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AP/HIST4230 6.0A : Technologies of Communication: A History of Reading from the Codex to the Kindle

Term Y : SEMR

Instructor(s) :

Schotte, Margaret E.

Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

This research seminar explores the history of books and their readers from antiquity to the present. Class is held in York's Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, and includes trips to other area libraries. By studying books as material objects and communication technologies, we will investigate questions of intellectual property, literacy, author and audience, and "the future of the book." Prerequisites: None. Co-requisites: None. Course credit exclusions: AP/WRIT4720 6.0; prior to 2009, AP/HIST 4260 6.00 (FW14 & FW15 only). Priority is given to History Honours majors and minors who have successfully completed at least 84 credits.

Course Website

Many courses utilize Moodle, York University's course website system. If your course is using Moodle, refer to the image below to access it.

Expanded Course Description

We are all readers, but we rarely stop to analyze the objects that we read. Books and digital readers are far more than simply vehicles for transmitting text. These technologies of communication shape our everyday experience, but also offer lenses into the past and the future. This course surveys key scholarship from the ‘history of the book,’ a field that has something to offer historians of any period.

The class meets in the Clara Thomas Archives, allowing extensive hands-on access to many rare books and original documents. We will examine everything from medieval manuscripts and World War memorabilia, to original CBC radio transcripts, Canadian literary papers, and graphic novels. (Please note: food and drink are prohibited in the Archives; if you cannot make it from 11:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m. without eating, this may not be the class for you!) Over the course of the year, we will go on a number of field trips during class time, including the Archives of Ontario, U of T’s Fisher Library, and the Toronto Reference Library.

This course prioritizes writing, with brief weekly reading responses, two short papers, and a number of assignments that work towards producing and revising a major research paper. The 15-page Capstone essay (including proposal, annotated bibliography, and a mandatory draft) can be on any topic of interest from any time period. Students must make use of a minimum of one substantial historical primary source and must relate their research to the history of the book, reading, media, and/or technologies of communication.


Weighting of Course

Tentative Grade Breakdown/Overview of Assessment:

Participation and Weekly Forum Posts: 20%

Discussion Leader: 10%

Assignment I: Assessing a Digital Archive (3-5 pages): 10%

Assignment II: Reading a Book as Artifact (3-5 pages): 10%

Capstone Essay, including preparatory exercises: 50%

Additonal Information / Notes

NOTE: Prior to buying textbooks, students should consult the detailed course outline which will give the final versions of the weekly syllabus and the detailed breakdown of assignments with weighting and due dates.  The course outline will be posted in Moodle and discussed on the first day of class.

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