Horizons of the publishable: publishing in/as literary studies

Malik, Rachel (2008) Horizons of the publishable: publishing in/as literary studies. ELH [English Literary History], 75 (3). pp. 707-735. ISSN 0013-8304

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/elh.0.0016

Abstract

It is conventionally assumed that book publishing is a process through which writing is relayed to readers: publishing conceived as publication. At most, publishing is acknowledged as a process which writing passes through, with effects that are partially acknowledged for mass-market genre fiction, and almost universally denied for literary fiction. Here I argue that publishing—as a set of processes and practices—is constitutive of all formations of writing and reading. Publishing precedes writing and governs the possibilities of reading. This article is an explicit challenge to both contemporary book studies and literary studies. The argument elaborated here takes publishing—as a set of processes, practices and relations—to the centre of literary studies. It should be immediately clear that the definitions of “publishing” and the publishable formulated here, owe little to common sense. These common senses, implicit and explicit, are elaborated in the first section of this article. Section two presents a critical alternative. A sketch of this critical alternative—horizons of the publishable—follows. I finish by outlining some of the transformations effected by publishing and the publishable on concepts such as style, genre, intertextuality, adaptation, and the literary, in its strong evaluative sense. The materiality of the book is now both topos and mantra. Varying modes of publication, the diverse physical forms of texts, and historically variegated reading practices are routinely invoked as contexts in ever more nuanced accounts of textuality and reading. In part, this represents the selective movement of book studies into the literary studies mainstream. Leah Price’s introduction to the 2006 PMLA special issue—“Book History and the Idea of Literature

Item Type:Article
Keywords (uncontrolled):history of the book, publishing practices, intertextuality
Research Areas:Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media > English Language and Literature
Citations on ISI Web of Science:0
ID Code:3053
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Deposited On:16 Nov 2009 08:42
Last Modified:13 May 2014 15:23

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