Protestantism and the Materiality of Texts (RBS-Mellon Symposium)

Date: 20 April 2017 – 22 April 2017
Time: Times vary
Location: Princeton University
Presented by: Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School; Duke Graduate Program in Religion; Barney Jones Endowment of the Duke Department of Religious Studies; Princeton Graduate School; Princeton Center for the Study of Religion

From the days of the early reformers through the twenty-first century, Protestants have made voracious use of printed books and other media to spread a religion of the Word. For its vaunted emphasis on texts, Protestantism remains associated with words, thought, and private reading, as opposed to things, practices, and communal devotion. However, as scholars across the disciplines have demonstrated, texts are never only containers for words. Whether handwritten, printed, or typed on a screen, words and their meanings are entwined with material forms and embodied practices at every stage of their production, circulation, and reception.

The material bases of both Protestantism and textual media have been key sites of inquiry in the larger material turn in the humanities. Interdisciplinary scholars of “material religion” have argued that religious practices are always embodied practices, shaped by their close engagement with material things and spaces. At the same time, the emerging field of “critical bibliography” has united a diverse group of scholars, librarians, and curators around the central axis of the materiality of the book. Critical bibliography pursues an object-based approach to texts, analyzing their material forms—such as paper, images, typography, binding, format, and ownership marks—as primary forms of evidence.

This three-day symposium will feature public talks, hands-on archival sessions, and a works-in-progress workshop. It will bring together a leading group of researchers working across this material turn—including art historians, historians, religionists, literature scholars, anthropologists, librarians, and curators—to examine the role of the materiality of texts among Protestants of all kinds, across lines of period and region.

See the event website for full schedule and registration information.