13 Apr “A New Form of the Book”: Microfilm and Modernism
Julia Panko (English, UCSB, UC Graduate Fellow in Humanities)
Friday, April 13 / 3:00 PM
IHC Research Seminar Room, 6056 HSSB
“The whole [reading] device weighs little more than five ounces [and] …is only a quarter of an inch thick.” “A person who likes books…might carry a 50 or 100 volume library in a cigar box.” While these statements might sound like advertising for the Kindle, in fact they describe a portable microfilm reader designed in the 1920’s. This talk will discuss how microfilm challenged the status of the print book in the early twentieth century, focusing on one microfilm reader in particular: the “Readies” machine, designed by the visual poet and entrepreneur Bob Carlton Brown. Brown’s machine promised to revolutionize reading by making texts more portable, increasing the speed of reading, and transforming literary style. This talk will argue that Brown’s rhetoric about reading platforms helps to delineate a spectrum of attitudes towards print in the modernist era. It will also consider how the issues raised by Brown’s experiment continue to reverberate in the age of digital information storage.
Sponsored by the University of California Graduate Fellows in Humanities Program, and the IHC’s History of Books and Material Texts RFG.