The typewriter has been taken for granted and, in spite of Catherine Viollet’s pioneering work, it remains a blind spot in the history of writing practices. My article briefly surveys the metaphors (military, musical, etc.) with which writers responded to the machine, and I place its arrival firmly within the culture of modernity and the jazz age. I identify two common and contradictory responses to the typewriter from authors canonical and otherwise. Firstly, the typewriter alienated the author from his or her own text, which encouraged more deliberate and precise composition (example – Henry James). On the other hand, the ‘romantic typewriter’ offered opportunities for spontaneous and intuitive writing (example – Jack Kerouac). I lastly draw attention to the return of orality to writing practices, signaled by McLuhan. My source material consists of writers’ memoirs and published interviews, principally from English-language countries, as my title suggests.
Ibid. pp. 324-6. This essay was written in 1904. Twain’s faulty memory attributed the first typed novel to Tom Sawyer but this mistake repeated by several subsequent scholars was corrected by Darren Wershler-Henry The Iron Whim. A Fragmented History of Typewriting (Ithaca 2007) p. 225.
Ibid. p. 412. Carr wrote for Mack Sennett as well as magazine stories and cowboy poetry.
Wershler-Henry op. cit. (n. 14) p. 234; Bliven op. cit. (n. 17) pp. 114-15.
Bliven op. cit. (n. 17) pp. 116-30. After the introduction of Linotype compositors also raced each other competitively. I am grateful to Michael Winship for this information.
Ibid. p. 118.
Peyrière op. cit. (n. 3) pp. 21-2.
Wershler-Henry op. cit. (n. 14) p. 247.
Kathleen Burk‘The Telly Don’BBC HistoryAugust 2000 p. 52.