Handwriting in Early America
A Media History
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
As digital communication has become dominant, commentators have declared that handwriting is a thing of the past, a relic of an earlier age. This volume of original essays makes it clear that anxiety around handwriting has existed for centuries and explores writing practices from a variety of interdisciplinary fields, including manuscript studies, Native American studies, media history, African American studies, book history, bibliography, textual studies, and archive theory.
By examining how a culturally diverse set of people grappled with handwriting in their own time and weathered shifting relationships to it, Handwriting in Early America uncovers perspectives that are multiethnic and multiracial, transatlantic and hemispheric, colonial and Indigenous, multilingual and illiterate. Essays describe a future of handwriting as envisioned by practitioners, teachers, and even government officials of this time, revealing the tension between the anxiety of loss and the need to allow for variations going forward.
Contributors include James Berkey, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, John J. Garcia, Desirée Henderson, Frank Kelderman, Michelle Levy, Lisa Maruca, Christen Mucher, Alan Niles, Seth Perlow, Carla L. Peterson, Sarah Robbins, Patricia Jane Roylance, and Danielle Skeehan.
“This is an exciting collection. To see handwriting as a kind of media—and to understand that media form as intersectional—is a major and most welcome shift in how scholars understand the material texts of early America and is crucially important for the field moving forward.”—Megan Walsh, author of The Portrait and the Book: Illustration and Literary Culture in Early America
“This new collection is a key intervention in literary studies. Its essays vary from the most canonical writers (Bradstreet, Poe, Emerson) to more obscure figures whose texts inform the ways scholars understand writing, textuality, and intermediality.”—Hilary E. Wyss, author of English Letters and Indian Literacies: Reading, Writing, and New England Missionary Schools, 1750–1830