Presiding, Amanda Golden (New York Institute of Technology)
This roundtable introduces new considerations of New York literary and social history, including projects combining digital mapping and archival research. The presenters speak to New York's racial diversity, archives, book history, social welfare, and print culture. Addressing Manhattan from the nineteenth century to the present, this roundtable will shed light on New York's vitality in twenty-first century bibliographic and textual scholarship.
Mark Noonan (City Tech, CUNY), “At John Holt's Tomb: In Search of Lost Space in The City of Print.”
Across eras, New York disseminated news and produced creative content in a plethora of publications, ranging from newspapers, monthly reviews, and annuals to niche magazines covering political, social, or aesthetic matters. This history is the focus of my current book project, and served as the focus of an NEH Summer Institute “City of Print: New York and the Periodical Press,” which I directed. The 2015 Institute examined this important archive, yet to be explored as a collective whole. Twenty-five faculty participants came to better understand the evolution of New York’s periodical press, the shaping of readerships and genres, and the significance of place and literary space in the production of periodical literature. Participants took part in discussions led by cultural historians; participated in hands-on sessions in the periodicals collection of the New-York Historical Society, the NYPL, and The Schomburg Center in Harlem; visited iconic sites important to the rise of New York’s periodical press; and attended Digital Humanities workshops. As extensive as the institute was, capturing the totality of the City of Print remained elusive. This past year found me worshipping at the grave of one of New York’s most important publishers—“the liberty printer” John Holt—a site hitherto missed in prior explorations. Accordingly, this talk goes back in time to focus on Holt’s important career during the Revolutionary Era. It will simultaneously explore themes and issues raised by the institute, relating to the recovery of lost space and the relationship between the printed page and the topography of the city.
Kristen Doyle Highland (New York University), “Reading Historical New York City.”
In thinking of New York City as a text, we must think of it both as a material artifact and as a collection of ideas and practices. How does the one affect the other? In studying the historical city as a text, what are the “bibliographic codes” that hold it together, and how might elucidating those codes give us access into its cultural life? This short talk draws on my research into nineteenth-century New York City literary culture and examines how a critical inquiry into antebellum bookstores requires a shift in focus to make the city itself the object of study. In short, in order to understand the rise of the independent bookstore in antebellum New York City, we must “read” the city by tracing the dimensions of its built environment, identifying elided contributors, and noting margins of engagement. This refocusing asks us as literary scholars to expand the nature of evidence in our field as well as the methodologies for examining that evidence. I will pay particular attention to digital resources that aim to create various bibliographies and geographies of historical New York City, including “NewYorkScapes,” an interdisciplinary research community and developing digital hub based at New York University, and their value in making the city legible in ways that offer a more expansive conception of antebellum book culture.
Emily M. Silk (Harvard University), “Poetry Unbound: The Case of Christodora House”
This paper uses archival research to examine early 20th century literary endeavors at Christodora House, a settlement house founded on New York City’s Lower East Side in 1897. Flourishing between 1880 and 1920, the settlement house movement brought reform-minded volunteers to live and work in urban immigrant neighborhoods across the country. Christodora House, however, became a particular site of interest for a coterie of writers called the Poets’ Guild. Led by poet and social worker Anna Hempstead Branch, Guild members—including such poets as Edwin Arlington Robinson, Sara Teasdale, William Rose Benet, and Margaret Widdemer—worked with immigrant children in literature classes, poetry readings, and theatrical endeavors. The Guild also produced and sold a volume of poetry, The Unbound Anthology, to fundraise for Christodora House and encourage a love of poetry among young readers. With over eighty poems printed on individual slips of paper at five cents each, the Unbound Anthology was intended be a cheap and customizable reading experience.
In this paper, I intend to offer Christodora House as a case study in turn-of-the-century efforts to educate and “Americanize” immigrant youth through literary texts. This cultural history relies heavily on archival research, which I have conducted in the Christodora House Records at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library and in the Anna Hempstead Branch Papers at Connecticut College’s Linda Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives. Drawing on Branch’s manuscripts and correspondence as well as a set of poems from the currently un-digitized Unbound Anthology, this paper examines the Poets’ Guild as a story of how artistic communities sought to intervene in the education of immigrant youth, and compares these aspirations to the reality of life at Christodora House.
Angel 'Monxo' Lopez Santiago (Hunter College), “Tribes in the Global City: The Ethnic Archives of Cosmopolitan New York City.”
