First-year students on the new FR120 Defining France module are asked to consider why certain textual forms are used by writers at particular moments in France’s cultural history, and how the ‘'technology of textual production' (writing and circulating manuscripts; using the printing press; building and using theatres and so on...) influences the form and content of the sources studied. Similar questions underlie second- and final-year option FR330 Violence, Religion and Revolt in Renaissance France, where students are asked to consider the role of the printing press in the spread of the Reformation and incitement or appeasement of religious violence.
For the majority of modern language students in the current educational climate, the study of literary texts is a new endeavour begun at university and perceived as a challenge, if not a risky undertaking (many students consciously avoid ‘literary’ modules). The proposed project, which will involve the following:
- a visit to the Centre for the Study of the Book at the Bodleian;
- participation in a printing workshop (including hands on use of a printing press) and visit to the Special Collections Department to look at examples of printed books and manuscripts
will allow students on this module to experience at first hand the materiality of textual production. This open space, hands-on approach involves a kind of role play that will allow students to experience textual production as an agent of cultural change; to recognise the physical contingencies that govern the dissemination of cultural ideas and shape their content; and to make new links with their own processes of exchange in the digital age.