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Not Absolutely Dead Things : Print, Code, and the Continuing Life of Books
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

TSC, Room 121, The D.B. Weldon Library, Western

While the death of print has often been predicted as an inevitable consequence of the “digital turn,” it is safe to say that the bound, printed codex will not be disappearing from our library stacks anytime in the immediate future. What is true, however, is that the digital edition, with its deceptively “virtual” presence, has generally reinforced the conception that texts are best understood as “disembodied” meanings, as pure and ideal information or data independent of material form. It is a view that has alienated books from their own history, and by extension, from the human agency that created them.
If code has had a role in buttressing the popular but simplistic intuition that literature dwells ultimately in the world of ideal forms and “pure meaning” (or, as we might now say, in “the cloud”), it has also provided the tools to reconnect texts to their material embodiment, and, in the process, to the human presences and voices that are the sources of their greatest value to us. Paradoxically, digital editions of “legacy” print texts can reconstitute the physicality of “the book” in ways that bring readers back to the printed page, and affirm the place of textual meaning within the ecosystem of the modern research library that ideally houses both forms.

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