In Thinking Outside the Book, Augusta Rohrbach works through the increasing convergences between digital humanities and literary studies to explore the meaning and primacy of the book as a literary, material, and cultural artifact. Rohrbach assembles a rather unlikely cohort of nineteenth-century women writers—Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, Sojourner Truth, Hannah Crafts, Augusta Evans, and Mary Chesnut—to consider the publishing culture of their period from the perspective of our current digital age, bringing together scholarly concepts from both print culture and new media studies.
In nineteenth-century America, women from a variety of racial and class affiliations were bombarding the print market with their literary productions, taking advantage of burgeoning rates of literacy and advances in publishing technology. Their work challenged prevailing modes of authorship and continues to do so today. Each chapter of Thinking Outside the Book positions a focal figure as both paradigmatic and problematic within the context of key terms that define the study of the book. In lieu of terms such as literacy, authorship, publication, edition, and editor, Rohrbach develops an alternate typology that includes mediation, memory, history, testimony, and loss. Recognizing that the field spans radio, cinema, television, and the Internet, she draws comparisons to the present day, when Web 2.0 allows writers from varying backgrounds and positions to seek out readers without “gatekeepers” limiting their exposure.
More than a literary history, this book takes up theories of recovery, literacy, authorship, narrative, the book, and new media in connection with race, gender, class, and region.