Network Anxieties: Reading the Contemporary Novel (NEMLA panel, March 21-24, BOSTON)

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Since the early 1990's, the internet has increasingly influenced how cultural texts are read and disseminated. This media shift has transformed long-held notions of publicness, authority, and the archive. For media scholar Lisa Gitelman, media history is about nothing less than the 'experience of meaning' (18), an experience that the web has changed by 'eschew[ing] the punctual logic of more conventional public discourse' (144). This panel enters ongoing debates about the internet's influence on literature, critics, and their publics, exploring how new media's social network shapes fiction and the critical reading practices that make sense of it. 'Network Anxieties' thus takes seriously the charge in Kathleen Fitzpatrick's influential study, The Anxiety of Obsolescence, to 'give up the luxury of purely literary-historical models of creative production to confront instead the role of literature in a larger culture' (6). This panel will interrogate how anxieties about the new media network influence contemporary literary form--its modes of address, genres, paratexts, and style--and genres of critical reception--ethics, posthumanism, and literary sociology, among others. How has the presence and influence of the internet and the global public it makes possible changed the kinds of questions literary scholars pose? How has the interpenetration of seemingly divergent fields of cultural production and their publics changed the relation between the contemporary novel and its critics? And how do contemporary fiction and academic scholarship consequently position themselves in relation to one another? The papers in this panel will address these concerns by interrogating the literary forms we study and the critical modes with which we do so, shedding light on social and cultural transformations that literary and critical anxieties about networked mass media index and make visible.

Please submit 300-word abstracts to Jackie O'Dell at by September 30, 2012