QWERTYUIOP: How the Typewriter Influenced Writing Practices

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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.

QWERTYUIOP: How the Typewriter Influenced Writing Practices

in Quaerendo

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References

1

Matthew Solan‘Tracking Down Typewriters’Poets and WritersSept.-Oct. (2009) p. 33.

2

Robert Messenger‘Typing Writers: an endangered species (but not yet extinct)’The Canberra Times14 February 2009 p. 16. The ibm Selectric survived this attack.

6

Peyrière op. cit. (n. 3) p. 19.

13

Ibid. p. 326.

14

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.

16

Ibid. p. 412. Carr wrote for Mack Sennett as well as magazine stories and cowboy poetry.

18

Wershler-Henry op. cit. (n. 14) p. 234; Bliven op. cit. (n. 17) pp. 114-15.

19

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.

20

Ibid. p. 118.

21

Peyrière op. cit. (n. 3) pp. 21-2.

26

Wershler-Henry op. cit. (n. 14) p. 247.

27

Kathleen Burk‘The Telly Don’BBC HistoryAugust 2000 p. 52.

28

Bliven op. cit. (n. 17) p. 38.

29

Catherine Viollet‘Écriture méchanique, espaces de frappe: quelques préalables à une sémiologie du dactylogramme’Genesis10 (1996) p. 199.

31

Viollet art. cit. (n. 29) p. 198.

32

Fine art. cit. (n. 4) p. 35.

33

Kittler op. cit. (n. 22) pp. 199 and 210.

34

Viollet art. cit. (n. 29) p. 204.

36

Ibid. pp. 387-8 entry of 24.9.1961.

38

Ibid. pp. 202-3 and 458.

39

Wershler-Henry op. cit. (n. 14) p. 47.

44

Hermann Hesse‘Die Schreibmaschine’März4 (1908) pp. 377-8.

45

Denis O’Driscoll‘Les Murray, The Art of Poetry, no. 89’The Paris Review173 (Spring 2005) at http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/5508/the-art-of-poetry-no-89-les-murray consulted 28 February 2014.

46

Viollet art. cit. (n. 29) p. 205.

47

Ibid. p. 204.

49

Viollet art. cit. (n. 29) p. 206.

50

Kittler op. cit. (n. 22) pp. 200-3.

51

Wershler-Henry op. cit. (n. 14) p. 51.

53

Goody op. cit. (n. 40) pp. 111-12.

55

Ibid. pp. 32-3.

57

Bosanquet op. cit. (n. 54) pp. 34-5; Kittler op. cit. (n. 22) p. 216.

58

Bosanquet op. cit. (n. 54) pp. 33-4.

59

Messenger art. cit. (n. 2) p. 16.

60

Goody op. cit. (n. 40) p. 112.

65

Ibid. pp. 28-9.

66

Ibid. pp. 165-6.

67

Ibid. pp. 153-4.

68

Ibid. pp. 167-8.

69

Wershler-Henry op. cit. (n. 14) p. 241 citing John Clellon Holmes Nothing More to Declare (New York 1967) pp. 78-9.

71

Hunt op. cit. (n. 63) pp. 112-13; Wershler-Henry op. cit. (n. 14) pp. 241-2.

73

Hunt op. cit. (n. 63) pp. 112-13.

74

Kerouac op. cit. (n. 72) p. 395.

75

Wershler-Henry op. cit. (n. 14) p. 243 citing Truman Capote in Gerald Nicosia Memory Babe. A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac (Berkeley 1994) p. 588.

76

Ferrier op. cit. (n. 41) p. 83.

79

Bosanquet op. cit. (n. 54) p. 36.

80

Twain op. cit. (n. 12) p. 324.

82

McLuhan op. cit. (n. 56) pp. 278-9.

84

Viollet art. cit. (n. 29) p. 207.

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