This essay argues that the pencil, which became increasingly available in the United States during the antebellum decades, allowed writers to break from scriptural conventions and explore alternative selves because it afforded them the ability to write quickly, continuously, and on the move. Through readings of the manuscripts of John Washington, Margaret Fuller, and Walt Whitman, this article demonstrates how the pencil facilitated such exploration by configuring language, instrument, and corporeal gesture in ways that suited the modernizing nation. The essay draws its method from a theoretical model known in Germany as the Schreibszene (writing scene), which demonstrates how archival scholars can explore the specific affordances of writing media and the scriptural experiments that may emerge from their use.

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