Networked New York, Annotated Program, Part 2

Our second panel considers various literary communities, and the ways in which affiliations among their members are represented in archives.

11:15 – 12:30, Panel 2: Community, Production, and Place (19 University Place, Great Room)

1. Steven Smith “Gotham’s Grub Street: The Development of New York’s Publishing Trade, 1783-1830”

Using city directories, manuscript account books, city tax records, and census data, Smith reconstructs the physical place wherein printers, booksellers, bookbinders, and their users existed in New York from the mid-eighteenth-century to the 1830s. Bound by William Street, Pearl Street, and the East River waterfront, the community Smith discusses was teeming with these bookmakers, their apprentices, and journeymen. His paper argues that these groups’ close proximity – some resided next door to each other or only a few steps away – fostered mutual economic improvement and an artisanal identity that bolstered the expansion of the city’s publishing industry.

Smith is a doctoral candidate in the history department at the University of Missouri. He is currently working on his  dissertation, titled “A World the Printers Made: Print Culture in New York, 1783‐1830.”

2. Cecily Swanson “‘Personal-Experiences-Personally-Experienced’: Gurdjieff and the Harlem Renaissance”

In this paper, Swanson turns her attention to the social relationships structuring literary experience. Discussing the activities of two 1920s and 1930s reading groups devoted to the writings of mystic George Gurdjieff, she argues that participants (who were themselves writers) highlighted the non-textual dimensions of reading and writing, and found within these groups a strong sense of literary identity without the burden of producing acclaimed literature. Specifically, her research suggests that Jean Toomer conceived of his Harlem reading group as a “masculine” alternative to the more classic female salon sociability of a Parisian group of lesbian women. Swanson uses archival sources to demonstrate that, ironically, Toomer’s New York group provides an early example of the salon’s contemporary manifestation: book clubs run by women, where an individual or group’s personal relationships to books is of more importance than the books themselves.

Swanson is a doctoral candidate in the English department at Cornell. Her dissertation, “‘A Circle is a Necessity’: American Women Modernists and the Aesthetics of Sociability,” considers the legacy of salon conversation for writers who conceived of literature as not just a text, but also a way of talking.

3. Micki McGee, “The Yaddo Archive Project”

McGee discusses the Yaddo Archive Project’s interactive online tool for mapping the relationships between the artists, writers and composers affiliated with Yaddo, the artists’ colony in upstate New York. Yaddo’s archive was transferred to the New York Public Library, and in 2008  McGee curated an exhibition based on those materials.  As part of that project, and ongoing through the present, a team of researchers have been mapping the relationships of the artists, writers, composers and other individuals represented in that collection, many of whom were based in New York City.

Micki McGee is a member of the sociology faculty at Fordham University.  Dr. McGee’s second book, Yaddo: Making American Culture (Columbia UP, 2008), is a comprehensive critical and historical survey of the well-known Saratoga Springs, NY artists’ and writers’ colony and its impact on twentieth-century American culture.

For the full program of Networked New York, visit the conference website.