differences between ‘the history of the book’, the ‘history of books’ and ‘book history’, but the greater challenge is whether any of these descriptors are sufficiently robust to dispel questions about originality, integrity and coherence. In contemplating future directions, the lecture will consider the approach of some of the founding practitioners, surveying the insistence upon interdisciplinarity and examining the limits to this ambition. It will probe the further complications of the ‘history of print culture’ and question whether ‘book history,’ until recently apparently practised mostly in and about the Western World, can be global in ambition.

James Raven is Professor of Modern History at the University of Essex and a Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge; he was previously Reader in Social and Cultural History at the University of Oxford and a Professorial Fellow of Mansfield College. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Society of Antiquaries, and a member of the American Antiquarian Society, he has also held visiting appointments in the United States, France, Italy and Britain. His scholarship in social and cultural history and cultural studies was recognized with the award of LittD from the University of Cambridge in 2012. His recent publications include Bookscape: Geographies of Printing and Publishing in London before 1800 (Chicago, 2014), based on his British Library Panizzi Lectures for 2010; Publishing Business in Eighteenth-Century England (Boydell, 2014); and Lost Mansions: Essays on the Destruction of the Country House (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Numerous earlier books and articles examine social, economic and communications history, historical mapping, approaches to media and literary history, the spatial organisation of knowledge, historical bibliography, and colonial cultural history. He has also published on specific aspects of urban, business and popular and intellectual history, and is a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement. As part of a major long-term project re-examining the spatial history of Enlightenment global networks, he is completing a book on reading and commercialisation, and he is also currently completing research for an OUP history of chancing, gambling and state lotteries. He directs the Cambridge Project for the Book Trust and the Mapping the Print Culture of Eighteenth-Century London project, and is now launching a major European network project on the historical geographies of communications and social media (building on an earlier European Science Foundation workshop, ‘Knowing About Mediation’, involving participants from 14 EU countries).

Robert Spoo (University of Tulsa College of Law)
“International Authors’ Rights and the Uncoordinated Public Domain”
Thursday, 3 November 2016, 4:15 pm
In Association with the Centre for Innovation Law and Policy (Faculty of Law)
Faculty of Law, 78 Queen’s Park, Room J140
Abstract and Biography

When nations amend their copyright laws in response to calls for international harmonization, they usually do so by expanding authors’ rights without also seeking to harmonize national public domains. Divergent laws have resulted in an uncoordinated global public domain that renders authors’ works freely available for use in some countries while subjecting them to copyright or moral-rights protection in others. The problem of the patchwork global commons, exacerbated by unpredictable literary estates and the inconsistent policies of institutional repositories, undermines the ability of researchers to access and disseminate historical and cultural materials, including unpublished works. The uncoordinated public domain shares certain features–notably, the problem of resource underuse–with what scholars of law and economics call an anticommons. A balanced solution might be to employ a system of compulsory licenses to harmonize the world’s public domains and to coordinate the legal conditions whereby the vast resources held by cultural institutions could be more fully exploited. The chief example used throughout this talk is James Joyce–specifically, the ongoing Oxford University Press project, of which Professor Spoo is a co-editor, to collect and publish some 2,000 unpublished letters written by Joyce.

Robert Spoo holds the Chapman Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Tulsa, and was recently named a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow. He earned his JD from Yale, where he was executive editor of the Yale Law Journal. After graduating, he served as law clerk for the Hon. Sonia Sotomayor of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and practised for several years in New York, Oklahoma, and San Francisco, providing litigation services and advice in the areas of copyrights, trademarks, and other intellectual property. As an attorney, Professor Spoo has represented authors, scholars, documentary filmmakers, record companies, and other creators and users of intellectual property. His litigation work has included serving as co-counsel, with the Stanford Center for Internet & Society and other attorneys, for Professor Carol Shloss of Stanford against the Estate of James Joyce. Prior to his legal career, Professor Spoo received his PhD in English from Princeton and taught for more than ten years in the University of Tulsa English Department, where he was also editor of the James Joyce Quarterly. He has published numerous books and articles on Joyce, Ezra Pound, and other modern literary figures. His teaching interests include copyrights and intellectual property, media and entertainment law, law and literature, and the copyright-related needs of scholars. His book Without Copyrights: Piracy, Publishing, and the Public Domain (OUP, 2013) offers a legal and cultural history of the impact on non-US authors of protectionist and isolationist features of US copyright laws since 1790. Professor Spoo is a member of the Modernist Studies Association Task Force on Fair Use, serves as copyright advisor to many academic journals and projects, and acts as general counsel for the International James Joyce Foundation. He also serves on the National Library of Ireland advisory board, and has assisted with proposed copyright legislation for the Republic of Ireland and other copyright issues affecting Irish cultural institutions.

