Author[ity] and all that jazz

Hello, it’s me too.

We had a lot on the agenda today and we managed to fit it all in.

  • Workshop #3
  • Syllabus changes
    • for next week, we will read all of Nabokov’s “Pale Fire.” DO NOT SKIM Y’ALL.
    • the secondary reading has changed and is posted on the wiki. We will have a guest, via skype…Duncan White and we’ll be discussing his article.
    • Grad students, sorry, we still have to read BHR for next week as well.
  • digital exhibition
    • This is all posted on the wiki, but I’ll give a quick run down of what went down.
      • We have some important dates to remember.
        • so many bullet points!
          • it goes on forever…
            • April 10-brief email explaining your choice due.
            • May 1-(investigation) compilation of bibliographic info, at least 5 sources, etc.
            • May 8-we will share our projects in class, around 10 minutes
            • May 12-(by midnight) final page due on the class blog
            • APRIL 24- GRAD STUDENTS (I KNOW…) we have a 500 word research statement due for our final paper.
  • intellectual property discussion
  • Poe and Longfellow (quick time)


We had a fun discussion today; you should feel bad if you weren’t there: Part I. Workshop #3

  • What was refreshing about the discussion today was I felt a flow, where we were bouncing ideas off one another and actively trying to understand the other person’s point of view. I’m not sure if that was because it was a smaller group, but it was nice. I was partnered with Sam for the workshop and even though we had opposing views [or so it seemed] once we started discussing it, we realized they weren’t so different after all. The content was different, but the reasoning was the same.
  • Each group had something new to contribute to the conversation about authorial power and validation. Victoria thought the 1831 edition gave the text validation because there was an actual name to associate with. Someone [who’s name I did not write down, SORRY GIRL, or guy] thought the text could be read without bias in the 1818 edition and that gave it more validation. We went back to Barthes and asked: Does naming the author limit the text or give power to the text? The answer is…we aren’t quite sure yet. That’s a question they will probably be asking in 50, then 100 years. It’s easy to find compelling reasons on both sides.
  • We then talked about intertexuality vs. innertexuality and how that functions.
  • We talked about the physicality of the illustrations in the 1831 editions and cover art in contemporary times.
  • OH and apparently there’s a second edition, published in 1822.

Part II. Intellectual Property Discussion

  • Quick-write: We were given a little letter on THE book printer of Venice in 1469. Alex asked us to answer the question, What are the terms of the rights give to the printer, Johannes of Speyer? What does it suggest about a printer’s authority?
    • We spoke about where that authority is actually coming from, the printer himself or the government, or the crown. (*daunting music in the background*)
    • We also talked about him being referred to as a craftsman, and printing as an art. It is highly valued. Today, we don’t refer to printing so much as an “art.”
  • Brewer and Rose (BHR): perpetual property
    • We got into small groups and talked about what it means to “own” your writing. We were running out of time, so we didn’t get too deep into it.
    • In BHR, they talk about there no longer being one single publisher will all the power, but options for writers.
      • “many entrances and numerous routes to eventual publication” (321).
      • “demand for material exceeded supply” (321).
        • today, we have the internet for that.
  • Poe and Longfellow (real fast)
    • We had a brief chat on the conflict between these two poems. Longfellow accused Poe of plagiarizing, though I think that was unsubstantiated. Both had images of rivers and a spectator…that’s most pastoral poetry.
    • That got us to think about, can you plagiarise allegory?
    •  Poe responded to Longfellow with that letter explaining why “the whole tournure of the poem is based ion mine, as you will see at all. It’s allegorical conduct, the style of its versification and expression-all are mine.”
      • a little dramatic, but it’s Poe…
    • So, who “owns” words and who “owns” expression? And what is actual original?


Good night and Good luck.


Gossip Girl




Week 10: Intellectual Property Wars

Hello, it’s me.

We had a strong presence of ten students in class today, so this blog post goes out to all of you who left us all alone. May you find all the info you missed in here.
Syllabus changes —
For next week (Week 11):
Still read Pale Fire. Alex says we need to read EVERYTHING, do not skim the usual commentary that you would….turns out all the things we usually avoid are actually important this time.
*However, the secondary readings have been changed to a section on Pale Fire in “Nabokov and His Books” by Duncan White who will be skyping in with us next class. It is under ‘Reading Schedule” on WIKI.

For Week 12:
Still meet at JFK Library but the readings have changed to Hemingway’s “A Very Short Story” and “Hills Like White Elephants”.
For Week 13:
It’s still Patriots Day, so just watch Netflix.

