Sheila Liming talks about the party, social gatherings that occasion joy and dread and various emotions in between. The party is both a pause and an acceleration in the life-work continuum, it can deaden political motivation and engender fresh politics. We discuss the horrible parties in The Office and the wonderful parties in Small Axe, among other things.
Sheila Liming is Associate Professor at Champlain College in Burlington, VT, where she teaches classes in American literature, writing, and media. She is the author, most recently, of Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time (Melville House, 2023), and also of the books Office (Bloomsbury, 2020) and What a Library Means to a Woman (Minnesota UP, 2020). Her writing has appeared in publications like the The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, Lapham’s Quarterly, LitHub, The Globe and Mail, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere.
Image: © 2023 Saronik Bosu
In this episode of High Theory, Eli Cook tells us about choice architecture. The term was invented by behavioral economists in 2008 who proposed it as a soft-power model of “libertarian paternalism” to influence consumer choice. Eli traces their concept through a twentieth-century history of structured choices, from personality tests and the five-star rating to the swipes and likes of platform capitalism. He shifts our attention from the rhetoric of consumer choice as freedom to the power of “choice architects” who determine the options for us.
Eli takes the term “choice architecture” from Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Yale UP, 2008). He mentions the industrial psychologist Walter Dill Scott and the inventors of behavioral economics, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. Amusingly, there is a New Yorker article about Tversky and Kahneman written by Thaler and Sunstein, called “The Two Friends Who Changed How We Think About How We Think.” (New Yorker 7 Dec 2016). In the full version of our conversation, Eli referenced the work of Sophia Rosenfeld on the longue durée history of choice.
Eli Cook is a historian of American capitalism. He works as a Senior Lecturer in History and as head of the American Studies Program at the University of Haifa in Israel. His first book The Pricing of Progress: Economic Indicators and the Capitalization of American Life was published by Harvard University Press in 2017. Last year, he was a fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center where he worked on his new book about choice architecture.
Image: © 2023 Saronik Bosu
Amrita De talks about affective masculinities, aspirational linkages with dominant scripts of masculinities, socially organized. As she expands her work beyond her study of South Asian masculinities, she talks about how understanding and loosening these linkages entails crucial feminist work. She also talks about Shah Rukh Khan.
Amrita De is a Postdoctoral fellow in the Center of Humanities and Information at Penn State University. Her research focuses on global south masculinity studies and affect theory. Her works have been published in NORMA, Boyhood Studies, Global Humanities and are forthcoming in other edited collections. She is also working her way through her first novel centered around contemporary Indian Masculinities.
Image: © 2023 Saronik Bosu
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.