Christy Pottroff, Fordham University
Andrew W. Mellon Early American Literature and Material Texts Dissertation Fellow andMCEAS Consortium Fellow
“Early American Literature, Letters, and the Post Office”
At the heart of my dissertation is the premise that the U.S. Post Office Department--the nation’s first comprehensive social network and informational infrastructure--gave early Americans a way to understand national union. Not only did this early systematization of communication have a profound impact on textual circulation, but I argue that contemporary authors used representations of the postal system to negotiate the problems and promises of national union within their works. Each chapter draws upon the postal archive to argue for a range of intersections between the mail and the book. Building on recent work in print culture and temporality studies, my project draws out the geographical and temporal specifics of early American mail delivery, and theorizes how these underexamined material factors might differently orient scholars toward the study of early American literature.