Call for Proposals – SHARP 2021

SHARP 2021 annual conference
Moving texts: from discovery to delivery

Hosted virtually by the University of Muenster, in collaboration with the Law and Literature research group (DFG SFB 1385)

26-30 July 2021

As Sydney Shep writes in the Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book, “Books as transactions chart complex and often fluid networks between authors and readers, producers and consumers.” (2015, 53) The movement of texts within these networks is facilitated by a range of intermediary agents who shape the life cycle of a textual object from discovery to delivery. SHARP 2021, held as a virtual conference hosted by the University of Muenster, Germany, will be dedicated to sketching out the processes of textual movement, as well as the role of intermediaries in the life cycle of the book, here understood broadly to include literary agents, translators, editors, wholesalers and booksellers, used and rare book dealers, librarians and archivists. 

The conference, held in close collaboration with the collaborative research center for Law and Literature funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG SFB 1385 Recht und Literatur), will seek to emphasize the legal frameworks, informal norms, and business practices that enable, hinder or promote distribution of and access to books and texts.

We encourage participants to help us chart and understand the complex and fluid networks between authors and readers by focusing on processes of displaying, discovery, distribution and delivery, today and throughout history.

For more details, see the full call for proposals.

The ECR Coffeehouse: a Workshop for Early Career Researchers in Book History

SHARP would like to invite you all to the virtual event The ECR Coffeehouse: A Workshop for Early Career Researchers in Book History on 21 October 2020 at 11am–12.30pm (PDT) / 2–3.30pm (EDT) / 7–8.30 PM (BST) / 8–9.30 PM (CEST).

The event will take place on Zoom. Please follow the link to register:

Finishing a PhD is a big feat in itself. But ECRs also have to consider their career options in an increasingly challenging economic climate. After their PhDs, some book historians might choose to pursue postdoctoral teaching or research positions, whereas other might apply their skills and knowledge in fields such as librarianship or publishing. Others might follow different paths altogether.

Aimed at current PhD students, those who have recently completed their PhDs, and anyone who considers themselves to be an ECR, this SHARP Coffeehouse brings together three speakers who will talk about their respective experiences of transitioning from being a PhD student to postdoctoral scholar, librarian, and independent scholar:

Ann-Marie Hansen is a Radboud Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, working on Early Modern print and intellectual culture. Following on from her PhD at McGill University, she has held research and teaching positions at the universities of St Andrews, Toronto, Rennes and Utrecht.

Henning Hansen is Senior Academic Librarian at the University Library at The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, where he acts as subject librarian for History, Archaeology, Literature, and Classical studies. He also lectures in book history and methodology and is the rare books and map curator.

Marie Léger-St-Jean is a freelancer, a digital humanist, and proud independent scholar working on nineteenth-century transnational transmedia mass culture. She is the founder of and mastermind behind Price One Penny, a bibliographical and biographical database about the countless publishers and authors involved in the production of cheap literature in London from the 1830s to the 1850s

Following on from this, there will be plenty of opportunity for participants to talk about their experiences, share knowledge and provide perspectives. We will also use this event to think about how SHARP can do more as an organisation to support ECRs working on book history.

The event is organised by SHARP Executive Assistant Ellen Barth, Recording Secretary Vincent Trott and Director of Transnational Affairs Jan Hillgärtner.

SHARP research development grants for BIPOC scholars

SHARP is committed to enhancing the presence of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour in its community, and supporting the progression of BIPOC scholars in their academic/research careers. In order to support training and career development, and in a desire to respond actively to the issues of racism and under-representation, SHARP is offering five $500 grants to support projects by BIPOC scholars (at any stage of their career).

We are delighted to announce that applications for these grants are now being accepted.

Details of the grants and (the very easy to fill in) application form are available on our website here:

Applications close on the 1st September 2020. Please do circulate this grant widely, across all of your networks, and contact if you have any questions.

We look forward to receiving your applications.

