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From Scroll to Screen
ENGL 165SS - Spring 2002,  Carol Braun Pasternack

This course will explore the differences in telling a tale orally, in writing, in print, and on the computer screen. We will begin with oral composition and performance, working with Leslie Marmon Silko’s Storyteller, which represents the interactions between oral tradition and print, and Euro and Native American ethnicities. We then hurl ourselves back in time to the 6th century BCE, the era in which the Jews made the transition from being a people of a geographical location and oral culture to being a people in exile and a people of the book. We will look both at the special nature of a holy book and the physical aspects and implications of its material shape as scroll and have the chance to see the Torah up close with Rabbi Steve Cohen at Hillel. Next we will zero in on medieval manuscript culture, looking at the materials themselves—vellum and pigments—and the uses of the page with gorgeous decorations, glosses and text, courtesy of special presentations by curators at the Getty. We’ll approach this medium first through Psalms and Books of Hours and then through Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies. Christine is remarkable in being one of the first writers to have a sense of herself as an “author,” as well as being a force in the production of texts that support rather than denigrate women. Professor Cynthia Brown will visit our class to discuss the library of Anne of Brittany, who owned Christine’s book a century later. Then we move on to the era of print and specifically the more wide-spread circulation of texts in newspapers and pamphlets and turn to the American colonies and Benjamin Franklin, early printer, newspaper publisher, and promoter of public libraries. The class will conclude with interactive fiction and poetry on the Web, looking at how this medium changes the roles of reader and author as it changes the nature of the text itself, and once again the complex contributions of economics to these changes. The class will include considerable use of the Web as a topic of analysis, a means of access to manuscripts and early print texts, and as a medium for producing the students’ own work. Assignments will involve “doing” as well as analyzing.


Carol Braun Pasternack

Office and Office Hours
SH 2704
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SH 1415
TR, 9:30 AM10:45 AM

Required Texts

Leslie Marmon Silko, Storyteller
The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version, 3rd Edition, College Edition
Christopher De Hamel, Scribes and Illuminators
Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards
Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography
Reader, available at Grafikart

Recommended Texts

Martin Irvine, Web Works

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