Dr Brooke Palmieri
Maximum: 15 students
Venue: Senate House

The invention of moveable type is an incredible aberration in the history of communication. Its format obscures thousands of years of communication by clay and papyrus, and the rapid output of the press obscures prior book-making processes that were carefully controlled and lavishly constructed. No wonder the spread of mechanical printing processes has triggered constant debate over the centuries: is printing the work of God or of the devil? Is the multitude of new information useful, or an infectious plague?

Between its perverse origins, and its use as an activist tool within the struggle for LGBTQIA+ liberation, the printed book has always been queer, embedded within a sprawl of media that has allowed the subcultural, the marginal, and the oppressed to tell their own stories, share strategies of resistance and disruption, and rally together.

The purpose of this course is to re-evaluate the development of mechanical printing processes in terms of contingency rather than inevitability, strangeness rather than familiarity, and above all, in the moments when format and speedy dissemination are harnessed to disrupt normative culture. Consequently, “the book” and its attendant fields of bibliography and the materiality of texts have much to benefit from queer theory, where concepts of queerness might be used to think about books in relation to the bodies that produce and consume them, and in relation to the norms print culture might create and/or resist. By considering innovations upon printing practices over the past 500 years, highlights in the history of book production from blasphemous texts to contemporary artists’ books and zines, and media that centres the experiences of gender non-conforming people, the goal of the course is that students might delight in the queerness of information exchange.

Students will have the opportunity to explore queer archives of printed matter as they have managed to survive within institutional contexts, and flourish within grassroots and personal collections. The class will also culminate in taking the means of production into our own hands and making a limited edition zine.

Key Texts

Aarons, Phillip, and Bronson, A.A. Queer Zines Vol 1 and 2 (New York: Printed Matter, 2014)
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983)
Baron, Sabrina Alcorn, Lindquist, Eric N., and Shevlin, Eleanor F. Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L Eisenstein (Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007)
Bentley, G. E. “Blake’s Heavy Metal: The History, Weight, uses, Cost, and Makers of His Copper Plates.” University of Toronto Quarterly 76, no. 2 (2007)
Casper, Scott E. Groves, Jeffrey D., Nissenbaum, Stephen W. and Winship, Michael, eds. A History of the Book in America: Volume 3: The Industrial Book, 1840-1880 (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2007)
Chester, Gail, Cadman, Eileen, and Pivot, Agnes. Rolling Our Own: Women as Printers, Publishers, and Distributors (London: Minority Press Group, 1981)
Darnton, Robert. The Literary Underground of the Old Regime (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985)
Darnton, Robert. “What is the History of Books?” Daedalus 111.3 (1982) 65-83
Darnton, Robert. Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2014)
Davis, Lennard J. Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983)
Dean, Tim. “Introduction: Pornography, Technology, Archive” Porn Archives (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2014)
Drucker, Johanna. The Century of Artists’ Books (New York: Granary Books, 1995)
Eaves, Morris.  The Counter-arts Conspiracy: Art and Industry in the Age of Blake. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992.
Eisenstein, Elizabeth. Divine Art, Infernal Machine: The Reception of Printing in the West from First Impressions to the Sense of an Ending (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011)
Essick, Robert. William Blake, Printmaker. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980
Fleming, Juliet, Sherman, William, and Smyth, Adam. “The Renaissance Collage: Toward a New History of Reading,” Special Issue, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 45.3 (2015)
Galloway, Alexander R., Thacker, Eugene, and Wark, Mckenzie. Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013)
Harker, Jaime and Konchar Farr, Cecilia. This Book Is an Action: Feminist Print Culture and Activist Aesthetics (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2015)
Halberstam, Jack. The Queer Art of Failure (Duke University Press, 2011)
Hogan, Kristen. The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016)
John, Adrian. Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010)
Masten, Jeffrey. Textual Intercourse; Collaboration, Authorship and Sexualities in Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)
Masten, Jeffrey. Queer Philologies: Sex, Language, and Affect in Shakespeare’s Time (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016)
McKenzie, D.F.  Bibliography & the Sociology of Texts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)
Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: NYU Press, 2009)
Pettegree, Andrew. The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself (London: Yale University Press, 2014).
Price, Leah. How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (Princeton, NJ. Princeton University Press, 2012)
Raymond, Joad. Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
Reid-Pharr, Robert F. Archives of Flesh: African America, Spain, and Post-Humanist Critique (New York: NYU Press, 2016).
Robinson, Franklin A. “Queering the Archive”, QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking 1.2 (2014) 195-199
Stein, Donna. “When a Book is More than a Book,” in Artists’ Books in the Modern Era 1870-2000: The Reva and David Logan Collection of Illustrated Books, ed. Robert Flynn Johnson (San Francisco: Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, 2001), 17-45
Stoler, Ann. Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010)
Viscomi, Joseph. Blake and the Idea of the Book. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993
Watt, Tessa. Cheap Print and Popular Piety, 1550-1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991

Course convenor

Student Comments

This course covered so much and all of it was very helpful. If I had to make the choice again, I would definitely choose this course. The Queer Book gives an important, idiosyncratic approach to books that brings out their oddities. I especially enjoyed the guest tutor who spoke on popular and speculative fiction.

I came to the course looking for ways to link my research to theory - to of more radical and exciting ways to 'do' book history and The Queer Book delivered.