Manuscript Studies: Oral Tradition to Scribal Texts
Theorists of literacy and textuality often distinguish four main types of textual culture: (1) oral or "memory" culture, which has existed since antiquity and survives in some parts of the world to the present day; (2) early literary or "scribal" culture, emerging with the invention of writing; (3) "print culture," enabled by the power of the press; and, most recently, (4) the culture of "electronic texts" (or of "hypertext" and “hypermedia”), now expanding with the proliferation of texts and data on the Internet, among other technologies of mass communication. The present course is a component in a series of graduate seminars addressing these topics, and addressing theoretical and critical issues in Textual Studies generally. Individual sessions will involve several special presentations by guest lecturers from several institutions. The "Oral Tradition and Scribal Texts" seminar will mainly address the first two areas noted above, oral and scribal cultures, but this will nevertheless provide an opportunity to demonstrate some of the most recent uses of hypertext for the study of texts as well. Invited speakers will make use of handouts, slides, color plates, and other visual materials depicting the history of writing, manuscript illumination, and various cultural aspects of the ancient writing-hall (or scriptorium). The series has been developed by the campus-wide Textual Studies Program, and all seminars are cross-listed among the offerings of English and Comparative Literature. Course credit may count toward the Critical Theory concentration in Comparative Literature.