Book Presence in a Digital Age

Book Presence in a Digital Age

Organized by Kiene Brillenburg-Würth

OPEN TO ALL
May 28-30, Utrecht University
Locations: Stijlkamer, Janskerkhof 13 (May 28)Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21 (May 29 and May 30).

This conference is devoted to books and paper as bodies of literature in a digital age. Today, books are no longer dominant cultural media. Yet if books have been increasingly marginalized by screens, pads, and other electronic book-imitators, what is happening to literature as a paper art?

In 1992, Robert Coover still confidently predicted in the New York Review of Books: “…the print medium is a doomed and outdated technology, a mere curiosity of bygone days destined soon to be consigned forever to those dusty unattended museums we now call libraries.” The future of literature would be elsewhere, away from paper, print, and bound covers. Electronic literature would take the lead artistically and wipe out the remains of that bygone technology: the book. Except that it wasn’t – and it didn’t. Why?

Strangely, since the 1990s, when Coover’s turnaround should have taken place, there has been a veritable surge of creative re-imaginings of books as bearers of the literary. From typographic experiments (Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts) to accordeon books (Caron’s Nox), from cut ups (Foer’s Tree of Codes) to collages (Rawle’s Woman’s World), erasures (Rueffle’s A Little White Shadow) to mix-ups (Morris’s The Interpretations of Dreams), p(aper)-literature has gone through anything but a slow, uneventful death. By contrast, it has re-invented itself materially.

The conference thus starts from the assumption that the digital is not taking over and obliterating p-literature, but producing it anew. Perhaps, books, paper, and handwriting have profited rather than suffered from the emergence of new digital media: the limits of old media (the paper page, linearity, book cover) have precisely been the occasion for radical, creative reinventions. Starting from this idea of media plurality, instead of established theories of media take-over, this conference explores the resilience of p-literatures, book art, and perzines in the late age of print.

The conference will do so from a short- and a long-term perspective. Bringing together leading international scholars, artists, and editors, the conference on the one hand focuses on the materiality of books as bodies of literary writing in the present – from poetry and fiction to perzines. How does this materiality constitute an alternative or parallel track to the Internet, even though books and paper are also inevitably part of the digital? How is this materiality persisting in a radically changing publishing ecology?

On the other hand, the conference seeks to understand these present developments by considering them in the light of earlier “moments” of media transition. Predicting the end of books is as old as predicting the end of times: from the invention of the printing press to the gramophone, radio and the movies, the future of the book has been called in question. Comparing present reinventions of bookness and the paper page to the dynamic between manuscript and book culture in the early modern era, between books and new mass media in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, between the novel and cinema, we hope to achieve a more comprehensive outlook on media plurality and divergence in the present, as well as on the resilience of books and paper as bearers of the literary.

Procedure and central concepts:

The conference participants may choose between the following modes of address:

    1. 40-minute paper presentation / 15-minute debate
    2. 15-minute intervention / 40-minute debate
    3. 35-minute art work presentation /20-minute debate

The conference has been organized around nine central concepts:
Analog: analog “versus” digital, analog as being (re)produced through the digital.
Aura: presence of objects here and now, the experience of subjects to such objects.
Authenticity: history and physical presence of objects (books, manuscripts, etc).
Bookness: thingness of the book – physically, historically, and culturally.
Hybridity: multimedial assemblage: books, zines, texts as Gesamtkunst.
Materiality: foregrounded palpability of literary texts, “haptic” reading.
Palimpsest: layered textuality (material or metaphorical), erasure texts.
Singularity: unique material presence of book objects (book art, special editions, etc).
Words, love of words: design, reading, words come flesh, new philologies.

