Keyword Seminar on Length at the 2018 Society for Novel Studies Conference

I will be leading a keyword seminar on length at the 2018 Society for Novel Studies Conference, May 31-June 2 at Cornell University. I have included a description of the seminar and the names of the other presenters below. Other keyword seminars can be found here.

Keyword Seminar on Length at 2018 Society for Novel Studies Conference

Bradley J. Fest with Alex Creighton, Alley Edlebi, Andrew FergusonJason Potts, Robert Ryan, and Aaron Vieth


From multi-season serial television, to cinematic universes, to immense videogames, narratives across media appear to have gotten longer in the digital age. Can the same be said of the novel? On the one hand, authors have written lengthy novels throughout the form’s history. On the other, the issue of novelistic length seems newly pressing now that digital technologies have given writers the capacity to author books that are unreadably massive (e.g., Richard Grossman’s forthcoming three-million-page Breeze Avenue or Mark Leach’s seventeen-million-word Marienbad My Love). This seminar invites its participants to take up questions about length with regard to the role and status of the novel historically and at present. How does the history of print narrative influence how we think about novel length in the twenty-first century? Are there upper and lower limits to how long a novel can be (and why would such limits matter)? What is the relationship between the novel and other transmedia meganarratives? What is the legacy of the twentieth century’s “big, ambitious novel”? And, going forward, how do scholars study print and digital texts that are too big to read?

February 2018 Links

Nuclear and Environmental

Tim Fernholz, “US Nuclear Tests Killed Far More Civilians than We Knew.”

Democracy Now, “Daniel Ellsberg Reveals He Was a Nuclear War Planner, Warns of Nuclear Winter and Global Starvation.”

Daniel Bessner, “On the Brink.”

Alastair Tancred, “A Nuclear First Strike of North Korea Is ‘Tempting’, Says Legendary US Diplomat Henry Kissinger as Kim Jong-un Warns Trump Is Pushing Toward War.”

“Senator Markey Blasts Trump Administration’s Reckless Nuclear Posture Review.”

Helena Feder, “The Realism of Our Time: Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson.”

Jesse Oak Taylor, “The Work of Fiction in an Age of Anthropogenic Climate Change,” review of The Great Derangement, by Amitav Ghosh.

Claire Colebrook, “Fragility, Globalism, and the End of the World.”

Rob Reynolds, “Nuclear Armageddon Fears Impact on US Pop Culture.”

Ian Bogost, “The Internet Broke Emergency Alerts.”

Donna Haraway: Storytelling for Earthly Survival.

University of Kansas, “Research Suggests toward End of Ice Age, Humans Witnessed Fires Larger than Dinosaur Killer, Thanks to a Cosmic Impact.”

And Anthony Oliveira, “The Year in Apocalypses.”


US Politics and Economics

Ed Pilkington, “Trump Turning US into ‘World Champion of Extreme Inequality,’ UN Envoy Warns.”

Rupert Neate, “World’s Richest 500 See Their Wealth Increase by $1tn This Year.”

Judith Butler, “Limits on Free Speech?”

Lauren Berlant, “Big Man.”

Jacob Hamburger, “Wendy Brown: ‘Who Is Not a Neoliberal Today?'”

James Risen, “The Biggest Secret.”

Thomas B. Edsall, “Is President Trump a Stealth Postmodernist or Just a Liar?”

Patrick Blanchfield, “Black Hole Sun God: Michael Wolff Takes Stock.”

James Fallows, “It’s Been an Open Secret All Along.”

Umair Haque, “Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse.”

Juan Cole, “The Fascist Underpinnings of Trump’s State of the Union.”

Anders Engberg-Pedersen, “Specters of War,” review of Kill Boxes: Facing the Legacy of US-Sponsored Torture, Indefinite Detention, and Drone Warfare, by Elisabeth Weber.

James Livingston, “A Tale of Too Many Cities: The Trial of Black Nationalism in the Debate between Coates and West.”

