Brigitte M. Bedos-Rezak
The purpose of this seminar is to investigate the material characteristics and the cultural uses of writing in a variety of medieval contexts, focusing on the phenomenon of writing as a historical object in its own right. We will examine pre-modern attitudes toward and manipulations of script that testify to a vivid engagement with the generative power of the letter as a graphic entity with spatial, plastic, and aesthetic potential.
We will thus be departing from the traditional linguistic approach to writing, with its focus on the phonetic alphabet as the representation of voices, to consider the notion of imagistic lettering, an interactive grouping of support, space, colors, graphic signs, lines and traces, which may eschew phonetic or syllabic resolutions even as it manages to express the ineffable. In our semester-long exploration, we will query the interaction between visual and linguistic modes of legibility.
In the Age of Digital Media, legible writing issues from the transmutation of numeral inscriptions, which constitutes a fundamental and unprecedented break from earlier analog technologies. The developing field of Digital Humanities has long moved beyond the use of computers in scholarship and now incorporates the study of digitally produced sources, thus prompting inquiry and fresh analysis of the mediatic effect of medieval and modern technology on writing.