A History of the Book from Papyrus to Pixel

This course is about the pleasures and powers of reading. From the Sumerian clay tablets of more than four millennia ago through to the spectacular emergence of the electronic text, the written word – in all its forms – has captivated the human mind, embodied our insights into the world around us, and made enduring our most profound artistic creations and scientific discoveries. This semester we journey into the history of the book by means of some of its most resonant artifacts, past and present. Readings include literary works by authors such as Miguel Cervantes, Emily Dickinson, and Italo Calvino and theoretical writing by scholars including Marshall McLuhan and Roland Barthes. Regular hands-on sessions in MIT Libraries lead to capstone research projects on objects in MIT Distinctive Collections. Students present on their readings and research in a variety of forms.