 

PROGRAM

May 28: day 1

09.15 welcome

09.30-10.25 Brian Dettmer (book artist)

10.30-11.25 Jeffrey Schnapp (Harvard University/Digital Humanities Lab)

break

12.15-13.10 Simon Morris (book artist)

13.15-14.10 Anna Poletti (Monash University, Australia)

break

14.30-15.25 Sonja Neef (Weimar)

15.30-16.25 Thomas  ()

break with drinks

16.45-17.50 Kiene Brillenburg Wurth, Inge van de Ven, and Sara Rosa Espi

 

May 29: day 2

08.30: opening words by the Dean of the Humanities Faculity, prof dr Wiljan van den Akker

09.00-09.55 Jessica Pressman (Yale University)

10.00-10.55 Yra van Dijk (University of Amsterdam)

break

11.15-12.10 Doug Beube (book artist)

12.15-13.10 Harald Hendrix (Utrecht University)

break

14.15-15.10 Leah Price (Harvard University)

15.15-16.10 Rosemarie Buikema (Utrecht University)

break

16.30-17.25 Garrett Stewart (University of Illinois)

May 30: day 3

09.00-09.55 Lisa Gitelman (New  York University)

10.00-10.55 Helen Tartar (Fordham University Press)

break

11.15-12.10 Susan Bielstein (Chicago University Press)

12.15-13.10 George Landow (Brown University)

13.10-14.15:  break

14.15-15.10 John Hamilton (Harvard University)

15.15-16.10 Jacob Edmond  (University of Otago)

tea break

16.30-17.25 Peter Lunenfeld (UCLA)

 

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS

Doug Beube

Through altered bookwork, collage mixed media and sculpture, my work explores the book itself, a seemingly antiquated technology that is still purposeful in a digital age. The codex, which literally means a block of wood in Latin, is undeviating in its essential form; its fixity is antithetical to the capabilities of the computer to function on a synergetic and simultaneous plane. Although the codex, compared with computers, is undeniably limited in its capacity to store, perpetuate, generate and recreate information, I accept these boundaries. (I’m not referring to the paginated works of artists’ books; that is an entirely different category that has flourished with various software programs; artists’ books remain an open-ended medium.) I apply quasi-software functions such as cutting, pasting and hidden text onto an analog system; it does not work it cannot. The codex is intractable as a technology; restricted from interacting with it by not altering its inevitable course, you read linearly from beginning to end. It is essentially inflexible. That is its built-in personality flaw; that is its elegance.

Susan Bielstein is the Executive Editor for Art, Architecture, Film, and Classical Studies at theUniversity ofChicago Press, where she is also a member of the Press’s Digital Publishing Task Force. Ms. Bielstein’s book, PERMISSIONS, A SURVIVAL GUIDE:  BLUNT TALK ABOUT ART AS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY been prominently featured in an article about art history and its publishers that appeared recently in Chronicle of Higher Education, and has been favorably reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement and Museum News. Ms. Bielstein has worked with such institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Menil Collection, the Tate, and the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art to copublish exhibition catalogues and other publications.  She conceived and developed the book series “Cinema and Modernity” and a specialized imprint funded by the Getty that explores the relationships among art and science. As an employee of the Press she has served as an advisor to the Bodleian Library regarding the development of their publication program. Ms. Bielstein is involved in a Press initiative to develop software for a rights, licensing, and permissions electronic-system/database and is a member of the Book Division’s Task Force on Digital Publishing. She is hard at work now on a new book, which asks what IS the book?  Has it changed over the centuries and if so, how?  What lives does it have in this early stage of the Digital Era?

