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Nora Benedict brings a digital dimension to book history

Michael Terrazas

Books are a big deal. The invention of writing is one of the pivotal moments in the history of humanity, and—in terms of cultural significance—the distance from writing itself to the book is literally just the turn of a page. Books existed long before printing presses. As artifacts, they tell stories that range far beyond the mere words printed or written on their pages.

Nora Benedict wants to tell those stories.

An assistant professor of Spanish and digital humanities in the Franklin College of Arts & Sciences Department of Romance Languages, Benedict studies the history of the book—not a particular book nor author, but the book itself, as a medium of literature, communication, art, commerce, politics, religion and all the human activities that express themselves through an object most of us simply take for granted.

“By studying books, we learn a lot about the people who made them,” said Benedict, winner of UGA’s 2023 Michael F. Adams Early Career Scholar Award. “It’s a different way of studying the history of culture, of people, of ideas. Some scholars in book history may think about the physical features of books—for example, what pocket-sized books might tell us about a specific people in a specific time and place, versus those who used giant elephant folios—but you might also look at things like the publishing industry and how books are produced and get into our hands.”

Mapping the world of Borges

Benedict’s focus is on the latter: the business of books. Her first monograph, “Borges and the Literary Marketplace: How Editorial Practices Shaped Cosmopolitan Reading” (Yale University Press, 2021), is a deep dive into Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges and his involvement in the publishing world.

Borges, whose life spanned most of the 20th century until his death in 1986, was an essayist, critic, poet and short story writer whose work greatly influenced world literature. But he was also a fixture in the Buenos Aires publishing industry, co-founding two literary journals as well as working as an editor, translator and literary adviser for various firms.

Continues reading...

Image: Nora Benedict is an assistant professor of Spanish and digital humanities in the Franklin College of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Romance Languages. Her research in Latin American literature and publishing—which includes both books and interactive digital components—won her UGA’s 2023 Michael F. Adams Early Career Scholar Award. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker) 




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