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.”

“Blason I,” “Blason II,” and “Blason III” in Queen Mob’s Teahouse

Honored to have the poems “Blason I,” “Blason II,” and “Blason III” in Queen Mob’s Teahouse. These are the first published poems from a brand new project endeavoring to see everyday objects anew by mediating their perception through lenses of poetic and cultural influence. (Former students may recognize in these my own answers to a question I sometimes pose on the first day of class.)

The Visiting Writers Series at Hartwick College, Fall 2019

This fall, Hartwick College and the Department of English will present the first four readings of the 2019-20 Visiting Writers Series.  All readings take place at 7 p.m. in Eaton Lounge, Bresee Hall at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. Admission is free of charge and the public is invited.


New Hartwick faculty member, assistant professor of English Tessa Yang, will read on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.

George Hovis will read on Wednesday, October 16, 2019.

Lauren Russell will read on Thursday, November 7, 2019.

And Alice Lichtenstein will read from her forthcoming novel, The Crime of Being, on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.

For more information, visit the Visiting Writers Series webpage.

2019-20 Winifred D. Wandersee Scholar in Residence at Hartwick College

I am thrilled and honored to announced that I have been named one of the 2019-20 Winifred D. Wandersee Scholars in Residence at Hartwick College. This award and program will support continued work on my current book project, Too Big to Read: The Megatext in the Twenty-First Century.

For a glimpse into this work in progress, see my essay, “Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper.'”

“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.