Contact Us
Emily Balch Seminar Program
Gail Hemmeter, Director
English House
101 North Merion Ave
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010-2899

Phone: (610) 526-5306
Fax: (610) 526-7477
The Emily Balch Seminars

Bookmarks: Technologies of Writing and Reading, Ancient to Contemporary

In this seminar, students think about media change across very long spans of time and assess different writing and reading technologies for both their strengths and limitations. For example, we may talk about the differences and similarities among scrolls, books, and Web pages in terms of the ways they store and transmit knowledge, and serve the different interests of writers, editors, and readers. Or we may compare the unexpected rebound effects Mark Twain experienced when he bought his first typewriter with those that students today experience with emerging e-technologies such as Wikipedia and Facebook.

photo of Katherine Rowe

Professor and Chair of English

"As a scholar of media history, I am interested in bringing conversations about media change into our classrooms.

"As a Renaissance scholar, I have found the past decade of innovation in digital media transformative for my own work. It has radically expanded my access to primary materials, opening new kinds of questions and modes of analysis. I see my seminar as a laboratory for exploring these transformations.

"New insights emerge when bright students ask open-ended, rigorous questions about the basic tools they use on a daily basis. It"s tremendously fun to be in a classroom with students who reflect so thoughtfully on their own practices as readers and writers."

Katherine Rowe teaches and writes about Renaissance drama and culture, media history, and adaptation. Her most recent book is the co-authored study New Wave Shakespeare on Screen. She earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and joined the College in 1998.

"My seminar was a great introduction to college because it integrated texts across a wide temporal span to address themes that shape the way we work and think.

"The discussions really made the class for me. I was so surprised at how differently everyone was thinking, and that was not something I was used to in high school. Professor Rowe asked us both in our discussions and in our writing to consider our own experiences, so each student brought something different to that.

""Bookmarks" was where I began to analyze not just the words on the page, but the page itself"how our reading is structured by physical form and by the choices the writer and publisher make that frame the text. It was a formative experience for me."

English major

Evan McGonagill
Photo of Emily Wiseman

"My seminar changed my writing process. Professor Taylor taught us how to take a draft and holistically rewrite it as a second draft, instead of making small changes paragraph by paragraph. That idea was totally new to me, and I"ve used the process successfully in other classes.

"One of the things I took away from the seminar was a close relationship with a professor in my first year. Throughout the semester, each of us had regular individual meetings with Professor Taylor to talk about our papers. I"ve found that incredibly helpful as I"ve progressed at Bryn Mawr."

Political Science

photo of Jamie Taylor at desk

Assistant Professor of English

"Changes in technology affect how we read, write, and access information. In this seminar, we examine ancient scrolls, medieval manuscripts, early printed books, hypertext, e-mail, blogs, and Twitter"all to think about the relationship between media, form, and content.

"When I bring a medieval manuscript into the classroom, the possibility of showing our students something they"ve never seen before is really exciting. When they see that text forms such as blogs and e-mails actually have a long history"as far back as Plato"they are fascinated, and they begin to think critically about the media they use on a daily basis.

"This seminar looks at how people are asked to respond to texts and how texts get shaped and reshaped by their very form. This is central to my work as a scholar of 13th- and 14th-century literature and legal texts: I am constantly turning to manuscripts to see the critical distinctions between what the law says and how people participate in it. I love all of the commentary we find in the margins, which reveal that the law is constantly in flux, not set in stone as we tend to believe."

Jamie Taylor"s primary teaching and research interests focus on the literature and culture of 14th- and 15th-century England, though her work moves across fields and periods, including ancient, medieval, and contemporary literary theory and medieval legal procedure. Jamie earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and joined the College in 2006.