Friday Assignments

Homer’s scroll: Before the invention of the codex in the second century CE, western readers were likely to encounter texts on papyrus scrolls. In class I will give you a scroll that contains a book of Homer’s Odyssey (which was originally composed orally, written down on scrolls only in the sixth century BCE.) Don’t just unroll the whole thing. Instead, set aside enough time to read the entire scroll and make your way through it slowly. In your response, explain the changes that you notice, speculate about why those changes might have occurred, and consider how they affect the act of reading.

Reading on an iPad, Kindle, and Book: On reserve in the Bortz Library you will find an iPad, a Kindle, two editions of Jack Keruoac’s On the Road, and several copies of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. Spend at least an hour reading on these devices. (Ideally, use them for other reading as well, really getting a sense of how they affect your reading.) Then write a Google doc response that describes your experiences. You will probably want to consider these questions (among others): Which device did you find most conducive to reading? Which would you want to spend time with? What features does each platform—including the book—have that others lack? Did you move yourself to read the different platforms? Do they call for different body positions? Kerouac originally typed On the Road on an immense scroll, which was bought in 2001 by Colts’ owner Jim Irsay for  years ago for 2.43 million dollars. If you could read it on that scroll rather than on an iPad, Kindle, or book, would you?

Pope vs. Colley Cibber: Two of Alexander Pope’s nemeses were Colly Cibber, a writer and actor Pope had frequently satirized, and the publisher Edmund Curll, who was responsible for numerous scurrilous pamphlets about Pope. One attack that Pope took most personally was called A Letter from Mr. Cibber to Mr. Pope. Published in 1742, it was quickly followed by Pope’s enshrinement of Cibber as the hero of his great anti-epic poem The Dunciad.

Rather than beginning with The Dunciad as a poem, we’re going to start with it as a physical book. On reserve you will find a copy of Curll’s pamphlet and three early editions of The Dunciad. Begin by reading pages the marked pages in A Letter—you’ll get a sense of the intensity of animosity between the two men. Then review all three editions of The Dunciad, looking for elements that differentiate the edition.  Finally, make a detailed list of all the different parts of one of the editions, e.g. “frontispiece/ title page/ letter from publisher to reader/ etc.” (If your last name falls in the first half of the class, make you list about the 1728 edition; if it’s in the second half, focus on the 1743 edition.) In addition to posting your list on Google docs, bring a hard copy to class.

Fabricating an Eighteenth-century Title Page: Title pages in the eighteenth-century often acted as advertisements: publishers would hang out these sheets to entice prospective readers. Your job is to fabricate one. To carry out this task, you need to first look at a host of title pages. I will put some on the class photo site for you to see, and you can also Google the names of eighteenth-century novels and the words “title page.” Look at the full names of these novels and other works and create one that you think could pass as a genuinely written in the eighteenth- century. Then proceed to fabricate the full title page. You don’t need engravings, but you should pay careful attention to the typeface you choose, to the way the text is laid out on the paper, and of course to the elements that typically found on a title page. Don’t try to post this on Google docs, as the formatting will get lost; instead, email it to me. I will probably post some of them on our class blog.

Reading and Writing by Candlelight: We now take it for granted that we can read whenever we want, and we don’t think about the cost of the light. But reading before the advent of modern lighting was much more of a challenge. In class I will give you a candle. Find a time when you know you will not be disturbed. Turn off all the power in your room, including clocks, computers, cell phones, or anything else that has even the faintest blip of light to it. Then read for a half hour solely by candlelight. When you are finished, give yourself another 30 minutes to handwrite a Johnsonian evaluation of your experience, using for inspiration one of the quotations I will supply. I will scan your work and may post it on the class blog. If you would also like to try a fountain pen—the closest thing I have to a quill pen such as Johnson would have used—let me know in advance and you can borrow one.

What Romantic Readers Really Read: On reserve you will find a generous sampling of the books in the HSC Library cataloged as PR (British Literature) and published between 1790 and 1832, often taken as the period of British Romanticism. (At the beginning of this period, Hampden-Sydney was fifteen. At the end, it was forty-seven. Many of the books you’re looking at were collected by the Union Philosophical Society at the time.) In class we’re discussing the representations of authorship that emerge in the works of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and Keats (with Blake to come soon). But if we want to know what readers at the time were thinking about, we should see what they actually read. Spend some time looking at this collection of books and compare it with the authors listed in the Norton Anthology (also on reserve). To what extent do the two overlap? How would you characterize the books that our library holds?

What type are you? These three parts are designed to get you thinking about type—something that usually, perhaps by design, we take for granted.

Part One: Take this online personality quiz: (You can also Google “What type are you?”) How accurate is the description of your type? Do you like the typeface it has chosen for you?

Part Two: On the iPad, go to Typography Insight

  1. Learn the meanings of the terms outlined in “Typeface anatomy”
  2. Distinguish between typeface and font
  3. Learn what leading does
  4. Compare two types you like: what sets them apart?
  5. What would be your choice of type to set one of your favorite books? In other words, if you were creating a new edition of your favorite book, which typeface would you use? Why?

Part Three: In 1968, Hammermill Paper Company commissioned six book designers to design Franz Kafka’s The Trial. (The images you see are reproduced from Richard Hendel’s On Book Design [New Haven, Yale UP, 1998]). Which of the six do you find the most inviting? Why? Which fits the text most effectively? Does any of them seem inappropriate to you?

Setting a page on a Vandercook Proofing Press (Letter M Press): When we go to UVa next week, you will be printing the title page for your book on a Vandercook Proofing Press. While we don’t have one at Hampden-Sydney, you can still get a taste of what to expect by experimenting with the Letter M Press App on the iPad. Create a title page for the book you are creating this semester, print out a copy, and bring it to class.

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  1. Pingback: Eighteenth-century literature and the digital undergraduate | Manicule

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