The Book Unbound


The Book Unbound imagesThe Book Unbound—a college-wide initiative centered around the theme of books, libraries, and information inspired by the new Sawyer Library—is “an opportunity to bring us together around themes at the heart of the college’s intellectual and cultural life,” according to its organizers, Professors Edan Dekel and Christopher Nugent.

Those themes revolve around the form of the book and how human culture treats information. “The book is a metaphor for any technology that preserves and transmits information,” Dekel explains. “It still defines the way we talk about information, even in the 21st century, whether we’re ‘scrolling’ through an e-book or discussing ‘libraries’ of DNA coding. These are metaphors we use without thinking.”

Yet equally important is the theme of how information is unbound in the technological age—what Nugent calls “the non-book, the liberation of information.” He explains: “We will engage in conversations about everything we do with information, from disseminating it to hiding it, from protecting it to stealing, censoring, and destroying it.”

Dekel, associate professor of classics and Jewish studies, describes the initiative as “a grand conversation” that will take place college-wide, across disciplines, and inside and outside of classrooms. He and Nugent, associate professor of Chinese, will be co-teaching a course on the history of the book.

Theirs is one of the more than 30 courses offered next year as part of the Book Unbound initiative.  Engaging with themes relating to the book and information from a range of critical and creative perspectives, the initiative’s courses include such offerings as Artists’ Books, Field Biology & Natural History, Machine Learning, Protecting Information, and The Body as Book: Memory and Reenactment in Dance & Theatre.

The Book Unbound will also encompass events, exhibitions, and performances throughout the year. The ’62 Center Performance Series, the Williams College Museum of Art, and the Oakley Center are just some of the groups planning programs for the initiative, and the library will be home to many events and exhibits. “These activities aim to engage students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the local community as broadly and deeply as possible,” says Dekel.

The initiative will kick off in a big way during Convocation weekend, September 20-21, 2014, as the campus celebrates the opening of the new library.

Click here for a list of courses related to the Book Unbound. Students can begin to preregister for these classes on April 28.