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tv2In Martvch 1974, a band called Television — Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell, Richard Lloyd, and Billy Ficca — played both their very first show (at Townhouse Theater on W 44th) as well as their first gig, a few weeks later, at a dive country and bluegrass bar on the Bowery recently renamed CBGB + OMFUG. They were not a country or bluegrass band. Within months CBGB had become a mecca for new music, underground rock and roll by New York’s unsigned bands, including The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and the Patti Smith Group. This is where punk rock was born.

Several events this week commemorate punk’s 40th anniversary:

Thursday, March 20, 7 pm, at The Strand, 828 Broadway: Richard Hell in conversation with Bryan Waterman, marking the pbk release of Hell’s autobiography, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp. [open to public]

Thursday, March 20, 6pm, third floor, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South New York University’s Fales Library and Special Collections presents the GoNightclubbing Video Lounge, a multi-media installation curated by Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong paying tribute to the infamous Danceteria Video Lounge, which they created in 1980. [open to public]

Friday, March 21 through Sunday, March 23, 11 am to 1 pm, Silver 401, NYU: “Punk and the City,” a three-day seminar as part of the annual American Comparative Literature Association meetings. Twelve presenters on a range of related topics, from Latin American punk to Pussy Riot. [registration fees apply]

so so glosSaturday, March 22, 7 pm, Great Hall at Cooper Union: Punk Turns Forty: A Plenary Sponsored by the American Comparative Literature Association and the Fales Library. Part I: Brandon Stosuy, editor at Pitchfork, interviews Richard Hell; Part II: Avital Ronell moderates a panel with Vivien Goldman, Kathleen Hanna, and Tamar-kali. [Free admission at 6:30 for ACLA conference attendees and at 7:00 for the general public, as space allows]

Saturday, March 22, 10:30 pm doors, Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South: So So Glos, with Household and Arm Candy, a concert to benefit Silent Barn. [$5-$10 sliding donation; all-ages]

Sunday, March 23, 5 to 8 pm, The Panther Room at Output, 74 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Classic Album Sundays presents Television’s Marquee Moon. Presenter: Bryan Waterman, author of Marquee Moon (33 1/3 series). [Tickets: $10 at the door or online here]

 

 

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As Annie announced on Tuesday, she and I will be posting Q&A’s with our Networked New York conference panelists over the next few weeks.  Speakers will elaborate on their work and questions the conference raised for them. Next up: Marvin Taylor, the Networked NY keynote speaker and Director of the Fales Library & Special Collections at NYU.

In your keynote, you emphasized that the Downtown Collection embraces materials that defy conventional “archival” designation and that in doing so, offers a model for how libraries, museums and other cultural institutions might relate more productively to one another.  Can you elaborate on the kinds of interpretive or categorical flexibility you’ve internalized or identified with the Downtown Collection?  What insights has it generated about defining “the archive” that might be applied more broadly?

There are two common processing strategies for archival materials: the literary and the historical. The literary model emphasizes the construction of literary works and the importance of biography to literary interpretation. These collections tend to be personal papers of authors, “personal papers” being the term for individual’s collections and “archives” the term for organizational papers. The literary model organizes materials according to various “series” or groups of like materials such as journals, diaries, correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, audio, video, etc. The emphasis in processing is on the draft versions of manuscripts that ostensibly show the process of the creation of a literary work. The historical model tends to be chronological and to look at the “great names” of history as a means of determining which correspondents, for instance, are more important than others when it comes to level of detail in “processing,” i.e. organizing and describing the collections. These traditional models do not work for artists’ papers, for instance—and perhaps never really worked all that well for literary and historical collections.  Artists work in very different ways. Objects are much more common in their creative process and serve as source materials. Traditionally, archives have shied away from collecting non-paper-based materials because of storage, lack of preservation expertise, and difficulty in describing such items. Of course, this is a prejudice within the epistemology of library and archival practice that is self-perpetuating. The same rationale removes all media from its context within a collection and all photographs to separate divisions of archives, if the materials are even collected in the first place.

