Author: victorialgibbons

Research spotlight #1: A history of titling practices: in transition

by Victoria Gibbons

After completing my doctorate this summer, I have had the privilege of undertaking a one-year postdoctoral scholarship with the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation. The Wingate Scholarship enables me to continue my research, begun early in my postgraduate study, on the historical development of literary titling practices at Cardiff University.

My doctoral thesis initiated a diachronic reconsideration of the literary title. Unlike previous critical studies of titling practices, which focus almost exclusively on modern printed works, the thesis focused on the titling practices of manuscripts, addressing the different forms, functions and meanings of premodern titling. The overlapping of theoretical and material concerns in this under-researched area of book history necessitated a new form of multidisciplinary approach which combined critical theories of titology with codicological and bibliographical modes of enquiry. My current postdoctoral project develops and extends the findings of my doctorate. While the thesis looked at titling practices from the beginning of written records until the end of the fourteenth century, the postdoc concentrates on a more limited timeframe: the fifteenth century. My long-term research goal has always been to establish and publish a history of titling practices, spanning manuscript, early print and later print/digital modes of literature. Yet my doctoral research reveals that the development of titling cannot be mapped simply and rigidly onto these mediums. Taking the transition from manuscript to incunable as its focus, the postdoc looks beyond such technological determinism, allowing consideration of the influence of other related factors (the growing commercialisation of the book trade, higher rates of textual production, the increasing standardisation of textual formats) on the development of titling practices at this time. (more…)