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How to Lose Your Place in a Book

How to Lose Your Place in a Book
91 Charles St. West, Chapel, Old Victoria College 213
Time: Oct 23rd, 4:15 pm End: Oct 23rd, 6:00 pm
Interest Categories: Information, Faculty of, English and Drama (UTM), English (UTSC), English (FAS), Drama, Theatre, Performance Studies (FAS), Digital Art/Humanities, Comparative Literature (FAS), Book History/Print Culture, 2000-, 1950-2000, 1900-1950, 1800-1900
3rd Annual J.R. de Jackson Lecture by Leah Price, Harvard University

The Toronto Centre for the Book, in association with Victoria College and the Friends of the Victoria University Library, are pleased to present the third annual J.R. de Jackson Lecture:

Leah Price, Francis Lee Higginson Professor of English, Harvard University

How to Lose your Place in a Book

“Literature is my Utopia,” Helen Keller quotably declared. Today, serious readers often credit the printed book with the power to annihilate space and time. The datelined newspaper and the digital book provide foils for that rapture, so far feebly emulated by e-reading interfaces that eschew an onscreen clock. Yet placeless reading is as hard-won a technology as ubiquitous computing. Over the millennia in which written matter has become smaller, lighter, and more foldable, reading has gradually unmoored itself from dedicated, even sacred times and places. Where readers had come to texts, texts began to come to readers. More recently, the paperback’s miraculous ability to reconcile durability with disposability and portability with impermeability has made bed, bath and beyond the frontiers that every subsequent reading technology is challenged to conquer: Kindle advertisements declare the iPad’s unreadability at the beach as conclusively as a 1958 expert predicted that microfilms would replace books only once “some genius develops a way for reading them everywhere that books can be read: in the subway, in the bathtub, in a fishing skiff.” This talk traces a history of changing attitudes toward reading on the move, from 1800 to the present, and concludes by asking how new technologies of site-specific reading are challenging the book’s function as a space in which to lose yourself.

Leah Price teaches English at Harvard University. Her books include How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (Princeton UP, 2012) and The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel (Cambridge UP, 2000). She edited Unpacking my Library: Writers and their Books (2011); Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture (with Pamela Thurschwell); and (with Seth Lerer) a special issue of PMLA on The History of the Book and the Idea of Literature. She writes on old and new media for the New York Times Book Review, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, San Francisco Chronicle, and Boston Globe. She is at work on a new book, Out of Print: Reading after Paper.

The J. R. de J. Jackson Lecture is named in memory of the eminent literary historian and bibliographer Robin Jackson, who was an esteemed member of the Department of English, a fellow of Victoria College, and a dedicated supporter of both Book History & Print Culture and the Toronto Centre for the Book.

This event is free and open to the public.  For further information, please contact the administrative offices of the Book History and Print Culture program.


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