The Power of Book

Schools of Public Engagement: Humanities

Liberal Arts

Undergraduate Course

Degree Students

The Power of Book

Spring 2020

Taught By: Gina Walker

Section: A

CRN: 7310

Credits: 3

The explosive power of the printed book in the early modern period anticipates the turbulent digital revolution in our time. We track the struggles over successive technologies of human communication, from Ancient Orality to the emergence of writing to the evolution of movable clay type in China c. 1041 to Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press with replaceable/moveable wooden or metal letters in 1436-40 that inaugurates mass literacy. We investigate the revolutionary effects of “the book in the Renaissance,” culminating in fierce public reactions to publication of Martin Luther’s Protestant Bible in German (1522), the opening salvo in the translation war between Catholics and their Reformation critics to produce the most authoritative Christian text. Theological dissent is quickly deployed for international political, economic, and territorial advantage. The Religious Wars in France, followed by the English Civil Wars, produce a flood of proposals about God’s intentions for the world that, in turn, stimulate a vigorous debate about the right to private judgment as the foundation of human freedom. We investigate the dramatic twists and turns of a global “battle of the books” that produces towering works, including a relative flood by women as they seize the right to contribute to the great debate over human versus divine law. We speculate about the effects of digital literacy and the continuing debate over its future: is Wikipedia a tool for democratization of knowledge, or the “worst thing” that could happen to human understanding? Does “texting” signal the death of memory? We wonder whether there are lessons to be learned from the history of print for our electronic age.

College: Schools of Public Engagement (NS)

Department: Humanities (NHUM)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: February 3, 2020 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 12, 2020 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Open*

*Status information is updated every five minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 6:01am 12/7/2019 EST

Meeting Info:

Days: Thursday

Times: 6:00pm - 7:50pm

Building: TBD

Room: TBD

Date Range: 1/23/2020 - 5/7/2020