Abstract

The Collector's Role in the Canon

Women's book clubs in the mid-twentieth-century United States fostered literary communities and establishing libraries. This paper argues that their actual impact extends far beyond that and shapes cultural and political discourse. Hroswitha Club, founded in 1944, was established as an informal women's book collector and bibliophile club, but it has impacted the study of rare book in the United States and shaped cultural discourse about archives and archival holdings. This essay focuses on Hroswitha Club and analyzes their previously unstudied archive through the lens of Elizabeth Clemens's theory of social ties and political discourse. Clemens asserts that social ties form associations, which then generate social capital that in turn creates broader social action. I believe this progression from an individual's choices to societal impact parallels the previously unexplored impact of book clubs on the structuring of discourse and social action. The key lies in the books: Hroswitha Club members like Lillian Gary Taylor fostered nationalistic and patriotic ideas through the curation of books into community libraries, and these collections shaped the creation of the American literary canon . These records of the Hroswitha Club are necessary pieces demonstrates how it is the collector, rather than the writer, that forges a canon.

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