Media History: The Book

The book is a tool, technology, medium, and art form. We often forget to think about books as such, or teach our students to think critically and historically about them. Yet, teaching the history of the book can empower students to see other– and especially digital– technologies differently, to recognize their complex histories of development, use, politics, and symbolism.

The History of the Book is a robust scholarly field.

The following resources are taken from book history classes offered here at SDSU.


Sample Student Projects & Assignment:

  • Student Book Art
Sample student project image: Riley Wilson's embroidered East of Eden hypertext
Riley Wilson’s embroidered East of Eden hypertext (for Jessica Pressman’s ENG 563: “The Book in the Digital Age”)

Sample student project: Lily Staples' House of Leaves book art
Lily Staples’ House of Leaves book art (for Jessica Pressman’s ENG 527: “The 21st Century Experimental Novel” course, Fall 2015). Accompanying project website

Assignment: This course culminates in a project that will allow you to practice creative criticism. You will showcase your learning by focusing on one topic, question, or text from the course and develop an argument about it that can be presented in a creative and media-specific way. You might create an artwork made from paper, a work of bookart, a stop-animation video, a biography of a particular manuscript or collection of materials from SDSU’s Special Collections archives, or a full-blown web-based essay.
-Your project must include an essay that is 8 pages (double-spaced) and which contains an argument (a thesis) and uses at least two texts from our class, not including the text you discussed in your midterm essay.
-Your grade will be in part based upon how well the format of your project supports the argument you present.
– If you create a work of art, you MUST include an explanatory essay that presents your argument through the art and situates your argument along with the texts from the course that inspired it. The essay should be turned in along with the artwork.




The Book: The Life Story of a Technology by Nicole Howard image
Nicole Howard, The Book: The Life Story of a Technology (Johns Hopkins Press, 2009)
The Book History Reader by David Finklestein and Alaistar McCleerey, eds. image
David Finkelstein and Alaistar McCleerey, eds. The Book History Reader (New York: Routledge, 2002)
Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times by Andrew Piper image

Andrew Piper, Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.)

The Broadview Introduction to Book History - Broadview Press
Michelle Levy and Tom Mole, The Broadview Introduction to Book History (Broadview Press, 2017)

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