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Catalog Archive / Spring 2019

Against a Sharp White Background
Infrastructures of African American Print
Edited by Brigitte Fielder and Jonathan Senchyne

The History of Print and Digital Culture
James P. Danky and Adam R. Nelson, Series Editors

“Offering wide-ranging subjects and approaches, these essays usefully extend conversations in print culture studies that have grown even more intense and even more important over the last decade. This is a powerful collection.”
—Eric Gardner, author of Black Print Unbound: The “Christian Recorder,” African American Literature, and Periodical Culture

The work of black writers, editors, publishers, and librarians is deeply embedded in the history of American print culture, from slave narratives to digital databases. While the printed word can seem democratizing, it remains that the infrastructures of print and digital culture can be as limiting as they are enabling. Contributors to this volume explore the relationship between expression and such frameworks, analyzing how different mediums, library catalogs, and search engines shape the production and reception of written and visual culture. Topics include antebellum literature, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement; “post-Black” art, the role of black librarians, and how present-day technologies aid or hinder the discoverability of work by African Americans.

Against a Sharp White Background covers elements of production, circulation, and reception of African American writing across a range of genres and contexts. This collection challenges mainstream book history and print culture to understand that race and racialization are inseparable from the study of texts and their technologies.


Portrait of author Brigitte Fielder is an assistant professor of comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She has written extensively on race, gender, and species in nineteenth-century American literature.

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Portrait of author Jonathan Senchyne is an assistant professor in the Information School and the director of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has published several articles on print culture, material textuality, and the digital humanities.

Author's Website -




“This is an important field, and the work collected here is exciting in its range and diversity of voices, methods, and insights.”
—Stephanie Browner, The New School

“The questions that Fielder and Senchyne introduce offer paths for further investigation and refinement of our key terms of study. Moreover, by bringing scholars from a range of historical fields and subspecialties to a single volume, Against A Sharp White Background makes a compelling argument for collaboration among scholars of various geographies and historical periods. The collection pays forward the promise of theoretically charged engagements with the materials, processes, and products of African American print.”
The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America



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May 2019
LC: 2018045768 PS
336 pp. 6 x 9
28 b/w illus.

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Casebound $79.95 S
ISBN 9780299321505
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