At Fales we process all the materials from an artist’s collection together in the “finding aid” so that the intellectual organization of the artist’s materials is maintained. We separate the materials for storage, of course, but we are committed to maintaining the artist’s intellectual organization. My favorite example is David Wojnarowicz’s Magic Box. [See photo]. Wojnarowicz kept this old orange crate under his bed and didn’t tell anyone about its meaning, even his partner, Tom Rauffenbart. It contains about 80 objects, including a primate skull painted Klein blue, a plastic dog, a cloth snake, a metal globe, a crucifix, and other various objects. If you know Wojnarowicz’s work, you find physical representations of his set of symbols and metaphors that he uses in his painting, photography, films, and writing in the box. This is the very kind of thing that most archives would not accession or would refer to as “realia” and not describe in any detail. For me, the Magic Box is essential to understanding Wojnarowicz’s artistic practice and central to the collection. We borrowed descriptive methods from museum practice to accession each object in the box as a part of the whole, so there is a number for the box itself, a “parent record, and each object within it has a number as a “child.” We are able to blend these styles of description because of the flexible nature of Encoded Archival Description (EAD) that is used now as a standard to create finding aids. For me, each time I bring in a collection that confounds typical archival practice, I am reminded that libraries and archives are grand narratives of culture that impose the epistemology of their time onto materials rather than merely describing those materials. Downtown art questioned these structures of culture. Downtown collections query the library and archive in the same way. To adequately represent downtown work, I have to constantly be careful not to let the systems of the library and archive undermine the disruptive qualities of downtown work. This disruption that downtown work causes should make us look at all library and archival systems for their inherent modes of power and control.

Your talk included two especially striking phrases. First, described the Downtown Collection as offering a “genealogy of outsider practice.”  You also talked about needing to see punk’s shaping of the downtown scene as a geography and a metaphor.  Beyond the beauty of their language, these phrases also get at the heart of how the Downtown Collection re-imagines the cultural work that archives can do.  Can you say more about what these phrases mean to you?

I hope I didn’t say “punk’s shaping of the downtown scene as a geography and a metaphor.” What I meant to say is that I see the Downtown Scene as both a geographic and a metaphorical space. Punk would be a subset of the larger culture of that time period. I have never hidden the fact that I admire critical theory. I find literary work that does not engage with it unsatisfying. At the same time, I detest literary work that is jargon-ridden and intentionally obtuse. Time and again I have found that the work of the post-structuralists is very helpful to me as a librarian who thinks about the larger philosophical issues of how knowledge is created, how it is structured, how it is documented, how we collect it, how and what we preserve, and how power is displaced across time in the preservation of knowledge. The process of accreditation that libraries maintain is rarely questioned, but it should be. The post-structuralists taught us how to look at master narratives, interestingly, none of them looked at the library as such a structure. I’ve spent a lot of time doing just that. I found that special collections and rare book libraries were one of the most conservative and most heavily politicized places in library history. Book collecting and connoisseurship go hand in hand. Many people think of rare book and manuscript libraries as the lofty heights, off-limits to ordinary students, where only the most seasoned scholars are allowed through the locked doors. This was not the kind of special collection I envisioned. I wanted to document cultural moments as completely as possible so that whatever critical fad was in fashion, there would be resources for students and faculty to use for primary research. The downtown scene provided me with the perfect subject matter for just such a project. It also had the benefit of being our “neighborhood” collection and of supporting departments as varied as performance studies, American studies, drama, photography, English, art history, museum studies, and a host of others. To get around the connoisseurship model I devised a strategy for collecting that was based, in part, on geography. Anything that happened in downtown NYC, that is, below 14th Street, was game for acquisition. Of course, not everything below 14th Street was really “downtown” material, so some things that were not a part of the various scenes has been left out. (Post-twelve-tone chamber opera, for instance, didn’t make the cut.) And many things that are not downtown geographically are very “downtown.”  Think Dennis Cooper’s papers. So, my vision of downtown is primarily a geographically centered one that also has a metaphorical component. Anyone sharing the same sets of concerns as downtown artists might be included in the downtown collection, even if they were not primarily involved in the scene. The archive, as I conceive of it, can comprise much more cultural material than has traditionally been the case. And it should. Archives should be catalysts for change.

