Theory of the Text
Literature and Society
Literature as a Cultural Field
Theory of the Text
Virginia Woolf, “How Should One Read a Book?” The Second Common Reader: Annotated Edition (San Diego: Harcourt Inc., 2003), 258-270
Jeanette Winterson, “Writer, Reader, Words,” in Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery (New York: Vintage International, 1997), 25-44
Paul Ricœur, “What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding,” From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics, II (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1991), 105-124
Edward W. Said, “The Problem of Textuality: Two Exemplary Positions,” Critical Inquiry 4, 4 (1978): 673-714 (read 673-681)
Roland Barthes, “Work to Text,” in Image, Music, Text (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1977), 156-164
Hayden White, “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality,” The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 1-25
Dorrit Cohn, The Distinction of Fiction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 1-37, 109-131
Ian Watt, “Realism and the Novel Form,” The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 9-34
Pericles Lewis, The Cambridge Introduction to Modernism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 1-53
Franco Moretti, “The Novel: History and Theory,” Distant Reading (London: Verso, 2013), 159-178
Literature and Society
Georg Lukács, “Realism in the Balance” , in Theodor Adorno et al., Aesthetics and Politics (London: Verso, 2007), 28-59
[Recommended Reading: Thomas Mann, “Tonio Kröger” (1903), in Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories (New York: Vintage International, 1989), 75-132]
[Supplemental Reading] Imre Szeman, “Marxist Literary Criticism, Then and Now,” Mediations 24, 2 (Spring 2009): 36-47
Leo Lowenthal, “Literature and Society,” Literature, Popular Culture, and Society (Palo Alto, CA: Pacific Books, 1961), 141-161
Leo Lowenthal, “The Classical French Drama,” Literature and The Image of Man: Studies of the European Drama and Novel, 1600-1900 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966), 98-135
Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin), “The Misanthrope” , In The Misanthrope and Other Plays (London: Penguin Books, 1959), 23-75
Ian Watt, “The Reading Public and the Rise of the Novel,” The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 35-59
Ian Watt, “Love and The Novel: ‘Pamela,’” The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 135-173
[Recommended Reading: Samuel Richardson, Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)]
Lucien Goldmann, “The Revolt of the Arts and Letters in Advanced Civilizations,” Cultural Creation in Modern Society (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1977), 51-75
Lucien Goldmann, “Interdependencies Between Industrial Society and New Forms of Literary Creation,” Cultural Creation in Modern Society (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1977), 76-88
Literature as a Cultural Field
Pierre Bourdieu, “The Intellectual Field: A World Apart,” In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 140-149
Pierre Bourdieu, “The Production of Belief: Contribution to an Economy of Symbolic Goods,” The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 74-111
Pierre Bourdieu, “Prologue/ Flaubert, Analyst of Flaubert: A Reading of Sentimental Education,” The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 1-43
[Recommended Reading: Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education , Revised Edition (New York: Penguin Classics, 2004)]
Franco Moretti, “Modern European Literature: A Geographical Sketch,” Distant Reading (London: Verso, 2013), 1-42
Franco Moretti, “Conjectures on World Literature,” Distant Reading (London: Verso, 2013), 43-62
Walter Benjamin, “The Author as Producer,” Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (New York and London: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978), 220-238
Walter Benjamin, “The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction,” in Hannah Arendt ed., Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 19-34
E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967), 1-19, 127-207
[Supplemental reading] W. K. Wimsatt, “The Intentional Fallacy,” The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1954), 3-18
Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?” in Josué V. Harari ed., Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979), 141-160
Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” in Image, Music, Text (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1977), 142-148
Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1982), 21-34
Sigmund Freud, “The Creative Writer and Daydreaming,” in The Uncanny (London and New York: Penguin, 2003), 25-34
Mark McGurl, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009)
[Supplemental reading] H. Porter Abbott, “Narration,” The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, Second Edition (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 67-82
[Supplemental reading] Wayne C. Booth, “Telling and Showing,” The Rhetoric of Fiction, Second Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 3-20
Pierre Bourdieu, “Outline of a Sociological Theory of Art Perception.” The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 215-237
Pierre Bourdieu, “Principles for a Sociology of Cultural Works.” The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 176-191
Wolfgang Iser, “The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach,” in Jane P. Tompkins ed., Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 50-69
Pierre Bourdieu, “Reading, Readers, the Literate, Literature.” In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 94-105
Jeanette Winterson, “Art Objects,” in Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery (New York: Vintage International, 1997), 3-21
Janice A. Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (Charlotte: University of North Carolina Press, 1991)
Michael Wood, Literature and the Taste of Knowledge (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 1-12, 37-67 (“Introduction: Among the Analogies” and “After Such Knowledge”)
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (San Diego: Harcourt, Inc., 1989), 3-24
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1927)
24 September 2012
A year later, Occupy Wall Street is a faded memory. What I wrote in October 2011 was, if not fully predictive, at least diagnostic.
