Winter 2011 Radcliffe Magazine
The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University is a scholarly community where individuals pursue advanced work across a wide range of academic disciplines, professions, and creative arts. Within this broad purpose, the Radcliffe Institute sustains a continuing commitment to the study of women, gender, and society.
Winter 2011 radcliffe magazine 3 In booksellers’ parlance, the Radcliffe Institute’s “Why Books?” conference, held in late October, was a runaway best seller. More than 500 attendees ﬁlled Radcliffe Gymnasium and spilled over to an adjacent viewing location to consider the status of books in the context of a continually evolving media environment. The two-day gathering drew scholars of literature, computer science, history, and sociology and illuminated perspectives on books ranging from the ﬁrst codex (pages bound together within a cover) in late-antiquity Rome to today’s e-books, which may exist only in “the cloud” (shared space on the Internet). A key aspect of the conference was what University of Pennsylvania pro- fessor Peter Stallybrass (who had the unenviable task of summation) called “its lack of expected oppositions.” There was little suggestion that books and e- books must be an either/or proposition. “Technologies don’t necessarily displace each other,” Stallybrass noted. “They interact with other technologies. I have a Kindle, but I also read books.” The sense that we are in an era when “WHY BOOKS?” Conference Draws More Than 500 to Discuss the Past, Present, and Future of Books V AROUND THE INSTITUTE Words in Print A Hybrid Era of by Deborah Blagg Technologies don’t displace one another— they interact. PHOTOGRAPHS BY TONY RINALDO