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Ergebnisanzeige "ACLA 2016: Consumerism and Prestige: The Materiality of Literature in the Postindustrial Age"
RessourcentypCall for Papers
TitelACLA 2016: Consumerism and Prestige: The Materiality of Literature in the Postindustrial Age
Beschreibung"Consumerism and Prestige: The Materiality of Literature in the
Postindustrial Age" Seminar at the Annual Meeting of the American
Comparative Literature Association Harvard University, Cambridge, MA,
March 17-20, 2016

Organizers: Anthony Enns (Dalhousie University); Bernhard Metz (Freie
Universität Berlin); Anh Nguyen (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

This seminar will explore the relationship between consumerism and
prestige by examining how the material properties of books (such as the
cover, binding, typography, and paper stock) reflect and perhaps even
influence their cultural status. Beginning in the nineteenth century,
printing and binding became cheaper, faster, and more easily accessible
than ever before, which increased the demand for new content and lowered
the cultural entrance level, resulting in the expansion of popular or
trivial literature as well as a wide range of new formats, such as dime
novels, pulp magazines, and paperbacks. On the other hand, publishers also
sought to mimic the conventions of exclusiveness through deluxe editions,
which attempt to preserve the highbrow status of literature as a marker of
class distinctions. This same process also informs contemporary debates
concerning digital media, as cultural distinctions are now being
reconfigured through new forms of electronic display in the postprint era.

The relationship between consumerism and prestige thus reflects
fundamental historical changes with regard to the development of
technology, literacy, and social power. While the industrialization of
print resulted in a sudden explosion of print material, that democratized
literature by making books available to a mass reading public, these
developments were perceived as a potential threat to the literary elite,
who relied on material distinctions as a way of securing their cultural
authority. As the divide between highbrow and lowbrow taste widened, the
material properties of the text became the primary site where the cultural
status of literature was constructed and contested. In many cases, the
distinctions between highbrow and lowbrow texts had little to do with the
content of the texts themselves, given that books more often functioned as
markers of socioeconomic status, like clothing or home décor. At the risk
of being provocative, one might even go so far as to say that since the
eighteenth century the concept of literary taste has been more closely
related to fashion sense than critical judgment, although this claim
clearly challenges the hermeneutic and philosophical traditions upon which
these cultural distinctions rely for their continued relevance.

The seminar will address this provocative claim by examining the tensions
between consumerism and prestige in the history of book production,
consumption, and reception over the last two centuries. Participants will
explore how the cultural status of literary texts can be understood as an
inherent consequence of the industrialization of print since the
nineteenth century and how the material form of a book often changes the
value of texts otherwise experienced as less prestigious. Contributions
are particularly invited on the following topics:

-- The impact of printing technologies on the production and distribution
of literary texts.

-- The relationship between the material properties of literary texts and
their cultural prestige.

-- The production and reception of popular literary formats, including
dime novels, pulp magazines, paperbacks, etc.

-- The relationship between new forms of electronic display and the
cultural status of digital texts, including e-books, e-readers, cell phone
novels, etc.

Please submit abstracts of no more than 3000 words by 23 September 2015.
For more information, or to submit an abstract, please visit:
or contact the organizers:

Anthony Enns, Dalhousie University (
Bernhard Metz, Freie Universität Berlin (
Anh Nguyen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (

Paper abstracts must be submitted through the ACLA website: Paper submissions through the portal
will close 23 September 2015.

Bernhard Metz
Postdoctoral Fellow
Freie Universitaet Berlin
Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies FSGS
Raum JK 33/132
Habelschwerdter Allee 45
D-14195 Berlin
Quelle der BeschreibungInformation des Anbieters
VeranstaltungsortCambridge, MA
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