Michael Hobbes, “Why Millennials Are Facing the Scariest Financial Future of Any Generation since the Great Depression.”

Reece Rogers, “Permanent Precarity for American Millennials.”

Sean Illing, “How the Baby Boomers–Not the Millennials–Screwed America.”

Daniel Schlozman, “The Plutocratic Id.”

Matthew Yglesias, “The Wholesale Looting of America.”

James Mann, “Damage Bigly.”

Michael Tomasky, “The Worst of the Worst.”

Vann R. Newkirk II, “Five Decades of White Backlash.”

Against the Grain, “The Libertarian Ideology of Bitcoin.”

M. J. Franklin, “Nobody Hated Milo Yiannopoulos’s Book More than Milo’s Editor Hated Milo’s Book.”

carla bergman and Nick Montgomery, “Friendship Is a Root of Freedom.”

David Zirin, “The NFL Chose to Tank Its Season Rather Than Sign Colin Kaepernick.”

Damon Winter, “The Case for the Subway.”

And Bryan Bender, “The Pentagon’s Secret Search for UFOs.”


#MeToo | Time’s Up

Lauren Berlant, “The Predator and the Jokester.”

Stephanie Zacharek, Eliana Dockterman, and Haley Sweetland Edwards, “Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers.”

Carolyn Kellogg, “Lorin Stein Resigns from His Post as Editor of the Paris Review after ‘an Abuse of My Position.'”

Uma Thurman, “This Is Why Uma Thurman Is Angry.”

Salma Hayek, “Harvey Weinstein Is My Monster Too.”

Carol Stabile, “Confronting Sexual Harassment and Hostile Climates in Higher Education.”

Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young, “The Paradox of Protecting Students.”

Becca Rothfeld, “Can Sexual Predators Be Good Scholars?”

Sheila McMillen, “Dirty Old Men on the Faculty.”

James Hamblin, “This Is Not a Sex Panic.”



Rebecca Lossin, “Against the Universal Library” (on here).

Jessica Stillman, “Why You Should Surround Yourself With More Books Than You’ll Ever Have Time to Read.”

Josh Gerstein, “NSA Deleted Surveillance Data It Pledged to Preserve.”

Evgeny Morozov, “Will Tech Giants Move On from the Internet, Now We’ve All Been Harvested?”

Russell Brandom, “Exclusive: ICE Is about to Start Tracking License Plates across the US.”

Julia Weist with Nestor Siré, 17.(SEPT) [By WeistSiréPC]™.

Nancy Kuhl, “Mina Loy Papers Online.”

Matthew Wysocki, “Gotta Scan ‘Em All: No Man’s Sky and the Universe of the Possible.”

Michael Garfield, “The Future Is Disgusting.”

Hannah’s Bookshelf, “The Library at the End of Days.”

“Neil Young Offers His Entire Catalog of Music Free Online. . . .”

Monoskop, “McKenzie Wark.”

Mark Sussman, “What I Read: January 2018.”

Leonard Cassuto, “The Incredible Shrinking Book Exhibit.”

And Bill Pearis, “Opera Based on Fugazi Stage Banter Coming to NYC in February.”



Samuel Matlack, “Quantum Poetics: Why Physics Can’t Get Rid of Metaphor.”


Theory and Criticism

William V. Spanos’s obituary.

Paul A. Bové, “The Death of William Spanos” and “Misaligning Misprisions.”

Cynthia L. Haven, “The French Invasion.”

Birger Vanwesenbeeck, “Derrida’s Quarrel: ‘La Différance’ at 50.”

John Lechte, “Julia Kristeva and Thought in Revolt.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, “A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be.”

Symposium on Tom Eyers’s Speculative Formalism: Literature, Theory, and the Critical Present.

Emily Apter, “Cosmopolitics.”

Rachel Greenwald Smith, “Tiny Books of the Resistance.”

Andy Hines, “The Material Life of Criticism.”

Dermot Ryan, review of Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History, by Joseph North.

Nathan Brown, “Postmodernity, Not Yet: Toward a New Periodization.”