SHARP in Focus

SHARP would like to invite you all to #SHARPinFocus, a week of virtual events running June 15 through June 19. #SHARPinFocus is open to anyone interested in book studies. However, membership dues allow SHARP to continue to offer conferences, events, awards, and fellowships. Please consider joining at

SCHEDULE (status quo: June 2, 2020)


  • Decolonizing Book History (5pm Central Europe /11am Eastern /8am Pacific)
    Join Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, SHARP’s Director of Awards, as she chairs a roundtable discussion on the concepts, challenges, and strategies of decolonising book history. Panelists Marina Garone Gravier (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Priya Joshi (Temple University), Jean Lee Cole (Loyola University Maryland), Kinohi Nishikawa (Princeton University), and Andrea Reyes Elizondo (Leiden University) will explore issues of colonisation/decolonisation, indigenisation, race politics, social justice and equity with regard to, for example, the types and modes of research undertaken in Book History, teaching practices, and the collection, archiving and curation of knowledge in databases and catalogues.
    Please register via to attend!
  • SHARP Coffeehouse: Reimagining SHARP News (10pm Central Europe / 4pm Eastern / 1pm Pacific)
    Join us as we discuss the new look of SHARP News and think about what role the new version of SHARP News can play for SHARP members and the scholarly community. With SHARP News editor-in-chief Andie Silva, SHARP News head reviews editor Nora Slonimsky, and hosted by Director of Publications, Corinna Norrick-Rühl.
    Please register via to attend!


  • SHARP Coffeehouse on the future of academic conferences (5-6pm Central Europe / 11am-12pm Eastern / 8-9am Pacific).
    Join SHARP’s Director of Conferences Josée Vincent and Vice President Will Slauter for a brainstorming session on various aspects of the conference experience. Topics for discussion include: what is distinctive about SHARP conferences? How can we make our conferences more inclusive and more environmentally sustainable? What digital formats seem most promising?
    Email to register
  • Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Launch Party, hosted by Director of Publications Corinna Norrick-Rühl (7:30-8:30pm Central European / 1:30-2:30pm Eastern / 10:30am-11:30pm Pacific)
    In succinct, 1-2 minute launch slots, we would like to showcase publications from our field of research that have been published since the last SHARP conference, i.e. between August 2019 and June 2020. If you would like to launch your book virtually, please register via email for directions with by June 12, 2020. For longer-term visibility, all of the books will also be listed on SHARP News on the “New publications by members” page.
    Please note that we will be happy to repeat this event if members wish, so don’t worry if you miss the cut-off or can’t make it this time.
    If you would like to join the launch as an audience member, please register via for details.


  • Teaching Material Texts without the Material (9-10pm Central European / 3-4pm Eastern / 12-1pm Pacific)
    Join Sarah Werner, SHARP EC Member-at-Large, as she hosts a conversation about how to teach material book history when we can’t access those materials in person. A brief discussion with panelists Megan Peiser, Emily Spunaugle, and Matthew Kirschenbaum will be followed by break-out conversations about teaching strategies for when classes meet online. Peiser (Asst Prof of English, Oakland University) and Spunaugle (Rare Books Librarian, Oakland U) were co-teaching a book history course that drew extensively on their rare books collection when in-person teaching was suspended; Kirschenbaum (Prof of English, U Maryland) was teaching a graduate course on “how to do things with books” in their BookLab, of which he is co-director. The speakers will draw on their experiences in adjusting hands-on processes to online learning in order to help participants brainstorm their own potential pedagogical practices.
    Email to register


  • SHARP coffeehouse on diversity, equity and inclusion. (5-6pm Central European / 11am-12pm Eastern / 8-9am Pacific)
    Join Marija Dalbello, Chair of SHARP’s Board of Directors, Jan Hillgaertner, Director of Transnational Affairs, and Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, Director of Awards, for an informal discussion about how academic societies, and SHARP in particular, can better promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. We welcome your comments and suggestions!
  • SHARP Annual General Meeting and Awards (9-10pm Central European / 3-4pm Eastern / 12-1pm Pacific)
    Join the SHARP Executive Committee and members for brief updates on the state of our organization and for announcements by the Publications Committee of the awards for best book and best article in Book History. The live conversation will be followed by break-out rooms for discussion about what SHARP can do for you.
    Email to register


