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.


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we're going virtual for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters. If you would like to receive details on how to attend upcoming Zoom meetings, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

View lectures from this year on the Penn Workshop in the History of Material Texts youtube channel.

Spring 2021 Speakers

  • Jan. 25: Leah Price (Rutgers): “Working from Home / Reading from Home: Domestic Service and the Victorian Book”
  • Feb. 1: Lorene Cary (Penn) and Jim Duffin (Penn): “William Still at 200: Researching and Adapting the Archive”
  • Feb. 8: Jean Lee Cole (Loyola University Maryland): “Repulsive Women: Djuna Barnes and others in the American periodical press, 1900-1915”
  • Feb. 15: Sonja Drimmer (UMass Amherst): “Bad Impressions: Livery Badges and Lucre in Late Medieval England”
  • Feb. 22: Mélanie Peron (Penn): “Re-membering WWII Paris”
  • Mar. 1: Jennifer Garcon (Penn): “Data Humanism: Case Studies in Community Archiving”
  • Mar. 8: No Meeting
  • Mar. 15: Michael Winship (UT-Austin): “The Penalty in Alabama is Death! For Selling My Bondage and My Freedom
  • Mar. 22: Peter Stallybrass (Penn): “Who is God?: Depicting Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 1400-1550”
  • Mar. 29: Caroline Fowler (Clark Art Institute): “Rethinking the History of Print through Textile”
  • Apr. 5: Erin McGuirl (Bibliographical Society of America): “Flash Forward: A Bibliographical Analysis of Two Modern Theatrical Texts”
  • Apr. 12: Diego Pirillo (UC Berkeley): “The Republic of Letters in 18th century Philadelphia”
  • Apr. 19: HMT Roadshow: Stephanie Foote (West Virginia), Iris Montero (Brown), J.T. Roane (Arizona State), Matthew Kirschenbaum (Maryland): “Environmental Material Texts”
  • Apr. 26: Roger Chartier (Penn): “Meaning affects Form. Gracián from Oracular in-24 to Courtly Quarto”

Current workshop

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), 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 Philip Mogen.