Where possible, my published work has been deposited in the Humanities Commons’s open access repository: CORE.
My ORCiD is https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0090-3176.
My GoogleScholar profile can be found here.
The Intimacy of Paper in Early and Nineteenth-Century American Literature. University of Massachusetts Press Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book series (Forthcoming).
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 the peddlers collecting them. Making a bold case for the importance of printing and paper technology in the study of early American literature, Senchyne presents archival evidence of the effect 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.
“Senchyne writes paper back into the story of American literary history with implications for book history and literary criticism alike. As he demonstrates, the intersections between print and paper, between ostensible foreground and background, are surprisingly generative, with implications for how we read (and hold and look at) printed works.”
—Susan M. Ryan, author of The Moral Economies of American Authorship: Reputation, Scandal, and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Marketplace
“Senchyne finds new interpretative possibilities in the main ingredient of books and paper, not just a substrate for writing and printing, but a form of expression in its own right.”
—John Bidwell, author of American Paper Mills, 1690–1832
Against a Sharp White Background: Infrastructures of African American Print, (co-edited with Brigitte Fielder) University of Wisconsin Press, Series in the History of Print and Digital Culture. (Forthcoming 2019) [LINK/Preorder]
The work of black writers, editors, publishers, and librarians is deeply embedded in the history of American print culture, from slave narratives to digital databases. While the printed word can seem democratizing, it remains that the infrastructures of print and digital culture can be as limiting as they are enabling. Contributors to this volume explore the relationship between expression and such frameworks, analyzing how different mediums, library catalogs, and search engines shape the production and reception of written and visual culture. Topics include antebellum literature, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement; “post-Black” art, the role of black librarians, and how present-day technologies aid or hinder the discoverability of work by African Americans.
Against a Sharp White Background covers elements of production, circulation, and reception of African American writing across a range of genres and contexts. This collection challenges mainstream book history and print culture to understand that race and racialization are inseparable from the study of texts and their technologies.
“Offering wide-ranging subjects and approaches, these essays usefully extend conversations in print culture studies that have grown even more intense and even more important over the last decade. This is a powerful collection.”
—Eric Gardner, author of Black Print Unbound: The “Christian Recorder,” African American Literature, and Periodical Culture
“This is an important field, and the work collected here is exciting in its range and diversity of voices, methods, and insights.”
—Stephanie Browner, The New School
Featuring essays by P. Gabrielle Foreman, E. James West, Laura Helton, James Casey, Beth McCoy, Jasmine Montgomery, Kinohi Nishikawa, Barbara Hochman, Jesse Goldberg, John Ernest, Rian Bowie, Leif Eckstrom, Britt Rusert, Aria Halliday, Michaël Roy, and Bryan Sinche.
“Bottles of Ink and Reams of Paper: Clotel, Racialization, and the Material Culture of Print” Early African American Print Culture eds. Lara Langer Cohen and Jordan Alexander Stein, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012. [LINK] [LINK]
“This essay argues that greater attention to the signiﬁcance of the material culture of print, especially in early African American print culture, shows how technologies of racialization emerge in conjunction with technologies of printed words and images. The stereotype is perhaps the most familiar case. In one sense it oﬀers quick reproduction of legible text, and in another it offers quick reproduction of a legible social type. In the rest of this essay, I examine how another technology of legibility, black/white dualism, structures both print legibility and racial legibility. This essay proposes that the material culture of whiteness in antebellum print culture participates in nineteenth-century racial formation by modeling how whiteness is to be seen while unseen, providing the structural backdrop against which marks or types become legible. I will focus on the materiality of paper (and to a lesser extent, ink) because, as Brown himself suggests in the opening sentences of the 1867 edition of Clotel, these materials transmit the author’s writing about racial categorizations of blackness and whiteness while they also shape the sensus communis about whiteness, blackness, and structures of legibility and visibility. Reading print relies on making meaning out of the diﬀerence between black and white, and in the antebellum period where black ink and white paper were racially coded, the black/white dualism underwriting print legibility further naturalized black/white racial dualism by implying the possibility of “reading” bodies in relation to one another.”
“Theories of the public sphere and of imagined political communities of shared reading have had lasting effects on the theoretical conceptualization of Americanist book history, but they also largely overlook the materiality of texts in ways that early and nineteenth-century American readers and writers did not. This essay reads early and nineteenth-century American texts about paper that show how affiliation and political community could inhere within material texts. Further, it argues that an orientation toward textual materiality can help us reveal publics that are more inclusive of women, nonwhites, and nonelites.”
