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This book explores the social significance of letter writing. Letter writing is one of the most pervasive literate activities in human societies, crossing formal and informal contexts. Letters are a common text type, appearing in a wide variety of forms in most domains of life. More broadly, the importance of letter writing can be seen in that the phenomenon has been widespread historically, being one of earliest forms of writing, and a wide range of contemporary genres have their roots in letters. The writing of a letter is embedded in a particular social situation, and like all other types of literacy objects and events, the activity gains its meaning and significance from being situated in cultural beliefs, values, and practices. This book brings together anthropologists, historians, educators and other social scientists, providing a range of case studies that explore aspects of the socially situated nature of letter writing.
Describing the epistolary practices of the Dutch elite in the period 1770-1850, this book shows how cultural ideals of sincerity, individuality and naturalness influenced the style and contents of letters and argues for the vital importance of correspondence to the performance of class, gender and familial identities.
A finalist for the Lincoln Prize, The Sea Captain's Wife "comes surprisingly, and movingly, alive" (Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly). Award-winning historian Martha Hodes brings us into the extraordinary world of Eunice Connolly. Born white and poor in New England, Eunice moved from countryside to factory city, worked in the mills, then followed her husband to the Deep South. When the Civil War came, Eunice's brothers joined the Union army while her husband fought and died for the Confederacy. Back in New England, a widow and the mother of two, Eunice barely got by as a washerwoman, struggling with crushing depression. Four years later, she fell in love with a black sea captain, married him, and moved to his home in the West Indies. Following every lead in a collection of 500 family letters, Hodes traced Eunice's footsteps and met descendants along the way. This story of misfortune and defiance takes up grand themes of American history—opportunity and racism, war and freedom—and illuminates the lives of ordinary people in the past. A Library Journal Best Book of the Year and a selection of the Book of the Month Club, Literary Guild, and Quality Paperback Book Club.
In this original study, Milne moves between close readings of letters, postcards and emails, and investigations of the material, technological infrastructures of these forms, to answer the question: How does presence function as an aesthetic and rhetorical strategy within networked communication practices?
The nationalization of the postal service in Italy transformed post-unification letter writing as a cultural medium. Both a harbinger of progress and an expanded, more efficient means of circulating information, the national postal service served as a bridge between the private world of personal communication and the public arena of information exchange and production of public opinion. As a growing number of people read and wrote letters, they became part of a larger community that regarded the letter not only as an important channel in the process of information exchange, but also as a necessary instrument in the education and modernization of the nation. In Postal Culture, Gabriella Romani examines the role of the letter in Italian literature, cultural production, communication, and politics. She argues that the reading and writing of letters, along with epistolary fiction, epistolary manuals, and correspondence published in newspapers, fostered a sense of community and national identity and thus became a force for social change.
Writing matters, and so does research into real-life writing. The shift from an industrial to an information society has increased the importance of writing and text production in education, in everyday life and in more and more professions in the fields of economics and politics, science and technology, culture and media. Through writing, we build up organizations and social networks, develop projects, inform colleagues and customers, and generate the basis for decisions. The quality of writing is decisive for social resonance and professional success. This ubiquitous real-life writing is what the present handbook is about. The de Gruyter Handbook of Writing and Text Production brings together and systematizes state-of-the-art research. The volume contains five sections, focussing on (I) the theory and methodology of writing and text production research, as well as on problem-oriented and problem-solving approaches related to (II) authors, (III) modes and media, (IV) genres, and (V) domains of writing and text production. Throughout the 21 chapters, exemplary research projects illustrate the theoretical perspectives from globally relevant research spaces and traditions. Both established and future scholars can benefit from the handbook’s fresh approach to writing in the context of multimodal, multi-semiotic text production.
The Life of Paper offers a wholly original and inspiring analysis of how people facing systematic social dismantling have engaged letter correspondence to remake themselves—from bodily integrity to subjectivity and collective and spiritual being. Exploring the evolution of racism and confinement in California history, this ambitious investigation disrupts common understandings of the early detention of Chinese migrants (1880s–1920s), the internment of Japanese Americans (1930s–1940s), and the mass incarceration of African Americans (1960s–present) in its meditation on modern development and imprisonment as a way of life. Situating letters within global capitalist movements, racial logics, and overlapping modes of social control, Sharon Luk demonstrates how correspondence becomes a poetic act of reinvention and a way to live for those who are incarcerated.

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