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Mary Saracino Zboray

  • Visiting Scholar


Mary Saracino Zboray is Visiting Scholar in Communication in the Department of Communication. She received her MA in anthropology from the Graduate Faculty, New School for Social Research in 1980, and did course work as a PhD student and Smithsonian Fellow in the department of American Studies at George Washington University, from 1982 to 1984.

She has co-authored four books with Ronald J. Zboray: Voices without Votes: Women and Politics in Antebellum New England (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2010); Everyday Ideas: Socio-Literary Experience Among Antebellum New Englanders (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006); Literary Dollars and Social Sense: A People’s History of the Mass Market Book (New York: Routledge, 2005); and A Handbook for the Study of Book History in the United States (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 2000). In April, 2011, Voices Without Votes was awarded the Everett Lee Hunt Award annually given to a “major contribution to the understanding of rhetoric and communication,” by the Eastern Communication Association. In August 2007, Everyday Ideas won the Prize for Best Journalism and Mass Communication History Book Published in 2006 awarded by the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. It also was the winner of the Triennial E. Jennifer Monaghan Prize for Best Book in the History of Literacy Published in the Past Three Years, awarded by the History of Reading Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association at its annual convention in Chicago, 27 April 2010.

In addition to several book-length monographs, Mary Zboray has also co-edited with Ronald Zboray, U.S. Popular Print Culture to 1860, volume 5 in The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture, ed. Gary Kelly, 9 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019). The volume’s forty essays contributed by scholars in several fields, including American Studies, Communication, History, and Literature, covers a range of topics that express the full diversity popular print culture—through its producers, disseminators, and consumers—from its colonial beginnings to the American Civil War. The introduction (1-23) and three of the essays were co-authored by Mary and Ronald Zboray: “Print Production and Booktrades,” 27-43; “Readers,” 61-78; and “Women Writers and Readers,” 641-56.

Mary Zboray has also co-authored with Ronald Zboray numerous articles, book chapters, and essays on U.S. antebellum and Civil War era reading practices, on U.S. print culture, museums, and the lyceum, and on women’ partisanship in antebellum New England. These appear in American Quarterly, the Journal of the Early Republic, Journal of American Studies, Libraries and Culture, Journalism History, and American Studies among other scholarly journals. The most recent journal articles include “The ‘Sound of an Extra’: Representing Civil War Newsboys by Pen and in Print,” American Journalism, 36.3 (Fall 2019): 348-70, and “Recovering Disabled Veterans in Civil War Newspapers: Creating Heroic Disability,” Journalism History, 45.1 (March 2019), 3-25. The latter was the winner of the 2020 Michael S. Sweeney Award for best article published in the 2019 volume of Journalism History. 

Mary Zboray’s latest essays co-authored with Ronald Zboray in book editions include: “Women Thinking: The International Popular Lecture and its Audience in Antebellum New England,” in The Cosmopolitan Lyceum: Lecture Culture and the Globe in Nineteenth-Century America, ed. Tom F. Wright (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013), 42-66; “The Bonds of Print: Reading on Homefront and Battlefield” in Massachusetts and the Civil War: The Commonwealth and National Disunionin , ed. Matthew Mason, Katheryn P. Viens, and Conrad Edick Wright (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2015), 195-223; “‘My Solitary Habit’: Reading and Emergent Youth Subcultures in Civil War America,” in Lost Histories of Youth Culture, ed. Christine Feldman Barrett (New York: Peter Lang, 2015), 17-34; “Beyond the Market and the City: The Informal Dissemination of Reading Materials during the American Civil War” in Print Culture Histories Beyond the Metropolis, ed. James Connolly, Patrick Collier, Frank Felsenstein, Kenneth Hall, and Robert Hall (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016), 123-149; “The Portable Lyceum in the Civil War,” in Thinking Together: Lecturing, Learning, and Difference in the Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Angela G. Ray and Paul Stob for the Rhetoric and Public Deliberation Book Series (University Park: Penn State Press, 2018), 23-40, 206-12; “Saved by a Testament: Books as Shields among Union and Confederate Soldiers,” in War Matters: Material Culture in the Civil War Era, ed. Joan E. Cashin (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018), 75-98; “Between Hamburg and Boston: Frederick Gleason and the Rise of Serial Fiction in the United States,” Nineteenth-Century Serial Narrative in Transnational Perspective: Popular Culture, Serial Culture, ed. Daniel Stein and Lisanna Wiele (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 117-143.

Mary Zboray has just completed a book-length manuscript with Ronald Zboray entitled “Armless Entertainers in Early America.” A contribution to disability studies and performance history, the book explores the careers of twenty Black, White, and Hispanic American performers “born without arms” who lived between 1789 and 1865. It argues that these often highly skilled performers who developed well-articulated multi-routine acts, generally without the encumbrance of an agent or manager, challenged common assumptions about manual dexterity as definitional to humankind. In augmenting the prevailing social constructionist approach to studying such performers as part of the development of American “freak shows,” this book manuscript’s biographical perspective treats each subject as an agentic individual with unique talents, abilities, and ambitions, who took his or her own pathway to a stage career. In their independence, inventiveness, and bill-headlining, early armless performers fundamentally differed from so-called armless wonders of a later era who were slotted as standardized product types into circus sideshows and dime museum curio halls.

Mary Zboray is also completing a book-length project with Ronald Zboray entitled “The Bullet in the Book: Volumes that Saved Civil War Soldiers’ Lives.” It is an investigation into the many books and pamphlets—bibles, the Emancipation Proclamation, law books, pocket diaries—that soldiers placed in their pockets or knapsacks before heading out to battle, in the hopes that the print matter would take bullets for them.