“Between Knowledge and Metaknowledge: Shifting Disciplinary Borders in Digital Humanities and Library and Information Studies” Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, eds. Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Kline, University of Minnesota Press, 2016. [Open Access Link] [LINK] [LINK]
“The emergence of the digital humanities in specialized disciplines and librarianship alike necessitates a recalibration of this allocation of knowledge and practice. DH in the disciplines has brought discussion of metaknowledge—data structures, archival and editorial standards, digital curation and representation—into the graduate education of disciplinary specialists. But what about in LIS graduate education, where metaknowledge training has long been the standard model? To train digital humanities librarians, unique from digital librarians or generalist academic librarians, LIS programs and students need to spend more than a figurative six hours on a humanities subject compared to 147 hours organizing and representing information about it. I take Dickinson’s temporal division of knowledge labor as symbolic of divisions that have been fairly consistent in LIS education and practice from Dickinson’s time until ours.”
“Because nineteenth-century paper was made from rags, the materiality of paper money became a likely ground from which to debate the nature of value in modern capitalism. On one hand, if paper money was backed by nothing but itself, then it was worth little more than itself: a gathering of lowly rags. On the other hand, the process of turning trashed rags into valuable paper modeled how capital could seem to grow out of nothing. Two nineteenth-century literary narratives provide examples of how rags performed considerable social and metaphorical work in the construction of an epistemology of capitalism and its “paper technologies.”
“Vibrant Material Textuality: New Materialism, Book History, and the Archive in Paper” Studies in Romanticism 57.1 (Spring 2018) 67-85. [LINK]
“Here I look to the ways both material text studies might be prompted by, and improve upon, thinking in new materialism. The result is that paper could be read for how histories and narratives seep into the paper record and require accounts of agentic materiality lest they be lost or muted. In what follows, I use stories about rag paper as points of departure for thinking about the material turn in both contemporary theoretical discourse and book history together. Both, I think, attempt to understand the meanings and effects of material actors. Taken together, however, they can provide greater insight into the meanings of texts as objects, and a more complete sense of what is in our archives. Finally, I argue that book history’s disciplinary habits of moving between a text’s material presence, or bibliographic code, and its linguistic code, might provide a model for literary critics pondering current theoretical work in new materialism and the agency of things.”
Transcription of and introduction to newly discovered George Morton Horton manuscript, “Individual Influence.””Individual Influence” is an essay in Horton’s hand, collected in the papers of Henry Harrisse with documents related to the 1856 Chapel Hill “Black Republican” abolition controversy, about the balance of influence between the “terrestrial” and “celestial,” the worldly and the spiritual influences.
“Thoreau’s relation to print culture was complicated and at times contradictory, but from his writing life to his family business, he was shaped by it. Scholars note that he was both successful and a failure as a professional author. He published books and articles made possible by technological changes in papermaking and printing to his west on the Housatonic River, and business and market developments in publishing to his east in Boston. Some of these changes brought him a measure of money and renown, and others left him surrounded in his own home by an “inert mass” of unsold paper and print. He wanted to publish in the periodical press and with successful book publishers, and he sold graphite to printers to supply the making of plates. Yet, at the same time he also argued that print offered an insufficient secondhand experience of the world of bodies and things. Nineteenth-century American print culture offered challenges and openings to Transcendentalist thinkers. Noting the ever-expanding scale of print production of print in their lifetimes, Emerson lamented that one could no longer hope to read everything printed, and Thoreau argued against reading anything except the world itself. Both continued to publish their work in books and periodicals. “Much is published, but little printed,” Thoreau writes in “Sounds,” leaving readers to wonder what it meant to leave an impression on the world in the middle of the nineteenth century (W 111).”
(as second author, with Mei Zhang) “Libraries and Publisher Price Control: The Net Price System 1901-1914 and Contemporary E-book Pricing” Libraries: Culture, History, and Society 1.2 (2017) 171-193. [LINK] [LINK]
“This paper explores how librarians have responded to publisher and distributor controls over the valuation of books in of two different, yet related, historical periods. The paper introduces the history of the net price system, a book price control system employed in the early twentieth century, and historicizes library, publisher, and distributor relations within this system. It describes tensions between stakeholders that led to the net price system, reactions to this new arrangement, and its impact on library book buying practices. Turning to similarities in digital book pricing in the present, the paper focuses on how stakeholders negotiate their interests relative to the “fragility,” or uncertain market value, of cultural commodities such as books in either paper or electronic format. Finally, the paper explores how libraries, publishers, and distributors each struggle to gain power in library book pricing.”
“Under Pressure: Reading Material Textuality in the Recovery of Early African American Print” Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory (forthcoming)
“Enslaved printers created vast amounts of documentation when they literally created documents with their minds and bodies at the press. Yet the presence of these people remains largely illegible because our ways of reading print privilege its alphabetic content. That is, we tend to read for the work of writers and editors, not printers…. From its first issue in October 1756 until the late 1780s or early 1790s, [the New-Hampshire Gazette] was printed by an enslaved African American man, Primus Fowle. I offer a survey of issues in book history, print culture, and information studies that combine with questions in the history of slavery to produce the specific aporia where Primus Fowle’s work rests.”