Visiting speaker, 5 Apr 2011: Aileen Douglas on print culture and manuscripts

Aileen Douglas will be presenting her paper, ‘Copy, Sample, Autograph: Script in Print, 1690-1840’, at 5.15pm on Tuesday, 5 April 2011. The talk will take place in the Cardiff Humanities Building, Room 2.48.

Histories of writing can represent the relationship between print and script as one of competition and displacement: ‘the Printing-Art has outrun the pen’ wrote Daniel Defoe in 1726. As it remediated the older technology, however, print also reproduced manual writing in the form of engravings. Over the course of the long eighteenth century engraved samples of script reflected and shaped radically different understandings of the cultural meaning of writing as a practice. The books of copies produced by eighteenth-century writing masters and intended for student writers not only provided ‘hands’ to imitate, and instruction on pen-hold and bodily disposition, they also projected particular cultural spaces, dominated by commerce, for writing’s occurrence. From the later part of the eighteenth century, and initially to further antiquarian interests, the technology of printed engraving was belatedly exploited to provide facsimiles of the writing of royal or otherwise notable individuals. Such reproductions helped generate understandings of writing as a manifestation of individual character and contributed to the development of the cult of the autograph in the early nineteenth-century.

About the speaker
Dr Aileen Douglas is Senior Lecturer in the School of English, Trinity College Dublin. Her research interests include eighteenth-century print culture, the novel, representations of the body and Irish writing. She is a general editor of the ‘Early Irish Fiction c.1680–c. 1820’ series for which she has co-edited Sarah Butler’s Irish Tales (2010) and Elizabeth Sheridan’s The Triumph of Prudence over Passion (2011). She is also the author of Uneasy Sensations: Smollett and the Body (1995), and has co-edited a volume of essays entitled Locating Swift: Essays from Dublin on the 250th Anniversary of the Death of Jonathan Swift (1998). She is currently completing a study of manual writing in the long eighteenth century, provisionally entitled The Tendency of the Pen: Script in Print, 1680–1840.

Download a flyer for the talk (PDF).


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