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A Literary Textual Biography (25% of final grade)

This Formal Essay Assignment invites you to select from a specific list a text for which you
would like to write a “Literary Text Biography.” This quite literally means that you are invited to
write about the life of this text. As we know from the previous weeks of discussion, a text
develops its meaning from material technologies of writing, printing, distribution, reading, and
storage. Importantly, how can a media archaeology approach elucidate the biography of this

For each text, consider, what theory of textuality, what idea of language, writing, and reading is
implied? What kind of text technology did the writer use to create the text? What was the first
published edition/ Did it go through subsequent editions? printings? Is the text out of copyright?
How has copyright affected its fortunes? How does the text enlist materiality in the making of its
meaning? What text technologies does it reference (does it make figurative reference to
technologies of writing, reading, print, etc)? How does it reflect on or otherwise signal its own
materiality? How do words interact with matter to create meaning? What is the media ecology in
which it first circulated? How would the meaning of the text change if it were to be remediated
into a different text technology?

For MA students, this is an 8-10 page paper. For PhD students this is a 18-20 page paper. Page
count is negotiable if you wish to write more and have a compelling reason to do so.