Digital Exhibition Project: (additional info on WIKI)
Just when you thought you were completely exhausted and can’t take anymore, don’t forget our final project is coming up! 🙂 Here are some brief details from what we discussed in class but check the WIKI for more, I can’t do everything for you guys.

Select one rare book or manuscript (letter, newspaper, etc…) to be exhibited on course blog. It can be in the archives we visit or another library or your own collection.
Pick one you think we can all learn something from and that merits further study.
Workshop 5 will help us catalog a biographical description of your book. So you have to have PICKED your book by Workshop 5.
By April 10th email Alex a rational behind your specific choice. Which copy? Where is it?

Present the book to other students sharing photographs
* On May 8th you share your notes, pictures, reasonings, and your plan on how to exhibit on the blog in a 5 minute presentation.
Compile list of materials and sources relevant for understanding.
* By May 1st you should have done an investigation on your chosen item. Try looking it up in a library catalogue or online research. You must submit a bibliography in MLA format with at least 5 secondary sources.
Publish selected pages.
On May 12th the whole project is due.
For grad students: On May 19th the formal paper is due.
— Should make a larger argument, on top of your specific item, on how that item plays a role INSIDE of a scholarly question. By April 24th, 500 words of a research statement is due identifying the target of your paper.
—- You may work in partners for the exhibition, but despite our best efforts we could not convince Alex to let us write the final paper as a group of 10, 1 page per grad student. My most sincere apologies on that one. He was pretty close to saying yes though so I mean, not a bad effort on our part.

Class Discussion Surrounding Workshop 3:
— Authorship and validity of a text may come from the author’s name. 1818 doesn’t have Shelley’s name and still people criticized it, maybe more because of a lack of the name. 1831 has her name so maybe times have changed more in those 13 years that it was more acceptable for her to add her name without facing scrutiny because of her gender.
—- Who is more important, the reader or the author?
….We haven’t really answered this question, might take a few more classes/years.
—- Foucault, it makes us more uncomfortable to see no author, how can we read into the conventions of the novel if we don’t know who wrote it? Does this fall under their usual work? Personally what I can add is that my critical reading, Knights Quarterly, even questioned if Mary Shelley really wrote both Valpega and Frankenstein because her style was so different.
— Interpretations of the monsters image in the 1831, he does not look like a brutish monster but more like a greek god, with his abs (thanks Halla), and more feminine appearance. this could come from the initial negative reception of the novel of being too concerned with empathizing with a monster and now the 1831 version is making him seem less frightening and emphasizing more on romance, especially with the image of Elizabeth who is not referenced in the 1818 version.
– Darisse brought up verticality of the 1818 (scroll reading) vs horizontal movement (codex reading) = old vs new.
– Seriality of the volumes, in the past volumes and chapters would come out one at a time for a novel in magazines or papers and the novel would evolve based on reception but currently, novels are published all at once and the notion of changing it during the writing process based on reviews is no longer used. The other side of this is now we have more avenues of critiquing novels because of the internet.
– Alex spoke to the idea that we don’t emphasize enough these elements of material context of the book and how that affects the way we read it. How do things appear on the page? What are they juxtaposed with – a facebook ad? We need to pay more attention to these things.
Class Discussion Surrounding Intellectual Property and Printers (Venetian Monopoly 1469 & 1666 The Case of the Booksellers and Printers handout)

— This link should show you my annotated worksheet of the Venetian Monopoly: Johannes Printing Annotation  and this is my quick write on the topic: Quickwrite 3:27

— Both articles on the rights of printing refer to printing as an art and give precedence and authority to the printers.
—- The 1666 is worried about the effect of a monopoly, so very opposite from the 1469 article. The booksellers are worried about the crown creating a monopoly and asserting their power in a negative way. It is a statement against the crown whereas the Venice degree was a statement of law.
— Consider the type of language that is used to describe books, printers, authors, publishing:
*In 1666 it mentions the author’s rights and property: this is the first example of any notion of literary property. The book as an intellectual property.
*The book as a body: “the spine”, made from animal skin (vellum), corporal features of the book that go away as we begin to call it a property.

Poe & Longfellow

Example of how can you take one object and relate it to a larger question.

Similarities we noticed as a class: references to rivers, both seem to be referencing an older tale, an implied spectator

Well, Longfellow noticed these similarities too and accused Poe of plagiarism! Poe responds in good ‘ol Poe fashion and basically shuts him down. “The whole tournure [[clothing of the poem —> i.e: a BODY]] is based upon mine…its allegorical conduct, the style of its versification and expression — all are mine.”
But can expression and style really be so specific to only being credited to one writer?

