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This seminar brings together from various disciplines scholars who work on the history of the book and the study of material texts in order to place the technical and bibliographical study of text objects in dialogue with cultural studies and both the textually- and the materially-oriented humanist disciplines more broadly.  Over recent decades, book history has emerged as a necessarily and productively interdisciplinary field; with this in mind, this seminar focuses on the interpretation of material textual objects from an array of disciplinary perspectives.  Our aim is to provide a clearinghouse for emerging methods and work, and a nexus for scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to discuss and pursue shared interests in the study of the book and the material text.

Past Meetings

Alexis Hagadorn

Professor Joseph Howley

Benjamin Sinvany

Meeting Schedule

10/18/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:00 PM
Towards a Taxonomy of Interpolation
Hannah Weaver, Columbia University

12/06/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:00 PM
Samson Occom's Books: Reading Practices of an Indigenous Iconoclast
Ryan Carr, Columbia University

02/21/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Digital Codology
Bridget Whearty,

02/28/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
Curbing “Excessive Mimesis” in Miraculous Crucifixes of German Trees
Greg Bryda, Independent Scholar


This talk explores the relationship between the True Cross, its legendary history, and a category of miraculous carved crucifixes made from trees growing in the German countryside in the Middle Ages. It seeks to return the local objects to their context of spring rituals, through which they then re-sacrilized the earth. Arising out of miracles rooted in trees in the local landscape, the two crucifixes that form the heart of this talk were also instrumentalized to empower requests for renewed divine intervention within nature. Far from ordinary, as their surviving histories recount in words, the crucifixes transcended the ontological status as mere images precisely because the autochthonous trees from which they derived re-enacted many of the key tropes first exemplified by the True Cross. Imbued with the mystical qualities of the True Cross itself, the crucifixes furnished altars inside their churches but at pivotal moments in the agricultural and liturgical calendar they were ritually processed outside its walls to render the surrounding landscape and its vegetation with the potential for new divine intercession. For all the power these wooden artworks could claim over the lowly wood, though, their own wood was always carefully partitioned from that of the True Cross, laying bare the risks and challenges posed by reincarnations of the cross legends in local landscapes outside the sanctuary.

03/31/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
Communist Printers in Indonesia in the early 20th Century
Rianne Subijanto,

05/02/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
Emily Runde,