How Literature Became Word Perfect

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 10.31.21 AMEvelyn Berezin pitched her Ms. ad to women in the workplace, but Berry’s praise for the wife who can out-process Microsoft Word shows that the literary history of word processing is also gendered in a way that is perhaps beyond the historian’s reach. There can be no true distinction drawn between the effect of word processing on the literary imagination and its intervention in the working lives of the women employed as noncreative automata. The data are skewed. Women typists are visible in the historical record when they are working for money in an office environment, but invisible almost everywhere else—slipping between categories, in and out of the credits. How can we know who was working where, what relationship each female amanuensis had with each new device that came to take her work away? Kirschenbaum’s book proves that women can take their place among the mechanical objects that produced the last century’s great works, and he records their lives and thoughts as far as he can. —New Republic