ENGL / WRIT 2223: History of Writing, Reading, and the Book

Winter term 2023
Multimodal Online
Online synchronous session: Tuesdays 6:00 – 7:15 p.m.

Course at a glance….

Book history is an interdisciplinary field, and in this course our topics will range from literary and rhetorical analysis to historical research and cultural debates. We will study the book as a material object, from scroll to codex to digital text, and review the development of oral, manuscript, print, and digital culture from antiquity to the contemporary era, setting Western developments in a global context. We will discuss the social, political, and economic factors at play in constituting writing systems, readers, authors, patrons, scribes, printers, and publishers in different eras, including contemporary developments in digital writing and publishing. We’ll examine the book’s relation to power in discussions of censorship, libraries, sacred texts, and the revolutionary power of books. We’ll consider the nature of oral traditions and their interaction with written literacies. Course readings will alternate between non-fiction (in theoretical and historical articles) and fiction (People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, short stories by Thomas King, and Fangirl, a young adult novel by Rainbow Rowell). The course will offer options for creative projects and exercises.

This is a multimodal online course consisting of one required 75-minute synchronous class every week, along with asynchronous components: participation in a discussion forum before every class, an individual written response after class, and at various points in the term, two essays and a take-home exam.  

ENGL WRIT 2223 students working in the MacDonald Room
Students doing research in the MacDonald Collection


This course may count as an ENGL half-unit credit or a WRIT half-unit credit. It may also count as a 0.5 elective in the Cultural Studies program.

Image above: Librarian Emeritus Peter Glenister displaying books from the MacDonald Collection

What’s the course like?

Read one student’s perspective on some of the research done by students in this course  in the Mount Saint Vincent Library’s special collection:  “Studying Hidden Treasures in the MacDonald Collection.”

Image above: Nicole Leggat and Corrine MacLean doing research in the MacDonald Collection

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