Saturday, 19 March 2016

follow up to our class on sound and image

A few threads to collect from our class in this follow-up post, in addition to the lecture slides posted on BB. We began by considering audiobooks in relation to a recording of a Martin Luther King sermon as an aural text, and one related in turn to a controversy over inscription and erasure on the MLK memorial in Washington, DC. If you're interested in the example, it's worth checking out what the National Park Service's official website for the memorial says -- and doesn't say -- about the controversial inscription "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness." For more on King's sermon "The Drum Major Instinct," including a downloadable mp3 recording and historical background, see Stanford's King Institute's page for the sermon:

Our lecture on the prehistories of digitization, as read through photography and sound transmission in the nineteenth century, actually originated as lectures in previous Future of the Book courses but then became two chapters (4 & 5) in a book I published last year, which you can access online through the library catalogue. Several of the images in the lectures slides receive a more detailed discussion in those chapters. What's probably more interesting, however, is the website for the Smithsonian Museum of American History's website for their exhibition "Hear My Voice: Alexander Graham Bell and the Origins of Recorded Sound." Its curator, Carlene Stephens, was a great help when I was working on the book, and the exhibition brings to life some of the recordings discussed in the book (especially ones that include bits of literary texts). Although we're used to hearing audio recordings from the past, such as King's sermon, I still get goosebumps from hearing a human voice recorded within a couple of decades of the American Civil War. It makes one think of the future histories of digital artifacts being made today, especially experiments whose importance may become clear only later, to future historians who haven't even been born yet.

On Alice in Wonderland and the history of its publication and illustration, see the Harry Ransom's Center's description of John Tenniel's work. Also, the British Library has made available a digitization of Lewis Carroll's illustrated manuscript, which he gave to the original Alice in 1864. Finally, if you'd like to explore the Brabant Collection of Lewis Carroll material at the U of T's Fisher Rare Book Library, you can read about it here:


I knew I was forgetting something...

Two of the researchers I mentioned in relation to the study of sound reproduction, Jonathan Sterne and Philip Auslander, have their relevant books now linked from the recommended readings for last week. They don't deal with the history and future of the book directly, but their work on media history does intersect with our course themes, especially if we take a broad view of what we mean by text.

Also, some of you have communicated with me about working on the topic of artists' books for your final project. Hopefully you've been reading lots of Johanna Drucker, but let me also recommend this recent article:

Athanasiu, Eva. "Belonging: Artists' Books and Readers in the Library." Art Documentation 34, no. 2 (2015): 330-338.

If this article seems to approach its topic in ways especially relevant to our course, there's a good reason: Eva was a student in this course in 2014, and she developed this article out of her final paper! Hope this provides a bit of inspiration at a point in the term when it can do the most good. And the article itself is a wonderful reflection on the future of a particularly interesting kind of book.

Finally, in the spirit of pushing the boundaries of the book, you might find this CBC Spark story on virtual reality and literature worthwhile, especially if you're interested in James Joyce's Ulysses. (It makes me think of the novel's famous phrase "ineluctable modality of the visible," which opens one of the book's most challenging parts for readers...) 

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