Persistent Commercialization: Literary Criticism, Publishing, and the Academy
The ISSN and the South Asian and South Asian Diasporic forum at the MLA invite 300 word abstracts for a collaborative panel examining the cultural politics of South Asian narrative studies and literary criticism given their imbrication in financialized academic markets by March 15.
Literary endeavors have long been deeply imbricated with commercialization. Drama for the stage, poetry for patrons, and fiction for mass readership ensured that the production of literature was always connected to market imperatives. Today, authors and literary works are embedded in a global profit-oriented publishing matrix.
The emergence of literary studies as a discipline towards the end of the nineteenth century ensured that literature was embedded in a different market, that of the academy. Charting a narrative of literary studies from the long twentieth to the twenty-first century we can, even at the risk of some generalization, say that early-twentieth-century public institutions of higher learning sought to resist market imperatives in pedagogical approaches to literature. The privatization and corporatization of universities, however, have ensured the dominance of STEM disciplines, thereby threatening the inclusion in academic programs of narrative and literary studies from various regions, such as South Asia, one of the most culturally, socially, and linguistically varied regions of the world.
Given these conditions, this panel seeks to interrogate the persistent commercialization of narrative studies and literary criticism in the context of South Asian and postcolonial literature. Some of the topics that might emerge from this enquiry are:
• Splintering of literary studies into sub-specializations such as rhetoric and writing, literary theory and cultural studies, film and media, and creative writing in the academy.
• Rise of “popular” narrative courses on topics such as the vampire novel, graphic fiction, and video games to counteract the diminishing number of students enrolling in literature courses.
• Creative experiments with narrative and form leading to new genres such as Facebook Fiction, Instapoetry, and translation of canonical literature through technology such as the Global Chaucers project, Emoji Dickinson, and Emoji (Moby) Dick and the persistent translation of Jane Austen into South Asian contexts via film, TV, and popular fiction.
• Theoretical responses to these forms, including those of postructuralism, postmodernism, postcolonialism, critical race theory, new media, feminist studies, and queer studies.
• Big-stakes prize money for creative writers, with several newly-instituted prizes (the Caine Prize for African Writing, the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize offered by Yale University), along with established prizes such as the Man Booker, the Commonwealth Writers’, or the Neustadt International Literary Prize, often won by South Asian and postcolonial writers.