Mostly (not) on McSweeney's!

A blog for my academic ideas, more or less.

Conference Proposal

Have put a proposal in for this conference: http://www.pgoracle.uea.ac.uk/node/376

Issue 28 of the literary journal McSweeney’s contains eight modern fables. My paper involves reading Brian Evenson’s story ‘The Book and the Girl’ (an account of a girl’s favourite book in an apocalyptic world) as enacting an interpretation of the relationship between the journal and its readers. Literary periodicals in the latter half of the twenty-first century did not have the kind of readership and influence these types of publications had in the early part of the century. The success of McSweeney’s makes it worth investigating what it has done differently, and what this can tell us about the economics of literary publishing in the 21st century. My use of one of McSweeney’s own stories to analyse its reading culture is a response to the methodological challenge posed by periodicals–the periodical text is hard to pin down critically, being both singular (individual issues) and multiple (entire print run).  My assumption is that those involved in writing for McSweeney’s internalise its conditions of production, and these can be explored through a creative reading of their texts. My paper will also incorporate an analysis of the editorial content of early McSweeney’s issues, to illustrate the strategies they have used to articulate their reading culture. I will suggest that the reading culture of McSweeney’s is characterised by certain traits, e.g. young, politically engaged, post-materialist, postmodern approach to art, etc. McSweeney’s articulates their identification with this subculture through their cannibalization of the periodical tradition, amongst other strategies.

The brief, of how culture is produced, was broad enough that I felt my work can feel at home. Find out in the next few days if I get to do it, and if not I’ll be presenting it at my department’s research seminar series regardless.

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