Ladies and Gents, I’d like to introduce some of my fellow academics in the Public Texts program. Alongside a question regarding their focus, I asked them the following question: what is the finest work of literature you’ve read? Or what work of literature has affected you in some way? What about this work made you want to study literature? I was provided with some excellent answers. Overall, blogosphere, meet the stars of the program:
Note: Keep an eye out on this post, as more individuals will pop up in the next few weeks.
Focus: How the internet has changed book culture / book culture on the internet. (Re: Internship stream: publishing, especially ebooks and web books)
1) The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which is a lit-fic murder mystery
2) The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler, which I think is the book that really got me excited (in high school) about literary style – it has an innovative layered/shifting POV structure, witty prose, vivid characters and my favourite of all plot devices, the unreliable narrator. Definitely have a strong connection to this book.
Editor: Who is the unreliable narrator – you or me?
Me: Oh, you of course!
Editor: But I thought is was you – clarify that in your posts!
Focus: Currently I’m completing an MA in transgender narratives and their counterpublics. A lot of my research for that involved audience participation and the formations of subcultures online, which then lead me to my new area of research in fan studies. I’ve work a lot with the self-published trans author Elliott DeLine and studied how the landscape of publishing and the book has changed dramatically in the last few years through social media and DIY ventures. I’ve been accepted to a PhD program where I plan on looking at affect in bandom communities (bandom = band + fandom, meaning writing fan fiction about band members) and the publication of fan texts. I’m also interested in using digital media and social networking for teaching, and I’ve created a tumblr for my current TA class in pop fiction. (Here at www.fyeahtrentupopfiction.tumblr.com).
Check out Elliot Deline’s tumblr: http://elliottdeline.tumblr.com/
Literary Favourite: “Finest” is such a strange way of putting it, because it can be taken so many different ways. There are certainly books I like personally, but I’m going to be a bit of a troublemaker and say the most interesting book I’ve read is Twilight. The literature purists are probably staring wide-eyed at the screen and ripping their hair out, but aside from the Harry Potter series, this book has had the most influence on publishing, literature, and social consciousness within the past eight years since its publication. The Young Adult market is the only one to not decline in the years since the internet’s boom over industry, and that’s probably thanks to this series (and HP) and their many copycats in the realm of urban fantasy. Not only has it allowed for big industry publishing to stay around, but this book sparked one of the fastest selling works in recent years – Fifty Shades of Grey. This managed to make something as fringe as fan fiction become common knowledge through its popularity, and managed to display just how far word of mouth marketing and the internet can take someone now. As much as we whine and moan about the quality of this work and how horrible both texts are (Meyer’s and James’), the fact is that they have both gone viral — I would say even more than Harry Potter. Nothing unites people like bad books or bad jokes because we all can feel superior in knowing that it is, in fact, bad. Because of this, it has become a reference point in our cultural and social consciousness. Everyone knows what “Team Jacob” and “Team Edward” means — unless you’ve been living under a rock since Y2K. We can ignore this book all we want in our prestigious literary canons, but the fact is that it has spoken to masses, either in good or bad ways, and in one hundred years if we’re not all dead from global warming, it will be on a syllabus. In this way, it is just like Shakespeare. It is the popular book of the masses that time ends up immortalizing. What the digital boom has done in recent years is give more power to that audience that carries the text on, either through hate or love, for years.
But I should probably say something like Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, because I’m a good graduate student. 😉
Editor’s Note: The literary elitist in me is humbled.
Me: Me too. And all this time I thought In Search of Lost Time was a grad student handbook!
Focus: Post-war American literature, with a focus on Cold War poetics and the Beat Generation. My interests surrounding the Beat Generation include: English and American Romanticism (think of the range between William Blake and Walt Whitman); the development of new literary technique and form (a.k.a confessionalism and free verse poetry; the revival of spoken word poetry and oral narratives); as well as trauma narratives.
Literary Favourite: When I think of this question, I realize how absolutely impossible (i.e. somewhat inane) it is to answer, but I’ll give it a shot. It is a tie between three works:
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground: It is the type of novel that can be successfully read out loud or performed. The narrator is so anti-social, self-loathing, and abrasive that you are forced to question if there are any redeeming qualities about him. You find that there are. In fact, quite a lot of them. The novel also functions as a critique of early capitalism and the Westernization of the Russia.
Shakespeare’s King Lear: I should have put Hamlet, but King Lear, especially Lear’s final moments (his ‘Howl’ monologue), is resounding. The text deals with a King’s struggle with his own mortality, his love for his daughter, and the nature of humanity (power, love, humanity = big themes that Shakespeare manages to weave in delicate verse).
“Howl” by Allen Ginsberg: What can I say? If I never read this poem, I likely would not be in grad school. Good enough reason.