MLA 2023: Twenty-First-Century Forms

For this year’s Modern Language Association Convention, to be held January 5–8, 2023 in San Francisco, California, I organized and will be speaking on a roundtable on Twenty-First-Century Forms, along with Daniel Burns, Zoe Bursztajn-Illingworth, Kathryn Harlan-Gran, Kevin Pyon, and Elizabeth Sotelo. I have included the information about the panel and, below that, full abstracts from each speaker.

197. Twenty-First-Century Forms

Friday, January 6, 2023, 8:30–9:45 a.m. (PST)

If one might argue that the novel and lyric poem have become residual forms, what literary forms are emerging in contemporaneity? Panelists explore emergent literary forms of the twenty-first century and their relationship with, instantiation in, or remediation by other (digital) media: film, documentary, social media, publishing platforms, transmedia, autotheory, and other hybrid narrative and poetic forms.

Speakers
Dan Burns (Elon University)
Bradley J. Fest (Hartwick College)
Zoe Bursztajn-Illingworth (The University of Texas at Austin)
Kathryn Harlan-Gran (Cornell University)
Kevin Pyon (Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg)
Elizabeth Sotelo (University of Oregon)

Presiding
Bradley Fest (Hartwick College)

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Links in the Time of Coronavirus, Vol. 28: June 16–July 15, 2022

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Nuclear and Environmental

Eric Schlosser, “What If Russia Uses Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine?”

Adam Liptak, “Supreme Court Strips Federal Government of Crucial Tool to Control Pollution.”

Zach St. George, “Can Planting a Trillion New Trees Save the World?”

Neelan Bohra, “Arizona Wildfire Destroys Observatory Buildings.”

Christopher Flavelle and Julie Tate, “How Joe Manchin Aided Coal, and Earned Millions.”


Politics

Max Fisher, “Is the World Really Falling Apart, or Does It Just Feel That Way?”

Carl Hulse, “Mitch McConnell’s Court Delivers.”

Charlie Savage, “Decades Ago, Alito Laid Out Methodical Strategy to Eventually Overrule Roe.”

Ezra Klein, “Dobbs Is Not the Only Reason to Question the Legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”

Katherine Stewart, “Christian Nationalists Are Excited about What Comes Next.”

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“Twenty-First-Century Forms” at MLA 2023

Richard Grossman, Torah Ball, 2011. Corundum sphere 5″ in diameter inscribed in Hebrew with the Ten Commandments currently buried inside Mount Princeton, Colorado, USA.

Given my ongoing interest in megatexts and other emerging hybrid and transmedia forms, I am organizing a second panel on emergent literary forms of the twenty-first-century for the 2023 Modern Language Association Convention in San Francisco, California (the first was at the 2021 MLA Convention). Please consider submitting an abstract to festb[at]hartwick[dot]edu by March 24, 2022. Here’s the CFP:

Twenty-First-Century Forms

If the novel and lyric poem might be considered residual forms, what literary forms are emerging in the twenty-first century? Panel on emergent literary forms: transmedia, digital, hybrid, remediated, megatexts, other. 250-word abstract, brief bio.

“‘Is an Archive Enough?’: Megatextual Debris in the Work of Rachel Blau DuPlessis” in Genre

My essay, “‘Is an Archive Enough?’: Megatextual Debris in the Work of Rachel Blau DuPlessis,” has been published in Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture 54, no. 1 (April 2021): 139–65. This issue is the first of two special issues on “Big, Ambitious Novels by Twenty-First-Century Women,” edited by Courtney Jacobs and James Zeigler. The second issue will be released in July 2021. I also have an interview with DuPlessis forthcoming in boundary 2. I’ve included an abstract of my essay below, along with a table of contents.

I am particularly proud of this essay, as I wrote it predominantly during the summer of 2020–the height of lockdown–and during which we had no childcare and I couldn’t access the library nor my campus office, including its books. Lots of people to thank, consequently, but particularly Racheal Fest, Courtney Jacobs and James Zeigler for their hard work putting this together during an incredibly difficult year, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, and Dawn Baker, Hartwick’s interlibrary loan librarian. (There are more acknowledgments on the first page of my essay.) This essay is also the second published chapter from my work in progress, Too Big to Read: The Megatext in the Twenty-First-Century. For other related work on megatexts and hyperarchivalism, see:

“Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper.’”

“Reading Now and Again: Hyperarchivalism and Democracy in Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s Thinking Literature.”

“Coda: Writing Briefly about Really Big Things.”

“The Time of Megatexts: Dark Accumulation and Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar.”

“The Megatext and Neoliberalism.”


Abstract

In the twenty-first century, digital technologies have made it possible for writers and artists to create massively unreadable works through computational and collaborative composition, what the author has elsewhere called megatexts. The ubiquity of texts appearing across media that are quite literally too big to read—from experimental novels to television, film, and video games—signals that the megatext is an emergent form native to the era of neoliberalism. But what happens to other long forms, such as the twentieth-century long poem, when written in an era of megatextuality? Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s work, including Drafts (1987–2013) and Traces, with Days (2017–), readily suggests itself as a case study for thinking through a megatextual impulse in the twenty-first-century long poem. Though her work is plainly indebted to its modernist precursors (H.D., Pound, Williams, etc.) while disavowing at every level of its composition a patriarchal will toward totality, DuPlessis’s various experiments in the long poem are also thoroughly contemporary and respond to the economic, military, political, and environmental transformations of the neoliberal era by drawing upon and producing fragmentary, megatextual debris. This essay positions DuPlessis’s work amidst a larger twenty-first-century media ecology, which includes both the megatext and the big, ambitious novel, and argues that rather than simply (and futilely) resist the neoliberal cultural logic of accumulation without end, DuPlessis hypertrophically uses the megatext’s phallogocentric form against itself in order to interrogate more broadly what it means—socially, culturally, economically—to write a long poem in the age of hyperarchival accumulation.


