History

What does Adrian Johns’ think is wrong with Elizabeth Eisenstein’s characterization of the impact of print on the development of science?

The main question this paper addresses is:

“What does Adrian Johns’ think is wrong with Elizabeth Eisenstein’s characterization of the impact of print on the development of science?

The goal of this paper is to focus your attention on understanding and clearly communicating the respective authors’ positions.

Note: Occasionally, I think this and similar assignments can feel like being asked to regurgitate something – read it, spit it back out. What I’d like to highlight is that I think it’s a bit more like reading a complicated and disorganized recipe and finding a way to simplify it into something that someone else could cook, while still staying true to the original dish. Even for a professor, that’s a very difficult task. It’s also a necessary first step to critical analysis and “position-taking.”

To be be successful, you’ll need to do several things (I strongly recommend doing these in the following order):

  • Explain (aka summarize, in your own words) what Eisenstein thinks print contributes to the development of modern science. This should be 1 or 2 paragraphs.
  • To illustrate that, use Tycho Brahe and Galileo as examples.1 or 2 paragraphs each.
  • What is Adrian Johns’ main critique of Eisenstein’s argument and what does he say to explain and substantiate his point? (Summarize in your own words, 1 or 2 paragraphs).
  • How does he interpret the examples of Tycho Brahe and Galileo, e.g., what does they think they illustrate instead? Note that this part is an explicit comparison with Eisenstein. (1-2 paragraphs each.)

Other grading criteria (continued on next page)

  • The paper must be between ~ 1250 -1500 words.
  • You may only cite Eisenstein or Johns – stick to these course materials.
  • You need to include page numbers with in-text citations, but you do not need a bibliography or works cited page.
  • You will need to select good examples from the text to help illustrate both Eisenstein’s and Johns’ ideas: plan on having at least 2 quotes from each author.
  • Your goal is to summarize in such a way that someone from outside the class would understand these authors’ disagreement: read it to a parent, your roommate, your boss, etc. (This means you may need to provide some simple background information at first).
  • It needs to be in a professional format, but I don’t have specific preferences. By “professional” I mean things like, no comic sans, no colored text, etc. If you have specific questions feel free to ask them in the Course Questions forum.

This paper is a little different. It’s a little bit more of just kind of a summary.

A conversation between two people. So rather than having to come down and say, Well, I agree with John’s or no, I agree with Eisenstein the goal really is just to kind of like.

Convey the state of the discussion. Right. So, I mean, in some sense, it’s like she says something and then he comments on it.

Your job in the paper is really just to kind of characterize the state of play between the two. So you’ll want to say, well, like here’s Eisenstein’s position.

Here’s her position in a nutshell. Here are these two examples that she uses to support that. And here’s how that how those examples work and what they illustrate.

Here’s what John’s thinks is wrong. And here’s why he thinks those two examples don’t work. He has a different story to tell about those historical figures.

And so that’s the structure of the paper and the goal of it is really just to like get very clear about those particular features of the discussion.

What’s really important about paper is just sort of distilling down the particular ideas and sometimes though. I think there’s actually a lot of your interpretation and comment like your thoughts about it that’s going to be necessary to do that because I don’t think that Eisenstein is necessarily perfectly clear.

And there are ways in which a lot of times students will say, You know, honestly, I don’t think John’s is being fair here, you know, he said, like this is his criticism of Eisenstein. This is the quote that he uses Maybe he should have used this quote and said, and if you use this quote it doesn’t seem like you know so there’s a way that you can really do it where you have a little bit more of a sort of critical way of framing the discussion and that’s fine, but the main and like that would, you know, that would be great.

The main thing that I really want to have happen is rather than saying johns’s right here’s all the reasons why I think dogs is right, like I really want it to be a sort of like textual comparison. And so the main point is to be really sort of like comparing the two different arguments and sort of like accurately characterizing.

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