McKenzie Lectures 1996-



1996 Dr David McKitterick, "Printers in the Marketplace"

1997 Professor Roger Chartier, "Foucault's Chiasmus: Authorship between Science and Literature" [account below]

1998 Professor Joseph Viscomi, "Blake's Graphic Imagination: The Technical and Aesthetic Origins of Blake's Illuminated Books"

1999 Professor Lawrence Rainey, "The Cultural Economy of Modernism"

2000 Professor Harold Love, "The intellectual heritage of Donald Francis McKenzie"

2001 Professors Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy, "Women's literary history by electronic means: the creation and communication of meaning in the Orlando Project"

2002 Dr Paul Needham, "The Discovery and Invention of the Gutenberg Bible"

2003 Dr. Laurel Brake, "'Daily Calendars of Roguery and Woe': the Politics of Print in 19th-century Britain"

2004 Graham Shaw, "In or Out? - South Asia and a Global History of the Book"

2005 Professor John Barnard, "Keats and Posterity: Manuscript, Print, and Readers"



[A version of this appeared in SHARP News 6.3 (Summer 1997)]

On June 3 1997, Professor Roger Chartier, Directeur d'Études of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, delivered the second annual McKenzie Lecture to a packed lecture hall at the University of Oxford.

[Roger Chartier] Professor IWF Maclean of All Souls College, Oxford introduced the lecture. He noted that Professor Chartier's latest book, entitled On the Edge of the Cliff: History, Language and Practices (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), includes an essay ("Texts, Forms, and Interpretations") on D.F. McKenzie and his Panizzi Lectures of 1985, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (The British Library, 1986) - and in the lecture that followed, Professor Chartier acknowledged his debt to Professor McKenzie's theoretical work.

Entitled "Foucault's Chiasmus: Authorship between science and literature", Professor Chartier's talk revisited Foucault's essay, "What is an Author?" In this essay, Foucault demonstrated that the concept of the "author" was a function of particular kinds of discourse, noting that in the early modern period the ascription of an author was seen to be more important for scientific than literary works. A crucial shift [chiasmus] occurred in the eighteenth century making the reverse true today.

Professor Chartier expanded and complicated Foucault's analysis of the "author function" to take into account the modes of textual production and the findings of subsequent research. Locating the origins of the legalistic concept of authorship much earlier than Foucault, he argued that the "author" could be traced back through the seventeenth century and the counter-reformation as far as the French vernacular writers of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. He cited Milton's contract with his printer, Samuel Simmons, and Ben Jonson's work on the Folio of 1616 as well as the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (under whose auspices an author could find their work banned before it was even written) as important examples of the early manifestation of a recognisably modern "author-function". Taken with the fact that the authorship of scientific works remained important even after the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century as well as the pluralistic and anonymous nature of medieval craft manuals and Books of Secrets, the authorship of both literary and scientific works can be seen to be more complex than Foucault originally suggested.

Professor Chartier also challenged the belief that the shift in the self-fashioning of the "author" was causally linked to the advent of print, arguing that the unity of the "author" was dependent on the material unity of the text itself. Thus, whilst scribal publication continued to produce textually-plural works (such as miscellanies) into the eighteenth century, manuscript books containing only the works of a single author, or even a single work, began to appear as early as the fourteenth century. This "profound revolution in the concept of the book itself" was not dependent on any particular medium (be that scroll or codex, manuscript or print); moreover, Professor Chartier argued, it meant that authorship was not only a function of particular kinds of discourse, but also a function of the materiality of the text itself. "New books," he concluded, "make new authors."

The following day, Professor Chartier opened a graduate seminar with a brief paper entitled "Orality lost: text and voice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries". This presented a review of his own current research into the history of orthography and punctuation as a means of grasping the past oral performances of early modern texts.

[McKenzie Lecture]
Professor Chartier receives applause at the end of his lecture
[The subterranean lighting of the English Faculty Lecture Theatre claims another photographic victim]


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