MIT OpenCourseWare
  • OCW home
  • Course List
  • about OCW
  • Help
  • Feedback
  • Support MIT OCW

21H.418 / CMS.880 Technologies of Word 1450-2000, Fall 2002

Erasmus at the keyboard using an iMac.
Erasmus at the keyboard using an iMac.  (Adapted from Hans Holbein the Younger's portrait of Erasmus by Stephanie Miller.)

Highlights of this Course

This class features hypertext student projects in the projects section.

Course Description

There has been much discussion in recent years, on this campus and elsewhere, about the death of the book. Digitization and various forms of electronic media, some critics say, are rendering the printed text as obsolete as the writing quill. In this subject we will examine the claims for and against the demise of the book, but we also supplement these arguments with an historical perspective they lack: we examine books and printing technology during the Early Modern period of European history, from roughly 1450 to 1800. We will begin with the theoretical and historical overviews of Walter Ong and Elizabeth Eisenstein, after which we will study specific cases such as the writings and readers of Erasmus and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, English chapbooks, and stage plays in print. Finally, we will reconsider the issues raised by digital technologies today in light of these historical perspectives.

This subject is jointly listed as 21H.418 and CMS.880.  It satisfies requirements toward the Major and the Minor in History and in Comparative Media Studies, and is also open to graduate students in the Comparative Media Studies Program and in other MIT and Harvard graduate programs.



Prof. Jeffrey Ravel

Course Meeting Times

One session / week
3 hours / session




Send feedback about OCW or this course.