It is impossible to separate literature from its material, social, and political conditions of production and consumption. But if the fields of literary criticism and cultural history are interwoven, how should we read and define literature? To what extent are poems or novels objects as well as texts? In addition to authors, how do readers, editors, and publishers shape a text’s meaning? Focusing on early modern Spain, this class is an introduction to the study of manuscripts and early printed books. Like many specialists in the history of reading and material culture, we will use Cervantes’s Don Quijote as a foundation, but we will also study poetry, letters, biblical commentary, and treatises on printing from the early modern period. Each of our texts will describe or thematize the acts of writing, printing, and reading. Throughout the semester we will thus toggle between “close readings” of these texts’ themes, vocabulary, and imagery, on the one hand, and their histories of edition, publication, circulation, and preservation, on the other hand. In this way, we will consider what it means to be a reader of and in early modern Spain. In order to contemplate these material concerns first hand, we will visit New York area archives and museums, and each student will undertake a semester long research project using primary sources. Drawing in part on works by early modern pedagogues like Juan Luis Vives and Francisco Sánchez de las Brozas, we will discuss strategies for research, writing, and revision. We will also study works by Benito Arias Montano, Luís de Camões, Antonio de Guevara, Fernando de Herrera, Cristóbal Suárez de Figueroa, Teresa de Ávila, and Garcilaso de la Vega, as well as scholarly essays or book chapters by Roland Barthes, Roger Chartier, Hipólito Escolar, Michel Foucault, D. F. McKenzie, and others.
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