Skip to main content


Old Media and the Medieval Concept: Media Ecologies Before Early Modernity

Edited by Thora Brylowe and Stephen Yeager

The so-called “Middle Ages” (media æva) were the mediating ages of European intellectual history, whose commentaries, protocols, palimpsests, and marginalia anticipated the forms and practices of digital media. Edited by Thora Brylowe and Stephen Yeager, this ground-breaking collection of essays calls for a new, intermedial approach to old media periodizations and challenges the epochs of “medieval,” “modern,” and “digital" with the goal of enabling new modes of historical imagining. Essays in this volume explore the prehistory of digital computation; the ideology of media periodization; global media ecologies; the technics of manuscript tagging; the haptic negotiations of authority in medieval epistolarity; charisma; and pedagogy. Old Media and the Medieval Concept forges new paths for traversing the broad networks that connect medieval and contemporary media in both the popular and the scholarly imagination. By illuminating these relationships, it brings the fields of digital humanities, media studies, and medieval studies into closer alignment and provides opportunities for re-evaluating the media ecologies in which we live and work now. 

"This collection is a gift to any teachers of cultural and social history, regardless of the epoch on which they focus. The fact that this book can be read in many directions--as a book about the theory of media, about manuscripts, about inscribed objects or about the digital world--makes it an instant scaffolding for many university courses. This is only strengthened by the citation practice which is open and inclusive as well as the diverse bibliography."

-Mateusz Fafinski in The Medieval Review, 22 May 2022


October 2021
Edited by Thora Brylowe & Stephen Yeager
$59.95 CAD | $59.95 USD
Series: Media Before 1800
280 pages | 11 color plates, 1 halftone | 6 x 8 
9781988111285 | Paper
9781988111292 | E-book
[Links to our Canadian distributor, UBC Press]
[Links to our US distributor, University of Chicago Press]

Old Media and the Medieval Concept successfully brings the richness of pre-modern media history into closer and more productive conversation with the field of media studies. This is vital work, since the orientation of media studies is often presentist or futurist, while manuscript studies, which is all that narrow understandings of ‘premodern media history’ might seem to include, has sometimes neglected the insights of media theorists working mostly with later material. By cleverly refiguring the ‘Middle Ages’ as the ‘mediating ages’ between the classical and Biblical texts that medieval manuscripts often contain or reference, and a later, putatively more enlightened historical moment, this volume’s distinguished contributors demonstrate that the histories, ecologies, and archaeologies of medieval media offer a vital means of understanding both then and now.”
-Arthur Bahr, MIT

“From colonial coconut cups to mnemonic verse tags in manuscripts, Old Media and the Medieval Concept unearths a rich hoard of early media and brings them into dialogue with our present moment. The result is a vibrant collection that transgresses boundaries of period, place, and field. Media historians will look to this book, and the series it inaugurates, as a lodestar pointing us toward what the field could be: theoretically engaged, historically acute, and always attentive to the politics of our work.”
-Whitney Trettien, University of Pennsylvania

Media before 1800
Stephen Yeager, Fiona Somerset, and Daniel T. Kline xi
The Medieval/Media Concept
Thora Brylowe and Stephen M. Yeager 3
Part 1: Long Durations
1 Genesis of the Digital Concept Brandon W. Hawk 31
2 Protocol and Regulation: Controlling Media Histories Stephen M. Yeager 54
3 The Coconut Cup as Material and Medium: Extended Ecologies Kathleen E. Kennedy 79
Part 2: Affective Affordances
4 Multimedia Verse Fiona Somerset 105
5 Ex Illo Tempore: Time, Mediation, and the Ars Dictaminis in Letter 65 by Peter the Venerable Jonathan M. Newman 119
6 The Gloss on Genesis and Authority in the Cathedral Schools Alice Hutton Sharp 140
Concordia University Press
Back to top

© Concordia University