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Rachael Scarborough King
WhenTuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Campus locationCommunications Building (CMU)
Campus room120
Event typesAcademics, Lectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsTextual Studies Program (…), French and Italian Studies (

Improving Literature: The Enlightenment in Manuscript and Print

From gardening books to penmanship manuals to receipt compilations to self-help guides, the long eighteenth century was the great age of the how-to book. This talk will highlight the importance of such books to the concept of improvement, a keyword in the period that explained the on-the-ground processes we have retroactively classified as "Enlightenment." I will argue that improvement materialized through new print formats that required the addition of handwriting or interaction with the user, such as virtue charts and before-and-after flaps. This "book history of improvement" offers a bottom-up view of the Enlightenment from the perspective of readers and consumers.

Rachael Scarborough King is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Writing to the World: Letters and the Origins of Modern Print Genres (Johns Hopkins Press, 2018).

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