Track Changes: The Literary History of Word Processing
Mark Twain famously prepared the manuscript for Life on the Mississippi (1883) with his new Remington typewriter, the first literary text ever submitted to a publisher in typewritten form. Today we recognize that the typewriter changed the history and material culture of authorship. But when did writers begin using word processors? Who were the early adopters? How did the technology change their relationship to their craft? Was the computer just a better typewriter—faster, easier to use—or was it something more? And what will be the fate of today’s “manuscripts,” which take the form of electronic files in folders on hard drives, instead of papers in hard copy? This talk, drawn from the speaker’s forthcoming book on the subject, will provide some answers, and also address questions related to the challenges of conducting research at the intersection of literary and technological history.
Matt Kirschenbaum (Maryland) will give the 2013 McGill Digital Humanities Lecture. Dr. Kirschenbaum is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Maryland and Associate Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH, an applied thinktank for the digital humanities). He is also an affiliated faculty member with theHuman-Computer Interaction Lab at Maryland, and a member of the teaching faculty at the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School. Kirschenbaum served as the first director of the new Digital Cultures and Creativity living/learning program in the Honors College at Maryland.
A 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, Kirschenbaum specializes in digital humanities, electronic literature and creative new media (including games), textual studies, and postmodern/experimental literature. He has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, and was trained in humanities computing at Virginia’s Electronic Text Center and Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (where he was the Project Manager of the William Blake Archive). His dissertation was the first electronic dissertation in the English department at Virginia and one of the very first in the nation.