  • SHARP Coffeehouse on membership benefits and initiatives (6-7pm Central European / 12-1pm Eastern / 9-10am Pacific)
    Come meet SHARP EC’s Membership Secretary Lisa Maruca and Member-at-Large (Pedagogy) Sarah Werner to discuss how SHARP can best serve its members. What can we do for you? How can you get more involved? Interested in our liaison system to connect with other organizations? Want to share your thoughts about the organization or our field with the Executive Council? This open discussion will help us brainstorm membership services and outreach—we’re eager to hear from you!
    Email to register
  • SharpFriday: informal happy hour on Zoom, hosted by Marie Léger-St-Jean and Alisa Beer (8-9pm Central European / 2-3pm Eastern / 11am-12pm Pacific)
    Email to register or DM @Marie_LSJ or @alisakbee on Twitter

Conference: Bookshelves in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tuesday, November 3, 2020 – 10:00 to Wednesday, November 4, 2020 – 20:00
Online, via Microsoft Teams

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on all aspects of lives, but nowhere has this been more visible than in the conflation of public and private workspace. As we work from home and attend endless online meetings, our bookshelves are suddenly on public display. This conference will ask speakers to critically examine this particular cultural phenomenon, brought to public attention by the pandemic. This online only conference is organised by the History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) research collaboration based in the Department of English & Creative Writing, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), The Open University and supported by SHARP (The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing), the world’s largest scholarly organisation in this research field.

For more information, please visit the conference website and download the call for papers.

SHARP in Focus, June 15-19, 2020

Mark your calendars for SHARP in Focus, June 15-19, 2020. It will be a week of all kinds of book history all for you on all your devices! There’ll be a virtual book launch highlighting recent publications by members, pedagogy brainstorming, a peek into the new SHARP News, and of course, our Annual General Meeting and awards ceremony! We will also be opening a SHARP coffeehouse for informal conversations with Executive Council members about SHARP throughout the week and finish the week with #SharpFriday conversation. More information will be on the website soon.

Call for Applicants

SHARP News is the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing’s quarterly digital newsletter. This publication includes features essays, book reviews, calls for papers, conference announcements, a listing of new publications, notes and queries, and reports on book studies throughout the world. In a revision to the previous regional editors structure, SHARP News welcomes applications for three to four new positions: Associate Reviews editors (two) and Editors at Large (one to two) who will contribute to the book, exhibit, and other relevant media reviews section of the newsletter. The Associate Editors and Editors at Large will report to the SHARP News editor and the SHARP News reviews editor.  Currently, we envision Editors at Large to work largely sharing and soliciting news on social media, while associate editors will participate more directly in the reviewing process (see below).  However, since these positions are new developments, the SHARP News team is open to a variety of approaches and welcomes applications that propose these and other roles.  The scope of these roles will include:

  • Curating relevant content for review and recruiting reviewers, based on a thematic or chronological focus of the editors’ choosing.
  • Overseeing the publication/reviewer pairing through the submission of the review.
  • Collaborating with the SHARP News editor and SHARP publications on social media, digital outreach, and other communication history/publishing studies initiatives.

To apply, please email a one-page application letter including contact information for two references by June 1, 2020. We especially encourage applications from early career researchers (including graduate students), and particularly from BIPOC and women and gender minorities.

MLA 2020 Session on “Spenser and Digital Humanities”

Organised by the International Spenser Society and SHARP
Thursday 9 January, 3.30pm to 4.45pm, 616 (WSCC)