“Big, Ambitious Novels by Twenty-First-Century Women, Part 1,” Genre 54, no. 1 (April 2021).

James Zeigler, “Introduction: Big Novel Ambition without Apology.”

Maaheen Ahmed and Shiamin Kwa, “‘Kill the Monster!”: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters and the Big, Ambitious (Graphic) Novel.”

Patricia Stuelke, “Writing Refugee Crisis in the Age of Amazon: Lost Children Archive‘s Reenactment Play.”

Katarzyna Bartoszyńska, “Two Paths for the Big Book: Olga Tokarczuk’s Shifting Voice.”

Marjorie Worthington, “‘We’ll Make Magic’: Zen Writers and Autofictional Readers in A Tale for the Time Being.”

Siân White, “A ‘Hair-Trigger Society’ and the Woman Who Felt Something in Anna Burn’s Milkman.”

Bradley J. Fest, “‘Is an Archive Enough?’: Megatextual Debris in the Work of Rachel Blau DuPlessis.”

Links in the Time of Coronavirus, Vol. 10: December 16, 2020–January 15, 2021

Think Pieces on . . . Everything

Timothy Snyder, “The American Abyss.”

Jelani Cobb, “Georgia, Trump’s Insurrectionists, and Lost Causes.”

Mike Davis, “Riot on the Hill” and “Hopes for 2021?”

Blair McClendon, “Lost Lost Causes.”

Adam Kotsko, “An Apocalypse about Nothing.”

Yoni Appelbaum, “How America Ends.”

Gabriel R, “Trump the Despot.”

Franklin Foer, “The Triumph of Kleptocracy.”

William Callison and Quinn Slobodian, “Coronapolitics from the Reichstag to the Capitol.”

Masha Gessen, “The Trial of Donald Trump Must Tell the Full Story of the Capitol Insurrection.”

Leah Donnella, “How The Storming of the Capitol Was — And Wasn’t — About Police.”

Eric Fretwell, “From Lynchings to the Capitol: Racism and the Violence of Revelry.”

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Recording of Twenty-First-Century Forms at MLA 2021

If you attended the virtual 2021 Modern Language Association Conference but were unable to come to the roundtable I organized, Twenty-First-Century Forms, you can watch a recording of it here (I believe for about six weeks). The speakers were (in order): myself, Amy Sara Carroll, Racheal Fest, Christian P. Haines, Hyemin Kim, and Eric Loy. For more information, see my previous post.

MLA 2020 Panel: Bad Books

At this year’s Modern Language Association Convention in Seattle (January 9-12, 2020), I will be speaking on a round table discussing Bad Books. I have included the information about the panel and a tentative abstract for the paper I will be presenting below.

 

338. Bad Books

Friday, January 10, 2020, 1:45-3:00 pm, 617 (WSCC)

Presiding: Eric Loy

Presentations:
1. “Notes on Notes on Notes: Glenn Ligon Reads James Baldwin,” Paul Benzon (Skidmore C)
2. “Books Behaving Badly: The Raison d’Être behind Perec’s La Disparition,” Priya Wadhera (Adelphi U)
3. “Debilitated Forms and Forms of Debility: On Writing a Failed Book,” Sharon Tran (U of Maryland Baltimore County)
4. “The Space of Megatexts: ‘Reading’ Mark Leach’s Marienbad My Love,” Bradley J. Fest (Hartwick C)

 

The Space of Megatexts: “Reading” Mark Leach’s Marienbad My Love

At over seventeen million words and consisting of seventeen volumes printed in dense eight-point font, the second edition of Mark Leach’s Marienbad My Love (2008; 2nd ed., 2013) currently holds the record as the world’s longest novel and is what I have elsewhere called a megatext. Composed over the course of thirty years using a number of digital techniques, the result is one of the more spatially imposing works of literature to ever sit on a shelf. Because of this, it also appears that no one has really bothered to read it. Whether this is due to some prejudice against self-publication or critics’ perceptions of authorial vanity, the sheer unreadable size of the text has discouraged anyone from taking Leach’s work all that seriously. I believe this is a mistake and this paper aims to seriously consider a remarkable project that rebelliously pushes against the conceptual, temporal, and physical boundaries of the codex novel. The revisions made to the second edition of the text indicate that not only does Leach intend for people to actually read his book, but also that Marienbad My Love is in fact a complex theoretical statement about the novel in the digital age and a meditation on the present and future of literary writing. In this paper, I will argue that accounting for Marienbad My Love’s material size by finding ways to speculatively (and actually) read this unreadable text will encourage us to rethink how we theorize the novel in the twenty-first century.

 

For previous essays of mine on megatexts and unreadable texts, see:

“Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper.'”

“Reading Now and Again: Hyperarchivalism and Democracy in Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s Thinking Literature across Continents.”

“Writing Briefly about Really Big Things.”

“The Megatext and Neoliberalism.”

“The Time of Megatexts: Dark Accumulation and Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar.”

“Writing Briefly about Really Big Things” in Joseph A. Dane’s Begging the Question

I have a collaborative essay, “Coda: Writing Briefly about Really Big Things,” in Joseph A. Dane‘s new book, Begging the Question: Critical Reasoning in Chaucer Studies, Book History, and Humanistic Inquiry (Mythodologies II) (Marymount Institute Press, 2019). Though brief, it speaks to some of the ongoing concerns in my megatext project, particularly how to situate the project in the field and in conversation with others. My thanks to Dane for inviting me to collaborate with him on this and including my piece in his book.