Workshop in the History of Material Texts

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Assembly of a variety of material texts including a sculpture.

Founded in 1993 by Professor Peter Stallybrass (English, emeritus) and the Penn Libraries, the Workshop in the History of Material Texts is a weekly seminar, held in the library, that features scholars presenting a wide variety of research in book history, bibliography, manuscript studies, history of reading, publication and printing, and related topics. Subjects range widely in chronology and in geography: from the ancient world to the modern and with a global scope. The usual format of the workshop is a presentation of approximately thirty minutes, followed by discussion. Talks are accompanied by PowerPoint presentations, handouts, or other visual materials. Materials from Penn's special collections are often displayed as part of the workshop.

All are welcome to attend. Participants, including faculty, librarians, graduate and undergraduate students, conservators, booksellers, and others, come from a wide range of disciplines.

Information about past seminars and related materials is available through the Workshop in the History of Material Texts website.

View lectures from 2020-2022 on the Penn Workshop in the History of Material Texts youtube channel.

***COVID-19 Update***

For Fall 2021 and Spring 2022, we will present the Workshop in person at the Class of 78 Pavilion, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, and via Zoom. If you would like to receive details on how to attend upcoming meetings, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

SPRING 2022 Speakers

  • Jan. 24: Pamela H. Smith (Columbia): "Making and Knowing in Early Modern How-To Texts"
  • Jan. 31: Carlos Spoerhase (Bielefeld): "Failed Formats: Goethe’s Literary Anthology for the German People"
  • Feb. 7: Dahye Kim (Northwestern): "The Hangul Machines and the Curious Disappearance of Chinese Characters"
  • Feb. 14: Aylin Malcolm (Penn): "Revolutionary Science: Movable Books and the Medieval Universe"
  • Feb. 21: Meg Leja (Binghamton): "Mending Bodies by (A)mending Texts: Medical Manuscripts from the Early Middle Ages"
  • Feb. 28: Marcy Dinius (DePaul): "David Walker's Textual Engagements"
  • Mar. 7: No meeting
  • Mar. 14, 15, 17: Peter D. McDonald (Oxford), Rosenbach Lectures in Bibliography: "The Secret Life of Books"
  • Mar. 21: Sarah Werner: "Practicing Feminist Bibliography"
  • Mar. 28: Micha Perry (University of Haifa): "Medieval Jewish Bilingual Charters: Texts, Signs and Sounds"
  • Apr. 4: Roger Chartier (Penn): "The Skin of an Innocent Lamb: Jack Cade and the Roman Law"
  • Apr. 11: Material Texts Roadshow (Virtual event): Lisa Baskin, Emiko Hastings (William L. Clements Library), Sarah Lindenbaum, Caroline Schimmel: "Women Collectors and Their Collections"
  • Apr. 18: Andrew Stauffer (University of Virginia) and Amanda Licastro (Penn Libraries): "Book Traces: Library History and the Marks of Collaborative Reading"
  • Apr. 25: Honoring Jerry Singerman: A Celebration of His Work as Humanities Editor at the University of Pennsylvania Press

List of workshops

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press, emeritus), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

If you would like to receive announcements about upcoming meetings, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website. For more information, please contact Aylin Malcolm.