March 17, 2021
This essay argues that under contemporary capitalism, all literary production is, at first approximation, commodity production. This has consequences for our understanding of the work of literary studies. We are no longer able to easily recur to preformed theories of the ‘literary’ as a category at least in some way exempt from extrinsic pressures. Attention to the ‘literary market’ remains superficial when it insists on paying attention chiefly to so-called literary fiction on the understanding that it has prima facie higher claims to our attention than popular genre fiction—it does not. In fact, as this essay argues, appreciation of the thorough commodification of art under capitalism asks us to take seriously the need to break with our categories; to insist on the primacy of interpretative attention in determining what kinds of fiction we study.