“Garrett Stewart focuses on the kind of book art that renders the book a physical object rather than a medium for reading with a thoroughness and theoretical sophistication that are unmatched in the literature on the subject…. Sustained, original, intellectually stimulating, and often brilliant, Bookwork will become the source to consult on this topic for years to come.”—Sabine Gross, University of Wisconsin–Madison
We usually love books for their insides—for the cacophony of words that unite to create new worlds and ideas, for the decorative touches that adorn the page. We might blanch at the thought of someone fastening the covers shut, making a book unreadable. But more and more, artists are doing just that, using books in sculpture and other mediums to force us to look, and think, anew about the reading experience.
These book objects are at the center of Bookwork, which follows this burgeoning international art practice as it takes our passion for books to its logical extreme. Garrett Stewart looks at hundreds of book-like objects in this original account of works that force attention upon a book’s material identity and cultural resonance. He traces the lineage of these artifacts from the 1919 Unhappy Readymade of Marcel Duchamp down to the current crisis of paper-based media in the digital era. The unreadable books he engages with are found, again and again, to generate visual metaphors for the textual experience they preclude—becoming in a sense, legible after all.
Bold, imaginative, and passionate, this stunningly illustrated volume is a must-read for book and art lovers alike.
Garrett Stewart is the James O. Freedman Professor of Letters in the Department of English at the University of Iowa. He is the author of numerous previous books, many published by the University of Chicago Press, including Novel Violence: Toward a Narratography of Victorian Fiction, winner of the George and Barbara Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study of Narrative. He was elected in 2010 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.