Kiene Brillenburg Wurth is associate professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Utrecht and project leader of the VIDI-project Back to the Book (2011-2016) funded by the Dutch Research Council. During the academic year 2010-2011, she was a visiting scholar at Harvard University with the Department of Comparative Literature. Kiene’s research focuses on: literature and (new) media; music; aesthetic theory; intermediality in the modern and post-modern ages. She is the author ofMusically Sublime. Infinity, Indeterminacy, Irresolvability (Fordham UP, 2009), and (with Ann Rigney) Het leven van teksten. Een Inleiding in de literatuurwetenschap (Amsterdam UP, 2006, 2008) used throughout the Netherlands. She is editor of Between Page and Screen: Remaking Literature Through Cinema and Cyberspace (Fordham/Oxford UP 2012) and, with Sander van Maas, of Liminal Auralities (under contract with Fordham/Oxford UP). With David Pascoe, she is preparing a volume on intermedial satire entitled The Masks of Satire. She has published widely in peer reviewed journals and volumes. Her forthcoming monograph is entitled Back to the Book.

Rosemarie Buikema is professor of Art, Culture and Diversity, Utrecht University.  She is the scientific director of the Graduate Gender Programme at Utrecht University, the Utrecht coordinator of GEMMA, the Erasmus Mundus joint degree in Gender and Women’s Studies in Europe and the scientific director of the Netherlands Research School of Genderstudies (NOG). Rosemarie has worked as a visiting professor at the University of Western Cape, the University of Cape Town and the Charles University in Prague. Her publications are on the interface of Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Studies and Gender Studies and include: Theories and Methodologies in Postgraduate Feminist Research. Researching Differently. Routledge, New York and London, 2011 (ed. with Gabrielle Griffin and Nina Lykke); Doing Gender in Media Art and Culture. Routledge, London, 2009 (ed. with Iris van der Tuin) ; From Boys to Men. Masculinities at Risk.University of Cape Town Press: Cape Town, 2007 (ed.with Tammy Shefer and Kopano Ratele); Het heilige huis. De gotieke vertelling in de Nederlandse literatuur.(Amsterdam University Press: Amsterdam, 2006: 128 pp. (Wales UP, 2010 forthcoming) (with Lies Wesseling).

Brian Dettmer is known for his detailed and innovative sculptures with books and other forms of antiquated media. Dettmer’s work has gained International acclaim through internet bloggers, and traditional media. In recent years Dettmer has established himself as one of the leading international contemporary artists working with the book today.

Yra van Dijk is assistant professor at the department of Dutch literature, and literary critic at the national newspaper NRC Handelsblad. In 2010-2011 she was a research scholar at the University of California, at the Centre for Research in Computing and the Arts in San Diego ( http://www-crca.ucsd.edu ). She worked on three publications concerning electronic literature, more specifically on the poetics of digital literature. For more information on this collaborative research project: http://elmcip.net/. She has a column on digital poetry in the literary   quarterly ‘ Awater’.  Apart from digital literature her focus has been on modern poetry. Leegte die ademt [Blanks that Breath], the book-edition of her PHD-thesis, appeared in 2006, and is concerned with the meaning of typographic blanks in the modern poem. An English publication on the subject is forthcoming. A link to an English publication on the blanks in digital poetry is underneath. There you can also find a link with some Dutch digital poetry in translation. Other recent research and teaching hasbeen on ethics and the Holocaust in the contemporary novel. With Thomas Vaessens she has co-edited the volumeReconsiderations. The European Novel beyond postmodernism.

Jacob Edmond is assistant professor with the department of English at the University of Otago, NZ. His research focuses on Twentieth and twenty-first century poetry in English, Chinese and Russian, modernism and postmodernism, the avant-garde, literary theory, literature and politics, comparative literature. His publications include A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature. New York: Fordham UP, forthcoming Spring 2012.

Sara Rosa Espi is a Phd-student at Utrecht University, within the VIDI project Back to the Book under the supervision of Kiene Brillenburg Wurth. She completed her MA in International Performance Research with distinction. In Back to the Book, she focuses on personal zines, how they are made, circulated, and kept, and what that tells us about our contemporary (media) culture in transition.

