Zeynep Çelik Alexander, an architectural historian and assistant professor in the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at University of Toronto, will present the lecture, A Minor History of Non-Reading. The lecture will be held on January 30 at 5 p.m. in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons on the first floor of Bird Library. It directly precedes the opening of the Libraries’ spring exhibition, The Archive in Motion.
Countless contemporary observers have noted that in the age of digital media, skimming, scanning, browsing, and watching may have rendered close reading obsolete. Çelik Alexander attempts to understand the epistemological implications of such claims by returning to early-twentieth-century Germany where a peculiar kind of reading, dubbed “non-reading,” emerged. Non-reading was neither illiteracy nor reading in-depth: it was a technique of engaging with a text without using the hermeneutic practices that had been a crucial part of German education since the early nineteenth century. Modernist picture books such as those by Paul Schultze-Naumburg, Max Dvorak, and Heinrich Wölfflin became a primary site for the practice of non-reading. They included images with strikingly similar formal qualities juxtaposed as example and counter-example so that the non-reader could switch her gaze back and forth between the two images until she could reach the correct judgment. Çelik Alexander traces the brief life of non-reading in turn-of-the-century books, slides, mass-produced prints, and photographs with an eye on its long afterlife in twentieth-century modernism.
Zeynep Çelik Alexander’s work focuses on the history of modern architecture since the Enlightenment with an emphasis on German modernism. She is currently completing two projects: a book titled An Epistemological History of Aesthetic Modernism and a co-edited volume exploring the histories of technologies that have come to dominate contemporary design disciplines. Alexander’s writings have appeared in several edited volumes as well as in journals including Harvard Design Magazine, Grey Room, Journal of Design History, and Centropa. She is a member of Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative and an editor of the journal Grey Room.
Çelik Alexander will also present a companion mini-seminar on January 31, 2014 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Special Collections Research Center on the 6th floor of Bird Library. The mini‐seminar is free and open to the public, however advance registration is required. To register, contact Barbara Brooker at email@example.com or at 315‐443‐9763.
Both events are co-sponsored by Syracuse University’s School of Architecture.