Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing

Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing

by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum


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The story of writing in the digital age is every bit as messy as the ink-stained rags that littered the floor of Gutenberg’s print shop or the hot molten lead of the Linotype machine. During the period of the pivotal growth and widespread adoption of word processing as a writing technology, some authors embraced it as a marvel while others decried it as the death of literature. The product of years of archival research and numerous interviews conducted by the author, Track Changes is the first literary history of word processing.

Matthew Kirschenbaum examines how the interests and ideals of creative authorship came to coexist with the computer revolution. Who were the first adopters? What kind of anxieties did they share? Was word processing perceived as just a better typewriter or something more? How did it change our understanding of writing?

Track Changes balances the stories of individual writers with a consideration of how the seemingly ineffable act of writing is always grounded in particular instruments and media, from quills to keyboards. Along the way, we discover the candidates for the first novel written on a word processor, explore the surprisingly varied reasons why writers of both popular and serious literature adopted the technology, trace the spread of new metaphors and ideas from word processing in fiction and poetry, and consider the fate of literary scholarship and memory in an era when the final remnants of authorship may consist of folders on a hard drive or documents in the cloud.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674417076
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/02/2016
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum is Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction: It Is Known 1

1 Word Processing as a Literary Subject 14

2 Perfect 33

3 Around 1981 51

4 North of Boston 74

5 Signposts 92

6 Typing on Glass 119

7 Unseen Hands 139

8 Think Tape 166

9 Reveal Codes 184

10 What Remains 207

After Word Processing 235

Author's Note 249

Notes 251

Credits 329

Acknowledgments 331

Index 335

Illustrations follow 126

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