Teaching the History of the Book (edited collection)

deadline for submissions: 
January 14, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
MLA Options for Teaching series
contact email: 

Teaching the History of the Bookwill assemble essays by scholars and teachers from across all fields of literary and language study, exploring theories, practices, and problems in teaching about and with the history of the book. Essays in the volume will provide historical context, theoretical frames, and practical insights for effectively teaching the history of the book, as a subject in its own right and as a component or method in courses on other subjects in the field of literature and language, both within and beyond the Anglophone world. The volume will be used for instructional contexts in and beyond conventional undergraduate and graduate English literature courses, including in programs in library studies, creative writing, media studies, art history, and mass communication, as well as college preparatory and high school classes.

As a multidisciplinary field, the history of the book offers rich opportunities in the classroom, from the theoretical to the practical and across a range of topics related to the history of publishing, communication, reading, and authorship. Teaching the history of the book can be a focus in itself, but it can also contribute to courses in almost any period, genre, or subject of literature and language study. It is a subject with multiple pedagogical methodologies, such as case studies, primary research, site visits, and textual editing. Students taking a book history approach might be engaged in work on manuscript materials, early hand-press books, books from the machine-press age, or digital texts; they might study the role and activities of particular authors, publishers, printers, scribes, booksellers, collectors, and readers; and their objectives might involve closely studying literature itself or taking any number of other approaches through disciplines such as rhetoric and composition, communication, economics, sociology, science and technology, politics, gender studies, archaeology, and other fields.

Proposed essays should clearly fit within one of the following five sections:

1. The History of Teaching Book History

This section will include essays on topics such as the teaching of philology, bibliography, and the other subjects that ultimately resulted in “the history of the book” as a taught discipline; these essays will speak to how the history of the ways these subjects were taught led to, and still continue to inform, how book history is and can be taught. The goal of these essays is to provide a developmental context for instructors, enabling them to help students form a critical awareness of how the discipline’s precursors shaped the current state of book history and to design courses with a strategic understanding of how the past has informed the present.

2. Theories in Teaching Book History

This section will consider the application of pedagogical and disciplinary theories in the book history classroom and how those concepts can shape the practices and motives of book history courses. The essays in this section might consider how current theoretical questions in book history, media study, and related fields can animate and inform approaches to teaching book history or using book history in other courses. Ultimately, these essays will help instructors prepare for teaching book history, or using book history methods, by providing them with the theoretical justifications necessary to appropriately and most productively identify learning objectives and other teaching outcomes.

3. Teaching Book History as a Course 

Essays in this section will provide case studies of particular courses oriented entirely around teaching the subject of book history or one particular aspect of book history. These essays can approach the teaching of book history at any level (introductory or advanced, undergraduate or graduate), in any discipline, and through any particular method. Courses might include general surveys of the field or studies of one particular period, culture, or topic, such as the history of reading, manuscript culture, print culture, mass media, digital media, and so forth. The purpose of this section is to demonstrate the many different ways an effective course on the subject can be organized and carried out.

4. Using Book History in Other Courses

This section will provide examples of how book history can be used as a methodology to teach other literature and language courses, such as survey courses, author-centered courses, courses in non-literature and non-literary history fields, and so forth. Each essay will focus on one specific activity, lesson plan, case, project, or similar instructional component of a literature or language course that employed the particular methods, practices, or frame of book history.

5. Resources

These essays will introduce and evaluate specific print and digital tools that teachers of book history, or teachers using book history approaches, can use in their classes. Resources examined, either individually or in groups, might include reference works, websites, databases, digital tools, anthologies, readers, textbooks, and so forth.

Proposals to contribute an essay to Options for Teaching the History of the Book must be sent as a Word Document attachment to mapangallo@vcu.edu, including an essay title and abstract (250 to 300 words), along with the contributor’s CV. The deadline to submit a proposal is Monday, January 14. Contributors whose proposals are accepted will be invited to submit a 4,000- to 6,000-word essay for the volume, on the topic of their proposal.

About the MLA’s Options for Teaching Series:

The principal objective of the wide-ranging series Options for Teaching is to collect within each volume different points of view on an issue or topic related to teaching language and literature. Whereas volumes in the MLA series Approaches to Teaching World Literature primarily concern specific literary works and writers, the Options for Teaching series offers more broadly based volumes devoted to teaching literature. Published Options volumes have treated such areas as children’s literature, environmental literature, literature and medicine, and the African novel. Other typical series volumes concern the teaching of theory, oral traditions, genres, periods and movements, and interdisciplinarity.

Each Options for Teaching volume seeks to be a sourcebook of material, information, and ideas for nonspecialists as well as specialists, inexperienced as well as experienced teachers, graduate students as well as senior professors. An Options volume begins with an introduction by the editor(s) that gives a rationale for the volume, a conceptual framing of its topic, and contexts for the essays. At least one essay presents an overview of the volume’s subject—relevant history, important scholarship, major issues, and so forth. The balance of the volume comprises essays reflecting diverse teaching approaches. Volumes are broadly representative in the range of contributors; in the philosophies, methodologies, and critical orientations presented; and in the types of schools, students, and courses considered. Editors are responsible for addressing all major issues and approaches relevant to the subject. At the volume’s end there is a section devoted to resources for teachers of the volume’s subject.