The idea that media work ecologically, interacting in complex systems irreducible to models of competition or replacement, has become a powerful one in literary studies. It allows scholars to think specifically about particular media, whether the print production and circulation of novels, manuscript poetry, or electronic narrative, but always with a view to the complex media environments within which literary texts operate. Two books celebrating the potential for such thinking within very different historical contexts, Ellen Gruber Garvey’s Writing with Scissors and Daniel Punday’s Writing at the Limit, demonstrate the richness of this second-order approach to understanding media in all of their literary complexity.

Writing with Scissors uncovers the lively culture of clipping, saving, and rearranging text in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In it, Garvey shows how thoroughly embedded in media culture practices of scrapbooking were: the readers...

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