More Hedgehoggery

Thanks to the swift action of the Hedgehog editors, a short essay of mine, “Just Staying in Touch?,” was added at the last minute to the current (Spring 2018) issue because it fit with the theme of the central section of the issue, “The Human and the Digital.” The piece reflects on the fate of “phatic communication” in discussions of our digital times. I trace the notion of phatic speech from its origins in the work of the anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski to its adoption by the linguist Roman Jakobson to…

An Amicable Apology for the Physical Book

I composed the following essay in the months trailing the death in late 2015 of my friend Brett Foster, a poet, Renaissance scholar, and bibliomaniac. The section on the happy fate of hundreds of volumes of Brett’s library appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Hedgehog Review and is now available on Hedgehog‘s website as both text and an audio file. In the now nearly two years since I composed the piece, the future of the physical book has begun to seem less dire thanks to the signs of what…

Notes from an Uncatalogued Archive

While meeting this week with the local overseer of rare books, Sarah Stanley, to discuss a class visit to Special Collections, I learned of an as yet uncatalogued collection of religious pamphlets that has passed into Professor Stanley’s care. This assortment is actually one of three pamphlet tributaries snaking around our archives (thanks to various organizations’ separate collecting efforts), and all are in need of further conceptual mapping and physical organizing. Our librarians’ initial dips into these streams suggest that there are well over one thousand pamphlets on site. Their…

On Haylesian Materiality

In an article on her own updated approach to “materiality” that appeared at Digital Humanities Quarterly a few years ago, Johanna Drucker, observes the following about the concept’s varying usage: The history of approaches to materiality is long and complex, with basic discussions of matter and form, substance and essence, traceable to earliest antiquity in many strains of philosophy in the west and the east, and these wait in the wings to be called back onstage in any longer discussion of the topic. I’ve been digging through some of the…

Vacant Victorian Margins (Amicable Annotation, Part 10)

[Feature image: Marginal marking in pencil in Byron’s “Parsinia,” Harvard’s Dickinson Family Collection.] After a long hiatus, I return to the Amicable Annotation miniseries… It starts here. Nowadays Andrew Lang is remembered primarily as a collector of folk and fairy tales. His contemporaries in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods also knew Lang as a lover of and hunter after old books. (The Dictionary of National Biography once dubbed him “the greatest bookman of his age.”) In wry essays on contemporary book culture published in the periodical press in the eighties…

The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species

[Feature image: Marginal illumination of an ursine scribe from the Bohun Psalter and Hours] Last year, a member of the first edition of the Technotexts seminar, Suzanna Hersey, encouraged me to read Ken Liu’s Paper Menagerie, and she was especially keen to see what I’d make of the collection’s opening story, “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species.” I have now used it as the final reading (more on this in a moment) of Technotexts 2.0. It’s actually a bit of a stretch to call “Bookmaking Habits” a “story,” though: it’s…

Titular Aids

I’ve been reading through the work of the Canadian poet bpNichol lately, and in the midst of my rummaging through his diverse creative output, I stumbled upon his “Device for Generating a Contemporary Essay Title.” It shows us Nichol at his most Oulipian. It’s also an amusing picture–as Nichol understood–of the state of the discourse circa 1980. In a lovely Nicholian twist, the generator takes form of a postcard so that one could share the fun with friends. I offer it now for readers’ delight and, for students, aid: Now,…

Hedghoggery

Readers of Booktrades haven’t received a new dispatch from the front matter in a while due to the efforts of the booktrader and his associates in other related quarters, including labors to make books by hand and a separate website in which to celebrate (and maybe sell a few of) those craftings. New material for this blog is, in fact, underway. In the meantime, Booktrades encourages readers to pick up a copy, paper or digital, of the new issue of The Hedgehog Review. The booktrader has two pieces in the…

(M)App to Print (Part 2)

In the first post of this two-part reflection, I noted Iain Pears’s remark that in the Arcadia project he sought to “create a narrative that was vastly more complex than anything that could be done in an orthodox book, at the same time as making it far more simple to read.” The result was an app that took the form of a multi-stranded subway-style map–or, as I’ve been calling it, a “(m)app fiction.” Again, as I mentioned in the first post, the Arcadia “(m)app” isn’t the only aspect of this story…

Computer Poems; Or, Back to Applesoft Basic

[Lisa Hemphill’s “Self-Reflexive No. 2” {No. 1 of 2}, see below for the code] As mentioned in earlier post, my recent reading has yielded a fresh understanding of the paper components of bpNichol’s First Screening. My teaching, meanwhile, has given me a delightful opportunity to return to the screenic side of the work. Students in my now-running “Literature of the Digital Age” course read Nichol’s and Geof Huth’s early experiments with what Nichol called “computer poems” alongside examples of print visual poetry from recent decades in order to trace one…