 Given your experiences with the Downtown Collection and other collections at Fales, what parts of the story would you say scholars sometimes miss when they use archives to tell the stories of subversive artistic or creative networks? Where should we be directing our attention? 

Archives are the fossil evidence of human experience. They are necessarily stripped of the quotidian context in which they were originally embedded. The practical, the daily, the mundane aspects of a person’s life may not be evident from the remains of their artistic practice, but they may be incredibly important to a more complex understanding of the artist’s life, work, and the broader cultural milieu in which he or she lived and worked. My best example is not from downtown, but from the scholarship on Oscar Wilde. Richard Ellmann’s monumental biography of Wilde is a thoroughly researched and masterfully written authoritative tome. There is one major part of Wilde’s life that Ellmann neglected to research thoroughly enough: his daily writing for Women’s Day—his day job. The archival materials about this are at the Henry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin. I find it very interesting, for instance, that Wilde may have been the first person to write about women’s fashion as an expression of “lifestyle” instead of merely discussing dresses and current fads. It seems to me perfectly aligned with his own self-fabrication and with the theme of self-created personalities that runs throughout his work. One can conjecture that Ellmann found the story of Wilde’s queerness in sexual terms, more interesting and more important for the focus of his biography, but there is another story about the working, family man that needs to be told along side the more sensational narrative.

At the opening of your talk, you gestured to the artistic and political communities beyond punk whose work gets documented by the Downtown Collection—especially the ephemeral traces and performative strategies of radical feminist and queer artistic activism.  What other material traces from other New York-area communities, movements or networks lurk in the collection? 

There are many other communities documented in the Downtown Collection. One very important one is artists’ collectives. SoHo was the breeding ground for artists who were trying to break the cycle of the commodity art world. By working together as collectives, groups such as the A.I.R. Gallery, Group Material, RepoHistory, Godzilla, and Artists Space created new possibilities for artistic production and display. Similarly, experimental theater collections such as Richard Foreman’s and John Vaccaro’s papers, and the archives of Mabou Mines, Eye and Ear Theater, Ohio Theater, Ubu Reporatory Theater, and Split Britches provide a window into downtown theater. Another subspecialty is public art. Such collections as Judson Memorial Church, Public Art Fund, Joyce Pomeroy Schwarz, and Creative Time reflect this community. Artists who use media make up another category with collections like Guerilla TV, Jaime Davidovich, Paper Tiger, and Deep Dish Television. Queer communities are represented by papers of Jay Blotcher, Alan Klein, Bill Bytsura, Lee Snider, Fred McDarragh, Frank Moore, Dennis Cooper, David Wojnarowicz, Gary Indiana, David Trinidad, Tim Dlugos, the Gay Cable Network archives, and many others. AIDS decimated the downtown scene.  Many of our collections reflect this devastation. Similarly, topics such as gentrification, drug abuse, sex work, police brutality, homelessness, performance art, experimental poetry and fiction, experimental music, installation art, postmodern dance, experimental film and video, and a variety of others are found in the collection. All of these areas have been collected intentionally to show the wide, overlapping, and cacophonous mess that was the Downtown Scene.

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This Friday, March 9, several of our Networked New York presenters will talk about spaces in the city around which literary communities and cultural “scenes” have emerged, from bookstores to Charles Pfaff’s beer cellar to urban blogs. In my take on the conference theme, I’d like to think about the operation of a similarly influential space – New York’s first free-standing reading room.

