Okay…so the funniest thing on earth would be that I am going to write and post this essay that I wrote for a class, online and then when I sit down to talk to my professor about it, he will run one of those internet searches and say that now he thinks I lifted the entire thing…word for word…from the internet. He will say, it comes from a blog called PerfectlyJoyfulLife and I will just bow my head and shake it in disgust. Um…yeah, that’s my website…that’s my blog.
So, before I go any further I want to post this essay that, before it was graded, I had considered posting just because I liked it so much. Now I post it for a lesson. Here it is. I bracketed it with lines for you. I am most impressed, as I reread it by the tie in to Gates, Jobs, and Foucault. Where does he think I lifted that? My ass? I have wrote my own applications of Foucault on this very site. Read it knowing that before I was given the prompt below, I knew very little about the effects of the printing press on anything. I am sure I did know this, at one time, but not in any detail necessary to write 5 paragraphs.
How did the printing press effect the following areas:
Religion, Science, Thought, Language, Social Classes
Johann Gutenberg was born around the 1450s to a wealthy family. Like a young Bill Gates or Steve Jobs who gained skills from the raw materials brought home by their parents, he went on to change our world with his life work. Gates and Jobs did this with home computers, Gutenberg with the movable type printing press. Before this invention, one that Time-Life called the “most important of the second millennium,”[i] printed material was created by carving wood blocks, page by page, or they were meticulously handwritten. Both ways were costly and time consuming. Thus, books tended to be restricted to the elite who could afford them, or the church, who often acted as scribes. Because the lower classes had limited access to books, they remained illiterate and fixed in their social position. When Gutenberg’s printing press began producing reading material, it needed people to read this printed material. Literacy rates boomed with his invention and its spread throughout Europe.[ii] The printing press with movable type changed our world in broad ways. Literacy and a change in class structure were accompanied by and at the same time fed into changes in religion, science, and the very way our species thinks.
Even though Gutenberg was born to an aristocratic family, he ended up losing some of his printing material to a debtor. That debtor, Johan Fust, it is thought to have become a debtor when he loaned Gutenberg the money to print the first book on this press, The Gutenberg Bible.[iii] Very quickly, the impact of the printing press was felt in the Catholic church. Books could be made without the literate church priests. As well, the population became literate and the Bible continued to be translated into other languages. As the lay congregants read, they became dissatisfied with a Latin mass and questioned church leaders.[iv] This dissatisfaction on a myriad of issues, led directly to the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther used the printing press to circulate his pamphlets and spread his message.[v] Of the 160-180 Gutenberg bibles printed, 49 Bibles still exist today; 21 are complete.[vi]
The fact that so many of these books still exist from the 1400s speaks to another impact of Gutenberg’s incredible printing press. That being, the spread of science, manuals, and standardization. Suddenly, scientists could easily share concepts and thoughts. Scientists began to form a scientific community. When scientists pooled their shared research, scientific thought expanded exponentially, leading to the Scientific Revolution.[vii] Manuals were created to record an ever-growing standardization of information. Even rules of language and grammar were not left up to the whim of the individual, there was a right way and a wrong way to create language. Manuals were created for all sorts of tasks but also for educating our population. The “printed book was a new visual aid available to all students and it rendered the older education obsolete. The book was literally a teaching machine where the manuscript was a crude teaching tool only.”[viii] When you can easily record and preserve information, it makes the counting and accumulation of that information all the easier. The printing press allowed scientists, and governments for that matter, to collect and contain data on everything and everyone. We became knowable, docile bodies in every sense of Foucault’s meaning.