That’s all!

A Discussion on Frankenstein and Workshops

Note: I’ve been having issues with my account, finally settled them today, apologies for having this up so late.

The session of class on March 20th marked our return from Spring Break. Over the break, we all read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and completed our own transcription of the Moralitas from one of Henryson’s fables.

Before we got to the topics of the class, Professor Mueller informed us about an Arthurian film that was being shown on campus. He offered extra credit for those that would be able to attend the film, and there was a brief discussion about the fact that most Arthurian films tend to be poor quality (with Monty Python and the Holy Grail being the best of them, of course) but the one being shown on campus was supposedly an exception to this rule of mediocrity.

We then moved on to the discussion of our transcriptions. The class broke off into pairs (and a few groups of 3) to compare their transcriptions and see what their partners did that was either similar or different to their own work. After these small group discussions concluded, we reformed as a class and shared what we noticed. Many people discussed not wanting to over-gloss the text and thereby insult the intelligence of the reader. This was a concern that Professor Mueller agreed with, and pointed out that one of the editions we examined was a teaching edition and therefore had extra notes to clarify some things.

I mentioned that in my edition, I had chosen to represent the character that looked like an f that represented an s as a bolded lowercase f when creating my transcription, while others chose to just change the f to an s. Both methods are valid, as pointed out by the professor, and it comes down to how the editor wants to recreate the text they are working with.

We then moved on to Frankenstein, opening the discussion by being assigned to find a passage that we felt characterizes Frankeinstein, the Monster, or Walton. From this discussion, the class found that many of our ideas about each character were very similar, which I found interesting, as I believe a few pairs of people selected the same passages for their given character.

We were then tasked with breaking into groups again in order to discuss the essays we read before class. Each group had a similar theme to their essays, allowing for each group to present the common themes they found in their discussion, which let the class learn how thoughts on the work have been formed over the years. We discussed the differences between the 1818 edition and the 1831 edition. I was surprised to learn that the 1831 edition is the one that most people are used to reading in high school while the 1818 edition was the one we had read for class (and now I want to find my copy of the 1831 edition and compare them). We then transitioned into the third workshop, which tasked us with comparing the title pages of the 1818 edition (found in our books) and the 1831 edition (provided via handout and the projector). We were assigned with creating a write-up on these differences, and in class, we discussed some of them – the presence of Mary Shelley’s name on the 1831 edition, the presence of images on the 1831 edition, the dedication on the backside of the 1818 title page being the most prevalent – before class eventually ended. Next week, we will probably discuss the title pages a bit more (well, I hope we do).

Again, sorry that this is being posted so late, but my account issues have been handled.

My first ever attempt at a blog entry…

Hello everyone, I’m putting it out there right now that I’m not the most creative person in the world or used to this kind of writing, but here we go. This is our first time back in class after break, and over break we read Frankenstein, a book I’m familiar with from my time with Ms. Manganiello in 10th grade English. We didn’t get into Frankenstein right away however, and one of the first things Professor Mueller talked about in class was the screening for an Arthurian film on Tuesday that I sadly could not attend. There was more general discussion about the final project for our class where we select one book and we go in depth about the history of said book, and while I have one book on my mind I’m hesitant on choosing it because it might be dull. After getting all of that out of the way we dove right into the actual work, and compared our transcriptions of Robert Henryson’s “Moralitas”. My partner and I had pretty different takes on our transcriptions, he changed the actual content and made it how he felt it should be while I completely copied Henryson’s words. One interesting thing that he did that I didn’t was change all of the f’s that were supposed to be s’s into s’s, and instead of doing that I just left them as f’s. There was a lot of discussion around the class about the glossing as well, and whether or not some of Henryson’s glossing was necessary and why some of us glossed certain things instead of others. Professor Mueller used the MED as well, and we tried searching for certain words in it, which was actually pretty helpful considering I get absolutely nowhere when I’m trying to search for something on that site. After finishing up with Workshop #2 we transitioned into our first novel, Frankenstein. The first phase of our discussion started with the important characters in the novel, and each student was assigned either Victor Frankenstein, Captain Walton, or the creature. We all found passages within the novel that we thought best represented our assigned character and it was probably my favorite part of the class because Frankenstein and the creature are two of my favorite characters from literature because of their interesting relationship. After that was over with we got into groups and went over our assigned essays that were within the novel, and my group found that our essays were all related in that they talked about nature as being a core topic in the novel. One interesting thing I noticed in my essay was that the reviewer referred to the author of Frankenstein as a “he”, and this just puts some perspective into how Mary Shelley had to go about with the publication of her novel because of the fear of how a female novelist would be received. The final part of class was our next workshop which was focused on the covers of the 1818 and 1831 editions of the novel, and it actually was pretty crazy how much the covers changed in just 13 years. The 1818 edition didn’t have any artwork, and most importantly didn’t even include Mary Shelley’s name on it, and I don’t believe it was on the novel until 1822. The 1831 was more appealing with an actual illustration on it, and it had the aforementioned Shelley’s name being included on the cover. That workshop was also done in partners and after we discussed our observations on the covers we came together and shared all of our thoughts as a class. That was pretty much what happened in class on Monday, and while I’ve never done an assignment like this before, I can definitely say that it wasn’t all that bad.

