Discussion question for Week 4

Here is the discussion question for this week:

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of digital writing technologies, as compared to the analog technology of ink on paper? As a way to get started thinking about this, you might look at this video.

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 2:26 pm  Comments (16)  

Essay 1 assignment

Essay 1 (5-7 pages minimum, due Friday, February 5)

Assignment: Choose a text that we have not discussed in class. Explain how this text exhibits typographic materiality. In other words, discuss how this text thinks with and about the material and graphic properties of letters. These properties may include (but are not limited to) the shape and appearance of the letterforms, their arrangement on the page, the history and cultural associations of the font used, the technical processes by which the letters were produced, and the material substrate of which the letters are made.

Typography: In the interest of “learning by doing”, you will be required to manipulate the typography of your paper in two ways.

1) Instead of using the default font of your word processing program (such as Times New Roman), use a different font that’s more appropriate to the subject matter you’re discussing. As a banal example, if you’re writing about the film Helvetica (which you can’t do because we covered it in class), you might actually write your paper in Helvetica. At the end of your paper, include a colophon of 100-200 words in which you explain why you chose the font that you did.

2) At least once in your paper, use typography to illustrate the argument you’re making. In other words, do something unusual or unexpected with your typography that contributes in some way to your argument. As a banal example, if you’re discussing Apollinaire’s “Mirror,”

you might do something like this: :siht ekil gnihtemos od thgim ouy

Logistics. Provide MLA-format parenthetical citations for all works cited in the body of your paper. Include an MLA-format Works Cited list with your paper. (I expect that you already know how to use MLA format, but if you need a reminder, consult this website.) With your paper, please provide either a copy of the text you’re writing about, or instructions as to how I can find a copy.

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Readings for Friday

The first reading is “Electronic Typography: The New Visual Language” by Jessica Helfand, which can be found here.

The second reading is “Paper or Me, You Know…” by Jacques Derrida, from his book Paper Machine. I have submitted this to ARES, but for now you can download the PDF file here. When/if the file becomes available on ARES, I will edit this post to remove the link in the previous sentence.

Published in: on January 27, 2010 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Extra credit discussion question

For extra credit, write 150 words about the experience of viewing the Mexican and Cuban film posters displayed in the Smathers Library. You may wish to consider the following questions: What was particularly striking about the typography and graphic design of these posters? In terms of design and typography, how are they different from (or surprisingly similar to) the film posters you’re used to seeing? What, if anything, do you learn by seeing them in person as opposed viewing the digitized versions?

Published in: on January 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm  Comments (1)  

Clarification of discussion question

My initial explanation of the discussion question was not quite as clear as it should have been, so I’m going to try to clarify. Sorry if anyone didn’t understand what I was asking.

It’s fine if you just write on one of the poems or one of the cartoons. Basically, the question I want you to address is: How does this text use its own material/technological conditions of production as an aesthetic resource? That is, how does it make creative use of the fact that it’s produced by certain processes (e.g. cel animation or letterpress printing) and that it’s made of certain materials (e.g. paper, ink and cels)? And/or, how does the text get you to think about the materials of which it’s made and the processes by which it was produced? For example, what does Un coup de des tell us about the cultural or social associations of letterpress printing and bookbinding?

I obviously don’t expect you to answer all these questions. Just try to make a start on addressing them.

Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 8:21 pm  Comments (1)  

Discussion for Week 3

Here is the question I’d like you to write about for this week:

A common feature of the typographically experimental texts we’ve examined this week (Felix, Marinetti, Apollinaire, Mallarmé) is that they use their technological and material conditions of production as a source of creative inspiration, as something to think with. In more conventional texts, the material substrates of the text (such as ink, paper, and animation cels) serve mostly as delivery vehicles for content. But in the texts we’ve analyzed this week, “content” emerges out of and is ultimately inseparable from the material substrate of the text. At the same time, these texts are, in a way, “about” their own material substrates. They inquire into the cultural roles and associations of paper, ink, etc. They ask questions about the ways in which these materials affect our thoughts and actions.

Choose one of these texts and explain how it thinks with and about its supporting materials.

Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 3:39 pm  Comments (16)  

YouTube links for Friday

For Friday, please watch the following videos, all of which are very short.

The first video is Winsor McCay’s “Gertie the Dinosaur,” which I’ve decided to use instead of Phantasmagoria. This film doesn’t do anything particularly striking with typography, but it provides an introduction to the question of materiality in animation. See if you can guess why the outlines of the characters are constantly wavering.

The next three videos are three Felix the Cat cartoons from the 1920s. Pay particular attention to Felix’s interactions with typographic signs.

Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 11:59 am  Comments (1)  


Because of copyright issues, I was unable to upload the reading from Apollinaire to ARES. We will still be discussing this reading in class, but you all will need to find another way of accessing it.

On a completely unrelated note, I don’t know what this PDF file is or how it got here, but you might find it interesting.

Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Notes about Un coup de des

At the top of the Google Books interface, there’s a button that allows you to read the book two pages at a time, rather than one page at a time. I suggest you use this option because Un coup de des is designed to be read two pages at a time: each set of two facing pages is designed as a single visual composition.

In 1969, Marcel Broodthaers published an artist’s book in which he took Un coup de des and replaced all the words with black blocks. I can’t find an online edition of this work, but you can find images from it here and here.

Finally, here is a YouTube video in which Un coup de des is used as a player piano roll.

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 6:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Readings for Wednesday 1-20

The first reading is “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard” (“A Roll of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance”) by Stéphane Mallarmé. The French text is available here. The English translation is available here. Please read these two together, so that you can get a sense of how the typography interacts with the meaning.

The second reading is a selection from Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes. This will be made available on ARES. Again, please read the French text and the English translation together.

The third reading is Arthur Rimbaud’s poem “Voyelles” (Vowels). This will also be made available on ARES. A different English translation is available here. This poem is more tangentially related to our concerns than the others, but it’s short enough that you might as well read it anyway.

Published in: on January 15, 2010 at 6:58 am  Leave a Comment