Hurston/Wright Foundation | Elizabeth McHenry
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Elizabeth McHenry



Forgotten Readers

Elizabeth McHenry


Elizabeth McHenry’s work focuses on writers and the texts they produce; but she is also interested in recovering the history of readers and the context in which literary texts are distributed, received, and read. In her research and teaching she made wide use of local repositories of rare books and manuscripts, from NYU’s Fales Collection, to the New York Historical Society, to the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She read texts by African American authors alongside works by European Americans to explore the critical dialogue between them. Her first book, Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies (Duke UP 2002), relied on a variety of theoretical and disciplinary lenses to understand the epistemological and social conditions of print culture and literary community for African Americans between 1830 and 1940. Her next book looks at the nature of literary activity by African Americans at the beginning of the twentieth century, in an attempt to reconstruct more fully the complex literary landscape of the first two decades of the twentieth century. An introduction to this project appears in American Literary History (2007), “Toward a History of Access: The Case of Mary Church Terrell.”