Missed Class…Here’s What I think, Foucault Style

Hey all. I missed class Monday and honestly, I’m disappointed because we hadn’t had a sit down class in a while.

What I found most interesting was Foucault’s idea about whether writers need to publish all their dribbles and drabbles in order to be justified as the author of a piece of work. Where would that line end? If I, as a writer, scribble down an idea on an old receipt, should I publish that? It’s more interesting to me to hear an author write about their process than see it. Honestly, I think it would be a lot of nonsense. It was difficult to discern if Foucault himself thought this process was time-consuming, but worth it, or a waste of time completely. He says that people see the author as a “transcendental anonymity,” so is writing a condition or a labour of an actual human being? What I understood was that Foucault thinks there is no separating the work from the author, as the name itself changes the way we read the work. So, we may see writing as a condition or a function, but still, the author has some influence over us. Again, I’m not sure if I’m reading that correctly. I would have liked to be there in class to talk it through with everyone and see what everyone’s opinions were. I think the concept of authorship is endless and I think I’ve spoken about it in every class I’ve been in since starting graduate school. And perhaps, we will never have a true answer to the question, what is an author?
For someone like Henryson, who is not as famous as someone like Chaucer, we may read his fables and his name would mean nothing to us. What is interesting is that Henryson uses the term “my author” and “myne author.” I’ve never seen that before. Is that meta-text? A narrator aware of it’s author? That’s actually pretty cool.

Illumination of The Red Wheelbarrow


Small sketch of a red wheelbarrow

I selected “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams. I selected this poem simply because it has always been one of my favorites, and it’s always the first thing that comes into my mind when I think of an archetypical poem. The language of the poem is in the imagist style, and the short text of the poem calls up two distinct images, the wheelbarrow, and the chickens. This interacts well with an illumination exercise because most illuminations recall one image from the narrative and display it for the benefit of the reader. A text about Jesus would probably feature an image of Jesus.

The choices I had when illuminating this poem were few. There is little room for interpretation in the poem I chose. It seems as though the drawing on the page should reflect the content of the text. In the case of “The Red Wheelbarrow” this limits the range of drawings. I could’ve added context, by having a worker push the wheelbarrow, or added chickens for a more complete representation of the text, but in the end, a simple drawing of a wheelbarrow won out because I feel it fits more with the text.

A simple drawing fits a simple poem. As well, simply representing the wheelbarrow on the page adds to the meaning of the original poem. This functions differently in my poem than it would in most other poems, because “The Red Wheelbarrow” is a poem about the images in poems. This isn’t why I selected this poem, but once I realized we would be drawing pictures to accompany our poems, it dawned that I had chosen the perfect poem. What better poem to draw on, than one directly about images? There are a few ways for the picture to interact with the text. The first is that the image reproduces your mind’s eye when you read the poem. The image that you naturally create in your head is already on the page, increasing your immersion in the poem. Another possibility is that someone without a literary background reads the poem, and they just see a short poem about farm stuff, and they don’t see the genius behind William’s imagism. Maybe, if they saw pictures next to the poem, it would get them thinking about how the poem creates an image in your head, and they would be just a little bit closer to understanding the postmodern theory behind the poem.

This exercise has increased the complexity of my understanding when it comes to how text and images correspond with one another. Each piece of writing would present its own unique challenges. How would you illuminate the nature landscapes of Frost? Or take, for instance, a poet like E.E. Cummings. Illuminating one of his poems would be a nightmarish task, because of how he manipulates the text in his poems to create images out of the text. Illumination can help make a poem clearer, but it can also complicate the existing content of a piece of writing.


Hello fellow book historians!

