The Luster of Studying Contemporary Publishing



Squires C (2021) The Luster of Studying Contemporary Publishing. Commentary on: Leilani, Raven. Luster. 2020. Picador, 2021. American Literary History, 33 (2), pp. 439-453.

This commentary upon the American Literary History special issue “Literature and Publishing, 1945–2020” examines its elucidatory set of contributing articles through the lenses of disciplinarity, periodization, and methodological positioning. Following an opening discussion of Raven Leilani’s novel Luster (2020), the commentary addresses the articulations made of a purported scholarly gap in the approach to contemporary publishing, of claims for disciplinarity, and of microperiodization of the recent present. The commentary assesses the methodological strategies of the articles, in terms of metatextual criticism; sociological, aesthetic, and paratextual readings; archival study; interviews; participant observation; and auto/ethnographic approaches. In so doing, the commentary also interrogates the powerplay and positionality of disciplinarity and periodizing stances and discusses the development of Ullapoolism, a conceptual school which takes an autoethnographic, arts-informed and activist approach to contemporary book cultures. The commentary argues that the conceptualization of the “as yet unfixed future” is imperative for contemporary historians of the book and concludes by contending that, in addition to interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies so productively accomplished in the special issue, what happens within US publishing borders needs to come into scholarly conversation with academic work from around the rest of the world in order to expand such understandings yet further.

disciplinarity; periodization; publishing studies; contemporary publishing; Ullapoolism

American Literary History: Volume 33, Issue 2

Publication date30/06/2021
Publication date online25/05/2021
Date accepted by journal10/03/2021
Item discussedLeilani, Raven. Luster. 2020. Picador, 2021

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Professor Claire Squires
Professor Claire Squires

Professor in Publishing Studies, English Studies