General semantics is concerned with how people communicate, and how language and symbolic communication bestow upon us our capacity for progress via time-binding. Narrative, as a symbolic form, provides a structure for making sense out of the world, and enhances our capacity for time-binding. Literature, as Alfred Korzybski, S.I. Hayakawa, and other general semanticists made clear, provides maps to a variety of human territories, from the interior landscape of the mind, to our social interactions and cultural arrangements, both present and past. And as Marshall McLuhan and other media ecology scholars have observed, literature often provides us with a means of understanding technological and social change. Media ecologists often point to the 19th century as the beginning of a revolution in communications that continues to this day, and whose effects we still need to fully understand.
In her recently completed doctoral dissertation, Dr. Callie J. Gallo examines how a boom in new media technologies between 1840 and 1900 spurred influential waves of writing about emerging professionals and workplaces in the United States. She argues that canonical and popular authors from Edgar Allan Poe to Fanny Fern envisioned modern professionalism along gendered lines in response to three key innovations: the penny press, the daguerreotype, and the telegraph. Each successive media environment incited debate about how middle-class women’s identities should (or should not) change, including their domestic roles and their racial and class status. This interdisciplinary project, combining media ecology, material culture studies, gender studies, and new historicist approaches, analyzes how new professional and social identities for women are cultivated or curtailed through stories about new technologies.
Callie J. Gallo recently completed a Ph.D. program in English at Fordham University, and she is an Upper School English Teacher at the Marymount School of New York. Her work has appeared in James Joyce Quarterly, and she served as the managing editor for Explorations in Media Ecology (EME) for three years. Her dissertation,Mediating the Sexes: Women, Technology, and Work in American Narrative 1840-1900, combines media ecology, cultural studies, and feminist literary studies perspectives and analyses networks of discourse about women and professionalism that form around the introduction of new media of communication in nineteenth-century America.
This program, held on December 18, 2019, began with Dr. Gallo discussing her research, followed by commentary, discussion, and conversation featuring two highly regarded scholars, one local and one from out of town:
Salvatore J. Fallica was born in Brooklyn, New York, and earned his doctorate at New York University, where he studied under Neil Postman and Terry Moran, and where he currently teaches courses in propaganda and spectacle culture in the Department of Media, Culture and Communication. He is currently working on a project entitled Norman Mailer and Celebrity Culture. He was awarded the “Excellence in Teaching” award from the Steinhardt School of Education at NYU.
Elena Lamberti is a Professor of North American Literatures at the University of Bologna, Italy. She is a specialist in Modernist Literature, Cultural Memory, Literature and Media Ecology, and War Literature. She is the author of eight volumes and of numerous essays and book-chapters on Anglo-American Modernism and American/Canadian literature and culture. She pursues an interdisciplinary methodology of research where literature stands at the core of innovative investigations of complex ecosystems. Her book, Marshall McLuhan’s Mosaic. Probing the Literary Origins of Media Studies (2012) received the Media Ecology Association's 2016 Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology. She is also affiliated with the Mobile Media Lab, Concordia University di Montreal.
The panel was moderated by NYSGS President Lance Strate, Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University, Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics, and author of 7 books including Media Ecology: An Approach to Understanding the Human Condition (2017) and Amazing Ourselves to Death: Neil Postman's Brave New World Revisited (2014).
It was, without a doubt, an illuminating and enlightening program!