Literary Studies and Sociology: Moments of Encounter
This class is a somewhat episodic introduction to the shifting and uncertain relationship between the disciplines of sociology and literary studies. We will not conduct a general survey with the aim of acquiring necessary concepts and methods for a new and improved “sociology of literature.” Our aim instead will be to study the works produced at a few key moments of encounter between the two disciplines, moments when real attempts were made at mutual investment and productive exchange. These will likely include the project of recentering British cultural studies on race at the Birmingham Centre (Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy); the struggle to produce a satisfactory approach to the study of real-world readers (Janice Radway, Elizabeth Long, Wendy Griswold, John Frow, Tony Bennett); the reconception of literary value in terms of cultural capital (Pierre Bourdieu, John Guillory, Pascale Casanova, Giselle Spiro); the recent sharing of computational methods in literary analytics (Ted Underwood, Katherine Bode, Mike Thelwall); the effort to align literary studies with ANT (Bruno Latour, Antoine Hennion, Rita Felski); and the re-encounter with mid-century social science occasioned by the “descriptive turn” in literary studies (Irving Goffman, Heather Love). It is hoped that some of the scholars we read will be able to join us by videoconference to help us think about their work. Students in the class will prepare several short presentations over the course of the semester and submit a 3000-word essay in April. As this is a 500-level class, no full-length research paper will be assigned. Undergraduates are welcome to enroll with instructor’s permission.