Pen and Printing-Block: William Morris and the Resurrection of Medieval Paratextuality

Title: Pen and Printing-Block: William Morris and the Resurrection of Medieval Paratextuality
Authors: Tittle, Miles C.
Date: 2012
Abstract: My dissertation, Pen and Printing-Block: William Morris and the Resurrection of Medieval Paratextuality, considers William Morris’s influence on the rise of paratextual awareness, his negotiation strategies for Victorian England’s social identity, and his rhetorical construction of an idealized past through textual artifacts. The effect of Morris’s growing social awareness on his transition from illumination to print is reframed by considering his calligraphy as paratextual experiments, based on medieval examples, in combining graphic and discursive meanings with rhetorical and social dimensions. The varied and less ambitious agendas of those printers who followed Morris’s Kelmscott Press, however, limited Morris’s legacy in the book arts. The full significance of his illuminations’ meaningful interplay between text and image, and the social intent of these innovations applications in print, has received little critical attention. The opening chapter frames Morris’s visual work in light of his philosophies and introduces the major concerns of material art, the role of history, the limits of language, and the question of meaningful labour. The second chapter surveys select predecessors of Morris’s developing conception of the Gothic, the significance of architecture as its defining form, and the irreplaceability of the physical past. The third chapter considers the role of the illuminated manuscript in Pre-Raphaelite art, tracing Morris’s calligraphic experiments chronologically while identifying medieval inspirations and examining his artistic development. These experiments led to his final collaborative manuscript, the illuminated Æneid which is the fourth chapter’s focus. The sophistication of its paratextual elements is discussed in light of its unique physicality and limitations. The fifth chapter asserts the Kelmscott Press’s role in balancing craftsmanship and aesthetic paratextual strategies with reproducible models. The Kelmscott Chaucer is the culmination of these strategies, and it is compared to the visual rhetoric of its predecessors. The final chapter compares the philosophies and calligraphic elements of major private presses that followed Kelmscott’s legacy. This evolution of aesthetic, social, and practical considerations is also identified in the work of selected Canadian printers, and a final note considers the implications of the rise of immaterial digital text (radiant textuality) for the continuation of material paratextuality’s role in the future.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -