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
Kim talks with Chad Hegelmeyer about the institutional turn in literary studies.
Chad references Jeremy Rosen’s article “The Institutional Turn” from the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature.
We also talk about: Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (Harper Collins, 1963), D.A. Miller’s The Novel and the Police (U California Press, 1989), Nancy Armstrong’s How Novels Think (Columbia UP, 2006), Mark McGurl’s The Program Era (Harvard UP, 2011), and Janice Radway’s books, Reading the Romance (UNC Press, 1984) and A Feeling for Books (UNC Press, 1997).
Chad quotes several texts referenced by Rosen:
Franco Moretti’s Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms (Verso, 2005)
Frederic Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Cornell UP, 1982)
Mark McGurl. “Ordinary Doom: Literary Studies in the Waste Land of the Present.” New Literary History 41, no. 2 (Spring 2010): 329–349.
In the longer version of our conversation, Chad gave several other examples of the “institutional turn” including: James F. English, The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value (Harvard UP, 2005); Claire Squires, Marketing Literature: The Making of Contemporary Writing in Britain (Palgrave, 2007); John B. Thompson, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century (Polity, 2010); Laura J. Miller, Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption (U Chicago Press, 2008); Jim Collins Bring on the Books for Everybody: How Literary Culture Became Popular Culture (Duke UP, 2010).
Chad is a friend of the pod! He writes about fact checking and literature, and he’s a postdoc in the English Department at NYU.
Today’s image is a photograph of the “Staircase of the National Museum of Slovenia” taken by Petar Milošević, posted under a creative commons attribution share-alike license on Wikimedia Commons.
Angelina Eimannsberger talks to Saronik about cultural phenomenon Jonathan Van Ness, and movements in queer femininity that they represent.
They touch briefly on Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, Jean Genet’s Notre Dame des Fleurs, Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness, and the hashtag #transisbeautiful inaugurated by Laverne Cox. They also talk about Michel Foucault’s interview “Friendship as a Way of Life“.
Angelina and Saronik had a post-recording conversation about the activistic work that JVN does. On that note, here is a list of organizations they support, and that you can support too:
Planned Parenthood, RAINN, Phoenix House, The Trevor Project, National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs, Advocates for Youth, GLSEN, Peer Health Exchange, ASPCA.
The image for this episode is a frame titled “Flowering Tree” by the fin de siècle English artist Aubrey Beardsley.