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.
My essay, “Reading Now and Again: Hyperarchivalism and Democracy in Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s Thinking Literature across Continents,” has been published in CounterText: A Journal for the Study of the Post-Literary in the the second of two special issues devoted to Ghosh and Miller’s book. The first issue is available here, and the second has an interview with Miller available from behind the paywall. I’ve included an abstract of my essay below, along with a table of contents.
Abstract: This review essay approaches Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s Thinking Literature across Continents (Duke UP, 2016) from a set of questions about what it means to read in the age of hyperarchival accumulation. Written against the background of events in the United States and elsewhere during the fall of 2017, the essay tracks and assesses Ghosh and Miller’s differing methods for approaching literary study in the twenty-first century: undiscriminating catholicity and rhetorical reading, respectively. Through emblematic readings of David Foster Wallace’s novel The Pale King (2011), the videogame Katamari Damacy (2004), and Amy Hungerford’s Making Literature Now (2016), this essay argues that Thinking Literature across Continents self-reflexively models and performs the interested, situated reading practices necessary for continuing the never-ending project of encountering, sharing, accounting for, learning from, and contending with others and their divergent readings, practices that, though many may have lost sight of them today, are fundamental to the project of democracy itself.
“Thinking Literature Across . . . II,” special issue, CounterText, table of contents:
Nuclear and Environmental
Ross Andersen, “We’re Underestimating the Risk of Human Extinction.”
Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, “On Extinction and Capitalism.”
Robert Macfarlane, “Generation Anthropocene.”
Rebecca Evans, “Weather Permitting.”
Hyperarchivalism and Big Data
Nathan Jurgenson, “View From Nowhere: On the Cultural Ideology of Big Data.”
Cathy O’Neil, “Who Big Data Thinks We Are (When It Thinks We’re Not Looking),” a review of Christian Rudder’s Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking).
And Torie Rose DeGhett, “The War Photo No One Would Publish.”
Environment and Apocalypse
Hamilton Nolan, “Doom Draws Nearer.”
More adventures in nuclear incompetence: Lily Hay Newman, “Air Force Security Failed a Takeover Drill at a Nuclear Silo.”
Climate Change, Catastrophe, and the Anthropocene
We’re doomed. “A Galaxy Far, Far Away . . . Will Hit Ours.”
Ari Phillips, “In Landmark Class Action, Farmers Insurance Sues Local Government for Ignoring Climate Change.” Is that what we need? For the insurance companies to get involved?
Yes. McKenzie Funk, “Insuring the Apocalypse.”
Paul Krugman, “Cutting Back on Carbon.”
Everything is the worst: Ryan Koronowski, “House Votes to Deny Climate Science and Ties Pentagon’s Hands on Climate Change.”
Atwood seems to intuit this and her emphasis on prefigurative forms of resistance only seems like a natural response to an overweening corporate dystopia. When the dream of revolutionary transformations seems so distant, why not at least have a taste of utopia in this world rather than toil amidst a rotten society and its artificial politics? Or does the workplace nevertheless remain the fundamental space of struggle, although now too removed or amorphous for us to recognize and rejuvenate its logic?
And what does it mean if Atwood transforms revolutionary praxis from labor activism into sabotage from the elite workers coupled with a strategy of refusal by an eclectic grouping of transients — two tactics we have recently witnessed in our own American society? The apocalypse that inhabits so much of our contemporary imagination is a signifier that the revolution and its classical preconditions are perhaps too difficult to dream.
The Atlantic reports that “LOL and/or Lol! The Internet Has Style Guide Now: Sort Of.” Here’s the style guide at BuzzFeed.
Recent reports on the mega-text: “What You Learn About Tech from Watching all 456 Law and Order Episodes,” by Rebecca J. Rosen for The Atlantic.
And my friend Carolyn Kellogg reports that “Younger Book Dealers are Diving into the Antiquarian Trade” for The Los Angeles Times.
