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Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Sarah Werner: "Speculations on Feminist Bibliography"

Image of a pink fist with "FEMINIST" spelled out on knuckles stamped over the title page of Fredson Bowers' Principles of Bibliographic Description (1949).

Monday, March 21, 2022, 5:15pm, in person and via Zoom*

Our speaker writes:

How can we combine feminist theory and praxis with the study of material texts? It’s one thing to bring feminist politics to the recovery of women printing and writing and making texts. But what if you’re a bibliographer interested in the artifact? Where’s the feminist engagement in that work? This is a topic I’ve been wrestling with for a few years, ever since I realized my own introduction to bibliography was a book that didn’t feel like it fully reflected the questions of feminist practice that have been a core of my scholarship and pedagogy. And the longer I wrestle with this, the more questions I have about it. 

This workshop, then, will be more speculative than definitive, more interested in provoking than in proving, more focused on imagining possibilities than providing answers. How are books gendered objects? What does joy have to do with bibliographic work? Can we think of book studies as a type of mutual aid? Why does any of this matter? Come to this workshop for a chance to push at our boundaries, real and imaginary, and to explore together what feminist bibliography might be.

About our speaker:

Sarah Werner is an independent scholar and librarian based in Washington, DC. She is the author of Studying Early Printed Books, 1450–1800: A Practical Guide and its companion open-access site, She is also co-editor of PBSA and Director of Electronic Resources for SHARP. Her scholarly career began as a graduate student in Penn studying Shakespeare and performance, research that turned into Shakespeare and Feminist Performance: Ideology on Stage, and she still loves performance and Penn. You can find her on social media as wynkenhimself or at

Talks will be held live, in person, in the Class of 78 Pavilion, 6th floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. They will also be available via Zoom (please contact us for details). All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on future talks, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press, Emeritus), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

For more information, please contact Aylin Malcolm.