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Cultural impact of the printing press to be examined by historian and Vassar alumna Elizabeth Eisenstein in the 2014 Curtis Lecture, on May 8, 2014

Elizabeth Eisenstein’s best known book explores what she terms the "unacknowledged revolution," the transformations that occurred after the invention of print and that aided the progress of the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. The esteemed historian and Vassar alumna will expand on this subject in her talk, “When Our Old Medium Was New: Some Reactions to the Medium of Print in the Western World,” on Thursday, May 8, at 6:00 pm, in Taylor Hall room 203 (seating will not be possible after 6:05 p.m.). This Curtis Lecture is free and open to the public with funding support from John and Julia Blodgett Curtis ’62, and it marks the reopening of the Special Collections section of Vassar’s Thompson Memorial Library.

Eisenstein’s presentation will be based on material from her most recent book, Divine Art, Infernal Machine: The Reception of Printing in the West from First Impressions to the Sense of an Ending (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011). A professor emerita at the University of Michigan, her foremost work is The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformation in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 1983). Eisenstein’s historical method is credited for helping to clarify famed philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s earlier ideas about the general social effects of such media transitions, as well as influencing later thinking about the development of digital media.

Eisenstein taught at American University from 1959 to 1974, then at the University of Michigan, where she was the Alice Freeman Palmer Professor of History until retiring in 1988. In 1979, Eisenstein was resident consultant for the Center of the Book at the Library of Congress, and held positions as a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Palo Alto) and a visiting professor at Wolfson College (Oxford).

Among her honors, Eisenstein received fellowships and awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1993 the National Coalition of Independent Scholars created the Eisenstein Prize, awarded bi-annually to members of the organization who have produced work with an independent focus.  In 2002 she received the American Historical Association’s Award for Scholarly Distinction. Eisenstein majored in history at Vassar, and earned her M.A. and PhD. from Radcliffe College.

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Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, April 24, 2014