f Tom McCarthy's Remainder, Summer Institutes in Literary Studies, National Humanities Center

Tom McCarthy's Remainder

Tom McCarthy's <em>Remainder</em>

This seminar will focus on Tom McCarthy's 2005 novel Remainder. It is motivated by two convictions. The first is that Remainder is in itself an important book, one that will repay close reading. The second is that perhaps its central preoccupation—what McCarthy has elsewhere called the importance of letting "matter matter"—is central also to a wide range of interesting new work: in photography and sculpture, in literary and art theory.

Readings for the week will thus include texts exemplifying or analyzing work in these areas, as well as one book of poetry, Maggie Nelson's Jane, A Murder, and one other novel, Joseph O'Neill's Netherland (which Zadie Smith, in a well-known essay, reviewed alongside Remainder). Finally, because Remainder's questions about the current meaning of aesthetic autonomy are also questions about the current state of political economy, there will be some discussion of the implications for literary production of phenomena like the one graphed below.

Productivity vs. Wage Growth, 1947-2010
Walter Benn Michaels
Walter Benn Michaels
Professor, American Literature, Literary Theory, University of Illinois at Chicago
Walter Benn Michaels is currently at work on a manuscript called The Beauty of a Social Problem. His books include The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism: American Literature at the Turn of the Century (University of California Press, 1988); The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of History (Princeton University Press; new ed., 2006); and The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality (Holt Paperbacks; reprint ed., 2007). Recent articles—some on literature, some on photography, and some on politics—have appeared in such journals as PMLA, New Labor Forum, and Le Monde diplomatique, and on nonsite.org.

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