Positioning the Word in Early New England


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project situates communications technology in an analysis of encounter and social power in seventeenth-century New England. Moving beyond models of inquiry premised on an “oral-literate” divide, I read within a continuous topography the mutual influences of indigenous signifying systems (wampum and oratory to painting and path-making) and the Puritans’ transplanted European literacies (printed settler accounts and sermons to manuscripts and rumors). Attention to the period before the 1638 establishment of the printing press in Massachusetts expands the scope of the history of the book in America and offers new insight into the mechanisms by which contact produced cultural change.