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Book Studies

Book Studies is an interdisciplinary field that brings together people, courses, and resources that explore the book as a material, artistic, and/or cultural object of production and consumption. Often using materials from Gould Library's Special Collections, courses in Book Studies attend to both manuscript and printed books and the cultures that gave rise to these distinct forms of communication and were, in turn, influenced by them. Book Studies is also interested in the book as a structure for storing knowledge and information and the larger problems and questions of knowledge management.  As such, we also explore the nature and purpose of libraries and collections and the relationships between the physical book and its digital analogs. Book Studies also attends to the production and function of specific aspects or elements of the book (for example, engravings, illuminations, script/font, etc.). Finally, Book Studies is interested in all traditions of writing, not just those of the West and of the codex.

Courses are listed in Book Studies if they contain a significant unit or units or a special project devoted to some aspect of book culture or book arts. Interested students are encouraged to contact the course instructor or the Interest Thread Curator, William North

Local Resources

Gould Library Special Collections

Curated by Rebecca Bramlett, Special Collections Librarian, and housed on the First Level of Gould Library, Special Collections is a rich and varied resource for Book Studies at Carleton. As well as manuscript fascimiles and early printed books, Special Collections contains first editions, texts of historical value, a superb collection of artists books, and other materials from around the world. Visit the website and contact the curators for more information.

Minnesota Center for the Book Arts

Located in Minneapolis, the MCBA is one of the foremost center for Book Arts in the United States. Its mission is lead the advancement of the book as an evolving art form, and they host a rich array of events and speakers as well as hosting classes. 


ARTH 100: Renaissance, Revolution, and Reformation: The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer

"If man devotes himself to art, much evil is avoided..." This statement, on the divine nature of art, was penned by the German artist Albrecht Dürer. Dürer's artworks--his paintings, his drawings, his woodblock prints, and his engravings--have been construed to be some of the most theologically sophisticated, naturalistically rendered, theoretically informed, classically inflected, and socially engaged of the period we now refer to as the "Renaissance." This thematically organized course will engage the work of Albrecht Dürer, around these issues. Discussions will be integrated with student presentations, analyses of primary and scholarly texts, and writing assignments.
Offered Fall 2019

ARTH 220: The Origins of Manga: Japanese Prints

Pictures of the floating world, or ukiyoe, were an integral part of popular culture in Japan and functioned as illustrations, advertisements, and souvenirs. This course will examine the development of both style and subject matter in Japanese prints within the socio-economic context of the seventeenth through twentieth centuries. Emphasis will be placed on the prominent position of women and the nature of gendered activity in these prints.
Not offered 2019-2020

ARTH 321: Arts of the Chinese Scholar's Studio

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in China, unprecedented economic development and urbanization expanded the number of educated elite who used their wealth to both display their status and distinguish themselves as cultural leaders. As a result, this period experienced a boom in estate and garden building, art collecting and luxury consumption. This course will examine a wide range of objects from painting and calligraphy to furniture and ceramics within the context of domestic architecture of the late Ming dynasty. It will also examine the role of taste and social class in determining the style of art and architecture.
Not offered 2019-2020

ARTS 274: Printmaking

Students will work in one of the four primary media of printmaking: intaglio, relief, lithography, or silkscreen. After students make their choice of which process they will use, demonstrations will be offered in each area. The goal includes building upon skills that were established in the pre-requisite drawing class. Each print media affords great potential in experimentation.
Offered Fall 2019

ARTS 374: Advanced Printmaking and Book Arts

This course is a continuation from the introductory level print courses, offering instruction in any of the print media--intaglio, relief, silk-screen, lithography and letterpress. In addition, several binding techniques are taught, and some of the assignments can be fulfilled by book-based projects.
Offered Spring 2020

ENGL 216: Milton

Radical, heretic, and revolutionary, John Milton wrote the most influential, and perhaps the greatest, poem in the English language. We will read the major poems (Lycidas, the sonnets, Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes), a selection of the prose, and will attend to Milton's historical context, to the critical arguments over his work, and to his impact on literature and the other arts.
Offered Fall 2019

ENGL 244: Shakespeare I

A chronological survey of the whole of Shakespeare's career, covering all genres and periods, this course explores the nature of Shakespeare's genius and the scope of his art. Particular attention is paid to the relationship between literature and stagecraft ("page to stage"). By tackling the complexities of prosody, of textual transmission, and of Shakespeare's highly figurative and metaphorical language, the course will help you further develop your ability to think critically about literature. Note: non-majors should register for English 144.
Offered Fall 2019