The ability to mass print, circulate, and store information changed our society in such a fashion that it swayed the very way we think. We were rapidly able to create discourse. Our “collective human memory” was born when we began storing large volumes in libraries and universities. It, quite literally, thrust us into the Modern World. New concepts, previously unknown, flooded our world. When humans could chart where they came from and how far they had come, in science especially, it gave rise to notions of “human progress” and “advancement”. The collective “we” created by the printing press allowed for “citation”, critique, and “peer review”. Even ideas of property rights and copyright that had their birth in Mesopotamia were fully fleshed out and spread to the masses due to the printing press. [ix]
Johann Gutenberg left this world on a pension from the archbishop, printing and inventing, in 1468.[x] Although we don’t know a lot about his life and death, what we do know is paramount. He gave us an invention that changed the trajectory of our species. It gave the masses literacy and a small measure of equalization with the elite and the church. It led to the fomentation and spread of the Protestant Reformation. The printing press allowed the Scientific Revolution and forever and indelibly changed how we educate, it led to the education of the masses. It could be said that on that day, as was the monumental days of the birth of home computers and the internet, our collective human selves were born, or reborn.
[i] “Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin.” Harry Ransom Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/gutenbergbible/gutenberg/#top.>
[ii] Arthur, Peter. “The Printing Press.” The Printing Press. Text Technologies: The Changing Space of Reading and Writing, 2004. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://courses.educ.ubc.ca/etec540/Sept04/arthurp/researchtopic/index.htm>
[iii] “Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin.” Harry Ransom Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/gutenbergbible/gutenberg/#top>
[iv]Butler, Chris. “The Flow of History.” The Invention of the Printing Press and Its Effects – The Flow of History. The Flow of History:, 2007. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. http://www.flowofhistory.com/units/west/11/FC74>
[v] Arthur, Peter. “The Printing Press.” The Printing Press. Text Technologies: The Changing Space of Reading and Writing, 2004. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://courses.educ.ubc.ca/etec540/Sept04/arthurp/researchtopic/index.htm>
[vi] Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin.” Harry Ransom Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/gutenbergbible/gutenberg/#top.>
[vii] “The Gutenberg Printing Press.” Computer Science – Duke University. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <https://users.cs.duke.edu/~chase/cps49s/press-summary.html>.
[viii] Arthur, Peter. “The Printing Press.” The Printing Press. Text Technologies: The Changing Space of Reading and Writing, 2004. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://courses.educ.ubc.ca/etec540/Sept04/arthurp/researchtopic/index.htm>
[ix] “The Gutenberg Printing Press.” Computer Science – Duke University. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <https://users.cs.duke.edu/~chase/cps49s/press-summary.html>.
[x] Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin.” Harry Ransom Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/gutenbergbible/gutenberg/#top.>\
Okay, I just sat and reread this a 3rd time this morning and you know what…Fuck that…this is definitely an A essay. It is lovely and answers the call of the question perfectly and with a deep understanding of the material. It throws in theory (that I brought in with my own thinking) and modern day analogous figures (again my own doing) and then perfectly answered the question. I probably could have removed the one endnote that cites the fact of the number of Bibles still around…not really an idea, but come on, one extra endnote does not a B make.
So, the teacher gives me an 85% and says that my answering of the question was good but I should use more of my own words. What? Those were all my own words, exception…when I used direct quotes. When I make an outline I restate and make a reference. Then when I write the essay I go back to that resource and take special note not to direct quote without quotations. If he thinks I plagiarized, we need to go sentence by sentence so that I can disabuse him of this notion. I kept my outline, so I can take him through my thought process.
If he is upset about my voluminous endnotes…sorry. I didn’t know anything about Gutenberg. I had to get the info from someplace. You can see that what I did know prior, I didn’t cite. However, you have to cite your source even if you get just the idea from that source. If you didn’t know something prior, and you read that information from a web cite and then you restate that fact in your own words, you still have to cite where you took fact from, not just direct quotes. My God. So, I read a lot of stuff on Gutenberg to get to Foucault and my analogies and I put it together in fun and interesting ways…isn’t that what you are supposed to do? I am baffled. I will send my readers to Princeton University’s Guide on when to cite. See, folks….
I just gave end notes…I tried to ibid…but, as you can see, no source followed itself, just bad luck. If I were to do a Bibliography there would only be 5 resources and 2 were ones that our teacher sent us to, to get us started.
So, I sent a note asking him to reconsider. I am kind of feeling a bit bitchy about this. Mainly because I personally like this essay.