The Material Culture of Writing
edited by Cydney Alexis and Hannah J. Rule University Press of Colorado, 2022 Library of Congress P211.7.M38 2022 | Dewey Decimal 302.2244
The Material Culture of Writing opens up avenues for understanding writing through scholarship in material culture studies. Contributors to this volume each interrogate an object, set of objects, or writing environment to reveal the sociomaterial contexts from which writing emerges. The artifacts studied are both contemporary and historical, including ink, a Victorian hotel visitors’ book, Moleskine notebooks, museum conservators’ files, an early twentieth-century baby book, and a college campus makerspace. Close study of such artifacts not only enriches understanding of what counts as writing but also offers up the potential for rich current and historical inquiry into writing artifacts and environments.
The collection features scholars across the disciplines—such as art, art history, English, museum studies, and writing studies—who work as teachers, historians, museum curators/conservators, and faculty. Each chapter features methods and questions from contributors’ own disciplines while at the same time speaking to writing studies’ interest in writers, writing identity, and writing practice. The authors in this volume also work with a variety of methodologies, including literary analysis, archival research, and qualitative research, providing models for the types of research possible using a material culture studies framework. The collection is organized into three sections—Writing Identity, Writing Work, Writing Genre—each with a contextualizing introduction from the editors that introduces the chapters themselves and imagines possible directions for writing studies research facilitated by material culture studies.
The Material Culture of Writing serves as an accessible introduction to work in material culture studies for writing studies scholars, graduate students, and undergraduates, especially as it makes a distinctive contribution to writing studies in its material culture studies approach. Because of the interdisciplinarity of material culture studies and this volume’s contributors, this collection will appeal to a wide range of scholars and readers, including those interested in writing studies, the history of the book, print culture, genre studies, archival methods, and authorship studies.
Contributors: Cydney Alexis, Debby Andrews, Diane Ehrenpreis, Keri Epps, Desirée Henderson, Kevin James, Jenny Krichevsky, Anne Mackay, Emilie Merrigan, Laura R. Micciche, Hannah J. Rule, Kate Smith
A fascinating addition to rhetoric scholarship, Rhetoric, Through Everyday Things expands the scope of rhetorical situations beyond the familiar humanist triad of speaker-audience-purpose to an inclusive study of inanimate objects.
The fifteen essays in Rhetoric, Through Everyday Things persuasively overturn the stubborn assumption that objects are passive tools in the hands of objective human agents. Rhetoric has proved that forms of communication such as digital images, advertising, and political satires do much more than simply lie dormant, and Rhetoric, Through Everyday Things shows that objects themselves also move, circulate, and produce opportunities for new rhetorical publics and new rhetorical actions. Objects are not simply inert tools but are themselves vibrant agents of measurable power.
Organizing the work of leading and emerging rhetoric scholars into four broad categories, the collection explores the role of objects in rhetorical theory, histories of rhetoric, visual rhetoric, literacy studies, rhetoric of science and technology, computers and writing, and composition theory and pedagogy. A rich variety of case studies about objects such as women’s bicycles in the nineteenth century, the QWERTY keyboard, and little free libraries ground this study in fascinating, real-life examples and build on human-centered approaches to rhetoric to consider how material elements—human and nonhuman alike—interact persuasively in rhetorical situations.
Taken together, Rhetoric, Through Everyday Things argues that the field of rhetoric’s recent attention to material objects should go further than simply open a new line of inquiry. To maximize the interdisciplinary turn to things, rhetoricians must seize the opportunity to reimagine and perhaps resolve rhetoric’s historically problematic relationship to physical reality and ontology. By tapping the rich resource of inanimate agents such as "fish, political posters, plants, and dragonflies,” rhetoricians can more fully grasp the rhetorical implications at stake in such issues.