When we think of a reading room today, we might imagine the quiet, sanitized reading rooms of academic libraries. But for its earliest developers in the United States, the reading room, as much as a place to read or to retreat, was a place to interact socially and engage politically. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, advertisements for reading rooms emphasized the access they afforded to a variety of publications in addition to the opportunity to consume those publications in a shared space. These descriptions list collection materials alongside details of comfortable furnishings and promises of refreshment, suggesting that early American reading rooms, more so than their modern counterparts, were valued as establishments of sociability.

“In the Reading-Room.”

In October, 1797, Arondt Van Hook, a tannery owner and former jailor, opened on 149 Water Street what contemporaries called the first “Reading Room in America.” From eight in the morning until ten in the evening, the reading room provided visitors a selection of periodical and other texts as well as coffee and biscuits. The room itself, “pleasing and comfortable,” as one editor puts it, invited customers to settle in and immerse themselves in the available literature. Payment terms were designed for lounging readers instead of potential book buyers; subscriptions, made by the quarter, month, week, or day, permitted use in the room of any of the books with which it was furnished. For four cents, even the most casual reader might enjoy a sitting.

This affordable reading arrangement appealed to professionals and tradesmen as well as low-wage earners and travelers passing through the city. In his advertised business prospectus, Van Hook emphasizes that his reading room will cater to a wide range of people and interests: “This collection shall consist of Magazines, Reviews, Annual Registers, Handbills, Newspapers, Prices Current in the different States, and Pamphlets of every description, gathered with impartial profusion.” And, in the case two guests decide simultaneously on the same work, Van Hook promises, “there will be such provision made of every new article, that several gentlemen may be supplied at once, with the same production.”

Although hundreds of public libraries had been built throughout the previous century, most of them operated informally out of schools, churches, and printing offices and did not include areas where patrons could read the books they contained. Van Hook, on the other hand, gave visitors access to the material in his collection only for as long as they remained in his reading room. Not quite a library and not quite a bookstore, Van Hook’s new establishment was, more than anything, a common space for members of a community to practice reading. The reading room attracted visitors of a range of class and status and then compelled those diverse visitors to congregate within its walls. The dynamic atmosphere and close quarters invited readers to observe and read alongside one another as well as to engage in discussion concerning the most relevant texts of the day. Reading at Van Hook’s was a collective, rather than private, activity, generating what we might think of as an early social reading “scene” in Manhattan.

“The Reading-Room of the Fifth Avenue Hotel.---Discussing the News from Chicago.”

Van Hook’s new business was a sensation. An early reviewer declares, “We are happy to inform the public, that Mr. Van Hook’s plan of establishing a READING ROOM in this city, meets with merited success.” Another asks, “Where can a winter’s evening be more usefully or agreeably spent than in the Reading Room, where a delicious repast is prepared for the amateurs of literature?” Within a month of Van Hook’s opening, plans for other reading rooms began to circulate. One paper reveals that “Proposals are issued at Baltimore for a Reading Room, nearly upon the same plan with that designed by Mr. Van Hook in this city.” In New York, a group of “genteel Ladies,” frustrated by their exclusion to Van Hook’s, announced their desire to have “a similar institution for the instruction” of women.

Although Van Hook died of yellow fever in September, 1798, organized spaces for communal reading continued for years to be created according to his model. Of his successors in New York, a Frenchman, Hocquet de Caritat, became one of the most well-known. Hoping to produce through his room a community of intellectual and literary men, Caritat warns in his published solicitation that “it is not sufficient for gentlemen to give their subscriptions: their personal attention is also requisite.” According to Caritat’s vision of the reading room, in the evenings, “when the hurry of business is over, the subscribers will frequent the room for the purpose rather of exchanging ideas by conversation, than of seeking entertainment or instruction in the perusal of books.”

About the images: “In the Reading-Room” was published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1890, with an article, “Old New York Taverns,” which details the development of New York City taverns from Dutch houses of entertainment in New Amsterdam to the Tontine Association’s establishment of City Hotel in 1792. “The Reading-Room of the Fifth Avenue Hotel” is from an 1871 issue of Every Saturday. Although this image appeared more than 70 years after the creation of Van Hook’s reading room, it suggests the diversity of patrons, the communal atmosphere, and the spectatorial practices of reading typical of early national reading room establishments.

