Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 08/31/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Diffley, Kathleen

First Committee Member

Glass, Loren

Second Committee Member

Rigal, Laura

Third Committee Member

Stecopoulos, Harry

Fourth Committee Member

Peters, John


Inventing Authors draws on a diverse strand of methodologies from literary, book, and media studies to rethink the practice of authorship in the context of media history, specifically during the founding age of technological invention in the United States between 1870 and 1920. The Age of Edison witnessed an unprecedented explosion of new media that threw into relief traditional ideas about writing, literature, and authorship. By moving beyond economic narratives of authorial history, Inventing Authors radically disperses the practice and profession of authorship across the cultural techniques that mark it up.

To rethink authorship in the midst of nineteenth-century media history, this project surrenders abstract concepts like "representation," "literature," and "culture" for the materialist rigor of what contemporary German media theorists call "cultural techniques" (Kulturtechnik), a term that combines an attention to media technologies with a focus on elementary techniques, skills, and practices, especially reading, writing, and counting. Drawing on material histories of inscription by Friedrich Kittler, James Beniger, and Lisa Gitelman, it engages authors not as artists, workers, or professionals in the market - the usual approach for studies of this period - but rather in mutually constitutive relationships with the skills, objects, and techniques that shaped the conditions of their possibility.

Like Edison at Menlo Park, authors in the second half of the nineteenth century inaugurate a future in which technical expertise and ingenuity, not originality and inspiration, control the field of representation. Each chapter excavates the technical training of an author to demonstrate how authors capitalize on available materials to engineer new methods for inventing and marking up reality. My introduction and chapters are focalized around four authors - Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Theodore Dreiser - and the cultural techniques that shaped their methods, writing practices, and literature. In this period of American history, authors began to register how their literary inventions were not merely disembodied experiments in style, but rather technical operations that processed language through different markup strategies. They were not just artists making art; they were editors and engineers processing bits of culture in ways correlate with the cultural techniques trained into them.


authorship, materiality, media, technology


ix, 279 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 268-279).


This thesis has been optimized for improved web viewing. If you require the original version, contact the University Archives at the University of Iowa:


Copyright © 2013 Craig Basil Carey

Available for download on Monday, August 31, 2020