A History of Writing and Literacy
This course is designed to give the history of writing systems, and to explore the various social meanings that writing can have in different contexts. It discusses the emergence of script, the development of script technologies, and the social consequences of mass literacy. This is is a lower-division elective course aimed at sophomores. It aims at a broad audience and might be cross-listed with linguistics.
Paper = 30%
Final = 40%
Research paper: the student should find a text to examine for its social meaning. The text can be a book, or it can be a piece of graffiti, a letter, a handbill. No webpages! The student should explain this text in light of the themes discussed in this course. Describe the choices the author made: what writing technology, which script and style? What is the language of the text? Why did the author make these decisions? What is the effect of the text on the reader? What is the meaning of the text in its social context? You may pick a text which you do not have personal access to (e.g. graffiti on Egyptian pyramids), but you must provide a picture of such text with your paper.
Intro to course Writing
vs. speech History of Writing vs History of Literature
W Origins of writing
F Sumerian technologies Clay tablets Rebus principle
M Phonecian/Semetic Omitting vowels Later vowel markers
W Borrowed literacy
F Arabic calligraphy [slide show]
“Egyptian Hieroglyphics In Australia” http://www.kachina.net/~alunajoy/2002feb.html
Chinese characters Radicals
as semantics A complicated syllabry?
W Kana, Hangul syllabries Chinese Character usage in modern
F Asian Calligraphy [slide show]
DeFrancis The Chinese Language Fact and Fantasy 1-22, 77-203. Total = 49 pages.
W Medieval Latin who could write? Scribe, holy text
F The medieval book Social role of Latin, Holy Hebrew, Arabic
Brian Stock the Implications of Literacy 19-59 = 40 pages
The spread of Literacy. The role
of school. Why learn to read?
W Social class and literacy. Latin vs. “Vulgar” languages.
F Gutenberg and the Reformation. Literate Protestants?
Istvan Toth Literacy in Early Modern Central Europe, 47-145 = 98 pages
Literacy and “progress.”
Enlightenment Reformers, Soviet language planning
W Genres of Writing The letter, diary. “Writing for the shelf” Women and writing
David Vincent Literacy and popular Culture, 20-52; Roger Chartier Correspondence p. 1-22 = 54 pages
The novel. Serialization
Authors as superstars
W New audiences for books 19th cent. Mass literacy Working class readers?
F Literacy and Nationalism. The “middle classes” Clerks and literacy.
E. Weber Peasants into Frenchmen “la papier qui parle,” 452-70; Brooks When
Language Planning and Language
W Script simplification
F Advertising. Typeface and fashion
Script and Formality: Handwriting
W Graffiti “tagging”, Claiming public space
F Rune Enthusiasts Ideological alphabets?
Sue Walker Typography & Language; Armando Petrucci Public Lettering, “The Signs of No” 117-126.
Ideal languages: Enlightenment
dreams, Artificial languages
W Universal symbols, Icons as reading?
F Graphology, Writing and Personality