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For our last posts before the conference, Blevin and I decided to write a little about our own understandings of New York networks. As a native Brooklynite, I have a long-standing and deep-rooted interest in the ways artists represent the relationships that form here. Thinking about all of the networks in New York often overwhelms me, and so in order to talk about my understanding of the topic I’m going to lean on a poem that represents that sense of awe.

In 1948, Elizabeth Bishop published “Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore” in an issue of the Quarterly Review of Literature dedicated to celebrating her friend and mentor’s 60th birthday. In this poem, Bishop describes the multiplicity of networks that make up her experience of living in New York, including her own relationship with Moore. Bishop entreats in the opening line, “From Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, on this fine morning, please come flying.” At this point in the poem, it’s possible to read the bridge’s significance in a way that’s strictly literal: Moore is in Brooklyn, Bishop is in Manhattan, and the bridge connects these places and therefore also the poets residing in them.

The connections in the rest of the piece are not as straightforward as the one in this first line. It’s a hard poem to write about; Bishop’s portrayal of the sights and sounds of the city is dazzling. She electrifies the (dare I?) network of networks that are all somehow functioning at once in New York. Bishop points out the ways networks of natural life mirror networks of industry, for instance, when she writes, “The ships/ are signaling cordially with multitudes of flags/ rising and falling like birds all over the harbor.” “Facts and skyscrapers glint in the tide,” signaling that New York is a network formed by nebulous information, manmade structures, and the natural world. The mutable network of language itself is explicitly embedded in other networks: economic, as in “priceless vocabularies,” familial, as in “dynasties of negative constructions/ darkening and dying,” and natural, as in “grammar that suddenly turns and shines/ like flocks of sandpipers flying.” To disentangle all of these networks from each other would be to misrepresent the experience of New York.

In one sense, the poem reads like a dizzying list of inside jokes thanks to its density of metaphor. Moore delightedly responded to its publication, “Lots of things, lots of things that mean more to me than to anyone else!” Read this way, the original one-to-one connection in the first line stands: it is a poem primarily concerned with connecting Bishop and Moore. And yet, by the poem’s end, when Bishop repeats the first line, “from Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, on this fine morning, please come flying,” her use of comparison and juxtaposition throughout has opened up the possibility of interpreting the bridge’s significance metaphorically. Even if Moore hasn’t yet “come flying,” the reader has already made the trip to the city, and the bridge becomes a symbol for the many kinds of connection New York affords.

Please come flying to our exploration of New York networks next Friday, March 9. Full conference program here.

 

 

One late and last addition to our Networked New York panelists – Edward Whitley, author of American Bards: Walt Whitman and Other Unlikely Candidates for National Poet (2010) and Co-director of The Vault at Pfaff’s, a digital archive of art and writing produced by New York City bohemians in the mid nineteenth century. Visitors to The Vault can examine poetry, drama, fiction, social commentary, and art generated by patrons of Charles Pfaff’s beer cellar (which Karen Karbiener will discuss at Networked New York as a “living archive” of Walt Whitman’s experience in the city). Founded in 2006, The Vault includes biographies of people connected to the saloon, an extensive annotated bibliography of works by and about Pfaff’s bohemians from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and digital reproductions of all 157 issues of The New York Saturday Press, the literary journal to which many of these writers and artists contributed.

Whitley is also co-developing The Crowded Page, an NEH-funded computing project which enables users to map the social networks of literary and artistic communities. A great digital tool for thinking about some of the questions we’re asking at Networked New York, The Crowded Page challenges the idea of a work as the product of a single creator, seeking to make visible “the ways in which a complex network of friends, editors, neighbors, lovers, and fellow artists and writers informs the creative process.” At this stage, users can play around with data representing the mid nineteenth-century Pfaff’s community as well as the artist community centered in Greenwich Village between 1910 and 1920.

