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The following is a work-in-progress that thinks through some of the implications of the present and ongoing migration of readers from print to screen for the novel genre. It examines the way reading, and especially novel reading, are changing in light of parallel moments in the history of the genre (e.g., public readings, the sharing of marginalia). It also relies heavily on my experiences as a professor at Hunter College/CUNY, where I taught a course in which students performed some interesting “novel hacks” that raised key issues for in in this analysis. To be invited to make comments, please contact me at jeff.allred [at] hunter.cuny.edu.
A few tips for navigation for those unfamiliar with digress.it: To read, click on the headings on the left, beginning with #2, "Introduction." To comment, simply click on a given paragraph within a section and a comment box should pop up. There are no footnotes, since digress.it doesn't support them, so at a few points I've not glossed things as fully as I would and am happy to add more detail on request. Feel free to contact me with any glitches
We are living through a moment of rapid changes in reading practices best conceptualized as the migration from print to screen. This phenomenon has proven irresistible to a wide range of polemicists from left to right: on the one hand, screen-based media constitute a “shallows” that is “making us stupid,” fostering a distracted mode of reading that renders depth and concentration impossible both for consumers and producers of “literary” work; on the other, screens liberate textuali [...]
One of the most interesting places to examine new, networked modes of literary sociality is the distributed audiobook. Of course, there is nothing new about listening to books on various media, a practice which has its origins in Edison’s vision for the phonogram as literary delivery system in the 1870s, and ramifies out through the radio dramas of the 1930s, literary recordings on LPs in the postwar period, and especially the rise of “books on tape” in the 1970s. Recorded performances [...]
The second “novel hack” attempted by my students was the creation of a “marked up” novel, again using a public domain source text and again using free, open-source tools. Whereas creating an audiobook uses emergent technologies and practices to help readers recover, in some sense, aspects of a lapsed sociality in literature, marking up a novel uses them to do something more radically new: expanding the margins of novels, in effect, and populating this new textual expanse with a company [...]
Andrews, Malcolm. Charles Dickens and His Performing Selves: Dickens and the Public Readings. Oxford University Press, USA, 2008. Print. Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist & Emerson, Caryl Holquist, Michael. University of Texas Press, 1981. Print. Barthes, Roland. S/Z. Trans. Richard Howard. Macmillan, 1975. Print. –––. “The Grain of the Voice.” The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art, and Represen [...]