On The Writing Of The Insane

While browsing the internet, I stumbled across a website titled The Public Domain Review: A Project of the Open Knowledge Foundation. This journal is dedicated to celebrating writing and art that has fallen out of copyright.

One of the most interesting books on this web journal is On The Writing Of The Insane. This book, published in 1870, reproduces writings of asylum patients with comments from the asylum’s superintendent. Frequently, the remarks were in regards to the appearance of the writing as opposed to the content. This made me wonder: how is the legacy of authors who write exclusively in electronic formats different from the legacy of authors who wrote exclusively on paper? How is this different from authors who use both paper and e-formats for their writing process?

On one hand, the work produced electronically is cleaner: critics only have the content of the writing to comment on. On the other, author’s notes tend to be unsaved, deleted with earlier versions of the work, margin notes are nonexistent, and the transparency of the process that once existed with a wholly paper system is now quite limited.

This may be neither good nor bad–but it will certainly alter literary criticism for decades to come, especially when dealing with authors who practiced exclusively in electronic formats.

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 11.18.29 AMAbove, a page from the text On The Writing Of The Insane

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7 responses to “On The Writing Of The Insane

    • I would like to continue on this topic, but I realized that I really need to do some more research to back up anything I say.

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