This syllabus is subject to change. The latest version on this website is the binding syllabus.

Office: Bartlett 259
Office Hours: By appointment.
545-6598 | sharris@english.umass.edu


Fall, 2005

COURSE: This course explores the shifting definition of readers and reading effected by the artifacts of textual culture. The written word is not a record of speech, but a dialect with its own interpretative demands. We will be examining ways in which scrolls, codices, books, and other artifacts of textual culture shape the idea of a reader. From papyrus to vellum to the computer screen, presenting the written word often delimits possibilities of interpretation, setting the limits of reading and defining who can and who cannot be a good reader. We will discuss paleography, bookmaking, illumination, orality and literacy, rhetorical handbooks, and much more. This course introduces you not only to theories of reading, but also to physical aspects of manuscripts, books, and publication.

You should note that this is not a history of the book course. Much of our effort will be expended on medieval and classical methods of interpreting books.



The History of Reading, by Alberto Manguel (Penguin, 1997) ISBN: 0140166548. $16.00 Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings, by Jorge Luis Borges (New Directions Paperbook, 1964) ISBN: 0811200124. $13.95
On Christian Teaching, by St. Augustine (Oxford World's Classics; Oxford University Press, 1999) ISBN: 0192839284. $11.95 The Complete Romances of Chretien De Troyes, by David Staines (Indiana University Press [Reprint edition], 1993) ISBN: 0253207878. $16.95
Mimesis : The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, by Erich Auerbach (Princeton University Press, 2003) ISBN: 069111336X. $19.95 Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham (Bantam Classics, 1991) ISBN: 055321392X. $5.95
Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson (Bantam Classics, 1995) ISBN: 055321439X. $5.95 The Waste Land and Other Poems, by T. S. Eliot (Dover Publications, 1998) ISBN: 0486400611. $1.50
The Dalkey Archive, by Flann O'Brien (Dalkey Archive Press; 2nd edition; 1997) ISBN: 1564781720. $12.95  


They are all available at Atticus Book in Amherst (8 Main St). They are not expensive, so I encourage you to buy all of them.


STRUCTURE AND OBJECTIVES: The general objectives of this course are to have you engage with secondary material, attempt informed cultural criticism, and articulate as best you can some of the basic premises of the habits of reading in the early 21st century.

As budding theoreticians of reading, you are also expected to complete your own readings prior to each class--the readings average about 50 pages per class. This should take you about two to three hours. If you're not going to do the reading, then this class will be a waste of your time, and your success imperiled.


ATTENDANCE POLICY: Attendance is very strongly encouraged, and university guidelines for absence will be strictly enforced. Check your handbook. My lectures are copyrighted material. Any use of my lectures in written, electronic, or recorded form without my prior consent is strictly illegal.


ASSIGNMENTS: There are three (3) papers of 1500 words each, and four (4) papers of 500 words each due throughout the term. Topics will be suggested. There are no exams or quizzes.

There is also a project summary due sometime during the middle of the semester. This constitutes a brief, one- to two-page essay which describes some of the assumptions and issues behind your various papers.

  • ALL MISSED ASSIGNMENTS GET AN "F." If you foresee being absent, please let me know well beforehand.
  • PLAGIARISM GETS AN "F." This may be for the paper or for the course, at my discretion. The penalties for plagiarism are quite strict. Please check your student handbook and university guidelines for more on plagiarism. If you have any questions whatsoever about whether you are citing sources correctly, contact me.
  • ALL PAPERS MUST BE TYPED OR WORD-PROCESSED. Not doing so reduces your grade by one letter-value (e.g., "C" down to "D").


GRADING: The breakdown of your grade is as follows:

  • Long-paper Writing 70% (paper 1, 15%; paper 2, 25%; paper 3, 30%);
  • Short-paper Writing 24% (6% each x 4)
  • Project summary 6%

    For my requirements with respect to A, AB, C, etc., see the Resources section of this site, and follow the link to Papers and to Policies.

CONFERENCES: Each student is encouraged to meet with me at least once during the semester (it's a good idea to check your grades with me to ensure my gradebook and your grades match up). Please let me know beforehand if you want to meet during my office hours. Otherwise, please make an appointment to meet with me at a time convenient to you and I will try to oblige.


ACADEMIC HONESTY: For more information, consult your handbook or the pages in this site devoted to plagiarism (see "Resources").


NOTE 1: Please make and keep a copy of all your assignments. That copy may be a disc copy. In case any difficulties arise with respect to misplaced assignments or with respect to discrepancies between your records and my own, I will accept the evidence of your computer system's dating function. For your own peace of mind, I suggest that you lock any document on the day it is due. That will prevent your computer's operating system from associating your document with a later date.

NOTE 2: The course schedule is subject to change. It is not to be construed as a substitute for your attendance or as a catalogue of all the information for which you are responsible. All changes will be announced with a reasonable lead time. This syllabus constitutes a binding contract between the student and the professor. If you do not agree with any of the provisions set herein or if you foresee disagreeing with any of the provisions which may be reasonably added during the course of the term, then you are free to drop this class within the time allotted by the university.

NOTE 3:All material pertaining to this course--namely handouts, quizzes, exams, tests, maps, graphs, charts, printed matter, recorded matter, electronic matter including but not limited to this syllabus and associated electronic documents, films, video clips, conversations, office consultations, classroom responses, lectures, asides, answers to classroom queries, and related utterances--is copyrighted material and is subject to international and US laws of copyright. Enrollment in this course constitutes tacit acceptance of this agreement and of the copyright claims made therein. Any breach of this agreement or use of copyrighted material by any member of the university or the public without prior consent will be met with legal action.