MLA 2021: Twenty-First-Century Forms

For this year’s Modern Language Association Convention, to be held virtually from January 7–10, 2021, I organized and will be speaking on a roundtable on Twenty-First-Century Forms, along with Amy Sara Carroll, Racheal Fest, Christian P. Haines, Hyemin Kim, and Eric Loy. I have included the information about the panel and, below that, full abstracts from each speaker.

181. Twenty-First-Century Forms

Thursday, January 7, 2020, 7:00 – 8:15 p.m. (EST)

If the novel and lyric poem have become residual forms, what literary forms are emerging in contemporaneity? Participants explore emergent literary forms of the twenty-first century and their relationship with, instantiation in, or remediation by other (digital) media: film, television, video, graphic narrative, video games, transmedia, or other hybrid, novel, or megatextual forms.

Speakers
Amy Sara Carroll (U of California, San Diego)
Bradley Fest (Hartwick C)
Racheal Fest (State U of New York, Oneonta)
Christian Haines (Penn State U, University Park)
Hyemin Kim (Baruch C, City U of New York)
Eric Loy (U of Rochester)

Presiding
Bradley Fest (Hartwick C)


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Spring 2020 Links (Pre-COVID-19)

A lot of stuff was going on for me this year, both personally and professionally, so I haven’t really had a chance to post links since . . . last summer (!), nine months before the global pandemic was declared. So, to catch up: here’s links from late summer 2019–March 11, 2020 that are, by the very nature of posting them now, rather outdated/anachronistic, a window onto a world that is gone yet still all too present (and excessive), a world that most certainly wasn’t going in the direction of human flourishing and that any nostalgia for may be misplaced. . . . I hope to have “Links in the Time of Coronavirus, Vol. 1” up sometime soon(er than nine months from now . . .).

Donald G. McNeil Jr., “Wuhan Coronavirus Looks Increasingly Like a Pandemic, Experts Say” (February 20, 2020).

 

Nuclear and Environmental

Mary Hudetz, “US Official: Research Finds Uranium in Navajo Women, Babies.”

David E. Sanger and Andrew E. Kramer, “US Officials Suspect New Nuclear Missile in Explosion That Killed Seven Russians.”

Kristin George Bagdanov, “Addressing the Atomic Specter: Ginsberg’S ‘Plutonian Ode’ and America’s Nuclear Unconscious.”

Alyssa Battistoni, “Why Naomi Klein Has Been Right.”

Henry Fountain, “Climate Change Is Accelerating, Bringing World ‘Dangerously Close’ to Irreversible Change.”

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Summer 2019 Links

I had the privilege of meeting Richard Siken when I was quite young–an undergraduate at the University of Arizona–and he gave me lots of good advice on the poetry world (and life), conversations I still cherish. Please help him out.

Stroke Recovery Fund for Poet Richard Siken.

 

Nuclear and Environmental

Alenka Zupančič, “The Apocalypse Is (Still) Disappointing.”

James Livingston, “Time, Dread, Apocalypse Now.

Ted Nordhaus, “The Empty Radicalism of the Climate Apocalypse.”

Jessica Hurley and Dan Sinykin, eds., Apocalypse, special issue of ASAP/Journal.

Frame, Apocalypse.

Brad Plumer, “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace.”

Damian Carrington, “Why The Guardian Is Changing the Language It Uses about the Environment.”

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“Reading Now and Again” in CounterText

Publication CoverMy 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:

Ivan Callus and James Corby, “Editorial.”

J. Hillis Miller, Ivan Callus, and James Corby, “The CounterText Interview: J. Hillis Miller.”

Bradley J. Fest, “Reading Now and Again: Hyperarchivalism and Democracy in Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s Thinking Literature across Continents.”

Simona Sawhney, “Boatmen, Wastrels, and Demons: Figures of Literature.”

Jakob Lothe, “The Author’s Ethical Responsibility and the Ethics of Reading.”

Jonathan Locke Hart, “Ideas of Poetics and the Close Reading of Poetry.”

Shaobo Xie, “Does Literature Matter Today? Thoughts of the Outside.”

Kirk Kenny and James Corby, “Screens of Fortune: A Photo-Essay.”

Timothy Mathews, “The Many Hands of Thick Time: William Kentridge at the Whitechapel Gallery.”

“Metaproceduralism: The Stanley Parable and the Legacies of Postmodern Metafiction” in Wide Screen

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I am pleased to announce that another essay on videogames, “Metaproceduralism: The Stanley Parable and the Legacies of Postmodern Metafiction,” just appeared in Wide Screen. The essay is part of a special issue on videogame adaptation, edited by Kevin M. Flanagan, and includes articles by Jedd HakimiCameron KunzelmanKyle MeikleBobby Schweizer, and Kalervo Sinervo. It’s also open access, so anyone can read it.

Abstract: Most critics of contemporary literature have reached a consensus that what was once called “postmodernism” is over and that its signature modes—metafiction and irony—are on the wane. This is not the case, however, with videogames. In recent years, a number of self-reflexive games have appeared, exemplified by Davey Wreden’s The Stanley Parable(2013), an ironic game about games. When self-awareness migrates form print to screen, however, something happens. If metafiction can be characterized by how it draws attention to its materiality—the artificiality of language and the construction involved in acts of representation—The Stanley Parable draws attention to the digital, procedural materiality of videogames. Following the work of Alexander R. Galloway and Ian Bogost, I argue that the self-reflexivity of The Stanley Parable is best understood in terms of action and procedure, as metaproceduralism. This essay explores the legacies of United States metafiction in videogames, suggesting that though postmodernism might be over, its lessons are important to remember for confronting the complex digital realities of the twenty-first century. If irony may be ebbing in fiction, it has found a vital and necessary home in videogames and we underestimate its power to challenge the informatic, algorithmic logic of cultural production in the digital age to our detriment.

