Information Access Seminar

Text, Glyph, Inscription, Chart: Knowledge Production in the Origin of the Alphabet

Friday, October 13, 2023
3:10 pm to 5:00 pm PDT

Johanna Drucker

An outline of the history of the alphabet, from “Turris Babel” by Athanasius Kircher (Rome, 1679)
An outline of the history of the alphabet, from “Turris Babel” by Athanasius Kircher (Rome, 1679)

Our knowledge of the origins and development of the alphabet (yes, there is only one) is bound to the material properties of evidence and their analysis within a wide range of disciplines including textual studies, archaeology, and epigraphy. Visual epistemology and graphic rhetoric also play a role in construction and transmission of knowledge in this domain.

In discussing how we know what we know about the early history of the alphabet, this talk will focus on the modes of rhetoric in charts with emphasis on the benefits and liabilities of the graphical organization that structures arguments.

Professor Drucker will be presenting remotely via Zoom. Guests are welcome to join us in person in 107 South Hall, or connect directly via Zoom.

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Join the seminar online

Johanna Drucker is a Distinguished Research Professor Emerita at UCLA. Until her recent retirement, she was the Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. She is internationally known for her work in artists’ books, the history of graphic design, typography, experimental poetry, fine art, and digital humanities.

Recent works include Visualisation: L’Interpretation Modellante Visualizing Interpretation (MIT, 2020), Iliazd: Metabiography of a Modernist (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020), Digital Humanities Coursebook (Routledge, 2020), Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production (Harvard University Press, 2014), The General Theory of Social Relativity (The Elephants, 2018), and Downdrift: An Eco-fiction (Three Rooms Press, 2018). Off-World Fairy Tales, a collaboration with Susan Bee, was published in Fall 2020 (Litmus Press).

In 2014, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and awarded an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts by the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2017. Her work has been translated into Korean, Catalan, Chinese, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Danish and Portuguese.

Last updated:

October 6, 2023