Leslie Howsam (University of Windsor)
“Inverting Interdisciplinarity: Who will take Book History to the Next Level?”
Thursday, 19 January 2017, 4:15 pm
In Association with the Faculty of Information
Faculty of Information, 140 St. George Street, Room 728
Abstract and Biography

Robert Darnton famously worried that book history might lead to “interdisciplinarity run riot.” Perhaps instead the time has come to turn it inside out. In my 2006 Old Books & New Histories I called for mutual respect among the three core disciplines. Each scholar asks questions grounded in the field(s) of study where their intellectual formation happened. This paper aims to go beyond the existing practitioners of the “interdiscipline” we call book history to consider its encounter/engagement with other ways of understanding the world, both academic and not. The argument is that practitioners better understand their own discipline’s engagement with book culture than anyone else (hence historians of science and scientific culture; hence literary scholars and creative writing; hence historians and historiography). But what are the questions that legal scholars might ask of “the book” in all its complexity of mutability and mediatedness? Sociologists? Management experts? Nutritionists? These and other academic disciplines have research challenges that connect with the realms of book culture while remaining rooted elsewhere. Similarly such book-dependent fields of popular knowledge as diet and exercise, military history, and celebrity biography are perhaps best served by journalists, bloggers and others. But those commentators should first acquire some familiarity with the basic principles of book-historical knowledge.

Leslie Howsam is Distinguished University Professor Emerita at the University of Windsor, Senior Research Fellow at Ryerson University’s Centre for Digital Humanities, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She earned a PhD in modern British history from York University in 1989 and joined the faculty at Windsor in 1993. She was later founding president of the Canadian Association for the Study of Book Culture / Association Canadienne pour l’étude de l’histoire du livre (2004 -9) and president of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (2009-13). She now serves as General Editor for the series Studies in Book and Print Culture published by the University of Toronto Press. She is a Trustee of the Cambridge Project for the Book Trust and a Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge. Her major publications include, as editor, The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book (Cambridge University Press, 2015), and in 2009 the British Library and the University of Toronto Press jointly published Past into Print: The Publishing of History in Britain 1850-1950. This was based on lectures delivered as part of her James P. R. Lyell Readership in Bibliography (2005-6) at the University of Oxford. Her first book was Cheap Bibles: Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the British and Foreign Bible Society (Cambridge University Press, 1991); perhaps her best-known is Old Books & New Histories: An Orientation to Studies in Book & Print Culture (University of Toronto Press, 2006).

Natalie Zemon Davis (University of Toronto)
“Experiencing Exclusion: Book History After the Inquisition”
Thursday, 23 March 2017, 4:15 pm
Massey College, 4 Devonshire Place, Upper Library.
Abstract and Biography

In this informal talk, Natalie Davis will describe the impact of the Red Hunt in the United States in the 1950s on her own scholarship as a graduate student and beginning historian, especially its effect on her work on book history in early modern France. She will also look at some other historians similarly affected by the experience of political persecution and see what consequences it had for their historical writing. How did we cope with censorship?

Natalie Zemon Davis specializes in the social and cultural history of France, as well as other parts of Europe, North America, and the Caribbean. She has taught at Brown University, the University of Toronto, the University of California, Berkeley, and at Princeton University, where she was Henry Charles Lea Professor of History and director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies. On retiring from Princeton in 1996 she returned to Toronto, where she continues to live, as Adjunct Professor of History and Anthropology and Professor of Medieval Studies. In 2010, she was awarded the Holberg International Memorial Prize as “one of the most creative historians writing today” whose work, in the wording of the award citation, “shows how particular events can be narrated and analyzed so as to reveal deeper historical tendencies and underlying patterns of thought and action.” In 2012, she was named Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest class within the order. In 2013, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama for “her insights into the study of history and her exacting eloquence in bringing the past into focus.” Davis’s books have all been translated into other languages: twenty-two in the case of The Return of Martin Guerre.

Upcoming Events

  1. Orientation for incoming students

    Monday, September 25 @ 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
  2. The Sixth Annual J. R. de J. Jackson Lecture: Lisa Gitelman (New York University), title to be announced

    Thursday, September 28 @ 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM
  3. Jessica Brantley (Yale University), title to be announced

    Thursday, November 2 @ 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM
  4. Librorum

    Wednesday, December 6 @ 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
  5. Alexandra Gillespie (University of Toronto), “What Was the Cost of Books in Chaucer’s Time?”

    Thursday, January 11, 2018 @ 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM

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