2017 Summer Seminar in the History of the Book in American Culture
Other Languages, Other Americas
When Isaiah Thomas created a repository to gather all the stray materials that might tell the nation’s history, he could not foresee what that nation’s geographical contours would ultimately be. But he did begin his History of Printing in America with the arrival of the press to Mexico in 1539, intimating that the continental sense of “America” overlapped in some way with the republic whose formation he had witnessed. Hemispheric and transatlantic approaches to scholarship over the past twenty years prompt us to delve into the questions that Thomas’s choice implicitly pose: First, how did different colonial and national cultures influence, receive, and translate early U.S. publications? Second, how might we incorporate material in languages other than English, whether printed domestically or abroad, into our narratives of American history, literature, and cultural expression? And third, what can the study of print culture and book history add to the so-called transnational turn in American Studies?
This seminar will both survey and critically examine the state of two overlapping fields—hemispheric and multilingual American studies—while asking how book history might reshape these fields.
The seminar will be of interest to graduate students, librarians, curators, and college and university faculty. Our discussion will benefit from participants with even modest knowledge of a language other than English, but we also welcome those who want to work on English-language materials prior to, or outside of, the United States.