The Materiality of Texts in a Digital Age (PhD Seminar - 2 ECTS)

In this seminar we will think about what meaning the bodies of books hold and how this might be changing in an age of digital technologies. With Matt Hayler (University of Birmingham).

Please sign up here by the end of 30 April

Deadline for written assignment, 1,500-2,000 words (by email to 22 May

Organizer: Tina Skouen

In the seminar, Dr Matt Hayler will first give a talk on "The Changing Body of Books and New Potentials for Storytelling":

"The codex is one of the most familiar objects in our daily lives, seemingly unchanging, and melting away from our attention while we read. As we increasingly move toward plastic and glass, however, rather than the reassuring heft of paper and card, how might we make the printed book visible in order to better see what it has always done and how it might be changing? Are we in a moment, not of loss, but of profound potentials for making new kinds of meaning with the bodies of written media? I want you to think about what books do already so that we can think what they might become."

If you have any queries before the session you are welcome to email or connect on Twitter - @cryurchin.


Written assignment

For your writing task, you should start thinking through the idea of embodiment. What might the body of a book have to tell us? Feel free to use the readings listed below for ideas on how to address the question of materiality.

Please write 1,500-2000 words and send the text to by 21 May at the latest.

Be prepared to give an oral presentation in the seminar (3 mins for each participant).


Required readings (to be distributed):

Hayler, Matt. “Matter Matters: The Effects of Materiality and the Move From Page to Screen.” Research Methods for Reading Data in the Digital Humanities. Eds. Gabriele Griffin and Matt Hayler. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016.

Hayles, Katherine. Writing Machines. Cambridge (Mass): MIT Press, 2002.

Kirschenbaum piece -

Gibson piece -

Optional extra - - for more on affordances in design


Matt Hayler is a lecturer in post-1945 Literature in the Department of English Literature at the University of Birmingham. His research interests focus on e-reading, materially experimental writing, digital humanities, critical theory, technology, and embodiment. His books include Challenging the Phenomena of Technology (Palgrave 2015), Research Methods in the Digital Humanities (Edinburgh University Press 2015) - lead editor and chapter contributor, two volumes developed alongside series editor (Gabriele Griffin, York): Research Methods in Reading Digital Texts and Research Methods in Writing and Curating Digital Texts.

Published Dec. 13, 2017 5:50 PM - Last modified Aug. 26, 2019 10:54 AM