Transformations and Permutations

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I am back in the U.S. after a pretty cool–and rather sick–trip to Barcelona for the New Year, where they stuff their mouths with grapes in the seconds leading up to midnight.

My colloquim went off pretty well, although every member of my committee had mutually irreconcilable advice on where I should take my dissertation. I am thinking about the diss. again and am contemplating taking it in the direction of looking at Coolness as a concept across a longer stretch of time than merely the ’90s.

In fact, I have become enamoured of a new idea about how to do texual and literary analysis based on the development of a notion of “narrative economics” (as opposed to narratology) which takes a literary work as the amaglamation of a literal economy of textual tokens which come together in some structure. I am interested in documenting how narrative economies have real interactions with social and historical economies. To give you a simplified example of what I mean, think of a feature of narrative structure like length. A book that is “too long”–where too long is defined in relation to what is a socially normal length for a novel–will suffer a reduction in sales simply because people are less willing to devote substantial time to reading that novel. Correspondingly, however, a novel that is very long might gain in its status, which would feed back into its sales. This is the sort of analysis that I am beginning to find interesting and convincing as a way forward for literary studies. Maybe it’s just crap but that’s where I am right now.

How does this fit into a concept of coolness and postirony? Well, I’m not entirely sure. I am going to begin by writing a section on The Corrections. I am interested in the way that Franzen positions the novel as a kind of appeal to the “middlebrow”–a descent from literary heights–which he redacted when fully embaced by the “middlebrow” in the form of Oprah’s book club. I want to try to tie this positioning to the specific structure Franzen deploys in constructing the novel. It might all end up blowing up in my face.

If so, I’ll document that blowing up here on this blog.