ENGL 310: Shakespeare II

Continuing the work begun in Shakespeare I, this course delves deeper into the Shakespeare canon. More difficult and obscure plays are studied alongside some of the more famous ones. While focusing principally on the plays themselves as works of art, the course also explores their social, intellectual, and theatrical contexts, as well as the variety of critical response they have engendered.
Not offered 2019-2020

ENGL 327: Victorian Novel

Puzzled about nineteenth century novels, Henry James asks, 'But what do such large loose baggy monsters with their queer elements of the accidental and the arbitrary, artistically mean?'' (“Preface,” The Tragic Muse). What, indeed? Practicing close reading, surface reading, and distant reading, we will examine the prose, design, and illustrations of Victorian editions, and ask how big data might help us define and interpret the nineteenth century novel. Authors might include George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, E.M. Forster, Lewis Carroll.
Offered Fall 2019

ENGL 328: Victorian Poetry

Victorian poets are prolific, challenging, inventive, and deeply engaged with the intersection of words and visual images in poetry, painting, and photography. We will read the competing aesthetic theories that frame their art, and study works by Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Oscar Wilde, Matthew Arnold, Dante Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), Gerard Manley Hopkins, and others.
Not offered 2019-2020

HIST 137: Early Medieval Worlds

Through the intensive exploration of a variety of distinct "worlds" in the early Middle Ages, this course offers an introduction to formative political, social, religious, and cultural developments in Europe between c.300 and c.1050. We will pay special attention to the structures, ideologies, practices, and social dynamics that shaped and energized communities large and small.  We will also focus on developing the ability to observe and interpret various kinds of textual, visual, and material primary sources. 
Not offered 2019-2020

HIST 204: Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Medieval Mediterranean

The Mediterranean was a dynamic hub of cultural exchange in the Middle Ages. We will draw on Jewish, Muslim, and Latin Christian sources to explore this contact from 1050-1492 and the role of the sea itself in joining and separating the peoples who surrounded it. What did it mean to be a Muslim pilgrim in Christian-held Palestine? A Jewish vizier serving a Muslim ruler in Spain? A Christian courtier courting martyrdom in North Africa? We will explore lives led between coexistence and violence, intellectual and legal structures that helped to negotiate difference, and the textures of daily life.
Not offered 2019-2020

HIST 231: Mapping the World Before Mercator

This course will explore early maps primarily in medieval and early modern Europe. After an introduction to the rhetoric of maps and world cartography, we will examine the functions and forms of medieval European and Islamic maps and then look closely at the continuities and transformations in map-making during the period of European exploration. The focus of the course will be on understanding each map within its own cultural context and how maps can be used to answer historical questions. We will work closely with the maps in Gould Library Special Collections to expand campus awareness of the collection.
Not offered 2019-2020

HIST 232: Renaissance Worlds in France and Italy

Enthusiasm, artistry, invention, exploration.... How do these notions of Renaissance culture play out in sources from the period? Using a range of evidence (historical, literary, and visual) from Italy and France in the fourteenth-sixteenth centuries we will explore selected issues of the period, including debates about the meaning of being human and ideal forms of government and education; the nature of God and mankind's duties toward the divine; the family and gender roles; definitions of beauty and the goals of artistic achievement; accumulation of wealth; and exploration of new worlds and encounters with other peoples.
Not offered 2019-2020

HIST 255: Rumors, Gossip, and News in East Asia

What is news? How do rumors and gossips shape news in modern China, Japan, and Korea? Is the press one of the sociocultural bases within civil society that shapes opinion in the public sphere in East Asia? Students will examine how press-like activities reshape oral communication networks and printing culture and isolate how the public is redefined in times of war and revolutions. Drawing sources from a combination of poems, private letters, maps, pamphlets, handbills, local gazetteers, rumor mills, pictorials, and cartoons, students will map communication circuits that linked authors, journalists, shippers, booksellers, itinerant storytellers, gossipers, listeners, and active readers.
Offered Fall 2019

JAPN 352: Advanced Japanese through Manga and Contemporary Materials

Reading and discussion of advanced Japanese materials that include classical and recent manga. The materials are to be determined by both the instructor and the students.
Not offered 2019-2020

RELG 161: The Jewish Bible

This course explores the text known to scholars as the "Hebrew Bible," to Jews as the "Tanakh," and to Christians as the "Old Testament." Composed, compiled, and redacted over a millennium, the Bible is a remarkably complex document that affords its readers the opportunity to ruminate on questions of divinity and humanity, judgment and redemption, slavery and bondage, history and memory, life and death. Through examining the contents and historical contexts of the Bible's constituent parts, we will gain insight into how ancient and modern writers, readers, and thinkers dealt with these same questions. Requires no previous knowledge and will use sources in translation.
Offered Spring 2020