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C LIT 553 A: Studies in Print Culture and Publication

Meeting Time: 
T 10:30am - 1:20pm
MGH 085
Joint Sections: 
FRENCH 553 A, ITAL 553 A, ENGL 503 A
Geoffrey Turnovsky

Syllabus Description:

FREN553/ENG503/C LIT553 -- WI 2019

Studies in Print Culture and Publication: Editing a 17th-Century French Play From Print to Digital

Geoffrey Turnovsky (French and Italian,

Tuesday, 10:30am-1:30pm, MGH 085 (with some sessions in Special Collections)

A hands-on exploration of the nature of printed and digital texts. Through the creation of a digital edition of a 17th-century satirical play – Edmé Boursault's La Comédie sans titre ( – we'll explore how new technologies and media shape the ways we read and write, from the "Printing Revolution" to the "Digital Revolution." Boursault's satire mocks readers of the periodical Le Mercure Galant, which cultivated a new public of provincial readers aspiring to social status and hungry for news about the latest Parisian fashions. First performed in March 1683, the work exists in a number of versions and presents a series of intriguing editorial puzzles.

The course‑workshop will be in three parts. The first will focus on the technology of the printing press, exploring the technology itself (including visits to Special Collections to compose and print) and current discussions about the ways the development of the press transformed the intellectual, social and political cultures of early modern Europe, with an emphasis on 17th-century France to help us situate La Comédie sans titre. We'll consider how digital media now impact how we engage the textual archive we've inherited from the age of print.

Second, looking to our editorial work, we'll examine some key perspectives in textual scholarship and critical editing, from the Renaissance through New Bibliography and its subsequent critics, about what a text or a "literary work" is: how is a work or a text defined in relation to its editorial or performance history, to its creation and revision by an author and to its circulation, reception, and appropriations by readers over time? We’ll look at the extension of these debates in the age of digital publishing, considering how digital platforms change the way we conceive of a text and how we can offer access to it.

Finally, we’ll learn some basics of digital text editing, including transcription in XML (using the Text Encoding Initiative [TEI] guidelines), protocols for collaboration, as well as rudimentary web publishing (with HTML and CSS; and various platforms for publishing TEI transcriptions). No prior experience with any of this is required or expected.

We’ll collaborate on this project with the class of Christophe Schuwey (who has been on the editorial team for numerous digital editions, including of Donneau de Visé’s 1663 Nouvelles Nouvelles: at Yale. Class sessions will be in English, but the text we’ll be working on is in French (as will some of our readings), thus a decent reading knowledge of French is necessary.

Catalog Description: 
An examination of the theoretical and methodological issues attending the study of printed texts; training in bibliography and the history of the book from Gutenberg's hand press to the machine and periodical presses of the nineteen and twentieth centuries; and contemporary book art. Offered: jointly with ENGL 503.
Last updated: 
October 24, 2018 - 9:12pm