Habitual Rhetoric

Digital Writing before Digital Technology

Habitual Rhetoric beautifully collects scholarship around well-known texts and defamiliarizes them as precursors for our contemporary habits as readers, writers, and users of text. This volume enlivens medieval books and reading and writing habits by making them legible to contemporary readers. In doing so, Mueller demonstrates the impact that archival research and close attention to early texts can have for our own metacognitive understanding of how we interact with each other and produce knowledge through writing. The author seamlessly and thoroughly incorporates medieval scholarship as well as contemporary media theory and theorists while still keeping the texts’ unique throughlines front and center.
Margaret Simon, North Carolina State University

Request Exam or Desk Copy. Request Review Copy

Writing has always been digital. Just as digits scribble with the quill or tap the typewriter, digits compose binary code and produce text on a screen. Over time, however, digital writing has come to be defined by numbers and chips, not fingers and parchment. We therefore assume that digital writing began with the invention of the computer and created new writing habits, such as copying, pasting, and sharing. Habitual Rhetoric: Digital Writing before Digital Technology makes the counterargument that these digital writing practices were established by the handwritten cultures of early medieval universities, which codified rhetorical habits—from translation to compilation to disputation to amplification to appropriation to salutation—through repetitive classroom practices and within annotatable manuscript environments. These embodied habits have persisted across time and space to develop durable dispositions, or habitus, which have the potential to challenge computational cultures of disinformation and surveillance that pervade the social media of today.

about the author

Alex Mueller

Alex Mueller is associate professor of English and director of English teaching at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He is also the book review editor for Arthuriana.

learn more
Alex Mueller