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English Department’s Blast from the Past

Dr. Morris types a quote on his Olympia. (Sarah Neltner’20/Media)

After its invention in 1867, the typewriter was revolutionary for writers all across the world and made the creation of documents more efficient, and in turn, it became widely popular. 

As more advanced technology began to emerge in the 1980s, these machines became things of the past. For a select few, however, typewriters remain a reminder of the beauty of writing that can feel inaccessible during the age of Macbooks and iPads.   

Upper-School English teachers Ms. Carmichael, Mr. Farrenkopf, and Dr. Morris, are among those who continue to enjoy using typewriters in the 21st century.

During the summer of 2019, Dr. Morris took an interest in typewriters after he was inspired by Mr. Farrenkopf, who had recently bought a typewriter of the same model used by Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse Five  and Welcome to the Monkey House.

Since last summer, Dr. Morris has acquired nine typewriters, with two that he keep in his classroom and reserves exclusively for in-school use. In Dr. Morris’ opinion, students today are poorly served by technology. He appreciates the tangible nature of a typewriter and likes the idea that he can experience the act of writing similar to his favorite authors. He uses his typewriters whenever he has free time and finds writing therapeutic because he loves the fact that one has a physical artifact after completing a piece. 

Dr. Morris, Mr. Farrenkopf, and Ms. Carmichael’s passion for experiencing writing in new ways is one practice that Dr. Morris wants to share with the Upper School.

We can all take a lesson from the English department. Although something may be old-fashioned, in no way does that mean it should be out-of-style.

It is vital to appreciate history, for one can never know what types of new, creative experiences can emerge from reviving the past.


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