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.'”
As part of Hartwick’s Faculty Lecture Series, I will be giving a talk on May 2, 2018 at 12:20 pm in the Eaton Lounge of Bresee Hall at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. The title of my lecture is “Too Big to Read: The Megatext in the Twenty-First Century,” and I will be presenting preliminary chapter from my work in progress of the same name.
In this new project, I am investigating the impact of massive textual accumulation on contemporary literary production and reception. With the increasing space made available by digital technology, texts are being created that are simply gigantic, unthinkably large compared to the previous century’s storage capacities. For instance, conceptual artist Michael Mandiberg recently printed out the entirety of Wikipedia in over seven thousand bound volumes, at some point in the near future Richard Grossman will publish a three-million-page “novel,” Breeze Avenue, and 2016 saw the appearance of No Man’s Sky, a videogame containing eighteen quintillion planets. I argue that with the appearance of such massively unreadable cultural artifacts—texts that are, quite literally, too big to read—the digital age has seen the emergence of a new transmedia form: what I call the megatext. I define megatexts as unreadably large yet concrete aesthetic and rhetorical objects that are produced and conceived as singular works and that depend upon digital technology and collaborative authorship for their production. Using the working paper for Grossman’s forthcoming Breeze Avenue as a case study, this lecture will present a theory of speculative criticism for approaching these massive texts. Drawing upon Timothy Morton’s concept of the hyperobject and suggesting that megatexts have roots in literary postmodernism, this talk will explore some of the ways that megatexts respond to the conditions of the Anthropocene and open up new spaces for imaginative reading, creation, and understanding in contemporaneity.
For a (longer) published version of this lecture, see “Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper,” in Scale in Literature and Culture, ed. Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 253-80.
For other parts of this work in progress, see “The Megatext and Neoliberalism” and “The Time of Megatexts: Dark Accumulation and Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar,” both available on my academia.edu page. I also have a forthcoming short essay discussing this project: “Writing Briefly about Really Big Things,” in Begging the Question: Chauceriana, Book History, and Humanistic Inquiry (Mythodologies II), by Joseph A. Dane (Los Angeles: Marymount Institute Press, forthcoming 2018).
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.”
Two new books are available for pre-order in which I have contributions.
Scale in Literature and Culture, edited by Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg, and including essays by Bruno Latour and Mark McGurl, can now be ordered from Palgrave Macmillan. My contribution is the first part of my new project on megatexts: “Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper.'”
J. Hillis Miller’s Reading Inside Out: Interviews and Conversations, edited by David Jonathan Y. Bayot, is forthcoming from Sussex Academic Press and reprints my interview with Professor Miller from 2014, “Isn’t It a Beautiful Day?,” originally published in boundary 2.
Both books are also available on Amazon (here and here). (As both are also potentially prohibitively expensive, please do not hesitate to contact me requesting the essay or interview.)
“Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper,'” the first essay from a new project on what I have been calling megatexts, will appear in Scale in Literature and Culture, edited by Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg. The collection of essays will be published by Palgrave Macmillan and will hopefully come out later this year. More information to come.