Publishing and Its Implications, 1688-2005

English 611, Geoffrey Sauer, Fall 2005

syllabus | all readings


For Wednesday, December 7th:

Read Berring: "Future Librarians". Continue to work on
your final paper for the course, due Wednesday, December 14th.

For Wednesday, December 14th:

Turn in your final paper for the course.


One definition of rhetoric is the study of relationships between writers and readers. This course will review changes in publishing from 1688 to the present, considering implications for writers (particularly professional communicators), publishing, and reading audiences. The course will learn about, then examine in detail, the social impact of key innovations from this period:

»    abolition of the Stationer’s Company and Absolutist censorship, 1688-95 (Britain)

»    Queen Anne’s Law, 1711, inventing copyright laws to regulate printing (Britain)

»    illicit smuggling and sales of Enlightenment monographs, 1749-89 (Switzerland)

»    development of offset lithography and illustration in monographs, 1798 (Germany)

»    the introduction of public schools and popular (mass) publishing, 1820-30

»    the Fine Arts movement and market segmentation in monographs, 1860-75 (Britain)

»    Mergenthaler’s Linotype and subsequent rapid mass publishing, 1887 (U.S.)

»    the invention/popularization of ‘pulp’ paperbacks, 1920s

»    the transition from letterpress to offset lithography and ‘cold type,’ 1950s-70s

»    page layout systems and the emergence of desktop publishing, 1980-95 (U.S.)

»    modern paper processes, and increasingly-affordable specialty stocks, 1970-85

»    the growth of non-print media (including audio, video, and software), 1940-present

»    demand for changes in intellectual property laws (1962, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2004)

»    electronic/online publishing technologies (1990-present), including the Web

»    single-sourcing and content management systems for rapid multi-format publishing

Students will at first read early theorists, such as Eisenstein, Goody, Watt and McLuhan, who assume new technologies directly cause changes in culture and society. Over the course of the term, we will study historians of publishing (such as Darnton, Altick and Radway), then theorists who study innovations within more sophisticated cultural contexts (such as Benjamin, Postman, Lessig and Bourdieu).

Over the course of the term, students will develop skills in discussing recent (and continuing) changes in the material circumstances of publishing—particularly how it affects the relationships between writers and audiences. By the end of the term, students will come to apply these methods to contemporary issues that face professional readers and writers, including modern content-management writing and online publishing systems.


Altick, R.D. (1998). The English common reader: a social history of the mass reading public, 1800-1900.

Beebe, L. & Meyers, B. (1999). Digital workflow: Managing the process electronic ally. The journal of electronic publishing.

Benjamin, W. (1969). Unpacking my library: a talk about book collecting. Illuminations.

Bourdieu, P. (1987). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste.

Brouillette, S. (2002). Corporate publishing and canonization: Neuromancer and science-fiction publishing in the 1970s and early 1980s. Book history.

Chagnon, B. (2001). Desktop publishing software. The journal of electronic publishing.

Darnton, R. (1979). Selections from The business of Enlightenment.

Darnton, R. (1985). The great cat massacre and other episodes in French cultural history.

Eisenstein , E. (1979). Selections from The printing press as an agent of change.

Eldred v. Ashcroft. (1998) Selections from the arguments for appeal.

Ferris, S.P. (2001). The effects of computers on traditional writing. The journal of electronic publishing.

Finkelstein, D. & McCleery, A. eds. (2001). The book history reader.

Goody, J. & Watt, I. (1968). The consequences of literacy. Literacy in traditional societies.

Haugland, A. (2000). Book propaganda: Edward L. Bernays's 1930 campaign against Dollar Books. Book history.

Jensen, M. (2001). Cost recovery and destiny: Developing the appropriateness matrix. The journal of electronic publishing.

Kartchner, C. (2003) Content management systems: Getting from concept to reality.’ The journal of electronic publishing.

Lessig, L. (2002). Selections from The future of ideas: The fate of the commons in a connected world.

Levin, T.Y. (1990). For the record: Adorno on music in the age of its technological reproducibility. October 55.

Levy, D.M. (2001). Scrolling forward: Making sense of documents in the digital age.

Locke, John (1689). Selections from the Second treatise on government.

McLuhan, M. (1962). Selections from The Gutenberg galaxy: The making of typographic man.

Negroponte, N. (1995). Selections from Being digital.

Pipes, A. (2001). Selections from Production for graphic designers.

Postman, N. (1986). Informing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business.

Radway, J.A. (1992). Mail-order culture and its critics: The book-of-the-month club, commodification and consumption, and the problem of cultural authority. In L. Grossberg, C. Nelson, & P.A. Treichler, eds., Cultural studies.

Radway, J.A. (1997). A feeling for books: The Book-Of-The-Month Club, literary taste, and middle-class desire .

Smith , E.A. (1998). How the other half read: advertising, working-class readers, and pulp magazines. In Book history.

Straznicky, Marta (1997). Restoration Women Playwrights and the Limits of Professionalism, in ELH 64:3.

Williams, R. (1988). Selections from The Mac is not a typewriter.