The primary aim of this course is to investigate the external forces that shape what authors write and how readers read. Rather than studying the stories contained within the pages of a book, students concentrate their analyses on the economic and cultural influences that affect the production and reception of books, whether the stories they tell are old or new, fiction or nonfiction, bestsellers or cult hits. Although, undoubtedly, there are opportunities in this course to study the internal mechanics of the books in questions, such investigations serve and are subordinated to inquiries involving the culture of the book in the marketplace. Topics for such inquiries might include the nature of the author, the publishing trade, the forms in which texts are transmitted, censorship, intellectual property, marketing and marketability, booklists and book clubs, professional and amateur reviews, and prize selection.
Prerequisites: A first-year seminar or junior or senior standing or permission of instructor.