Here you will find information on required readings, import university policies, and course-specific policies like attendance and cell phone use.

Required Texts

  • Fanny Fern, Ruth Hall. Penguin Classics, 1997. ISBN-10: 0140436405.
  • Leslie Howsam, The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book. Cambridge University Press, 2014. ISBN-10: 1107625092.
  • Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstorePicador, 2013. ISBN-10: 1250037751.
  • About $10 for print-outs of online materials

To purchase books, match the ISBN number online. Last time I checked, all books were on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble online.

Grade Breakdown

Attendance and Participation15See Attendance section below
Timeline Assignment15See Assignments
Research Paper35See Assignments
Team Project15See Assignments
Quizzes15See Quizzes section below
Individual Student Meeting5Pass/Fail. See office hours below.


Attendance will be taken in every class. All unexcused absences will reduce your participation grade, as will all instances on unexcused tardiness. This is a class where you have to come to do well. Every semester I am forced to give out 2-3 Ds and Fs, and it's almost always students who didn't show up regularly. In the event of an excused absence, you should get class notes from a classmate and speak to me about a makeup assignment. Your best bet here is to seldom or never miss class. Anything more than four absences, even if they’re excused, and I’ll probably recommend that you withdraw. If you know you are going to miss class for a sport commitment (or other sanctioned reason) you must let me know ahead of time so I can assign work to keep you on track.


Cell phones should be off and put away. Laptops are okay for notes and such, but you should not be messaging, using Facebook, etc. I’ll check screens regularly give you a verbal warning on your first offense. After that, I reserve the right to ask you to leave class and mark you absent if you are creating a distraction.

E-mail Communication Policy

Each student is issued a University e-mail address (username@pitt.edu) upon admittance. This e-mail address may be used by the University for official communication with students. Students are expected to read e-mail sent to this account on a regular basis. Failure to read and react to University communications in a timely manner does not absolve the student from knowing and complying with the content of the communications. The University provides an e-mail forwarding service that allows students to read their e-mail via other service providers (e.g., Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo). Students that choose to forward their e-mail from their pitt.edu address to another address do so at their own risk. If e-mail is lost as a result of forwarding, it does not absolve the student from responding to official communications sent to their University e-mail address. To forward e-mail sent to your University account, go to http://accounts.pitt.edu, log into your account, click on Edit Forwarding Addresses, and follow the instructions on the page. Be sure to log out of your account when you have finished. (For the full E-mail Communication Policy, go to www.bc.pitt.edu/policies/policy/09/09-10-01.html.)

A Note on E-mail Etiquette

When you send me an email, please follow some basic conventions of formality and politeness. There's no need to construct the equivalent of a business letter, but please don't begin your message with "hey," and take an extra moment to make sure you spelled my name correctly. I promise to show you the same courtesy.

No Late Work Accepted

Life happens. Sometimes something just isn’t going to get done. If you speak to me at least a week ahead of time and I approve an extension, I will consider assigning a new due date and hold you to it. The trade off is that work turned in this way is probably not going end up in my hand when I grade everything else, so it’s going to get less feedback. Retroactive and last-minute extensions will not be granted. If you miss a deadline entirely without getting an extension, you can still do the assignment as part of the final portfolio, but you will automatically receive a 0 for the initial grade.

Disability Resource Services

If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Office of Disability Resources and Services, 140 William Pitt Union, 412-648-7890, as early as possible in the term. Disability Resources and Services will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course.

Academic Integrity Policy

Cheating/plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students suspected of violating the University of Pittsburgh Policy on Academic Integrity, noted below, will be required to participate in the outlined procedural process as initiated by the instructor. A minimum sanction of a zero score for the quiz, exam or paper will be imposed. (For the full Academic Integrity policy, go to www.provost.pitt.edu/info/ai1.html.)

Sexual Harassment

The University of Pittsburgh will not tolerate sexual assault/sexual harassment. Complete details of the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy may be found and read in its entirety at http://www.provost.pitt.edu/information-on/antiharassment_statement.html. This policy provides a variety of individuals on each University of Pittsburgh campus who should be contacted with questions or concerns.

A Note on Office Hours

I use a digital tool for office hours appointment management. If you go to the website https://lavin-office-hours.youcanbook.me/, you will see a real-time account of when I am available. My standard appointment slots are 11:30 to 12:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but a slot will appear in gray if I'm already booked. You are welcome to drop by if I appear to be free, but it's generally a good idea to make an appointment well in advance if you have something important to discuss with me. If I ever need to cancel office hours on a given day, I will update the calendar and email anyone with an appointment.

Once per term, you are required to make an appointment to visit my office hours, or to see me at a time we both agree upon. This appointment can take place at any point in the semester before Tuesday, November 7 (the day your research paper draft is due) and you should come prepared to discuss your progress on that assignment.

Dietrich Requirements

This course covers the LIT requirement.

Grading Scale

Letter GradePercentileDescription
A+97-100Superior achievement in all aspects
A94-96Superior achievement in most areas
A-90-93Superior achievement in at least one area
B+87-89Exceeds expectations in all aspects
B84-86Exceeds expectations in most areas
B-80-83Exceeds expectations in at least one area
C+77-79Meets expectations in all aspects
C74-76Meets expectations in most areas
C-70-73Meets expectations in at least one area
D65-69Does the assigned task but does not meet expectations or work is not appropriate for college level
F0-64Unexcused late work, does not do the assigned task, not complete, or quality is significantly below expectations


This course has intermittent quizzes on material from readings and lectures. Bibliography, technology history, and history of the book are disciplines that require many specialized terms and concepts. Its core principles inform literary studies but are often new to students who have not taken bibliography or book history before. Quizzes are designed to measure how well you are integrating the material. They will generally consist of 10-15 multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and short answer style questions. Occasionally some other activity will count as a quiz grade.

Being Prepared for Class

Coming to class prepared means that you have the day's reading in hand (printed or digital) and have come to class with a way to take notes (printed or digital). If you are not prepared for class, I reserve the right to mark you absent for that day. Anything due on a given day is due at the start of class.