The Intimacy of Paper in Early and Nineteenth-Century American Literature

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Jonathan Senchyne

The true scale of paper production in America from 1690 through the end of the nineteenth century was staggering, with a range of parties participating in different ways, from farmers growing flax to textile workers weaving cloth and from housewives saving rags to peddlers collecting them. Making a bold case for the importance of printing and paper technology in the study of early American literature, Jonathan Senchyne presents archival evidence of the effects of this very visible process on American writers, such as Anne Bradstreet, Herman Melville, Lydia Sigourney, William Wells Brown, and other lesser-known figures.

The Intimacy of Paper in Early and Nineteenth-Century American Literature reveals that book history and literary studies are mutually constitutive and proposes a new literary periodization based on materiality and paper production. In unpacking this history and connecting it to cultural and literary representations, Senchyne also explores how the textuality of paper has been used to make social and political claims about gender, labor, and race.

Cover design: Frank Gutbrod
Cover art: Detail of Historic Ream Wrapper from Gilpin & Co. c. 1820. Courtesy American Antiquarian Society. Torn paper by Sarah Richter/Pixabay


Preface and Acknowledgments


Chapter 1
Paper Publics and Material Textual Affiliations in American Print Culture

Chapter 2
The Gender of Rag Paper in Anne Bradstreet and Lydia Sigourney

Chapter 3
The Ineffable Socialities of Rags in Henry David Thoreau and Herman Melville

Chapter 4
The Whiteness of the Page: Racial Legibility and Authenticity

Reading into Surfaces