Lindsay Waters and Peter J. Dougherty, “Editor 2 Editor.”

Alexander R. Galloway, “A Theory of Media.”

Colin Koopman, “The Power Thinker.”

Eddia Connole, “What is Black Metal Theory? Les Légions Noires: Labor, Language, Laughter.”

And Critical Inquiry‘s forum on the Modern Language Association.


Literature and Culture

Gerald Jonas, “Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, “How to Build a New Kind of Utopia.”

Dee Wedemeyer, “William H. Gass, Acclaimed Postmodern Author, Dies at 93.”

Justin E. H. Smith, “I Write Because I Hate: William Gass, 1927-2017.”

Carvell Wallace, “Why Black Panther Is a Defining Moment for Black America.”

Soraya Roberts, “No Filter: How the Nicest Place Online Created the Worst, Most Popular Poetry.”

Ange Mlinko, “Willing to Be Reckless,” review of Marianne Moore’s New Collected Poems, edited by Heather Cass White.

Evan Kindley, “Marianne Moore’s Sexist Reception” and “How Should We Grieve John Ashbery?,” and “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be.”

Rebecca Mead, “The Most Revealing Moment in the New Joan Didion Documentary.”

Toril Moi, “Describing My Struggle.”

Gina Apostol, “Francine Prose’s Problem.”

Will Self, “In Praise of Difficult Novels.”

Tracy K. Smith, “The Universe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.”

Terrance Hayes, “American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin.”

Geoff Peck, “Timothy McVeigh Snared by Kobe’s Musecage.”

Charles Bernstein, “My Cars.”

Kristen Roupenian, “Cat Person.”

Claire Fallon, “Why a New Yorker Story about Bad Sex Went Viral.”

Larissa Pham, “Our Reaction to ‘Cat Person’ Shows That We Are Failing as Readers.”

Mark Z. Danielewski, “Parable 8: Z Is for Zoo,” “Parable 9,” and The Familiar is on pause.

Dan Hassler-Forest, The Last Jedi: Saving Star Wars from Itself.”

Abigail Nussbaum, “Asking the Wrong Questions.”

Rob Zacny, Moby-Dick Makes for an Improbably Good, Very Strange Strategy RPG,” review of Nantucket.

Josh Roiland, “Derivative Sport: The Journalistic Legacy of David Foster Wallace.”

Clarisse Loughrey, “Fan Sends 80s Nobel Prizewinning Book to Modern Publishers. . . .”

Electric Lit, “Does Any Book Really Need to Be 1600 Pages Long?”

Joseph Schreiber, “Materializing Time in Lawrence, Kansas: A Conversation with John Trefry.”

Jacob Siefring, “Digital Native: An Interview with B. R. Yeager on Amygdalatropolis.”

Mark Sussman, “What the ‘Plums’ Meme Has to Say about How Poetry Can Work on the Internet.”

Rachel Mennies, “At Home.”

Michelle Lewis, “Salvaging Silences in Lauren Russell’s What’s Hanging on the Hush.”

ythm, no. 4.

After Happy Hour Review, no. 8.

M. Kitchell, In the Desert of Mute Squares.

Lili Loofbourow, “This Year’s Awful Super Bowl Ads Show America’s Corporations Are Freaking Out.”

And James Livingston, “Fuck Football.”


Creative Writing

Rachel Mennies, “Paying to Play: On Submission Fees in Poetry Publishing.”


Humanities and Higher Education

David Palumbo-Liu, “I’m a Stanford Professor Accused of Being a Terrorist. McCarthyism Is Back.”

W. J. T. Mitchell, “The Trolls of Academe: Making Safe Spaces Into Brave Spaces.”

Tegan Bennett Daylight, “‘The Difficulty Is the Point’: Teaching Spoon-Fed Students How to Really Read.”

Scott Jaschik, “Shocker: Humanities Grads Gainfully Employed and Happy.”

Justin Stover, “There Is No Case for the Humanities.”

