“Speech-Manuscript-Print” is the name of a fantastic essay by D. F. McKenzie, originally published in Library Chronicle of the University of Texas (1990) and then recently reprinted in Making Meaning: “Printers of the Mind” and other Essays (Amherst: University of Massachussetts Press, 2002).

Here, McKenzie works at complicating the usual, sequential narratives of one form of communication supplanting another. And while these sorts of narratives are not always so explicit in making this claim, the assumption always seems to be there. Once we’ve established that print technology flourishes in eighteenth-century England, for example, we will perhaps not pay so much attention to manuscript practices, or we will only do so in isolation from considerations of print. One of McKenzie’s central points is that different forms of communication often (usually?) work in complementary, not competitive ways.

It is this sort of multi-threaded approach that I am attempting to take with eighteenth-century Methodists and their fellow travelers, and this is why I am paying attention not only to materials that tell me more about their publishing habits, but also their preaching and letter-writing and diary-keeping. I’m being relatively tight-lipped (metaphorically speaking) simply because I’m unsure of the liability of putting too much of my work-in-progress out there on the web before it’s made its way into the currently-valued-more-than-blogging medium of print.

For more on what McKenzie has published, have a look at this “unofficial” bibliography or find the (complementary) printed bibliography at the back of “Making Meaning”.

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