Joseph Loewenstein and Anupam Basu

The foundational work of the Text Creation Partnership, and the supplementary efforts of colleagues at Washington University and Northwestern, have given early modernists a richly annotated corpus: 60,000 printed books, 1.65 billion words, with each word preserved in original and regularized spelling and tagged by part of speech, and each document searchable not only by word or phrase (with plenty of flexibility for the substitution of part-of-speech placeholders), but also by literary structure, making it possible to profile literary idiosyncrasy at a range of scales.  Having already assessed the (very high) degree to which Spenser’s spelling in print conforms to roiling orthographic norms across his career, we offer a preliminary report on his lexical and syntactic profile, measured against a “small” corpus of verse — extracted from about 1500 texts printed between 1561 and 1600.  Using some simple metrics, we can start to tell you what’s distinctive about Spenser’s lexicon — not just the odd words, but the less odd ones that he uses disproportionately; we can also tell you whose verse practice clusters with his and what the vectors of similarity are.  And we will.  If there’s time, we’ll branch out towards the more difficult problem of how to move from profiling by means of lexical clustering to the more demanding task of syntactic profiling.

Craig Berry
Prosaic Diction: the Words of Spenser’s Prose

We know that, as a secretary, Spenser wrote a great deal of prose. We have his long prose treatise A View of the Present State of Ireland as well as the smaller Brief Note of IrelandAxiochus, and a couple of published letters. The purposes and audiences of these texts and their generic horizons of expectation differ in various ways from each other as well as from those of Spenser’s poetry. This paper will consider specifically how and whether Spenser’s word choices in the prose works differ from or align with the diction of his poetry.

Most Spenserians can readily think of rare or eccentric word choices, especially in the poetry, but this paper takes a different approach in which the cruxes and exceptions will be less important than large-scale trends.  This work starts with lemmatized digital texts (where the lemma is the dictionary head word leveling out all inflection and spelling variation) and applies statistical methods, notably log likelihood ratios and z-scores, to measure difference and similarity between different word collections.  No statistical background will be required to understand that having a look at words far more likely or far less likely to occur in the prose than in the poetry (or vice versa) may illuminate Spenser’s practice in ways that confirm or challenge the intuitions of experienced readers. At least tentative answers will be given to such questions as what words are unique to the prose corpus and what parts of Spenser’s poetic corpus have the greatest (or least) affinity, vocabulary-wise, with the prose.

John R. Ladd
Spenserian Digital Deformance and the Interpretive Power of Playfulness

Digital tools give researchers many ways to disassemble and reassemble literary works. Some of these rearrangements are used for straightforward analytical purposes: representing a corpus as a “bag of words” to allow statistical analyses of vocabulary, for example. However this process of taking literature apart and recombining it in new ways can be creative, even playful. Using Jerome McGann’s concept of deformance—a portmanteau of deform and performance—I will present several projects that reconfigure our understanding of Spenser’s works by presenting his verse to us in digitally-altered ways.

In one project, Spenser’s Color Wheel, I visualize Spenser’s use of different color terms in The Faerie Queene and The Shepheardes Calender, allowing the user to choose the lines that invoke a particular set of colors to construct evocative new poems. In another project, the Twitter bot @endlessmonument, I wrote a script that delivers lines of Spenser’s Epithalamion in accordance with the poem’s famously complex time-scheme: the social media reader then encounters the poem in short, temporally-fixed pieces alongside millions of other tweets. These projects grew out of my work with the Spenser Project, the digital edition of Spenser’s Complete Works. Following McGann, I will reflect on the ways in which these deformance projects help us to think about the alterations and interpretive choices of digital editing.

These deformances are more than creative side projects—by rearranging Spenser’s works in unexpected ways they direct readers’ attention to specific formal elements and authorial choices. I argue that deformance of Spenser’s work is interpretive—in coding them I made interpretive choices about what the reader should see in Spenser’s use of time and of color, and in exploring them readers are invited to spin out new interpretations of their own.

Posted in MLA

MLA 2020 SHARP Session: “Databases and Print Culture Studies”

Friday 10 January,10:15 AM-11:30 AM, 303 (WSCC)


Katherine Bode is Professor of literary and textual studies at the Australian National University. Her books include A World of Fiction: Digital Collections and the Future of Literary History (2018) and Reading by Numbers: Recalibrating the Literary Field (2012).

