The Unfinished Book

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This collection is founded on the premise that the physical book is far from exhausted as informational medium, art object, or conceptual resource. The contributors to The Unfinished Book identify the many ways in which study of books - of their compounding of matter and meaning, of their global travels and historical transitions, of their shaping of and by new media technologies - remains unfinished business for humanist scholarship generally, and literary studies in particular. The collection's 32 chapters demonstrate in tandem how much book history has to gain in turn from engaging the most vital and innovative literary-critical modes of the 21st-century. Book studies thus intersects here with scholarship on empire, the environment, disability, and affect, as well as with work in African-American and Indigenous studies. Literary study is uniquely positioned, this collection asserts, to honour books' distinctive ways of both meaning things and being things.

The chapters span a terrain that extends from the earliest surviving writings of the Indus Valley to Cicero's 1st-century B.C.E. library to the latest videogames. Some model new ways of thinking about the form, edges, and boundaries of the book as they demonstrate how seldom the book's history as a material object is terminated at the moment of its manufacture. Other chapters highlight the provisionality that makes the book's conceptual boundaries fuzzy, unfinished, and variable; many seek to overturn triumphalist histories that recount the story of the book as though it were Western and white. Overall, this collection launches a new generation of scholarship as it introduces provocative new approaches about the nature, place, and time of books.

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Oxford University Press
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