Benjamin J. Robertson, University of Colorado, Boulder
I seek proposals for essays that explore the relationship between late capitalist culture/economics and texts which, in one manner or another, are “merely” generic. According to Fredric Jameson and others, late capitalism is characterized by new forms of business and financial organization, developments in media and the relationships amongst media, and planned obsolescence. By “merely generic,” I refer to those texts in any medium that seem less interested in pushing generic boundaries than in maintaining or perhaps hyperbolizing them (such as books by Robert Jordan and David Eddings) and/or belong to an obvious genre, but turn away from that broader genre in order to develop their own environments and/or conventions on massive scales (such as the expanded Stars Wars Universe). These texts may be: swiftly produced, developed in explicit and careful relation to others in their series or world, targeted at an existing audience already familiar with the genre, and crafted for easy consumption and quick obsolescence.
How do such merely generic texts define the cultural landscape of the postmodern/contemporary world? How does this cultural landscape condition them?
Possible topics include:
+The audience for merely generic texts. Can anyone enjoy them, or are they only consumable by those who have an established, if not hypertrophied, relationship to the broader genre in question?
+The development of groups of texts that predate the advent of late capitalism, but transform in some way afterwards or otherwise provide antecedents for more contemporary works, such as The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew Mysteries.
+Proprietary universes—such as the Stars Wars, Star Trek, or Dragonlance universes—and questions of authorship.
+Fan fiction and other non-canonical or heterodox narratives set within established universes.
+Problems of continuity in the mega-text.
+The relationship between such merely generic texts and gaming, whether tabletop RPGs, first-person shooters, MMORGs, or other types of gaming.
+The economic or cultural conditions that govern the production of merely generic texts, such as the nigh-injunction that, after Tolkien, works of heroic fantasy should be published as trilogies.
+Mass-produced series of books for children, such as Goosebumps and Animorphs. How do these texts prepare youngsters for subsequent late capitalist consumption?
+The shift, especially in film, from generic concerns to the logic of the tentpole and/or the franchise.
+The development of the massive multimedia text in which the same storylines develop in print, in films, on television, etc. simultaneously.
+The residue of genre in a post-generic world. With increased
specializiation and fragmentation in daily life, does genre make any sense as a cultural form? Does genre become, or return to being, one niche product amongst others?
Obviously, numerous other avenues of inquiry exist and many of those mentioned here dovetail with one another. Please inquire at the email address below with suggestions or ideas.
Although I will consider a range of approaches, I am especially interested in essays that situate groups of texts or series in an historical moment or cultural frame. I am less interested in thematic and formal readings of individual texts.
Please send proposals of approximately 500 words as attachments (.doc, .docx, .pdf, .rtf, or .odt) to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 January 2014. Again, also feel free to contact me with questions or other concerns.