Don’t tell Marty Townsend letter writing is passé.
Townsend, a Missouri University English professor, teaches “The Letter as Genre,” a course that explores letters’ profound contribution to our understanding of history — and ourselves.
Students mine messages from the Middle Ages, as well as presidential missives, wartime correspondence and love letters. Students also research the future of letter writing and pen notes to each other.
Townsend was inspired by a 2013 New York Times essay that declared letter writing dead.
“That one column was the premise for the entire course,” Townsend told the Columbia Missourian recently. “Getting students thinking on this topic was my whole aim.”
Her strategy worked: Kelsey Hurwitz, a student, wrote to her mother in California, rejuvenating their relationship. The women now exchange two to three letters per week.
Townsend holds out hope for a widespread revival of letter writing.
“We still have this very basic human need to connect with other people in a way that electronic communication just doesn’t let us have,” she said.