Patricia A. Alexander and Lauren M. Singer, “A New Study Shows That Students Learn Way More Effectively from Print Textbooks than Screens.”

Sam Christie, “Don’t Pity Stressed Students Too Much: Academics Have It Worse.”

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “Generous Thinking: The University and the Public Good.”

Scott Carlson, “How Enrollment Challenges Can Spur Change.”

Audrey Waters, “Education Technology and the Business of Student Debt.”

Chuck Collins, “A Serious Push for Free College in California.”

Christian Smith, “Higher Education Is Drowning in BS.”

Erin Bartram, “The Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind.”

And Debby Thompson, “The Stages of Grading.”



Bill Schackner, “United Steelworkers Start Drive to Organize Full- and Part-Time Faculty at Pitt.”

Felicity Williams, “Pittsburgh Is a Progressive City, but I’m Still Waiting for It to Be Pro-Black.”


Hartwick College

David W. Chen, “Private College Applications Rise Despite Cuomo Tuition Plan.”

And “Hartwick College Creates eSports Intramural Program.”

Special Issues of CounterText on Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s Thinking Literature across Continents

I have written an essay, “Reading Now and Again:  Hyperarchivalism and Democracy in Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s Thinking Literature across Continents,” which will appear in the spring issue of CounterText: A Journal for the Study of the Post-Literary, the second of two special issues devoted to Thinking Literature across Continents (Duke UP, 2016). I’ll provide more information about this essay at a later date.

In the meantime, the first issue of CounterText addressing Ghosh and Miller‘s book (vol. 3, no. 3) is now available. Additionally, a conversation between Marjorie Perloff, Charles Bernstein, and the two authors opening the special issue is available from behind the journal’s paywall.

“Thinking Literature Across . . .,” special issue, CounterText, table of contents:

Marjorie Perloff, J. Hillis Miller, Charles Bernstein. and Ranjan Ghosh, “The CounterText Conversation: Thinking Literature. . . .”

Maria Margaroni, “Dialogics, Diacritics, Diasporics: Ranjan Ghosh, J. Hillis Miller, and the Becoming-Now of Theory.”

Georges Van Den Abbeele, “Literary Intransigence: Between J. Hillis Miller and Ranjan Ghosh.”

Claire Colebrook, “Crossing Continents.”

Steven Yao, “How Many Ways of Thinking Literature across Continents?”

Pramod K. Nayar, “Literature/Ethics/Reading.”

Susana Onega, “Thinking English Literature and Criticism under the Transmodern Paradigm.”

Lene M. Johannessen, “Poetics of Peril.”

Adrian Grima and Ivan Callus, “Irreverent and Inventive Mamo.”

Juann Mamo, Nanna Venut’s Children in America: Two Chapters from the First English Translation,” trans. Albert Gatt.

Ivan Callus, “Literature, Journalism, and the Countertextual: Daphne Caruana Galizia, 1964–2017.”

Mario Aquilina, review of Essayism and the Return of the Essay, by Brian Dillon.

“Toward a Theory of the Megatext” in Scale in Literature and Culture

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

Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg, Introduction.

Scale: History and Conception

Zach Horton“Composing a Cosmic View: Three Alternatives for Thinking Scale in the Anthropocene.”

Derek Woods, “Epistemic Things in Charles and Ray Eames’s Powers of Ten.

Bruno Latour, “Anti-Zoom.”

Scale in Culture

Mark McGurl, “Making It Big: Picturing the Radio Age in King Kong.

Joan Lubin, “The Stature of Man: Population Bomb on Spaceship Earth.”

Aikaterini Antonopoulou, “Large-Scale Fakes: Living in Architectural Reproductions.”

Scale in Literature

Melody Jue, “From the Goddess Ganga to a Teacup: On Amitav Ghosh’s Novel The Hungry Tide.

Oded Nir, “World Literature as a Problem of Scale.”

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

Jeffrey Severs, “Cutting Consciousness Down to Size: David Foster Wallace, Exformation, and the Scale of Encyclopedic Fiction.”

Review of David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing”

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.