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Breaking the Book: Print Humanities in the Digital Age

ISBN: 978-1-118-27455-2
240 pages
June 2015, Wiley-Blackwell
Breaking the Book: Print Humanities in the Digital Age (1118274555) cover image


Breaking the Book is a manifesto on the cognitive consequences and emotional effects of human interactions with physical books that reveals why the traditional humanities disciplines are resistant to 'digital' humanities.

  • Explores the reasons why the traditional humanities disciplines are resistant to 'digital humanities'
  • Reveals facets of book history, offering it as an example of how different media shape our modes of thinking and feeling   
  • Gathers together the most important book history and literary criticism concerning the hundred years leading up to the early 19th-century emergence of mass print culture
  • Predicts effects of the digital revolution on disciplinarity, expertise, and the institutional restructuring of the humanities
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Advertisement ix

Part I Pre-Bound 1

1 Language by the Book 3

Part II Bound 69

2 Print Subjectivity, or the Case History 71

3 Distributed Reading, or the Critic Filter 103

Part III Unbound 147

Conclusion 149

Works Cited 187

Index 205

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Author Information

Laura Mandell is Professor of English Literature and Director of the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture at Texas A & M University. Her publications include Misogynous Economies: The Business of Literature in Eighteenth-Century Britain (1999) and a Longman Cultural Edition of The Castle of Otranto and Man of Feeling.  Dr. Mandell is also Director of 18thConnect.org and General Editor of the Poetess Archive.

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“Instead, Mandell reminds us of the importance and the irreplaceable value of the book, while presenting digital media as an addition to our tools as scholars, rather than as a replacement for existing tools.”  (Sharp, 1 October 2015)


“Mandell’s provocative manifesto challenges us to read through the book, as both lens and double agent, to see its shaping power over scholarly practice. Breaking the Book is a vigorous call to attention, a passionate unpacking of the longstanding, complicated relationship between print culture and the humanities.  Moving from Jonathan Swift to William Gibson, Mandell examines literary studies as a web of media events, and asks us to reimagine our textual condition from new ground.  It is a powerful and unsettling analysis."—Andrew Stauffer, University of Virginia

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