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EN2H0/EN3H0 Small Press Publishing: History, Theory, Practice (15 CATS)


Module runs in Term 1 in 2024-25

Lecture: 1hr weekly, Time and location TBA / Workshop: 2hrs weekly, Time and location TBA

Module convenor / Dr Jonathan Skinner / 

(Module websiteLink opens in a new window: for syllabus and assignment details, links to readings, and other resources.)

Office Hours (FAB5.12): TBD / Book hereLink opens in a new window

Aims: A practice-led introduction to small press publishing, both print and digital. Students gain an overview of the history and theory of print culture, from Gutenberg to the “pamphlet wars” of the Early Modern Period, from Transatlantic Modernism to the “mimeograph revolution” of 1960s US counterculture, and from desktop publishing to present day digital culture. Lectures and discussion (drawing on set texts excerpted from the illustrative bibliography) focus on the material and social dimensions of independent publishing, on the role that small presses have played in periods of marked social and political change, including the present day emergence of world literatures. Students are asked to examine small presses as indicators of literary networks that traverse, but are not contained by, regional and national literatures alike, permeating and benefiting from trade publishing and emerging digital platforms (including social media), and upending simple oppositions between region and metropolis, margin and center. A series of practical workshops introduces students to digital and analog aspects of desktop publishing craft, working with the basics of typography and layout and with some elemental formats (blog, pamphlet, zine, chapbook), as well as with some of the literary genres of the industry (manifesto, review, editorial, cover and jacket copy), asking students to consider both digital and paper publishing platforms, and the role of social media in publicity and distribution. One workshop may be run by visiting editors from a notable small press, and/or students may be asked to attend a talk by an editor. Students are asked to profile a small (preferably local) press, to write a short essay on a topic in the history and theory of print culture, and to complete a hybrid (both digital and analog) small press publishing project along with a written profile of the project.

Principal Learning Outcomes: Students will gain a broad overview of the history and theory of print culture, along with sharpened interpretive and critical skills in reading its material productions across a variety of media; an articulate and nuanced understanding of the social and material meanings of publication; introduction to methodologies from print culture for reading and tracking world literature beyond its traditional contexts; practice in editorial literary genres; and substantial practice in the basics of independent desktop publishing.

Timetabled Teaching Activities: Nine 1-hour lectures + nine 2-hour workshops.

Other Activities: An optional (but strongly encouraged) field trip to the Small Press Publisher’s Fair held in Conway Hall (in Bloomsbury, London) on the second weekend of November.

Assessment: this module will be assessed through both critical and creative work: a profile of a small (preferably local) press accounting for 10% of the module mark; a mid-term essay (due after Reading Week) on a topic in the history and theory of print culture accounting for 30% of the module mark; and a small press publishing project with a written profile accounting for 60% of the module mark.

Intermediate Year: 100% assessed: one 1,000-word review of a small press (10%), one 2,000-word midterm essay (30%), participation in a group small press publishing project along with a 2,000 word (individually composed) written profile (60%).

Finalist: 100% assessed: one 1,000-word review of a small press (10%), one 2,000-word midterm essay (30%), and one individual small press publishing project along with a 2,000 word written profile (60%).

Outline Syllabus

9 lectures of 1 hr + 9 workshops of 2 hrs

Week 1: Introduction: What is an author? What is a book? What is publication? / Blog workshop

Week 2: A Short History of Print Culture: from Gutenberg to Areopagitica / Manifesto workshop

Week 3: Little Magazines and Modernism / Pamphlet workshop

Week 4: The Mimeograph Revolution (1960-1980) / Reviewing workshop

Week 5: Digital Cultures / Zine workshop

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: History and Theory of Letters: Typography / Typesetting workshop

Week 8: Critical Printing: Graphic Design and the Constructed Book / Chapbook workshop

Week 9: Print Activism: Region, Globe and Network / Editorial workshop

Week 10: Hybrid Formats: Bridging the Digital-Analog Divide / Distribution workshop

Set Texts 

Assigned excerpts from Illustrative Bibliography will be provided in PDF or handout format

Illustrative Bibliography 


Beaty, Bart. Unpopular Culture: Transforming the European Comic Book in the 1990s. University of Toronto Press, 2007.

Brinkman, Bartholomew. Poetic Modernism in the Culture of Mass Print. JHU Press, 2016.

