Distinctions that Matter: Popular Literature and Material Culture
(abstract deadline: March 1, 2012)
Essays are invited for a special issue of Belphégor that seeks to explore the relationship between distinctions of taste and textual production by examining how the materiality of literary texts influences and perhaps even determines their cultural status. In the nineteenth century, for example, printing and binding became cheaper, faster, and more easily accessible than ever before, which resulted in an explosion of print material. As printing costs decreased and print runs increased, the price of books became cheaper and publishers were able to attract more readers, which led to a greater demand for new content. The cultural impact of this shift was twofold. On the one hand, this decrease in printing costs lowered the cultural entrance level, which resulted in the expansion of popular or trivial literature as well as a wide range of new popular formats, such as dime novels, pulp magazines, comic books, and paperbacks. On the other hand, publishers also attempted to mimic the conventions of exclusiveness through printing and binding techniques in order to preserve the highbrow status of literature as a marker of class distinctions. This led to the rise of competing formats that attempted to challenge the perceived lowbrow status of popular literature, such as deluxe editions and graphic novels. As the divide between highbrow and lowbrow taste widened, the materiality of the text became the primary site where the cultural status of popular literature was both constructed and contested. The same issues also inform cultural debates concerning digital media, as cultural distinctions are now being reconfigured through new forms of electronic display in the post-print era.
Contributions are invited on any of the following topics:
-The impact of printing technologies on the production and distribution of literary texts.
-The relationship between the material properties of literary texts and their cultural status.
-The production and reception of popular literary formats, such as dime novels, pulp magazines, comic books, paperbacks, etc.
-The relationship between forms of electronic display and the cultural status of digital texts, such as blogs, e-books, e-readers, and cell phone novels.
Please submit abstracts of no more than 1,000 words by March 1, 2012. If an abstract is accepted, a full draft of no more than 10,000 words should be submitted by July 1, 2012. Papers may be submitted in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, or Portuguese. For more information, or to submit an abstract, please contact our guest editors:
Belphégor is an international refereed scholarly journal dedicated to the study of popular literature and media culture. The journal welcomes all types of theoretical analysis and encourages interdisciplinarity and comparative studies. Our goal is to stimulate discussion, research, and exchange between researchers of all stripes in the Anglo-Saxon, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese-speaking worlds. For more information, please visit http://etc.dal.ca/belphegor/.