[UPDATE] Fictional Economies: Inequality and Novel, Essay collection with forward by Rami Shamir, author of TRAIN TO POKIPSE
Fictional Economies: Inequality and the Novel
Joseph Donica is an Assistant Professor of English at Bronx Community College.
Rami Shamir is the author of TRAIN TO POKIPSE (Grove Press 2011, http://traintopokipse.com/)
Abstracts of 300 words and full CVs due November 1, 2015 to
Full articles due March 1, 2015
Projected publication fall 2016
For this collection I seek submissions on the theme of "Inequality and the Novel." I welcome submissions addressing any aspect of inequality as it relates to the novel from its origins to now. I also seek perspectives on texts from a range of regions, genres, and forms. Of special interest to this collection is how genres have emerged throughout history because of the social experiences of inequality. While highly specialized essays representing new or revised approaches to the novel are welcome, the terminology of all essays should appeal to a broad readership. And while I seek submissions that address inequality and the novel as broadly defined, I am especially interested in essays that address one or more of the following questions: 1) Historically, how have novels represented the intersection of social and economic inequality? 2) How has the publishing industry addressed issues of social and economic inequality through choices of what is published at what time and what is not? 3) How has the radical shift in readership of novels since the mid twentieth century influenced representations of inequality in novels, shifts in emphases by critics, and the effect readership has on this shift? 4) And how does the contemporary moment with its understanding and political uses of the word inequality help us read the ways concepts of inequality have shifted in complex ways?
Possible topics include but are not limited to:
-Representations of Inequality in specific texts that understand social and economic inequality as bound together
-Emerging genres and sites of publication (such as digital) that address inequality by bypassing traditional publication apparatuses
-The evolution of the concept of inequality throughout a particular writer's career
-Defending/critiquing literary knowledge as part of general education requirements as they pertain to specific texts
-Literary historical explorations of specific texts that opened access to new readerships or that reified the existing ones
Excerpt from the introduction to the collection:
Inequality is one of those ever-present, universal experiences, like gender, that a writer couldn't avoid addressing even if she tried. Why, then, is inequality's relationship to literature so little explored? Inequality has emerged as a complex social fact and in order for us to understand our own moment's entanglements with it, we must look to how the concept has changed over time. Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century (French 2013, English 2014) a book that redefined the definition of social inequality for a number of fields including literary studies, is an exploration of the economics of inequality that have defined the social experience of those in Europe and the U.S. for the past decade and a half. The useful aspect of Piketty's work for those in literary studies is his interest in literary representations of inequality. Interspersed among charts and graphs that map the economics of the shockingly unequal distribution of wealth in the past fifteen years are readings of novels by Balzac, Jane Austen, and Henry James. Literature in Piketty's view is one of the best sites for examining inequality in all its incarnations. Economists' work rarely receives the notoriety Piketty's has while avoiding partisan complaints over skewed metrics. The popularity of his work represents a populist moment in the discussion of global politics. Specifically Piketty's work has become the justification for the policy recommendations of an emerging political populism within Europe and the U.S.—one initiated by Occupy Wall Street and sustained by the transnational populism of Western interest in the Arab Spring.
This collection compiles a set of essays that examines the ways writers, publishers, and readerships associate or disassociate economic and social inequality and what impact these two ways of interpreting inequality have on the texts that are produced, the public reaction to them, and how they are taught. Inequality, while an ever-present topic for writers and an economic reality for publishers, means something very specific at this point in history. This collection examines representations of inequality broadly defined, but it addresses the following questions specifically: 1) Historically, how have novels represented the intersection of social and economic inequality? 2) How has the publishing industry addressed issues of social and economic inequality through choices of what is published at what time and what is not? 3) How has the radical shift in the readership of novels since the mid twentieth century influenced representations of inequality in novels, shifts in emphases by critics, and the effect readership has on this shift? 4) And how does the contemporary moment with its understanding and political uses of the word inequality help us read the ways concepts of inequality have shifted in complex ways?
Piketty's book, the thesis of which is that inequality is a central feature to capitalism and not an accidental byproduct, argues that inequality can only be reduced through direct state action. While political movements through the last half of the twentieth century highlighted the inequality of the everyday life of women, gays, and indigenous peoples, we have come to understand the concept of inequality in a more politically charged connotation only in the past decade—a decade in which economists tell us economic inequality increased in the West to its highest level in history. For one of the first times in U.S. cultural history the political mainstream accepted the idea that inequality based on income was often directly related to that person's gender or ethnicity. Cultural identity linked to the experience of economic inequality is something policy makers can actually sell to constituents. Therefore, at least in the U.S., the discussion of gender and ethnicity and their baring on income was finally brought into mainstream political discussion—perhaps too late some economists say.
Studies of inequality based on gender, class, race, and sexual orientation in literature are nearly uncountable, and the demand for such studies has only increased. Some critique the emergence of inequality as too broad of a rallying cry to unify social movements and as nothing different than what was done in social movements before. But in the past decade and a half inequality has come to mean something different, something specific. Inequality has now become a clear marker of identity. Leftist social movements in Western democracies since the 1960s have brought together disparate smaller interest groups under the banner of broad social inequality. The culmination of these movements as well as the impetus for Piketty's book was the Occupy Wall Street movement that convinced a broader public that economic inequality is inextricably tied to social inequality. Movements themselves produce bodies of literature, and this is increasingly the case as participants in these movements have broader readerships and more platforms in a digital and transnational age. Occupy and the Arab Spring were responsible for introducing renewed interest in several genres and forms and for presenting those to audiences previously unaware of them. For example, the graphic novel, since the Arab Spring, has sprung up as one of the most influential forms in the Middle East, and demand for translations of Arab language graphic novels has greatly increased.
The novel, as a concept and because of the venues we generally discuss and critique it in, is laden with contradictory commitments to what some would call class struggle. Historically novels have been written, read, and critiqued by those with the education and time for such pursuits—those versed in the vocabulary of a critique of fiction. As such, novels for much of their history took up the concerns of that class of people and presented inequality from that class's perspective. While sounding traditionally Marxist in its approach this collection offers anything but a traditional class reading of novels or of their publishing apparatus. The essays represent a wide variety of perspectives and include introspection not just on the theme of inequality in novels but an awareness the entire publishing apparatus (of which we are a part) that has made the novel such a contentious site of public conflict.