Traditional Publishing

Why do books have chapters? How writing changed from antiquity to children's books and streaming – Sunday May 26, 2024

Nicholas Dames remembers the first time he really got thinking about a very obvious but largely invisible writing device.

It was around two decades ago, when he was completing a PhD in English and American literature.

"A friend of mine, who was not an academic, over drinks one night, just blurted out to me, 'why do novels have chapters?'," the Columbia University humanities professor tells ABC RN's Late Night Live.

"I realised I hadn't the faintest clue how to answer that question. It was one of those, 'why is the sky blue' questions."

In the years that followed, Professor Dames returned to this question again and again, so he decided to explore the history of the chapter.

The topic may sound deeply academic, but it's not all laborious details about medieval tomes.

At the heart of this history is how we tell stories.

And from a child's development to an evening on the couch watching Netflix, the chapter affects our lives in many unnoticed ways.

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