October 20th, 2015
Asst. Professor , Dept. of Literature
John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies
Free University Berlin
Wednesday, Oct 28 at noon in DuBois (Rabb 119)
The Field and Its Archives: William Dean Howells
Both contemporaries and present-day critics describe W. D. Howells with expressions such as “The Dean of American Letters,” indicating Howells’s role as an institutional facilitator in the literary scene of late nineteenth-century North America. In my talk I want to conceptually account for this rhetoric. Howells imagines himself and is imagined by others as the editor of a literary field—an imagination that covers both a sociology and a history of literature. While probing the conditions of this literary field imagination in Howells’s criticism, I will also examine its implications for a reading practice of his novels. Because the field is contingent upon notions of the archival, we may read realist fiction as sequences that generate a self-archiving and self-historicizing poetics of iteration (iteration of both characters and scenes across individual novels), breaching the tension between serial publication formats and the novel as a bound book.