Visiting Research Fellow, July - August 2021
Home Institution: Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, New York University
Project Title: Writing’s Maker: Inscribing the Self in 18th-Century Britain
Writing’s Maker: Inscribing the Self in 18th-Century Britain examines the history of writing as a practice of documenting the self in mixed-media formats and broadens the conception of manuscript (“written by hand”) to encompass materials beyond pen, paper, and words. Under focus are four formats prevalent in eighteenth-century Britain: commonplace books, extra-illustrated books, pocket diaries, and penmanship copybooks. Their evidence shows that visual images, printed lines and text, and even the blades used for dismembering books to add pictures to them (extra-illustrate) all participate in the creativity that anthropologist Tim Ingold refers to as “the inscriptive work of the hand.” Forms traditionally treated as separate—such as print and handwriting, word and image—functioned as mutually constitutive writing media. In examining such media, this book project will demonstrate that daily information and archival management was practiced not just through diverse forms of writing, but also for literate subjects, as a consequence of being alive.