October Seminar: Bill Bell

All are welcome to join us for Prof. Bill Bell’s talk at the next Media History seminar on October 23. The seminar will take place at 6pm in Senate House room G34 (ground floor). Here’s a brief description and bio:

“The Mahout on the Elephant: John Murray’s Paratexts”

In his influential study of the paratext, Gerard Genette describes the importance of textual embellishments to the way in which a work is received. Genette’s concept is predicated on the assumption that a work’s embellishments are not merely supplements to the text but are intimately connected to its meaning and its effects. The text, observes Genette, ‘is rarely presented in an unadorned state, unreinforced and unaccompanied by a certain number of verbal or other productions, such as the author’s name, a title, preface, illustrations.’ Such items, often regarded with indifference by the critic and historian, have a crucial hermeneutic function in that they ‘surround and extend the text, ultimately ensuring its presence in the world’. As Phillippe Lejeune observes, additional elements such as ‘the name of the author, title, subtitle, names of series, name of publisher, even the ambiguous game of prefaces,’ serve as ’a fringe of the printed text which in reality controls one’s whole reading’. Based on extensive use of the John Murray Archive, this seminar will examine the use of a range of paratextual devices by the period’s most important publisher of works relating to travel and exploration.


Bill Bell is Professor of Bibliography at Cardiff University and a Research Fellow of The University of Goettingen. He was, with Jonquil Bevan, the founder of the Centre for the History of the Book in Edinburgh, of which he was director (1995-2013). He was editor of the OUP quarterly, The Library: Proceedings of the Bibliographical Society (2009-2014). He has held visiting posts at the Australian National University, University of Ottawa, Jadavpur University, and St John’s College, Oxford. He is General Editor of The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland and is co-author of Travels into Print: Exploration, Writing, and Publishing with John Murray, 1773-1859, forthcoming from Chicago University Press (2015).

Future dates for your calendar: http://events.sas.ac.uk/ies/seminars/389/Media+History+Seminar

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