Bury, Stephen. Breaking the Rules: The Printed Face of the European Avant Garde 1900-1937. British Library, 2007

Filreis, Alan. Counter-revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945-1960. UNC Press Books, 2012.

Golding, Alan. “Little Magazines and Alternative Canons: The Example of Origin.” From Outlaw to Classic: Canons in American Poetry. University of Wisconsin Press, 1995.

Goeser, Caroline. Picturing the New Negro: Harlem Renaissance Print Culture and Modern Black Identity. University Press of Kansas, 2007

Hair, Ross. Avant-Folk: Small Press Poetry Networks from 1950 to the Present. Liverpool University Press, 2017

Hammill, Faye and Mark Hussey. Modernism's Print Cultures. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.

Harris, Donal. On Company Time: American Modernism in the Big Magazines. Columbia University Press, 2016.

Harris, Kaplan. “The Small Press Traffic school of dissimulation: New Narrative, New Sentence, New LeftLink opens in a new window,” Jacket2 (April 2011)

Marek, Jayne E. Women Editing Modernism: "little" Magazines & Literary History. University Press of Kentucky, 1995

McKible, Adam. Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches. Routledge, 2016.

McMillian, John. Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Mohr, Bill. “Thinking Alone in Company: L.A. Literary Magazines during the Cold War.” Hold-Outs: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance, 1948-1992. University of Iowa Press, 2011.

Morris, Ian and Joanne Diaz. The Little Magazine in Contemporary America. University of Chicago Press, 2015.

Orsini, Francesca, ed. The History of the Book in South Asia. Routledge, 2013.

Raymond, Joad. Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Robertson, Frances. Print Culture: From Steam Press to Ebook. Routledge, 2013.

Rothenberg, Jerome, Steven Clay and Rodney Phillips, eds. A Secret Location On The Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing 1960-1980. Granary Books, 1998.

Schreiber, Rachel. Modern Print Activism in the United States. Routledge, 2016.

Southworth, Helen, ed. Leonard and Virginia Woolf, The Hogarth Press and the Networks of Modernism. Edinburgh University Press, 2010.


Baughman, James L., Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen and James P. Danky. Protest on the Page: Essays on Print and the Culture of Dissent. University of Wisconsin Press, 2015.

Bhaskar, Michael. The Content Machine: Towards a Theory of Publishing from the Printing Press to the Digital Network (Anthem Publishing Studies). Anthem Press, 2013.

Bulson, Eric Jon. Little Magazine, World Form. Columbia University Press, 2016.

Cutts, Simon. Some Forms of Availability: Critical Passages on the Book and Publication. Granary Books, 2007.

Drucker, Johanna. The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art. University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Mani, B. Venkat. Recoding World Literature: Libraries, Print Culture, and Germany's Pact with Books. Fordham University Press, 2016.

McGann, Jerome J. Black Riders: The Visible Language of Modernism. Princeton University Press, 1993.

McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy. University of Toronto Press, 1962.

.---. (with Quentin Fiore). The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. 1967. Gingko Press, 2001.

Rothenberg, Jerome, ed. A Book of the Book: Some Works and Projections about the Book & Writing. Granary Books, 2000.

White, Eric. Transatlantic Avant-Gardes: Little Magazines and Localist Modernism. Edinburgh University Press, 2013.


Bosveld, Jennifer. Chapbook on the Makeing of a Chapbook. Pudding House Publications, 2008

Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style. Hartley & Marks, 2013

Campbell, Alastair. Typography Pocket Essentials. Ilex, 2014.

Cutts, Simon. Certain Trees: The Constructed Book, Poem and Object. CDLA, 2006

Harris, Elizabeth M. Personal Impressions: The Small Printing Press in Nineteenth-century America. David R. Godine, 2004

Loxley, Simon. Type: The Secret History of Letters. I.B.Tauris, Dustbooks, 2007.

Meggs, Philip B. Meggs' History of Graphic Design. Alston W. Purvis, 2016.


Fulton, Len. Directory of Small Press Magazine Editors & Publishers 2007-2008. Dustbooks, 2007.

Guthrie, Richard. Publishing: Principles & Practice. Sage Publications Ltd., 2011.

Hall, Frania. The Business of Digital Publishing. Routledge, 2013.

Smith, Kelvin. The Publishing Business: From p-books to e-books (Creative Careers). AVA, 2012.

Striphas, Ted. The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control. Columbia University Press, 2009.

Thompson, John B. Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century. Polity Press, 2012.