What follows is a summary of Monday’s trip to the Boston Athenaeum.   Since we were not able to take notes, and since my mortal memory is guilty of and liable to forgetfulness, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO LET ME KNOW IF I MISSED ANYTHING.

I wasn’t able to take any pictures since I’d checked in my phone before I went inside, but I have provided links from the Athenaeum website where appropriate. Please also feel free to provide your own pictures if you have any.

I look forward to reading your comments. It’s going to be especially interesting to hear from those of you who ended up in a different group from me. Maybe together we can piece together a more encompassing picture of The Athenaeum. Anyway, without further ado:

Monday, 02/27/17 Boston Athenaeum Visit

A few minutes after 3:00 P.M. we had all arrived at the athenaeum, checked in our belongings and signed the guestbook at the circulation desk.  We were ready for our tour. We split into two groups; Myself and 8 other students were guided through by Mr. Fleming who started us off with a brief history of the place and the building. (I’m sure the second group got an equivalent intro. Please share in the comments!) He explained to us how it was founded 1807 which makes it one of the oldest independent libraries in the country. Though the athenaeum was at first a place to collect books, it later went on to acquire some works of art, sculptures, and paintings. In fact, we were shown some of these collections down in the basement of the building.

In the basement we brushed by cases-full of collected books, in order to arrive at a very special statue at the end of the room right in front of the conservation room. That statue was of “Venus D’Medici” (a copy of the original Venus in the Medici collection in Italy) Here she is at the athenaeum:

[Complete Side note: In the spirit of the Shakespearean Sonnets that we read for this week: If you liked this sculpture of Venus AND you like Shakespeare, may I suggest Venus and Adonis ? (Read here: ) Shakespeare’s rewrite of Ovid’s Book X and (probably) the first thing Shakespeare ever published.]

We were also told that before this floor became “the basement of the athenaeum” and home to so many precious artifacts, it used to be a stadium — which explains the Greek columns that, oddly enough, don’t look so out of place in there. Where the stadium used to be, now there is a “conservation room”. Though we couldn’t go inside (time was ticking) we learned that this room is —to put it simply— the “restoration lab” where books get restored and repaired.

Next, we headed up for the 4th floor. On our way out, I thought for a millisecond that  I saw Dante Alighieri’s eyes (and very distinct nose) staring at me, but I didn’t have time to pause and look back. So, the first thing I did when I got home was check to see if I was right…and sure enough the athenaeum does have several busts and sculptures of Dante. Here’s the one I saw:

On the 4th floor we saw several collections of books, including some of Henry Knox’s books (Fun fact: before he went on to become the U.S.’s first secretary of war, Knox was a bookstore owner which is where some of these books came from!) and George Washington’s encyclopedia. On that same floor, in the Trustee’s Room, we saw one third of Washington’s library (which we were told almost ended up in England after his death, had it not been for the Bostonians who thought it absolutely unacceptable to ship these valuables back to the British and brought it to the athenaeum instead.) Portraits of George and Martha Washington by Gilbert Stuart were on display in the trustee’s room as well.

We then descended from the 4th floor in order to join the rest of the class in viewing some rare books that Stanley had picked out for us. First on the list was the Nuremberg Chronicles (1415) which included several hand-painted illuminations in surprisingly vibrant colors and great detail. Stanley explained that the typesetting would be crafted and painted prior to the making of the book to avoid messing up the pages etc. He also talked to us about the binding and restoration of this book, explaining also the use of gold on the Initial of the opening page. He mentioned that since most texts were no longer being printed on vellum, they were cheaper to produce and could therefore be construed as lesser in value. The addition of gold almost rectifies that and proves that the book is still worth its price.

The second rare book we saw was a sheet music book. Stanley explained the significance of this particular book because it was (one of) the first to use an engraved plate that allowed for the printing of  both the musical notes and the lines at once without having to go through the process of printing lines, waiting, and printing the notes afterwards.

The third and last book we saw was printed or “inspired by” medieval books in terms of its appearance, illumination etc even though it was printed after moveable type. We did not get to hear about it in great detail since it was nearing 4 o’clock (i.e. the end of our tour) but I’m definitely missing a detail or two so if someone else remembers more about that third book than I do, by all means let us know!

after a few minutes of  Stanley answering questions from some of us, our tour officially ended (thus concluding our magical albeit brief trip back in time? Am I allowed to say that? I think I am…) and we all left the athenaeum shortly after.


It’s been a pleasure documenting our very first trip. Happy commenting, everyone 🙂