Enriching American Studies Scholarship through the History of the Book


American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

Philip Gura

James N. Green

Eliza Richards

Since its emergence as a separate discipline more than a half century ago, American studies has contributed significantly to innovative and revisionist scholarship. In this weeklong seminar, participants considered how the equally interdisciplinary field of the history of the book broadens and enriches topics that traditionally have comprised American studies and its constituent disciplines, including history and literature.

Intended as a practicum, the seminar centered both on projects and problems that participants bring to the table as well as presentations from the core faculty, making participants aware of how knowledge of the materiality of print culture might fertilize their teaching and scholarship.

A historian of childhood, for example, might understand his subject differently if he did not just read contemporary printed sources for documentation of his work but actually analyzed how the process of the publishing circuit might have affected Americans understanding of childhood. Someone interested in the history of domesticity could come to new conclusions about the significance of home spaces by studying the production and transmission of early, engraved building guides. A scholar interested in the rise of antebellum celebrity culture might profit from knowledge of early photography and its uses in book illustration. Early in the seminar, faculty will introduce the issues, techniques, and tools of history of the book research through presentations on their own work in American studies. In particular, the seminar leader will present sessions on the impact of history of the book scholarship on work in early American religious history and American literature and the impact of photography on the book arts. Guest faculty will take up, among other subjects, the various tools now available to those who embark on scholarship in the history of print culture and lead a workshop in which seminar participants have the opportunity for hands-on research in AAS collections. The seminar also included discussion of student presentations on their own areas of interest and work in progress.

Seminar Leader
Seminar Leader
Seminar Leader