Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Evolution of Jonathan Edwards Studies

In corresponding with Ken Minkema, the executive editor for the Works of Jonathan Edwards, and director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, on a project that I am working on, he alerted me to a recent article that he and Wilson Kimnach published in the William and Mary Quarterly in October 2012 entitled, "The Material and Social Practices of Intellectual Work: Jonathan Edwards’s Study." This is a brilliant, and incredibly detailed, and, dare I say, intimidating article on Edwards's writing habits, his interest in the collection of books, and the furniture that aided his study.

Here is the abstract:

By examining the objects in the room(s) that comprised the study of Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth-century preacher, revivalist, and theologian, we can see the material world of an intellectual through the means by which he forged, preserved, and communicated ideas. We can also see the products of his labors through a new perspective, that of material and visual studies. The books he acquired, the writing implements, the homemade notebooks and hand-stitched manuscripts, and the customized furniture he utilized all helped to shape the texts Edwards left behind. He largely fabricated the environment in which he worked and the tools he employed, using technologies at his disposal in his provincial setting. An examination of a writer’s study, such as Edwards’s, does not only reveal the work habits and compositional methods by which that writer operated. A close study of the objects in the room(s), and how they changed over time, allows a reconstruction of the ways that social and material practices contributed to intellectual production.

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