Palpable Writing Workshop
The Palpable Writing Workshop – based at the MATLIT LAB Humanities Laboratory and associated with the Doctoral Programme in Materialities of Literature – aims to enable students of all cycles of studies at the University of Coimbra in the arts related to book making, including printing and binding methods. This workshop has a two related objectives: to teach techniques for planning and constructing a book; and to educate its target audience, graphically and materially, thus expanding their perspective on literary reception and production.
To this end, the project is focused on transforming diverse literary texts into book form through traditional printing and binding techniques. For a text to be presented in book format, it must conform to the physical constratints and affordances of this specific technological apparatus. The handling of the text implies conforming words to known bibliographic conventions – or explicitly challenging such conventions. In this process, the specificities of the material support correlate with the logic of the presentation of the text itself, and make the interdependence between the production of writing and the production of the book more evident. This vision offers us a perception of the production of the book as a stage of writing (or rewriting), this time, with expressive and perceptible material qualities that modalize and order its reading. Withing this framework, it is easy to associate the teaching of techniques related to the formal conception and construction of the book to the teaching of literature rather than seeing them as alien to the experience of the book.
The impact of the graphic form and the resizing of the text in a volume turns non-semantic elements into an essential part of reading and, therefore, also of literary education. Knowing and recognizing the impact of such bibliographic aspects is a form of literacy that has been little explored in the academic context, although extremely present in ubiquitous reading interfaces, whether printed or digital. Such discrepancy often brings to the university context of the Humanities the problem of obsolescence in relation to visual and haptic forms of literacy, which have been digitally remediated in humanistic practices by the so-called Digital Humanities — and in the case of the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Coimbra, through the MATLIT LAB initiative.
The book as technology, understood as an apparatus for the presentation of text and as a planned and constructed object that results from a graphic and tridimensional conceptualization, should be explored in the academic context. A book is built through artefactual forms of knowledge that are interconnected in the synchronous stages of printing and binding. The knowledge of such stages and how they correlate in the conceptualization of the text under the form of a book adds to the reader’s literary appreciation, especially in works that make explicit their processes of writing and production, a self-reflexive aspect that is not uncommon in the literary field.
The Palpable Writing Workshop project, as currently outlined, includes three of the eight components of the research initiatives promoted by MATLIT LAB , namely: (a) the Project-arium component, which is dedicated to the development of project-based research, and aims to stimulate collaborative and speculative practices in relation to knowledge processes in the humanities; (b) Experiment-arium focused on experimental literary creation, with the aim of observing and exploring the interaction between writing and media; and, finally, (c) the Design-arium, particularly in what concerns the development of artistic arguments, that is, a non-semantic arguments that are expressed through the visuality or tactility of the work, and which inform the text or its context through the sensorial relationship that these elements sustain within the interaction reader-work.