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Andrew Piper

I grew up liking books but loving computers. While I have fond memories of reading books, I have even fonder ones of going to computer camp, programming my TRS-80 and playing Pong. I belong to that first generation of children who grew up using home computers. I think it was this duality that led to my interest in the history of books and literature, to think about the way technologies change how we read and think.

My first book, Dreaming in Books, was a study of the origins of our obsessions with books that date back to the turn of the nineteenth century. I was interested in studying where this passion for books came from, and in particular how literature played a role in shaping our relationship to books. For this work I was awarded the MLA Prize for a First Book.

My new book, Book Was There, is an essayistic exploration of the future of reading through an understanding of our bibliographic past. As I write in the introduction, books were there first. Only in patiently working through this historical entanglement of books and screens will we be able to understand how new technologies will, or will not, change how we read.

I am also the author of two translations of Goethe as well as a short biography of his life. I have had many bibliographic crushes in my life, but Goethe is my true love. I will never tire of reading him.

In addition to being a writer, I am also a teacher at McGill University. I teach courses on the history of German and European literature, the practice of translation, and the history of electronic reading.

This year I am currently enrolled in school. I have been awarded a Mellon fellowship to retrain myself in a new area and I am taking classes in computer programming and quantitative analysis. Much of my new work is concerned with how computation impacts reading and the ways we can begin to think about extracting meaning from large sets of literary data. This for me is the new materiality of reading and I am interested to see where it takes us.

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