Swati Moitra explains how reading can be a subversive and even revolutionary act in certain socio-historical contexts. She draws especially from her own work in the history of women’s reading practices in nineteenth and early twentieth century India, in particular the region of Bengal. She talks about the dual indices of literacy and pleasure in her work, and its affiliations to fields like book history and print cultural studies.
Swati Moitra (M.Phil., Ph.D.) is Assistant Professor at the Department of English at Gurudas College, University of Calcutta. Her areas of interest include book history and histories of readership. She is the recipient of the SHARP Research Development Grant for BIPOC Scholars 2022.
Image: © 2023 Saronik Bosu
Mark McGurl talks about disintermediation, a key term for internet commerce, and his new book about fiction in the age of digital self-publication. The fantasy of disintermediation lies at the heart of utopian dreams of the internet, but it turns out that not only is the internet actually a medium, and a vast economic engine, but self-publishing is a lot of work!
Mark McGurl is a professor of English at Stanford University. If you want to learn more about the effects of Amazon’s self-publishing mechanism on literature, check out his new book, Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon (Verso, 2021). His earlier book The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Harvard UP, 2011) takes a similarly materialist perspective on literary production, and it was sort of a thing. His first book The Novel Art: Elevations of American Fiction after Henry James (Princeton UP, 2001), blames Henry James for making American novels into art. In a good way of course.
This week’s image is a photograph of a printing press held in the collections of the Fort Nonquai Eshowe museum in South Africa, posted on Wikimedia commons.
Music used in promotional material: ‘Internet, the day when all humans will disappear’ by Monplaisir
Elizabeth McHenry talks about the moment in the history of African American literature in the decade following the 1896 legalization of segregation, the subject of her new book To Make Negro Literature: Writing, Literary Practice, and African American Authorship. She redirects attention to overlooked archives of unpublished and unsuccessful literary production and thereby offers a radically alternative genealogy of Black literature.
Elizabeth McHenry is Professor of English at New York University and author of Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies, also published by Duke University Press. The book relies on a number of theoretical and disciplinary lenses to understand the epistemological and social conditions of print culture and literary community for African Americans between 1830 and 1940. It expands our definition of literacy and urges of us think about literature as broadly as it was conceived of in the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries.
Image: The Louisville Western Branch Library in Louisville, Kentucky
Music used in promotional material: ‘Afro-American Symphony: II – Adagio’, William Grants Still