Introducing Dr. Amanda Lastoria, the First Publishing PhD in North America

Dr. Amanda Lastoria’s PhD Defence at SFU Vancouver Harbour Centre on The Material Evolution of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: How Book Design and Production Values Impact the Markets for and the Meanings of the Text

Amanda Lastoria has earned North America’s first Ph.D. in Publishing (Simon Fraser University). She also holds an MA in Publishing (Oxford Brookes University), a BA in French/Arts and Culture (SFU) and a Diploma in Arts Management (University of London). Amanda’s research is critically informed by more than a decade of professional experience in the publishing industry. She has worked as an in-house employee and freelance contractor in a variety of roles, from production editor and production controller to copyeditor and proofreader to business manager and associate publisher. Amanda has worked on, for example, academic books, an online educational platform, an arts magazine, general interest ebooks and high-end trade books for companies in England, America and Canada. Her employers and clients have included both independent and multi-national houses like The Folio Society, Taylor & Francis/Routledge, Macmillan, and Random House, as well as self-publishers, a start-up imprint and a non-profit organization. Amanda is also former Editor of Lewis Carroll Review, and she has developed the standard list of titles for John Tenniel’s iconic Alice illustrations. Amanda is currently the Regional Liaison Officer to Canada for the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP).

On November 13, 2019, Dr. Amanda Lastoria successfully defended her interdisciplinary doctoral research, which explores the materiality of the book and the “material evolution” of the title. Lastoria uses multiple editions of a single title – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – as a case study through which she develops a critical understanding of the title’s positions in the market on the one hand, and the ways in which design and production values contribute to the creation of meaning on the other hand.

Addressing what she sees as a “lack of scholarship that rigorously investigates the look and feel of the book,” Lastoria analyzes 46 editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, tracing 150 years of the title’s “material evolution” through Anglo-American markets.

Using a combination of methods and tools – bibliography, book history, publishing history and literary theory – Lastoria documents, historicizes and interrogates the book’s power as a commodity. Lastoria takes us on a journey as we follow Alice through the title’s many incarnations and learn of the ways in which the design and production values are at once an echo and an aberration of Lewis Carroll’s original art direction. Lastoria concludes, “Alice, like all books, ought to be judged by its cover – and its paper, typography, ink, bind, endpapers, dustjacket and so forth” so that we can better understand “how the book targets a market and encodes a meaning.”

With gratitude, acknowledgements for this esteemed accomplishment go to Lastoria’s supervisors:  Prof. John Maxwell, Publishing; Prof. Michael Everton, English; and Prof. Stuart Poyntz, Communication; and to her examiners: Prof. Teal Triggs, Graphic Design, Royal College of Art; Prof. Michelle Levy, English.

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If you’re interested in getting the kind of education in publishing that allows you to dive deep into the history of publishing, or develop a scholarship that is as playful as it is rigorous, consider applying for the Master of Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University before February 1st.

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