I am beginning my second semester teaching English and creative writing at Hartwick College this week. Here are the syllabi for my two spring classes.
The first essay from my new project on unreadably large texts, “Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper,'” has been published in Scale in Literature and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), edited by Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg. The book includes essays by Bruno Latour and Mark McGurl. You can find the entire collection here through Springer Link if you have institutional access, or individual essays via the links below. The book is also available on Amazon. I’m happy to send along a copy of my essay to anyone who is interested (festb[at]hartwick[dot]edu).
Table of Contents for Scale in Literature and Culture
Scale: History and Conception
Scale in Culture
Scale in Literature
I just found a review by Mathias Nilges, published earlier this year, of David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing”: New Essays on the Novels (Bloomsbury, 2014), edited by Marshall Boswell. Nilges discusses at some length my contribution to the volume, “‘Then Out of the Rubble’: David Foster Wallace’s Early Fiction.” The review was published in the American Literary History Online Review, series ix, January 2017.
Note: it appears that Danielewski had to postpone the Facebook Live event due to technical difficulties. I’ll be posting again when it has been rescheduled.
Mark Z. Danielewski will be appearing on Facebook Live to talk with the members of The Familiar (Volume 1-5) Book Club about his remarkable novel, The Familiar (2015-). He has distributed my recent conference paper, “The Time of Megatexts: Dark Accumulation and Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar,” in advance. I invite you to read my essay and join in what should be an interesting conversation.
It’s been a fun, eventful, interesting, and, of course, busy first semester at Hartwick College. Everything else, however, is quite dark. Some links.
Nuclear and Environmental
US Global Change Research Program, “Climate Science Special Report.”
Ariel Norfman, “Nuclear Apocalypse Now?”
Elizabeth Kolbert, “Going Negative: Can Carbon-Dioxide Removal Save the World?”
Mike Davis, “Nuclear Imperialism and Extended Deterrence.”
Neena Satija, Kiah Collier, Al Shaw, and Jeff Larson, “Hell or High Water.”
Next week I will be presenting a paper on a panel titled “The Power of Digital Talk” at the 2017 Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Conference at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ, November 9-12. The abstract for the paper is below.
Thursday, November 9, Session 1 2:00-3:30pm: 1E “The Power of Digital Talk”
Chair: Julie Funk
“The Time of Megatexts: Dark Accumulation and Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar,” Bradley J. Fest, Hartwick College.
“A Tech-Lover’s Discourse: Roland Barthes, Longing, Loss, and Separation Anxiety in Non-Use Discourse,” Julie Funk, University of Waterloo, Critical Media Lab.
“World Wide Walden: Toward a Thoreauvian Ethics of Screen Time,” John Tinnell, University of Colorado.
The Time of Megatexts: Dark Accumulation and Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar
With the disastrous effects of rising atmospheric carbon becoming increasingly observable and the relentless pace of neoliberal capital pursuing ever-increasing profit, the twenty-first century appears to be a time of dark accumulation. Increasingly, the risks facing the overdeveloped world stem not from absence but from overwhelming presence: everywhere there is a problem of too much. And it appears that such horrifying accumulation goes for contemporary experiences of time as well. An author known, perhaps most famously, for exploring spatial and textual accumulation, Mark Z. Danielewski’s new project, The Familiar (2015–), a twenty-seven-volume serial novel in progress, turns his attention to the multiplying temporalities of the Anthropocene. From the deep time of its cosmic frame tale and the shifting temporalities of globalization experienced by its cosmopolitan characters, to its confrontation with planetarity and its bi-annual, serialized release schedule, The Familiar asks its readers to confront what it means to live in and at too many times. In this paper I will explore The Familiar as an example of what I call a megatext—an unreadably large yet concrete aesthetic and rhetorical transmedia object, produced and conceived as a singular work, and which depends upon digital technology and collaborative authorship for its production—and argue that Danielewski’s massive novel emerges from and responds to a world in which time is no longer out of joint, but overwhelmingly and catastrophically multiple.
Two new books are available for pre-order in which I have contributions.
Scale in Literature and Culture, edited by Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg, and including essays by Bruno Latour and Mark McGurl, can now be ordered from Palgrave Macmillan. My contribution is the first part of my new project on megatexts: “Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper.'”
J. Hillis Miller’s Reading Inside Out: Interviews and Conversations, edited by David Jonathan Y. Bayot, is forthcoming from Sussex Academic Press and reprints my interview with Professor Miller from 2014, “Isn’t It a Beautiful Day?,” originally published in boundary 2.
Bradley J. Fest’s second volume of poetry, The Shape of Things, continues his project of poetic assemblage. Written in an age of ubiquitous algorithmic surveillance and increasingly catastrophic climate change, these poems both describe the shape of things in the overdeveloped world and endeavor to challenge the widespread feeling that the imagination has been foreclosed in the twenty-first century. An ambivalent hyperarchive, the collection draws influence from a number of seemingly incompatible lyric registers, including the language of contemporary theory. The Shape of Things culminates in an eponymous long poem that asks if a poiesis of “network being” is possible and suggests that there might be some other way to dance to the sounds of our present.
If Whitman and Adorno had a knife fight on the ruins of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, The Shape of Things would be the perfect voice over. Which is to say, though it’s not a pretty scene, there’s pleasure and beauty to be found in the action and music of the syntax and in following the wild movements of this poet’s mind. Truly original, dazzlingly smart and game for anything, Fest writes of lives and desires torn apart by the neoliberal security state. Jolting between paranoiac rage and orgasmic bliss, between all- out negation and Wordsworthian swoon, these poems describe the awful implications of a contemporary moment in which “we have made ourselves a gallows of a house.”
–Sten Carlson, author of Fur & After
To call The Shape of Things “post-apocalyptic” would be a mistake: its poignant present tense anxiety unfolds in the apocalypse now. Ataris and hunter-gatherers lean together over the edge of time, commingling in harrowing yet pleasurable ways. But this is no book of “detached mirth.” Hear in Fest’s singing the quiet pathos of humans and machines out of time. While Fest’s human creatures have lulled themselves into submission—”There may be something (virtually) / on fire. More likely our expectations are being met . . .”—his work nudges middle class late capitalist culture awake into the disturbing awareness that “a prolonged adolescence is the shape of things.”
–Robin Clark, author of Lines the Quarry
Nuclear and Environmental
David Wallace-Wells, “The Uninhabitable Earth.”
Elizabeth Kolbert, “Au Revoir: Trump Exits the Paris Climate Agreement.”
Damian Carrington, “Arctic Stronghold of World’s Seeds Floods after Permafrost Melts.”