Agented

In another deviation from academic matters–but not entirely–I’m now agented, and well-agented.

The interesting academic angle on this development comes from a conversation I had yesterday with Matt Jockers, a professor in the English department who does technology-related stuff. We talked about the possibility of building or developing some sort of social-networking application that I could use to map connections among authors and publications for my dissertation.

My hunch is that social-networking theory and analysis might be a useful way of learning how and why certain authors are connected to other authors. Why do David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen mutually blurb each other? Probably because they were friends. Why did Franzen blurb Alex Shakar’s The Savage Girl? What is the relationship between the blurb and the fact that they share an agent? Whatever the answer for these particular questions, I think literary studies has too often ignored the ways in which social networks shape or can help explain aspects of literary history. At best we have a vague sense that lots of modernists were running around Paris together, etc.

For my project, my interest is in building a model of the networks surrounding Dave Eggers and the whole McSweeney’s publishing operation. My operating theory, for now at least, is that aesthetic postirony–quirkiness, Brooklynite precocity, Wes-Andersonian bric-à-bracity–has as much to do with social networks as anything else. We tend to speak and write like our friends and neighbors. In an increasingly globalized age, where family relations dominate our fates less than they have, our affiliations and voluntary associations can be very powerful indeed. It’s what used to be called “peer pressure,” but is probably better referred to as something like “aesthetic entropy.”