Communication and Culture | Current Topics in Communication and Culture (Topic: Cultures of Books and Reading)
C334 | 28520 | Striphas, T.
MW, 11:15 AM-12:30 PM, TBA
Instructor: Ted Striphas
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 213
Many people have claimed that ours is an age in which electronic
media predominate. Amid the flow of 24-hour radio and television,
the spectacle of cinema, the dizzyingly connective internet maze,
the kaleidoscopic intensity of digital gaming, and the breakneck
pace at which new media develop, it gets harder to imagine an “old-
fashioned” medium like books having much importance these days.
Yet, in many respects, books and book culture seem to be booming
well beyond college classrooms. Bookstores have been supersized.
Online bookstores promise even greater accessibility. Book clubs
like Oprah Winfrey’s, and book franchises like Harry Potter, inspire
legions of people to read—and to buy. Meanwhile, large multi-
national corporations publish more and more books every year, and
new types of digital reading devices are emerging.
Given these and other developments, now seems an appropriate time to
figure out how to talk about book culture. In this class, we will
explore how and why the shape of books has transformed over time.
We’ll also consider how relations of race, class, and gender
influence who reads what, with whom, and under what conditions, and
why we make value judgments about one another on the basis of which
books we read. Finally, we’ll investigate questions of authorship,
ownership, and originality as they arise within the context of
More broadly, you’ll learn specific skills by which to research, and
critical frameworks by which to assess, the history and politics of
book culture. Grades will be based on attendance/participation, two
shorter writing assignments, a group presentation, and a final
Finkelstein, David, and Alistair McCleery, eds. The Book History
Reader, 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2006. ISBN-13:978-
Miller, Laura J. Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture
of Consumption. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. ISBN-13:
A few required essays will be available on electronic reserve.