My previous research on national and city archives has shown New York City to be a place with rather wide disparities in terms of investment and budgeting, resources, and staffing between the non-ethnic archives/libraries (for example, the Fales Library at NYU), and the ethnic archives in the city (Center for Puerto Rican Studies Archive, Schomburg Center, etc). In broad terms, we see an archival segregation patterns that mirrors the hyper segregated state of public schools in the city. My research seeks to investigate from a comparative perspective the special issues and challenges faced by some of these ethnic archives that house the history and memories of the city’s ethnic and minority communities. I will also argue that these disparities, and the archival segregation pattern we see in New York City, are the product of a colonial logic of power and domination that needs to be faced head on by a decolonial praxis and approach towards archives.
Jonathan Goldman (New York Institute of Technology, Manhattan), “The Age of Innocence, the Lusk Map, and Babe Ruth: Archiving the Move from Boston to New York, 1920.”
This presentation considers three disparate archives of 1920 New York City as functions of the city's transitional moment and of the solidification of its role in the US geo-cultural imagination, established in opposition to its predecessor, Boston. Edith Wharton’s 1920 The Age of Innocence addresses New York and its geographic other, retroactively identifying a societal shift. The changes that Wharton dates to the late 19th Century become legible alongside the cultural contexts of 1920 New York, for example the 1920 Lusk Committee Map that surveys and labels New York City neighborhoods by ethnicity and national origin, and baseball player Babe Ruth, who in 1920 left the Boston team and joined New York. The Lusk Map constitutes an archival object that itself graphically archives contours of ethnic division, while Ruth’s unprecedented exploits are understood through the archive of baseball statistics. They illuminate how Wharton's novel, as a purported history of a key transitional moment 40 years before publication, claims archival status for the novel, and puts that archival impulse at the center of its fictional project. These texts, moreover, establish visuality and spectacle as the basis of the new society and its capitol. The Lusk Map of “racial colonies” bemoans the un-American-ness of city dwellers, Ruth’s home runs cause a widespread break with baseball tradition, and Wharton chronicles class contempt for the visibly nouveau riche. These objects cast archives as sites of cultural anxieties regarding a New York population altered in ethnic-geographical origins, class traditions, and cultural norms of décor.
Jonathan Goldman is Associate Professor of English at New York Institute of Technology, Manhattan and author of Modernism Is the Literature of Celebrity (U of Texas P 2011), editor of James Joyce and the Law (UP of Florida, 2017) and co-editor of Modernist Star Maps: Celebrity, Modernity, Culture (Ashgate 2010). His writings on 20th-century literature and culture appear in The Cambridge Companion to Ulysses, Cambridge Contexts: Bernard Shaw, James Joyce Quarterly, Narrative, Novel: A Forum on Fiction, The Paris Review, The Millions, Open Letters Monthly and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Kristen Doyle Highland earned her Ph.D. from New York University. Her article, “In the Bookstore: The Houses of Appleton and Book Cultures in Antebellum New York City,” was published in the 2017 edition of Book History and was awarded the Book History Essay Prize.
Mark Noonan is Professor of English at New York City College of Technology (CUNY). He is the author of Reading the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine: American Literature and Culture, 1870-1893 (Kent State UP, 2010) as well as many peer-reviewed articles including “‘Jump Back, Honey, Jump Back’: Reading Paul Laurence Dunbar in the Context ofCentury Magazine” (in We Wear the Mask: Paul Laurence Dunbar and the Representation of Black Identity), “Brooklyn Accents and the Paradox of Ambition in Norman Mailer and Arthur Miller” (in The Norman Mailer Review), and “Howling Mad: Allen Ginsberg, MAD Magazine, and the Cultural Politics of the 1950s” (in Seriously Funny: Humor in Journalism). He is co-editor of The Place Where We Dwell: Reading and Writing about New York City and is on the Advisory Board of American Periodicals, serving as its Vice-President. In 2015, he served as Director of the NEH Summer Institute, “City of Print: New York and the Periodical Press.” With James Berkey, he guest edited “War and Periodicals,” a recent special issue of American Periodicals.
Angel ‘Monxo’ López Santiago teaches at Hunter College’s Africana, Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Department, CUNY. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from CUNY’s Graduate Center, an MA in political science from Université Laval in Québec, Canada, and a BA in political science from the Universidad de Puerto Rico. He is also a GIS/Mapping and cartographic practitioner with over 10 years of professional and teaching experience. His current research centers on the spatial humanities, digital mapping, and historical GIS within the field of Latino Studies.
Emily Silk is a Ph.D. student in English at Harvard University, where she studies nineteenth-century American literature and culture. She is writing a dissertation on literature and the rise of American educational institutions between 1830 and 1920. She is also involved in online learning initiatives at Harvard, where she serves as a departmental Digital Fellow.