A History of Writing: From Medieval Script to Digital Screen
Offered by the Department of English, in collaboration with the College of Advancing and Professional Studies.
- Hands-on manuscript study using medieval archives from Europe’s oldest University.
- Study at the University of Bologna and receive exclusive access to State archives & instruction from experts in the field of research and analysis of manuscripts.
The University of Bologna is the oldest continuously operating university in the world; it is also the birthplace of writing conventions that persist to the present day. From abbreviations to annotations to salutations, Bolognese scholars developed efficient and effective modes for addressing a rapidly expanding audience of readers and writers. Two of the University of Bologna’s illustrious alumni and avid writers, Dante and Petrarch, will provide the point of departure for our study of the fascinating history of the rules that govern written production - a history that can be traced from the earliest handwritten letters to today’s Facebook status update.
Led by Alex Mueller, Associate Professor of English at UMass Boston, in collaboration with faculty and staff of the RAM (Research and Analysis of Manuscripts) Center at the University of Bologna, program participants will attend morning seminars at the University of Bologna and spend the afternoon exploring medieval archives throughout the city engaging in hands-on activities, including manuscript study, document digitization, and social networking projects.
In this course, students will examine the conventions of writing that became established over time within writing spaces, from ancient scrolls to medieval manuscripts to blogging platforms. Considering carefully the structure and placement of text within these environments, students will learn the basic principles of paleography – the study of handwriting – as well as movable type – one of the earliest methods for printing books. In addition to this hands-on work, students will critically analyze the relationship between the physical environments for texts and the content of the texts themselves – from the vast importance of annotation in medieval law books to abbreviations in mobile-texts and tweets of today. This work will help students to identify the rhetorical principles that shape interactions between writers and their audiences over time, and to assess the implications for our understanding of the past, present, and future of text technologies. Much of the course, therefore, will be devoted to handling and describing ancient manuscripts that contain early examples of writing and page design.
Drawing on the innovative methods of the digital humanities, scholars, and practitioners, students will contextualize their archival research within read-write platforms, such as blogs, wikis, Facebook status updates, and Twitter feeds, in order to identify the shifting character of writing conventions today.
Course assignments will include blogging about course readings and field experiences, descriptions of manuscripts in Bolognese collections, and a final digital project.
The class will meet for four hours each morning for directed instruction in rare book and manuscript study, discussions of course readings, and guest lectures by the RAM faculty. In the afternoon students will engage in hands-on projects in various archives throughout the city. Excursions will include afternoon visits to the State Archive of Bologna, the Archiginnasio, the Biblioteca Universitaria, the Museo Civico Medievale, and the Museo della Città di Bologna. Students will also enjoy a tour of medieval Bologna and a day trip to the important Renaissance city of Ferrara.
|June 26||Arrival in Bologna and program orientation|
|June 27||Tour of medieval Bologna|
|July 2||Day trip to Ferrara, city of the Renaissance|
|July 9||Depart for the United States|
Courses and Credit
Participants register for one 3-credit course:
- ENGL 379: Special Topics in English
- ENGL607: History of the Book
For English majors and minors: ENGL 379 can count toward your major or minor.
There are no prerequisites for this course. Previous knowledge of Italian or Latin is desirable, but not required; workshops and projects will be adapted to the research experience and desires of the students.
There is also a non-credit option for this course, for those who wish to partake in this wonderful experience but do not need academic credit. For details please contact Jennifer Goode-Sollis.
Alex Mueller is an associate professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts. He received his PhD from the University of Minnesota and specializes in medieval studies and digital pedagogy.
Who Can Apply?
This course is open to all University of Massachusetts Boston students. Individuals from other colleges and universities are also welcome to apply.
Please be advised that international programs are subject to change, slight or major, at any time due to circumstances beyond our control; this includes any and all fees, dates, itinerary, and program activities. We will do our best to inform all applicants of any changes in as timely a manner as possible.