ALA 2019 Panel: US Women Writers and Economic Forms, C19–C21

At this year’s American Literature Association Conference in Boston, Massachusetts (May 23–26, 2019), I will be speaking on a panel discussing US Women Writers and Economic Forms, C19–C21. I have included the information on the panel and a tentative abstract for the paper I will be presenting below.

For previous essays and papers of mine on what I am calling megatexts, see:

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

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

“The Megatext and Neoliberalism.”

 

Session 20-C : US Women Writers and Economic Forms, C19-C21 (St. George C)
1. “Protestant Work Epic: Labor, Loafing, and Form in Alcott’s Little Women Trilogy,” Schuyler J. Chapman, Glenville State College
2. “Megatextual Debris: Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s Drafts before and after 2008,” Bradley J. Fest, Hartwick College
3. “H.D. and the Entrepreneurial Imagination,” Racheal Fest, SUNY Oneonta


Panel Abstract

US Women Writers and Economic Forms, C19-C21

After the 2008 financial crisis, literary critics have turned increased attention to US economic ideologies and their complicated relationships to cultural production. This panel explores how US women writing across the tradition have responded to the changing economic conditions, discourses, and values that defined their moments. Panelists argue poets and prose writers Louisa May Alcott, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, and H.D. invent novel forms that at once challenge dominant discourses of free enterprise and disclose their patriarchal valences.

 

Presentation Abstracts

“Protestant Work Epic: Labor, Loafing, and Form in Alcott’s Little Women Trilogy”

Schuyler J. Chapman, Glenville State College

Roughly halfway into Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a longtime servant sends a letter to the March-family matriarch, explaining that she and the family’s four daughters have “got on very economical.” The moment underscores the narrative’s persistent attention to the financial texture of the mid-19th century. Although scholars have approached this novel and its two sequels as illustrative of period-specific perspectives on child-rearing, romance, education, and more, few have attended to the novels’ economic theories. In this series, I argue, Alcott crafts a set of consciously epic novels, reflective of both Frye’s and Lukács’s conceptualizations of the genres, as the ideal form through which she can interrogate the sources of and solutions to economic tribulations resulting from early industrial capitalism. Surveying her contemporaries, Alcott urges a return to what Weber would later identify as the Protestant Ethic, rejecting outright the malingering ethos put forth by Hawthorne, Melville, Thoreau, and Whitman. Rather than oppose an economic system that her novels represent as inherently unjust by refusing labor, Alcott proposes undermining the capitalist mode of production and its concomitant social hierarchies through a surfeit of labor, an ideal that finds itself reflected in the prolix and rather uneconomical narrative form she adopts.

 

“Megatextual Debris: Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s Drafts before and after 2008″

Bradley J. Fest, Hartwick College

In the twenty-first century, digital technologies have made it possible for authors to create massively unreadable works, what I call megatexts, through computational and collaborative composition. The ubiquity of texts that are quite literally too big to read appearing across media—from experimental novels and electronic literature, to television, film, and videogames—signals, as I argue elsewhere, 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 Drafts (6 vols.; 1987–2013) readily suggests itself as a case study for thinking through the lyric’s transformations in the era of big data and financialization. A long poem that conspicuously draws upon its modernist precursors (Pound, Zukofsky, Olson, et cetera) while disavowing at every level of its composition a patriarchal will toward totality, Drafts responds to the economic and political transformations between the end of the cold war and the 2008 financial collapse by producing a kind of fragmentary, megatextual debris. In this paper I will argue that DuPlessis, rather than simply (and futilely) resist the neoliberal logic of megatextuality, hypertrophically uses the form’s phallogocentrism against itself in order to more broadly interrogate what it means—socially, aesthetically, economically—to write a long poem in the age of hyperarchival accumulation.

