Authoring and Publishing Literature: From Books to e-Books

Module code: EN3189

Module co-ordinator: to be confirmed

This module is an introduction to the material aspects of Britain's rich literary heritage. It looks at authoring and publishing through the ages by considering the historical, social, and cultural contexts that have influenced the production, circulation, and consumption of texts. Our primary examples will be taken from Chaucer, the Wyatt/Boleyn circle, Ben Jonson, Alexander Pope, and Jeannette Winterson. We'll consider the concepts of anonymity and authenticity and discuss a variety of forms, from handwritten books to e-books. Issues of literary communication will be explored in relation to the concept of 'authorship' and mode of production. We'll explore some issues of current interest to book historians, including plurality of texts, the acceptance of textual variance, the absence of canonicity, and the idea of 'authority' and 'authorised versions'. We will read some literary texts in manuscript and training will be provided to facilitate this task.


Weekly seminar discussions will be based on individual and group presentations. Secondary reading may include Kelliher and Brown, English Literary Manuscripts; Darnton, The Case For Books; and Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything. Copies of additional material will be made available by your tutor. Practical sessions will take place in the library's Special Collections.

By the end of the module, you'll be able to demonstrate:

  • The ability to relate critically to the concepts of authoring and publishing
  • The ability to analyse and evaluate literary material cultures
  • The ability to discuss and analyse different forms of publishing from manuscripts to electronic media
  • The ability to read handwritten literary manuscripts


  • One essay of 5,000 words