“William Gaddis at his Centenary” Special issue of electronic book review (
The year between December 29th 2022 and December 29th 2023 would have been the hundredth of William Gaddis’ life. Between 1955, when he published The Recognitions, and 1998, when he died shortly after completing Agapē Agape, Gaddis was notorious for a disproportion between reputation and readership. Being reflexively labelled “difficult,” with his own novels’ wry figurations of characters writing “for a very small audience,” and with a tendency to be categorized (though not always actually read) alongside the increasingly unfashionable “high postmodernists”… all this might have made it hard to envisage his work surviving into the 2000s.
And yet, since 2010, Gaddis has had a comparative renaissance among the wider reading public. With his novels republished under two imprints (most recently the NYRB Classics), with his letters published and then published again in expanded form, with a widely well-reviewed biography, and with increasing amounts of scholarship based on his voluminous archive, Gaddis has also become the subject of regular global reading groups from youtube to reddit. Quotations and misquotations from his novels (“Stupidity is the deliberate cultivation of ignorance,” “You get justice in the next world: in this world you have the law,” “Power doesn’t corrupt people, people corrupt power,” and so on) have been taken up for decontextualized social media recirculation in response to scandals and failures around the globe.
Gaddis in the last decade—his unlived 90s—has thus taken up a public presence and name-recognition far beyond what he managed in his life.
But at 100, even after the letters, the biography, and this public uptake, much remains to discover about Gaddis, his fiction, and his relation to the last century. Following a generative Centenary Conference at Washington University in St Louis, it’s time to put some of this new understanding on the record.
We invite contributions to the first of two special centenary publications on Gaddis. The peer-reviewed, open access online journal electronic book review (founded in 1995 by Gaddis’ biographer Joseph Tabbi, and home to special issues on Joseph McElroy, “What Was Postmodernism,” Corporate Fictions, and other Gaddis-adjacent topics) will publish a special issue to mark “William Gaddis at his Centenary” by the end of 2023.
Editors Ali Chetwynd (author of multiple articles on Gaddis’ archive) and Marie Fahd (author of a PhD on Gaddis and art) will assemble a variety of articles, archival guides, roundtable discussions, and prospectuses for future study, including by some of Gaddis’ most influential early critics.
In this open call for papers, we particularly seek roundtable topic-proposals and peer-reviewed article submissions on any topic broadly related to Gaddis in Context, adding to our existing archive of knowledge about Gaddis’ life, work, and reception. The issue will be published by the end of this centenary year (a second volume, oriented more toward future departures, will follow with its own call for papers at a slower pace).
Suitable topics for articles on Gaddis in Context might include…
- Expanded biography, from anecdote to history
- Archival discoveries and unknown writings
- Literary Influence, whether on Gaddis or by Gaddis
- Gaddis’ place in literary and intellectual history, in the US or more internationally
- Sources, whether explaining reference in the work or uncovering unstated inspirations
- Analysis of Gaddis’ reception
- Recontextualization of Gaddis’ work, its origins, its meanings, and its significance within the developments of the past century
All proposals and articles should be submitted to email@example.com . Tentative enquiries or questions about how to approach a project for the special issue are also welcome at the same address.
Submit first drafts of “Gaddis in Context” articles, at any length above 2000 words, any time before June 15th (Given the centenary-year timeframe for publication, authors should be ready to work on any reviewer-suggested revisions to submit by the end of September. Better to submit a slightly imperfect draft earlier, and get revised in time, than to pursue perfection and fall foul of the centenary deadlines). Please put “ebr Issue Submission” in the email header for any full drafts submitted. Submissions should be formatted for blind peer review, in MLA format with endnotes.
Roundtable proposals should be submitted by March 15th. These should come with a suggested topic, a list of at least 4 suggested participants, an identified moderator/questioner/transcriber, and a timeline for when the discussion could be organised and transcribed for submission. Please put “ebr roundtable proposal” in the email header.