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AMS presents, Sonja Drimmer, “Is Book History the History of Books? Genealogies Between the Scroll and the Codex in Fifteenth-Century England”

April 4, 2023 @ 5:15 pm - 6:00 pm

ABSTRACT: Book History, an interdisciplinary field of scholarship that became recognized as such in the second half of the twentieth century, relies on stories that scholars repeat until they have become truths. Among these stories are teleologies that rely on genealogical formulas of development: “from orality to literacy”; “from manuscript to print”; and “from roll to codex.” This talk will focus on the last of these formulas. Over the last two decades, an efflorescence of scholarship devoted to the abundant variety of scrolls and rolls in medieval Europe has offered welcome pushback to the supersessionist model that has reigned. Yet, the roll and the codex were not the only formats available for the book arts of the Middle Ages. Focusing on examples of books that are neither roll nor codex, and which played a decisive part during the Wars of the Roses, this talk will show the profound discrepancies between book history and the history of books and why these discrepancies matter.

BIO: Sonja Drimmer is Associate Professor of medieval art history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is the author of The Art of Allusion: Illuminators and the Making of English Literature, 1403-1476 (University of Pennsylvania, 2018).

Genealogical Chronicle of the Kings of England. London, after 1461. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Acc 2018 631.
Genealogical Chronicle of the Kings of England. London, after 1461. Oxford Bodleian MS e Mus 42.
Genealogical Chronicle of the Kings of England. London, after 1461. Copenhagen, Kgl MS NKS 1858 folio


April 4, 2023
5:15 pm - 6:00 pm
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CAMBRIDGE, MA 02139 United States
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Literature Section
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue 14N-407
Cambridge, MA 02139
tel: (617) 253-3581