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Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissanceby Ellen Gruber Garvey
Synopses & Reviews
Scrapbooks have been around since printed matter began to flow into the lives of ordinary people, a flow that became an ocean in nineteenth-century America. Though libraries can show us the vast archive--literally thousands of dailies, weeklies, monthlies, quarterlies, and annuals were flooding the public once mass-circulation was common--we have little knowledge of what, and particularly how people read. Writing with Scissors follows swimmers through that first ocean of print. We know that thousands of people were making meaning out of the swirl of paper that engulfed them. Ordinary readers processed the materials around them, selected choice examples, and created book-like collections that proclaimed the importance of what they read. Writing with Scissors explores the scrapbook making practices of men and women who had varying positions of power and access to media. It considers what the bookmakers valued and what was valued by the people or institutions that sheltered them over time. It compares nineteenth-century scrapbooking methods with current techniques for coping with an abundance of new information on the Web, such as bookmarks, favorites lists, and links.
The book is part of a developing literature in cultural studies and book history exploring reading practices of ordinary readers. Scholars interested in the burgeoning field of print culture have not yet taken full advantage of scrapbooks, these great repositories of American memory. Rather than just using evidence from scrapbooks, Garvey turns to the scrapbook as a genre on its own. Her book offers a fascinating view of the semi-permeable border between public and domestic realms, illuminating the ongoing negotiation between readers and the press.
Men and women 150 years ago grappled with information overload by making scrapbooks-the ancestors of Google and blogging. From Abraham Lincoln to Susan B. Anthony, African American janitors to farmwomen, abolitionists to Confederates, people cut out and pasted down their reading. Writing with Scissors opens a new window into the feelings and thoughts of ordinary and extraordinary Americans. Like us, nineteenth-century readers spoke back to the media, and treasured what mattered to them.
In this groundbreaking book, Ellen Gruber Garvey reveals a previously unexplored layer of American popular culture, where the proliferating cheap press touched the lives of activists and mourning parents, and all who yearned for a place in history. Scrapbook makers documented their feelings about momentous public events such as living through the Civil War, mediated through the newspapers. African Americans and women's rights activists collected, concentrated, and critiqued accounts from a press that they did not control to create "unwritten histories" in books they wrote with scissors. Whether scrapbook makers pasted their clippings into blank books, sermon collections, or the pre-gummed scrapbook that Mark Twain invented, they claimed ownership of their reading. They created their own democratic archives.
Writing with Scissors argues that people have long had a strong personal relationship to media. Like newspaper editors who enthusiastically "scissorized" and reprinted attractive items from other newspapers, scrapbook makers passed their reading along to family and community. This book explains how their scrapbooks underlie our present-day ways of thinking about information, news, and what we do with it.
About the Author
Ellen Gruber Garvey is Professor of English at the New Jersey City University.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Reuse, Recycle, Recirculate: Scrapbooks Remake Value
Chapter 2: Mark Twain's Scrapbook Innovations
Chapter 3: Civil War Scrapbooks: Newspaper and Nation
Chapter 4 Alternative Histories in African American Scrapbooks
Chapter 5: Strategic Scrapbooks: Activist Women's Clipping and Self-Creation
Chapter 6: Scrapbook as Archive, Scrapbooks in Archives
Chapter 7: The Afterlife of the Nineteenth-Century Scrapbook
What Our Readers Are Saying
History and Social Science » Military » Civil War » General