Cassandra Cleghorn had a hunch: “learning to write on a computer is profoundly different from learning to write on a typewriter. When a student sits down to write at the computer, she enters a very noisy room: a swirl of information, messages from word-processing programs, notifications from this or that social media app. The typewriter has a singular purpose: to make words on the page.”
So the senior lecturer in English and American studies developed the course Typewriter!, taught for the first time during Winter Study. Cleghorn purchased seven typewriters on eBay and obtained others from community members. She taught herself basic repair and fixed up the machines for the students, who each chose one to use for the course. As they composed letters, wrote poetry on demand in the Paresky Center and completed other assignments on their typewriters, the students observed the changes in their thinking and writing.
As a surprise, they also got to keep their machines or similar ones. “The students generated an extraordinarily creative and thoughtful output of writing in just one month,” says Cleghorn. “The powerful connection they formed with their typewriters—a connection all 10 of them want to continue exploring—suggests that my hunch was right.”