 Whenever I see Baldwin’s Interpreter (2010), I am always reminded of a few different lines from things. First: “I have seen the low sun stained with mystic horror, / Lit with long violet weals like actors / In some ancient play, waves unrolling / Their shuddering paddles into the distance. [. . .] And I, a boat lost in inlets’ tangled hair, / Tossed by hurricanes into birdless air, I / Whose water-drunken carcass Coast-Guard / And Hanseatic ships could not have dredged; // Free, on fire, crowned by violet mist, / I dug a hole in a reddening sky like a wall / Smeared with solar lichen and gobs / Of azure snot, irresistible poetic treats. [. . .] Bathed in your weary waves, I can no longer ride / In the wake of cargo ships of cotton, / Nor cross the pride of flags and flames, / Nor swim beneath the killing stare of prison ships” (Arthur Rimbaud, from “The Drunken Boat” (1871), in Rimbaud Complete, trans. and ed. Wyatt Mason [New York: The Modern Library, 2002], 86-88, here’s a different translation).
 And second:
To a landsman a calm is no joke. It not only revolutionizes his abdomen, but unsettles his mind; tempts him to recant his belief in the eternal fitness of things; in short, almost makes an infidel of him.
At first he is taken by surprise, never having dreamt of a state of existence where existence itself seems suspended. He shakes himself in his coat, to see whether it be empty or no. He closes his eyes, to test the reality of the glassy expanse. He fetches a deep breath, by way of experiment, and for the sake of witnessing the effect. If a reader of books, Priestly on Necessity occurs to him; and he believes in that old Sir Anthony Absolute to the very last chapter. His faith in Malte Brun, however, begins to fail; for the geography, which from boyhood he had implicitly confided in, always assured him, that though expatiating all over the globe, the sea was at least margined by land. That over against America, for example, was Asia. But it is a calm, and he grows madly skeptical.
To his alarmed fancy, parallels and meridians become emphatically what they are merely designated as being: imaginary lines drawn round the earth’s surface.
The log assures him that he is in such a place; but the log is a liar; for no place, nor any thing possessed of a local angularity, is to be lighted upon in the watery waste.
At length horrible doubts overtake him as to the captain’s competency to navigate his ship. The ignoramus must have lost his way, and drifted into the outer confines of creation, the region of everlasting lull, introductory to positive vacuity.
Thoughts of eternity thicken. He begins to feel anxious concerning his soul.
The stillness of the calm is awful. His voice beings to grow strange and portentous. He feels it in him like something swallowed too big for the esophagus. It keeps up a sort of involuntary humming in him, like a live beetle. His cranium is a dome full of reverberations. The hollows of his very bones are as whispering galleries. He is afraid to speak loud, lest he be stunned; like the man in the bass drum.
But more than all else is the consciousness of his utter helplessness. Succor or sympathy there is none. Penitence for embarking avails not. The final satisfaction of despairing may not be his with a relish. Vain the idea of idling out the calm. He may sleep if he can, or purposely delude himself into a crazy fancy, that he is merely at leisure. All this he may compass; but he may not lounge; for to lounge is to be idle; to be idle implies an absence of any thing to do; whereas there is a calm to be endured: enough to attend to, Heaven knows.
His physical organization, obviously intended for locomotion, becomes a fixture; for where the calm leaves him, there he remains. Even his undoubted vested rights, comprised in his glorious liberty of volition, becomes as naught. For of what use? He wills to go: to get away from the calm: as ashore he would avoid the plague. But he can not; and how foolish to revolve expedients. It is more hopeless than a bad marriage in a land where there is no Doctors’ Commons. He has taken the ship to wife, for better or for worse, for calm or for gale; and she is not to be shuffled off. With yards akimbo, she says unto him scornfully, as the old beldam said to the little dwarf:—“Help yourself.”
And all this, and more than this, is a calm.
(Herman Melville, Mardi and a Voyage Thither , in Herman Melville: Typee, Omoo, Mardi, ed. G. Thomas Tanselle [New York: The Library of America, 1982], 669-670.)