Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Time-Honored Concern

In a 1916 article from the magazine America, there is a summary of an argument made by Mr. Thomas L. Masson in a paper he wrote for another magazine called Bookman. His idea is that if Milton used a typewriter to write "Lycidas" or "Hymn on the Nativity", these poems would not be as good. Pen and paper, apparently, are the only way for an author to slow down and revise. It's fine to use the typewriter to "conform more closely to our modern standards of orthography" but the use of one for composition is met with the invective, "Perish the thought!"

The author of the column also concludes that the current dearth of quality literature in America is due to the number of authors who use a typewriter for composition. (Start reading from "That fatal...")

The entire idea of this blog is that the typewriter is an excellent way to compose writing. I (and others) actually believe that it is the superior way to compose writing. The computer marks a "crisis in the history of letters." With the speed of creativity no one takes time to slow down and work on writing. Revision is passe'. The typewriter offers a way for an author to select words carefully without the harsh distraction of the modern computer. Well, reading this column I can see that the concern over the typewriter edging out the traditional way of writing was a concern to early twentieth-century litterati.

The goal of my Classroom Typewriter Project has been to show that the physical act of writing on a typewriter allows a writer to focus. And through that focus become a better writer. In the teens there was a similar concern:

Is it natural that every iteration of technology causes people to worry about losing some ineffable quality of an older method? Did writing strike fear in the heart of the Chavet-Pond-d'Arch painter? Did movable type strike fear in the heart of the Lindsfarne monks?

If you want to read the entire on, Macduff!