Anthony Glinoer holds the Canada Research Chair in the history of publishing and literary sociology and is a professor at the University of Sherbrooke (Quebec). His work focusses primarily on the history of publishing (Naissance de l’Éditeur with Pascal Durand in 2005), on the study of representations of the literary life (La bohème. Une figure de l’imaginaire social in 2018) and on groups of authors and artists (L’âge des cénacles with Vincent Laisney in 2013). Anthony Glinoer also leads the Socius project, which has produced re-editions of the classics in literary social theory, re-edited or original bibliographies, and a lexicon of concepts (see the open-access site

Ted Underwood is Professor of Information Sciences and English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of three books. His most recent, Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change (Chicago, 2019) explores a corpus of more than a hundred thousand nineteenth- and twentieth-century works obtained through HathiTrust Digital Library.


Katherine Bode, “Data beyond representation: From computational modelling to performative materiality”

Computational modelling has become the central paradigm for data-rich research in literary and print culture studies (e.g. Bode World, Piper, So, Underwood). Because models are arguments about, rather than descriptions of, literary phenomena, modelling offers a richer, more flexible framework for such research than earlier, positivist approaches (Bode “Equivalence”). But what are the things-in-the-world that we model when we transition from print cultural objects, such books, to mass-digitised (and digitalised) collections? Or, to put the question another way, what connections and/or distinctions are we justified in drawing between an individual text in these collections; other texts, either referred to or on the same platform; the platform itself; the entity that created and/or owns the platform; and the wider digital and non-digital ecosystem?

This challenge is part of what Alan Liu describes as a wider transition from a regime of “rhetoric-representation-interpretation” to one of “communication-information-media.” That shift renders indefinite, even unintelligible, foundational concepts in the emerging field of digital literary and print cultural studies. Data “leaks past the margins of” rhetoric-representation-interpretation, while models are “not exactly like any of the[se] concepts …. Models, uncannily, are all, and none, of the above” (4). With the old regime “hollowed out … from the inside,” and the new one hopelessly abstract, what are we to do? Liu’s solution is to embrace (while remaining wary of) the terminology of the new regime. In asking where our new “texts” begin and/or end – and whether we should think of them as “texts” at all – I outline an alternative case for a performative materialist approach to data-rich research in literary and print cultural studies. Recognising that literary phenomena have always been performatively produced rather than self-evident enables a form of data-rich research that is adequate (but not exclusive) to the changing methods, forms, and materials of literary research.

Works Cited

Bode, Katherine. A World of Fiction: Digital Collections and the Future of Literary History. Michigan University Press, 2018.

Bode, Katherine. “The Equivalence of ‘Close’ and ‘Distant’ Reading.” Modern Language Quarterly 78.1 (2017): 77–106.

Liu, Alan. Friending the Past: The Sense of History in the Digital Age. Chicago University Press, 2019.

Piper, Andrew. Enumerations: Data and Literary Study. Chicago University Press, 2019.

So, Richard Jean. “All Models Are Wrong.” PMLA 132.3 (2017): 668–73.

Underwood, Ted. Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change. Chicago University Press, 2019.

Anthony Glinoer, “Developing and Using Databases in Book History. The case of the platform.”

This paper aims to present the new internet platform Archives éditoriales ( and the research partnership project of francophone publishers’ archives, which made the platform possible. This project gathers archivists and researchers from various institutions (universities, archives centers, publishers’ associations) and various regions (Belgium, Canada, France, Switzerland) in the francophone world. Our main objectives are to advance and to study archives of the publishing world between 1945 and today. Amongst the tools made available on the platform (a database of more than a thousand interviews with francophone publishers about their publishing activity, digital exhibitions, a blog, etc.), this paper will focus on the database of publishers’ archives, addressing the questions of why, how and when publishing houses tend to donate their archives to public institutions.

Ted Underwood, “Toward a Distant Reading of Reception”

The collections used by distant readers have often emphasized literary production, neglecting questions about circulation and reception that are central to book history (Bode). Book historians have addressed this gap in several ways. Anne DeWitt and Ryan Cordell have used computational methods to trace nineteenth-century literary circulation; Lynne Tatlock et al. have studied gendered reading patterns at the Muncie Public Library in the 1890s, and Peter Boot has created corpora of recent responses to fiction. But work of this kind remains difficult, especially if we seek to study reception across a long century-spanning timeline.

