The Material Lives of Texts ENGLIT5122

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

Literature comes to readers through a specific material medium: print or manuscript, book or screen, pamphlet or magazine, illustrated, annotated, or bound in red morocco leather. This course gives students the skills and technical knowledge necessary to interpret literature in its material medium, whether that be a 16th-century printed book, an 18th-century political pamphlet, a 19th-century periodical, a 20th-century paperback, or a 21st-century digital file. In this course, students learn through hands-on exercises and workshops; alongside seminar discussions of bibliographic scholarship, they will apply book historical methods to a wide range of unique material artefacts held by Archives & Special Collections and the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.


10 x 2-hour sessions, weekly during the normal teaching weeks of the semester

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





Blog posts (1000 words total) - 20%

Description exercise (1500 words) - 30%

Portfolio (2500 words) - 50%

Course Aims

This course aims to:


■ Introduce students to the methods of studying literature in its many material mediums 

■ Equip students with the technical knowledge and practical skills necessary to analyze material texts including books and other printed formats, manuscripts, archival documents, digital objects, engravings and other forms of illustration

■ Provide students with a working knowledge of book historical and bibliographic debates current in the academy and collecting institutions today

■ Make issues of material textuality tangible through hands-on experience working with primary materials in collections across campus 

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


■ Apply bibliographic and book historical methods to a wide range of materials across the history of print

■ Conduct research that depends on locating and interpreting archival documents, manuscripts, printed books and specific instantiations of texts

■ Develop arguments about literature that take into account its material medium

■ Interpret the importance of the material forms of literary works for both academic audiences and wider publics

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.