Meredith McGill to present Wiggins Lecture, Oct. 6

Disappearing Medium: Poetry and Print in the Antebellum United States
By Meredith McGill
Monday, October 6 at 7:00 p.m.

The thirty-first annual James Russell Wiggins Lecture in the History of the Book in American Culture

Book historians have for the most part told the story of the rise of a mass-market for literature with reference to short fiction and the novel, leaving poetry curiously out of the picture until the arrival of America’s great printer-poet, Walt Whitman. And yet poetry thrived in the antebellum marketplace, circulating across a wide range of popular and elite print formats. Moreover, poetry was understood as a test case for the viability of American literature itself; many writers and readers assumed that the very possibility of a democratic culture depended on the fate of American verse. In this talk, Professor McGill will ask how we might understand the explosion of mass print as formative event in the history of American poetry, and how we might look to antebellum poetry as a primary means for taking the measure of the cultural impact of print.

Meredith McGill is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University. An elected member of the Society, she is the author of American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting, 1834-1853 and the editor of The Traffic in Poems: Nineteenth-Century Poetry and Transatlantic Exchange. The Wiggins Lecture, inaugurated in 1983, honors James Russell Wiggins, former editor of the Washington Post, former United States ambassador to the United Nations, and editor of the Ellsworth (Maine) American, and from 1970 to 1977, the president of the American Antiquarian Society.

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