Whitley will be presenting “Digital Social Networks and New York’s First Bohemians” as part of Panel 2 (11:15-12:30, Community, Production, and Place) on March 9. For an updated list of panelists and complete schedule, visit the conference website.

Image from The Vault archive: “Urban and Suburban Sketches: The Bowery and Bohemia,” Scribner’s Magazine, January 1894.  

 

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4:00 – 5:30, Panel 4: Blogscapes and Digital Interaction (19 University Place, Great Room)

In May 2002, Dallas-born Brooklynite Maud Newton began her eponymous blog, driven by “the aim of finding others who were passionate about books, culture, and politics.” Newton elucidates for her many readers the multiplicity of networks that make up contemporary literary culture. She also contributes to these networks, both online and through other outlets. Her works of fiction and criticism have been featured in a number of publications, and she has discussed books on television, radio, and as part of the University of Pittsburgh’s Contemporary Writers Series. Twitter: @maudnewton.

 

 

 

Like Newton, Rachel Fershleiser of You Rach You Lose is concerned with bringing bookish people together. For the past six years, she ran public programming and social media for Housing Works Bookstore Cafe and now does community outreach for Tumblr. She’s also a Contributing Editor at SMITH Magazine and co-editor of the bestselling Six-Word Memoir books series. Regardless of professional affiliation, as Fershleiser herself said in a recent Jewcy interview, she remains interested in “providing people opportunities to interact with writers and readers, talk about favorite books, recommend them to others, turn strangers into friends and unknowns into bestsellers, all while figuring out that little thing we like to ominously call The Future of Books.” Twitter: @rachelfersh

For more information about Networked New York, visit the conference website.

 

 

4:00 – 5:30, Panel 4: Blogscapes and Digital Interaction (19 University Place, Great Room)

We’re pleased to be able to conclude a day of discussion about New York networks and communities with a panel comprised of New York bloggers, who will talk about the impact of digital landscapes on collaboration and publication in the city. Our panelists make up an exciting group of commentators on and observers of New York’s spaces, happenings, and literary and cultural traditions. Here’s a bit more about two of the blogs that will be represented, with more to come on the rest of the panel later this week.

The Bowery Boys, begun in 2007, is named for a gang who inhabited the streets north of the Five Points in the mid-nineteenth century as well as a group of comedic actors playing New York city characters in films through the 1940s and 50s. The acclaimed podcast and blog features conversations and posts centered around specific people, places, and moments in New York’s history, such as “Macy’s: The Man, the Store, the Parade” and “The Blackout of ’77.” As the bloggers, Tom Meyers and Greg Young, explain on their website, “The more people become interested in the city’s past, the less likely it is to be bulldozed.” You can follow them on Twitter @boweryboys.

Walking Off the Big Apple provides a catalog of up-to-date information on museums, parks, and cultural events in New York, but it specializes in offering self-guided, historically-informed walking tours by neighborhood through the city. (One I enjoyed following recently: A Walk From Lincoln Center to Zabar’s) The blog is run by Teri Tynes, whose mix of writing about and work on art and urban life happens to correspond nicely with our conference theme. When not strolling the streets, Tynes is an editorial and social media consultant for artists, writers, and filmmakers. Twitter: @TeriTynes.

Bryan and Cyrus suggested not too long ago a helpful list including these and other blog-based resources for New York City cultural history. And for more information about Networked New York, visit the conference website.

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We’re very excited to have Marvin J. Taylor of NYU’s Fales Library presenting the conference’s keynote address on Friday afternoon. Following panels on professional networks, material spaces, and literary coteries in the city, Taylor will discuss the Downtown New York arts scene of the 1970s as a “scene,” looking at what constitutes a “scene” and how social capital, monetary capital, and gentrification affected Downtown artists.