Lisa Gitelman is a media historian whose research concerns American print culture, techniques of inscription, and the new media of yesterday and today. She is particularly concerned with tracing the patterns according to which new media become meaningful within and against the contexts of older media. Her most recent book is entitled Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture and was published by the MIT Press in 2006. Current projects include a monograph, “Making Knowledge with Paper,” and an edited collection,”‘Raw Data’ Is an Oxymoron.” She holds a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University and is a former editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers University. She joins Steinhardt after teaching atHarvardUniversity and at The Catholic University of America.

John Hamilton is professor of comparative literature at Harvard University. Professor Hamilton has held previous teaching positions in Comparative Literature and German at Harvard and New York University, with visiting professorships in Classics at the University of California-Santa Cruz and at Bristol University’s Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition. In 2005 – 06 he was a resident fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Since 1995, he has been actively involved with the Leibniz-Kreis, a working group originally based in Heidelberg, which is devoted to the “Afterlife of Antiquity.” Together with Eckart Goebel and Paul Fleming, he serves as editor of the “Manhattan Manuscripts” series, published by the Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen.Current book projects include: Careless and Carefree: On Security in the European Tradition, A Comparative Philological Approach. Professor Hamilton has published Soliciting Darkness: Pindar, Obscurity, and the Classical Tradition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003, and Music, Madness, and the Unworking of Language(Columbia, 2008) [German translation: Musik, Wahnsinn und das Außerkraftsetzen der Sprache, trans. Andrea Dortmann, (Göttingen, 2011).

Harald Hendrix is full professor and chair of Italian Studies as well as head of the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Utrecht. Within the Utrecht Research Institute for History and Culture he leads the group on Textual Culture. He is president of the Dutch-Flemish Society for Italian Studies and a founding member of the international research group Cinquecento Plurale.

With a combined background in Cultural History, Comparative Literature and Italian Studies, Harald Hendrix has published widely on the European reception of Italian Renaissance and Baroque culture (Traiano Boccalini fra erudizione e polemica, Olschki, 1995), on the early-modern aesthetics of the non-beautiful as well as on literary culture and memory. He is currently preparing a book on the cultural history of writers’ houses in Italy, from Petrarch to the present day.

Recent publications include Writers’ Houses and the Making of Memory (Routledge, 2008; paperback 2012), Autorità, modelli e antimodelli nella cultura artistica e letteraria fra Riforma e Controriforma (with Antonello Corsaro and Paolo Procaccioli; Vecchiarelli, 2007), Officine del nuovo (with Paolo Procaccioli; Vecchiarelli, 2008),Dynamic Translations in the European Renaissance (with Philiep Bossier and Paolo Procaccioli; Vecchiarelli, 2011), and The Turn of the Soul. Representations of Religious Conversion in Early Modern Art and Literature (with Lieke Stelling and Todd Richardson; Brill, 2011).

George Landow is Professor of English and Art History at Brown University. He is one of the leading authorities on Victorian literature, art, and culture, as well as a pioneer in criticism and theory of Electronic literaturehypertext and hypermedia. He is also the founder and current webmaster of The Victorian Web[1]The Contemporary, Postcolonial, & Postimperial Literature in English web[2], and The Cyberspace, Hypertext, & Critical Theory web[3]. Professor Landow has published extensively on thePre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, specifically the life and works of William Holman Hunt andJohn Ruskin. Furthermore, Landow’s articles and books are of some importance to studies on the effects of digital technology on language. Landow discusses the effects of electronic media on literature, creating a plausible link with critics such as Jacques DerridaRoland BarthesGilles DeleuzePaul de Man, and Michel Foucault, among others. This places him in a slightly different position on issues such as “the end of books” through the prophetic and “futurologic” view often taken by critics regarding new media and literature. Landow is a well-known author, researcher and one of the most important thinkers concerning Hypermedia and Hypertext in academia. His most important works highlight the epistemological modifications which result from the migration between systems of “closed” authorial publication (such as books), to the “open” systems, such as the hypertext and hypermedia.