 

“H.D. and the Entrepreneurial Imagination”

Racheal Fest, SUNY Oneonta

Although literary critics interested in neoliberal discourses usually focus on literary and economic texts composed after 1980, many neoliberal intellectuals writing in the US published their most influential theoretical works much earlier, beginning in the 1920s and 1930s. We might therefore productively reread US modernist writers with their neoliberal contemporaries in mind. When we do, I argue, familiar critical narratives about modernist understandings of the nature and function of human creativity shift. Critics often read modernist conceptions of imagination as romantic, transcendental, and incompatible with privileged materialist views of the human. Set against the entrepreneurial conceptions of culture that economists promoted in the early twentieth century, however, modernist writers seem to offer newly visible resources for oppositional projects interested in materialist representations of creativity. To give a sense of how, this paper puts the erotic view of creativity the poet and novelist H.D. develops in the fragmentary text, Notes on Thought and Vision, in conversation with the view of culture her contemporary, the Nobel-prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek, theorized around the same time. While Hayek subsumes creativity to transcendental market logics he believes culture at its best supports, H.D. conceives imagination as an historical and embodied faculty able to influence others through the sensuous materiality of sound and image. I explore the history of these different visions and evaluate their stakes for our moment.

August and September Readings in Oneonta

I’ll be giving two readings in Oneonta this fall. The first is later today at the City of the Hills Arts and Music Festival Big Read-In. The event is sponsored by the Community Arts Network of Oneonta, and I’ll be reading at Capresso Coffee Bar and Cuisine on August 4 at 1:00 pm. The event goes from 12:00 – 3:30 pm, with Carol Ohmart Behan, Racheal Fest, April Ford, Betty Fraley, and Andrew Reinbach also reading, followed by an open mic.

I will also be reading as part of SUNY Oneonta’s Red Dragon Reading Series on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 7:30 pm in the CME Great Room with Julie Suarez-Hayes.

June 2018 Links

Nuclear and Environmental

Joshua Miller, “Ed Markey’s Career-Long Fight against Nuclear Weapons.”

Donald J. Trump’s letter to Kim Jong-un.

Avery Anapol, “Lindsey Graham: War with North Korea Would Be ‘Worth It’ in the Long Run.”

Anton Troianovski, “Putin Claims Russia Is Developing Nuclear Arms Capable of Avoiding Missile Defenses.”

Kim Stanley Robinson, “Empty Half the Earth of Its Humans. It’s the Only Way to Save the Planet.”

Ursula K. Heise, “Climate Stories” and Kate Marshall, “The Readers of the Future Have Become Shitty Literary Critics,” reviews of The Great Derangement, by Amitav Ghosh.

Kate Aronoff, “Denial by a Different Name.”

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End of the Semester Links, Fall 2017

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.”

Tim Collins, “The Chance of ‘Catastrophic’ Climate Change Completely Wiping Out Humanity by 2100 Is Now 1-in-20.”

Damian Carrington, “Warning of ‘Ecological Armageddon’ after Dramatic Plunge in Insect Numbers.”

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.”

Democracy Now, “As Catastrophic Flooding Hits Houston, Fears Grow of Pollution from Oil Refineries & Superfund Sites.”

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Summer 2017 Links

Nuclear and Environmental

Nearing midnight: “Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

Mehdi Hasan, “The Madman with Nuclear Weapons Is Donald Trump, Not Kim Jong-un.”

David Wallace-Wells, “The Uninhabitable Earth.”

NUKEMAP by Alex Wellerstein, and “Global Hiroshima: Notes from a Bullet Train.”

Elizabeth Kolbert, “Au Revoir: Trump Exits the Paris Climate Agreement.”

Fiona Harvey, “World Has Three Years Left to Stop Dangerous Climate Change, Warn Experts.”

Damian Carrington, “Arctic Stronghold of World’s Seeds Floods after Permafrost Melts.”

Benjamin Powers, “An Abandoned US Nuclear Base in Greenland Could Start Leaking Toxic Waste Because of Global Warming.”

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