To make that easier, a group of scholars centered at the University of Illinois has started to build a database of journalistic responses to English-language fiction, distributed across the timeline from 1840 to 2009. The team includes Kent Chang, Yuerong Hu, Wenyi Shang, Aniruddha Sharma, Shubhangi Singhal, Jessica Witte, and myself. The reviews and review excerpts are drawn mostly from British, American, and Canadian periodicals, and from reference works like the Book Review Digest. We already have 25,000 responses, and expect to have 100,000 by the end of the academic year.

Pairing text from book reviews with the texts of the books described has allowed us to start to ask whether the claims distant readers have advanced about literary works themselves also hold true about larger systems of literary circulation. For instance, distant readers have argued that textual differences between literary works can measure the strength (or weakness) of generic boundaries. If these degrees of textual difference really tell us anything meaningful about literature’s social existence, readers’ responses to the books ought to display the same patterns of difference or similarity. The Illinois book review database has allowed us to demonstrate that this is true. On the basis of this enlarged evidence, we have begun to make a case that genre boundaries generally become clearer between 1870 and 1930.

Works Cited

Bode, Katherine. “The Equivalence of ‘Close’ and ‘Distant’ Reading; or, Toward a New Object for Data-Rich Literary History.” Modern Language Quarterly 78.1 (2017): 77-106.

Boot, Peter. “A Database of Online Book Responses and the Nature of the Literary Thriller.” Digital Humanities 2017, Montreal.

Cordell, Ryan. “Reprinting, Circulation, and the Network Author in Antebellum Newspapers.” American Literary History 27.3 (2015): 1–29.

DeWitt, Anne. “Advances in the Visualization of Data: The Network of Genre in the Victorian Periodical Press.” Victorian Periodicals Review 48.2 (2015): 161–82.

Tatlock, Lynne, et al. “Crossing Over: Gendered Reading Formations at the Muncie Public Library, 1891-1902.” March 22, 2018, Journal of Cultural Analytics.


Posted in MLA

Editor sought for SHARP’s newsletter, SHARP News

Founded in 1991, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) is the leading international organisation for the study of the history of the book, broadly defined. It has around 1000 members from a wide range of disciplinary and institutional backgrounds, including academics and independent scholars, librarians and archivists, publishers and booksellers, and holds regular conferences across the world. In addition, it runs a vibrant email discussion list (SHARP-L), the journal Book History, and Lingua Franca, the journal of book history in translation.

The Executive Council of SHARP is seeking a new editor-in-chief to bring a fresh vision to SHARP News, our open access, online newsletter. This person will work with the EC and the Board of Directors as well as the reviews and exhibitions editors and bibliographers from the beginning of 2020. SHARP will make some support funding available to the incoming editor for the relaunch period.

Applicants should have expertise in the interdisciplinary field of the history of the book, broadly defined, and share SHARP’s commitment to expanding its diversity and international character. The Society is keen to solicit applications from both senior and junior scholars. Experience of editing and online content management is essential. Fluency in English is a requirement; fluency in other languages would be an advantage. The applicant should become a SHARP member in good standing.

Application procedure

Applications will be assessed by an Appointments committee, chaired by Corinna Norrick-Rühl (JGU Mainz, Germany), SHARP’s Director of Publications, and which includes two members of the Society’s Board of Directors (Ruth Panofsky, Ryerson University, Canada; Susan Pickford, Sorbonne-Université, France), the Membership Secretary of SHARP (Lisa Maruca, Wayne State University, USA), and Rachel Noorda (Portland State University, USA).

Applications should consist of an application letter naming two references and a curriculum vitae, to be sent by email to Corinna Norrick-Rühl ( or to arrive no later than 5pm (Central European Time) on November 15, 2019.

Informal queries should be directed to Corinna Norrick-Rühl. Applicants will be notified of the committee’s decision early in the new year.