Peter Lunenfeld is a professor in the Design | Media Arts department at UCLA. His publications include: Digital Humanities: Theory in Practice, forthcoming in 2012. The Secret War Between Downloading and Uploading: Tales of the Computer as Culture Machine, 2011. USER: InfoTechnoDemo (MIT, 2005). Snap to Grid: A User’s Guide to Digital Arts, Media & Cultures (MIT, 2000). The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media (MIT, 1999).

He is creator and editorial director of the multi-award-winning Mediawork project, a pamphlet series for the MIT Press which redefined the relationship between serious academic discourse and graphic design, and between book publishing and the World Wide Web. These “theoretical fetish objects” cover the intersections of media, art, design and technology. The pamphlets have been discussed everywhere from the New York Review of Books to Entertainment Weekly, and have won awards for both writing and design. Lev Manovich, lauded these 100+ page “mind bombs” as “a new operating system for the book.”

His current research interests are taking him deeper into questions about new modes of knowledge formation that go beyond print, the design of the digital humanities, and the centrality of meaning making to digital culture. He has held fellowships at the Columbia University Institute for Scholars at Reid Hall inParis, and in the Vectors program at theUSCAnnenbergCenter.

Simon Morris is a conceptual writer and teacher. He understands his role as an artist is to create a theoretical space that others feel comfortable working in and to erase his own ego in order to stimulate desire in others. Morris works to create a space of transference where linking and connecting can take place – a shared space of encounter wherein non-meaning allows the reader to construct their own meaning – and has engaged extensively with models of collaboration, digital technologies, performance writing, psychoanalysis and art history, though he describes his engagement with all such areas as being “poetic rather than logical.” He is the author of numerous experimental books, includingbibliomania (1998); interpretation [vol. I & II] (2002); The Royal Road to the Unconscious (2003); and Re-Writing Freud (2005). He is an occasional curator and a regular lecturer on contemporary art, and also directed the documentary films sucking on words: Kenneth Goldsmith (2007) and making nothing happen: Pavel Büchler (2010).

Sonja Neef is junior professor with European Media and Culture at Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany. Her research focuses on astroculture, planetary aesthetics, globalization, and on (hand)writing in a digital age. Her publications include Abdruck und Spur (2008)/Imprint and Trace (2011), Kalligramme (2009), and Sign Here! (2006).

Anna Poletti is assistant professor at Monash University. Her research focuses on:
Autobiography – I am interested in narratives of self and self-making in both literary and popular forms. My recent work has examined formal experimentation in autobiographical texts such as zines and documentary. A current research project, with Dr Kate Douglas (Flinders), examines autobiographical practice by young people across two centuries. Feminist Literary Theory – I am interested in feminist theorising of the role of narrative in consciousness raising, and the formation and maintenance of communities. Print Culture – An ongoing research interest is in the role of affect and materiality in the circulation of autobiographical narratives. My work theorises the increasing movement of narratives of self across mediums – from the handmade to the digital and the professionally published – drawing on feminist literary theory and autobiography theory. Her books include: Intimate Ephemera: Reading Young Lives in Australian Zine Culture (2008).

Leah Price is Professor of English and Chair of the History & Literature program at Harvard University.  She teaches the novel, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British culture, narrative theory, gender studies, and the history of books and reading.  Price is Humanities Program Director at the Radcliffe Institute; she also co-directs the faculty seminar on the History of the Book at the Harvard Humanities Center.  In 2006 Price was awarded a chair in recognition of exceptional graduate and undergraduate teaching. Price’s books include  The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel and (co-edited withPamela Thurschwell Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture; she has also edited (withSeth Lerer) a special issue of PMLA on  The History of the Book and the Idea of Literature. She writes on old and new media for the New York Times Book Review, theLondon Review of Books, and the Boston GlobeUnpacking my Library: Writers and their Books is just out from Yale University Press; How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain is forthcoming from Princeton in spring 2012.  Price’s next project,Reading for Life, explores the function of books in the digital age.