Taylor, Director of the Fales Library and Special Collections, founded in 1994 the Downtown Collection, which attempts to document the radical and often collaborative artistic production and culture that evolved in SoHo and the Lower East Side during the 1970s through the early 1990s. Today, the collection contains more than 12,000 printed books and over 15,000 linear feet of manuscripts and archives, including the personal papers of artists, documents of galleries, theatre groups, and collectives, and materials regarding AIDS activism and off-off-Broadway theater. Taylor is editor of The Downtown Book: The New York Art Scene, 1974-1984 (Princeton UP, 2006) and co-curator of the 2006 exhibition, “The Downtown Show: The New York Art Scene, 1974-1984.” (The New York Times wrote of that exhibition: “Remember Downtown? No, no, not the sanitized, respectable SoHo and Chelsea of today, but the real down-and-dirty Downtown, when the East Village was an art scene, punk and new wave rock assailed the ears, graffiti spread like kudzu, and heroin and extreme style were the rage.”)

Taylor has also held positions at the Lilly Library at Indiana University and the Health Sciences Library at Columbia University. In addition to his work on Downtown artists, Taylor began at NYU in 2003 the Food Studies Collection, which now holds more than 55,000 volumes and is the largest collection about food in the country. He is currently editing 101 Great Cookbooks, 500 Great Recipes, which will be released later this year, and he continues to write about Downtown New York, English and American masculinities, and queer theory.

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

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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.

As we get ready for Networked New York on March 9, Annie and I will be posting additional information about conference sessions and presenters. Our first panel that Friday morning considers emerging commercial spaces, professional associations, and institutional alliances in nineteenth-century New York City.

Here are the details:

10:00 – 11:15, Panel 1: Institution and Enterprise (19 University Place, Great Room)

1. Joey McGarvey, “‘The Good, the Great, and the Gifted’: An Introduction to the New York Fruit Festival”

McGarvey acquaints us with a spectacular event in New York City’s publishing history – the 1855 Fruit Festival at New York’s Crystal Palace. Sponsored by the city’s new Book Publishers’ Association, the Fruit Festival brought together for a feast of pears and apples some of the country’s most notable booksellers, publishers, and writers. Examining RSVPs to the event, contained in the papers of the Association’s secretary, McGarvey traces several generative themes: the uncertain place of successful female authors in mid-century professional print culture, the American investment in producing a national literature, the competition among New York, Philadelphia, and Boston to be considered the publishing capital of the U.S., and the struggle of publishers and authors to reconcile the demands of art and of commerce.

McGarvey is an M.A. student in the English Department at NYU, where she is completing her thesis on gender and genre in the Fruit Festival. In her time away from grad school, McGarvey is an editorial assistant at Knopf. She is also a founding member of the [tk] review.

2. Reed Gochberg, “Miniatures and Museums: Philanthropy, Cultural Institutions, and Edith Wharton’s Tableau Vivant”

Gochberg proposes a re-reading of the well-known tableau vivant scene in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (1905), where Lily Bart recreates a painting by Joshua Reynolds. Although literary scholars have suggested that this moment represents the conspicuous consumption of the Gilded Age, Gochberg explores it in relation to the operation of the city’s art galleries and museums, arguing that Wharton’s scene inverts both their aesthetic and philanthropic concerns. As she demonstrates Wharton’s pessimism about the ability of these establishments to restore beauty and bring “high culture” to a city motivated by status and money, Gochberg offers new ways of thinking about contact and conflict among New York’s nouveau riche, its longstanding elite, and the city’s cultural institutions in the late nineteenth century.

Gochberg is a doctoral student in English at Boston University, where she studies late nineteenth-century American literature and culture. Her research interests include American intellectual history and urban cultural history.

3. Kristen Doyle Highland, “Finding New York City in the Bookstore”

Moving between the rise of the dedicated bookstore in nineteenth-century New York City to contemporary battles to save the independent bookstore, Highland’s presentation explores how the physical space of the bookstore has come to frame ideals of urban life and community.

Highland is a doctoral student in the English Department at NYU, specializing in Early American and antebellum literature. Her research interests include the print culture of early national America, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century popular culture, and the Atlantic world. She is currently working on a dissertation, titled, “At the Bookstore: Literary and Cultural Experience in Antebellum New York City.”

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

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