Event—Center for Renaissance Studies

The World in the Book: 1300-1800


Centuries before television, smartphones, and social media, books were the primary means by which people made sense of the world around them. In cultures throughout the world, manuscripts and printed materials of all kinds were used to archive professional and personal lives, cultivate relationships with the divine, care for minds and bodies, and visualize faraway lands and peoples. Today, these books stand as material witnesses to medieval and early modern efforts to engage with major social, intellectual, and cultural challenges.

Hosted by the Newberry Library's Center for Renaissance Studies (CRS), this 10-week course will use the multidisciplinary field of book history to explore how medieval and early modern people used different media—theological texts, maps, travel narratives, reference works, literature, and more—to make sense of a changing world. Through lectures, discussions, and interactive workshops with faculty from CRS consortium institutions, participants will learn how book history can illuminate the ways in which premodern people used religion, science, art, and technology to grapple with new economic, intellectual, and cultural challenges in a rapidly-expanding global community. In so doing, students will develop a framework for using the past to help illuminate and guide their own contemporary experience.

The course will meet for 1.5 hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays (3 hours per week total) in fall 2021. Tuesdays will consist of a presentation and discussion with a guest speaker, while Thursdays the students will meet in smaller groups with CRS staff to discuss assigned readings and materials from the Newberry collections.

Claudia Brittenham, University of Chicago
Kevin Gosner, University of Arizona
Elizabeth Hebbard, Indiana University
Stephanie Leitch, Florida State University
Ryan Netzley, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
Julia Schleck, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
JB Shank, University of Minnesota
Jyotsna Singh, Michigan State University