About the Textual Studies Program

Philology, the history of the book, print culture, comparative media, text technologies, bibliography, editorial theory, codicology, material texts, the history of reading, manuscript culture, paleography, the sociology of texts, the digital humanities…

Nuremberg Chronicle, UW Libraries, Special Collections

Textual studies encompasses a broad set of disciplines in the arts and humanities concerned with the production, circulation, and reception of texts in material form. From memory to written record, manuscript to book, cuneiform tablet to tablet PC, textual studies comprehends the products of literary and documentary culture in diachronic terms, and meaning as inseparable from the medium of inscription. Its approaches, like texts themselves, cut across historical periods and geographical space. As a field of inquiry, it is at once theoretical and applied, uniting scholars and publics in critical reflection on matters fundamental to higher education: reading, writing, the library, the book.

The Textual Studies Program draws on the expertise of an interdisciplinary group of UW faculty, information professionals, and distinguished visitors to provide students with a foundation for advanced archival research and inquiry into the materiality of written culture. The program’s core courses survey the interconnected histories of manuscript, print, and digital texts and acquaint students with theories of textuality that form the basis for literary and cultural study. Seminars incorporate colloquia and public events to expose students to diverse methodologies in the field as well as practical applications in the wider enterprise of editing, translation, publishing, data mining, librarianship, and alternative-academic professions.

History of the UW Textual Studies Program
Jacob Lawrence, The Library (1960), Smithsonian Am. Art Museum

The Textual Studies Program at the University of Washington is the oldest graduate program in North America devoted to the humanistic study of material texts. Established in 1995 as an interdisciplinary research group focused on “the theories and practices governing the production, publication, transmission, preservation, and editing of texts,” the program attracted the participation of scholars and professionals working in manuscript, print, and digital materials from ancient papyri to hypertext fiction. In 1997, the program implemented a graduate curriculum that balances theoretical approaches to texts and textual cultures with skills training in bibliography, codicology, paleography, and humanities computing. The program celebrated its formal launch with an international conference, “Voice, Text, and Hypertext at the Millennium,” which produced a book of the same name.

Since 1998, the Textual Studies Program has hosted an annual distinguished speaker series and colloquium, bringing leading textual scholars, book historians, print and manuscript specialists, and digital humanists to UW for critical discussion and engagement with students, faculty, and the community. In 2016, the program introduced a 16-credit-hour graduate certificate in Textual and Digital Studies accessible to M.A. and Ph.D. students in any UW department. And in 2022, the program added an Interdisciplinary Minor in Textual Studies and Digital Humanities, created for UW undergraduates interested in working with historical and archival materials and in learning about tools techniques for creating digital editions and databases. Both the minor and the TDS Graduate Certificate will be of interest to undergraduate and graduate students thinking about further studies and careers in editing and publishing, libraries and archives, and in contexts where working with cultural and literary materials in archival or digital formats will be paramount.