Before moving to Harvard in 2011, Jeffrey T. Schnapp occupied the Pierotti Chair of Italian Studies at Stanford, where he founded the Stanford Humanities Lab in 2000. A cultural historian with research interests extending from antiquity to the present, his most recent books are The Electric Information Age Book (a collaboration with the designer Adam Michaels of Project Projects (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012), and Italiamerica II (Il Saggiatore, 2012), co-edited with Emanuela Scarpellini.  Also forthcoming in 2012 are Digital_Humanities (MIT Press), a book co-written with Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, and Todd Presner, and Modernitalia (Peter Lang), a collection of essays on 20th century Italian cultural history, edited by Francesca Santovetti.

His pioneering work in the domains of digital humanities and digitally augmented approaches to cultural programming includes curatorial collaborations with the Triennale di Milano, the CantorCenterfor the Visual Arts, the Wolfsonian-FIU, and the CanadianCenterfor Architecture. His Trento Tunnels project — a 6000 sq. meter pair of highway tunnels in Northern Italy repurposed as a history museum– was featured in the Italian pavilion of the 2010 Venice Biennale and at the MAXXI in Rome in RE-CYCLE. Strategie per la casa la città e il pianeta (fall-winter 2011).

Faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, he is Professor of Romance Languages & Literature and also on the teaching faculty in the Department of Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. He is the faculty director ofmetaLAB (at) Harvard.

Garrett Stewart has taught fiction, film, and textual theory at the University of Iowa since 1993. Pursuing always a methodology of close-grained verbal or visual analysis—in books on language in Dickens (1974), the death scene in British fiction (1984), the phonetic undertow of literary writing from Shakespeare to Woolf (1990), and the “Dear Reader” address of Victorian novels (1996)—Stewart was led by that last topic to a subsequent study of the scene of reading in painting, from saints with books in illuminated manuscripts through Rembrandt to Picasso and Francis Bacon. In approaches to the moving rather than the still image, his 1999 investigation into the “photogrammar” of traditional cinema was brought up to date in 2007 by a companion volume on the new digital conditions of screen narrative, Framed Time: Toward a Postfilmic Cinema. In 2009, Novel Violence: A Narratography of Victorian Fiction, awarded the Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study of Narrative, named in its subtitle the method of this and the previous film book, searching out the “microplots” of narrative development in the inflections of technique, audiovisual or linguistic. Since then, concentrating on the conceptual violence done to rather than in books, Bookwork: Medium to Object to Concept to Art (2011) follows up on the 2-D image of reading with a close look at the ironies of illegibility in conceptual book sculpture, whether in found, altered, or fabricated volumes, engaging again with the digital epoch on another front: its rapid transformation of the reading experience. Stewart’s work on cinema continues in regular reviewing for Film Quarterly. He was elected in 2010 to theAmericanAcademy of Arts and Sciences.

Inge van de Ven is a PhD candidate at the Institute for History and Culture (OGC) of Utrecht University. In 2010 she completed the RMA Literary Studies: Literature in the Modern Age (cum laude) at Utrecht University. She studied philosophy at Tilburg University.

In her Master’s thesis, supervised by Prof. dr. Rosemarie Buikema and titled The Literary Work as Stranger: The Disrupting Ethics of Defamiliarization and the Literariness of Literature, she reflects on the state of the art of literature in the contemporary academic climate, in a quest for its unique characteristics at a time when we have a plethora of newer, more interactive media at our disposal. Inge has worked as a research assistant to Prof. dr. Paulo de Medeiros on the project The New Portuguese Letters: Reception and Impact in the Netherlands.

She is currently working on her PhD project with the preliminary title The Novel and the New: Hybrid Literature in the Digital Age, under supervision of Dr. Kiene Brillenburg Wurth (UU) and Dr. Jessica Pressman (Yale). This research is part of the NWO-funded project Back to the Book: Analog Literature in a Digital Age.