“The Megatext and Neoliberalism” and “Metaproceduralism: The Stanley Parable and the Legacies of Postmodern Metafiction”

I’ll be giving two talks in Pittsburgh over the next two months on May 13 and June 22, 2016.

 

1. Friday, May 13, 2016 — 2:30 – 4:30. Part of a panel on “The Novel in or against Neoliberalism” at the 2016 Studies in the Novel Conference, The Novel in or against World Literature, Wyndham University Center – Oakland Room II.

Chair: Jen Fleissner, Indiana University

“The Megatext and Neoliberalism,” Bradley J. Fest, University of Pittsburgh

“The Novel in India and Neoliberalism,” H. Kalpana, Pondicherry University

“The Novel and Neoliberal Empathy,” Alissa G. Karl, The College at Brockport-SUNY

“Immanent Value in The Golden Bowl,” Paul Stasi, University at Albany-SUNY

 

The Megatext and Neoliberalism

With the steadily increasing storage capacity and processing power of contemporary information technology, enormously large texts are beginning to emerge that rival the books and libraries once imagined by Jorge Luis Borges. For instance, at some point in the near future, poet and novelist Richard Grossman will install Breeze Avenue—a five thousand volume, three million page “novel”—as a reading room in Los Angeles, and will also make this text available online in a fluid version that will change roughly every seven minutes for a century. Grossman’s text is, quite simply, too big to read; it is a megatext. This paper will consider the appearance of the unreadably massive novel as an emergent form native to the neoliberal era.

The writing, publication, and distribution of megatexts are impossible without the informatic, technological, and economic transformations of neoliberal globalization. For instance, the composition of Breeze Avenue would be inconceivable without big data and algorithmically generated text, without significant funding and personal wealth (Grossman was a high-level executive for a multinational financial firm in the 1970s), and without transforming the labor of the author from writing to managing. Mark Z. Danielewski’s twenty-seven volume meganovel-in-progress, The Familiar (2015-    ), takes full advantage of contemporary digital composition and production to create a work deeply enmeshed in the digital present by self-reflexively remediating the new media forms made possible by the distributed networks and posthuman technologies of the twenty-first century—including electronic literature, premier serial television, social media, videogames, and YouTube. And Mark Leach’s seventeen volume, ten thousand page, open source, digitally generated meganovel, Marienbad My Love (2008), takes advantage of crowd-sourced, collective authorship, reflecting the always-on unpaid digital microlabor that has come to characterize work in the overdeveloped world. Understanding such texts as unique outgrowths of and important critical reflections upon the age of neoliberalism allows us to explore important questions about the role of the novel in the twenty-first century and the possibilities for responding to the nonhuman logics of contemporaneity.

 

 

2. Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 1:30 – 3:00, I’ve organized a panel on “Videogame Adaptation” with Jedd Hakimi and Kevin M. Flanagan, colleagues in the Film Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh, for the Keystone DH 2016 Conference, Hillman Library, University of Pittsburgh. (A schedule of the conference.)

 

Videogame Adaptation

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As videogames continue to emerge as a dominant twenty-first-century form, it is becoming clearer that they have complex relationships to other media. This panel, part of a larger collaborative project, will address issues of adaptation and videogames from a transmedia perspective, drawing particularly on the resources provided by film and literary studies.

 

Videogame Adaptation: Some Experiments in Method
Kevin M. Flanagan, University of Pittsburgh

This paper outlines the concerns and conceptual practices of videogame adaptation, noting the many ways in which videogames shape, or are shaped by, ideas, narratives, and mechanics from other media. In situating videogames into the discourses of textual transformation that animate current work in adaptation studies, I argue that traditional approaches to adaptation in English departments (which privilege novel-to-film adaptation in a one-to-one correspondence) have a lot to learn from games, which function as adaptations at all stages of their production and consumption. I also demonstrate how adaptation studies challenges claims to medium specificity that form a foundational conceit of videogame studies.

 

Metaproceduralism: The Stanley Parable and the Legacies of Postmodern Metafiction
Bradley J. Fest, University of Pittsburgh

Most critics of contemporary literature have reached a consensus that what was once called “postmodernism” is over and that its signature modes—metafiction and irony—are on the wane. This is not the case, however, with videogames. In recent years, a number of self-reflexive games have appeared, exemplified by Davey Wreden’s The Stanley Parable (2013), an ironic game about games. When self-awareness migrates form print to screen, however, something happens. If metafiction can be characterized by how it draws attention to language and representation, this paper will argue how self-reflexivity in videogames is best understood in terms of action and procedure, as metaproceduralism.

 

Playing Los Angeles Itself: Experiencing the Digital Documentary Environment in LA Noire
Jedd Hakimi, University of Pittsburgh

Almost everything about the predominantly faithful depiction of 1947 Los Angeles in the recent, police-procedural videogame LA Noire (2011) was based on archival material, including period maps, photography, and film footage. And while scholars have thought extensively about how film spectators experience mediated depictions of real-world cities, the videogame player’s parallel experience has been relatively unexplored. Accordingly, I take LA Noire’s simulacrum as an opportunity to reflect on what happens when a real-world environment is adapted into the setting for a videogame. Specifically, I position LA Noire in the tradition of the “city-symphony” film and a particular sub-set of Film Noir known as the “semi-documentary” to make the case LA Noire contains crucial aspects of the documentary image. Consequently, LA Noire is not so much creating a fictional, diegetic world, as it is presenting our own world back to us in a manner that changes the way we experience the world in which we live.