The #OWS crowd is the typical mix of left-wing and progressive causes one finds at any large demo. The symbolism of the mass gathering is, however, losing its efficacy as a carrier of political meaning. It is telling that only confrontations with baton-wielding and mace-spraying police (as opposed to Blackberry-wielding and derivatives-spraying financiers) have brought it wider attention: alas, the police don’t run “Wall Street” or crash the Lehmann Brothers of the world. At some point, enlightened elements of the #OWS will figure out that engagement with the Democrats is the only means to bring about practical reforms. Clever Democratic politicians would be wise to leverage this left-wing angst. But short of an actual revolution, no new form of people’s capitalism is likely to emerge and the youth of the nation must grow accustomed to conditions of scarcity that have beset most people at most times in history. The golden years of the housing and credit bubbles are gone forever.
From a more sympathetic, participant’s experience, Laurie Penny offered the following Decembrist view.
LP: There are different ways of being on the streets, and all of them are political. As the recession immiserates more and more of us, resistance will increasingly become a process of negotiating trauma, of developing economies of care that include the lost, the destitute, the down-and-out, those who cannot be “fluffy” because they have become crusted over with the debris of desperation. When these occupations are evicted, not everyone involved will be able to go home, scrub the dirt out of their hair and go back to work. Those who have lost their jobs and homes, those who left them to protest, and those who never had them in the first place attract disapprobium from their own side as well as from those determined to slander the anti-capitalist movement as filthy and unkempt. Useful activism, however, usually involves getting your hands dirty.
Recalling an earlier “Society of December”:
Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaus, brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ-grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars – in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French term la bohème. Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.
By February 2012, it was over.
The time for the Occupy movement has passed. In part, because it failed to generate practical political engagements and fixated on meaningless, narcissistic skirmishes with police, it allowed its message to be co-opted (in the USA by Obama). Even its allegedly novel “process” was merely the second coming of 1960s style (see the “Port Huron Statement”) participatory democracy; worse, the inefficiency of this process model has not been criticized within Occupy, it has become an article of faith, of identity, of self-congratulation. Consequently, Occupy is now no more than an entertaining charivari that offers a pleasing, even charming, distraction from the tawdry circus of the Republican Party’s presidential primary and the dissembling rhetoric of political authorities around the globe.
As winter and police thinned out the remaining urban campers, and as spring became summer, #OWS slipped further into history, displaced by obsession with American presidential politics and the corporate logo-besotted Olympics. Even the pathological character flaws of celebrity hacktavist Julian Assange managed to blot out the infodumpery of wikileaks, the last standard bearer for speaking truth to power left on earth.
#OWS was a beatnik charivari, the last gasp of New Left nostalgia, still inhaling the purple haze of countercultural patchouli. While it is not quite right to dismiss the Occupyistas merely as Starbucks-drinking hypocrites, the encampments did give the appearance, as one CNBC commentator noted, of an Apple products expo. The revolution will not be livestreamed. The dream of “people’s capitalism” is still a literary wish fulfillment.
The actor’s performance inflamed the audience, and subversive proposals came from all parts of the hall.
‘No more academies! Away with the Institut!’
No more missions!’
‘No more matriculations!’
‘Down with university degrees!’
‘No,’ said Sénécal. ‘Let us keep them, but let them be conferred by universal suffrage, by the People, the only true judge!’
In any case, this was not the most important thing to do. To begin with, the rich had to be levelled down. And he depicted them wallowing in crime under their gilded ceilings, while the poor, writhing with hunger in their garrets, practised all the virtues. The applause became so loud that he broke off. He stood for a few minutes with his eyes shut and his head thrown back, as if he were rocking himself to sleep on the wave of anger he had aroused.
Then he started speaking dogmatically, in phrases as imperious as laws. The State must seize the banks and the insurance companies. Legacies would be abolished. A public fund would be set up for the workers. Flaubert, Sentimental Education.