Students registering this course as part of an interdisziplinary module 1 or 2 must also register for the Reading Course 32116L-W20.
This interdisciplinary seminar builds on and examines a recent trend in American studies: the turn to the institutional conditions of literary production and reception. For well more than a decade ... Lesen Sie weiter
This interdisciplinary seminar builds on and examines a recent trend in American studies: the turn to the institutional conditions of literary production and reception. For well more than a decade now, scholars of contemporary American literature in particular have explored the role of creative writing programs (Mark McGurl), shifting publishing technologies and economics (Amy Hungerford), civic institutions (Merve Emre), literary prizes (James English), and other institutional parameters. To be sure, though, the power of institutions to shape notions of American literature reaches further back—at least to the infamous tribunal that probed the enslaved Black poet Phillis Wheatley’s literary credentials. With the expansion and professionalization of the literary marketplace in the nineteenth century, the domain of literature took on its modern contours as an autonomous field, as the sociological theorist Pierre Bourdieu has proposed. Under the conditions of modernity and an accelerated print capitalism, institutions are created in the name of literature that reinforce and renegotiate its social status and its shifting valences.
Focusing on case studies from the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries, we trace the role and influence of several of these institutions, including lecture circuits, little magazines, libraries, professional reviews, and Oprah’s Book Club. Drawing on influential theoretical and methodological accounts, we ask how these institutions fix and destabilize competing notions of literature. But we also look at how both paratexts (prefaces, magazine editorials, interviews, and reviews) and literary texts (poems, short stories, and novels) address and dramatize their modes of production and reception. This last question may lead us to sketching the contours of a poetics of literary institutions. Covering critical materials from literary studies, cultural studies, literary sociology, as well as book history and material text studies, this course will challenge students to find new ways of reading beyond the text.
Until further notice and due to the unpredictable pandemic situation, students should expect an asynchronous online seminar with a few optional in-person meetings to be announced in the course of the semester. For each seminar session, we will provide input in video or audio form in addition to the week’s reading. We expect all students to participate actively and regularly on Blackboard. In order to obtain full, graded credit, students will have to master a take-home exam, in addition to the participation requirements.