Literature Against Criticism: University English and Contemporary Fiction in Conflict

Literature Against Criticism: University English and Contemporary Fiction in Conflict Martin Paul Eve
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Martin Eve was awarded the prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2019, and we are delighted that Literature Against Criticism formed a substantial part of his submission portfolio for the award.

The upheavals in UK higher education of the last two decades have recently generated a number of important critical works [...]. Martin Paul Eve’s Literature Against Criticism: University English and Contemporary Fiction in Conflict is a very different project to these. Rather than inveighing against the neoliberal paradigm or championing the merits of the academy (although these are implicit), Eve is concerned with how the erosion of academic authority—and specifically literary studies’ authority—is reflected, expressed, or fuelled by contemporary literary fiction. [...] Eve’s assessment [...] is nothing short of brilliant.
—Rachele Dini, European Journal of American Studies, 12 May 2018

Martin Paul Eve is one of the most brilliant scholars of his generation. His ground-breaking Literature Against Criticism combines new and insightful readings of contemporary novelists (from Jennifer Egan to Tom McCarthy and from Sarah Waters to Percival Everett) who are in animated competition with university English. There are very few authors who can combine ethical, political and aesthetic readings of the contemporary novel with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the modern university. This is the first of a new kind of criticism that lets imaginative literature, rather than the academic scholar, have the last word.
—Bryan Cheyette, Chair in Modern Literature, University of Reading

Martin Eve’s impassioned, timely and polemical book, at the intersection of criticism, theory, contemporary literature and critical university studies, explores the anxieties in the reading and criticism of important and interesting recent fiction. Its striking and original argumentthat fiction and academic discourse are, in fact, in conflict over issues of discipline, critique and legitimation—should be read by those who read, study—and write—contemporary fiction.

— Robert Eaglestone, Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought,
Royal Holloway, University of London

Read Martin Eve's introduction to Literature Against Criticism on our

This is a book about the power game currently being played out between two symbiotic cultural institutions: the university and the novel. As the number of hyper-knowledgeable literary fans grows, students and researchers in English departments waver between dismissing and harnessing voices outside the academy. Meanwhile, the role that the university plays in contemporary literary fiction is becoming increasingly complex and metafictional, moving far beyond the ‘campus novel’ of the mid-twentieth century.

Martin Paul Eve’s engaging and far-reaching study explores the novel's contribution to the ongoing displacement of cultural authority away from university English. Spanning the works of Jennifer Egan, Ishmael Reed, Tom McCarthy, Sarah Waters, Percival Everett, Roberto Bolaño and many others, Literature Against Criticism forces us to re-think our previous notions about the relationship between those who write literary fiction and those who critique it.

Birkbeck, University of London, has generously contributed towards the publication of this volume.

Literature Against Criticism: University English and Contemporary Fiction in Conflict
Martin Paul Eve | October 2016
248 | 1 b&w illustration | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783742738
ISBN Hardback: 9781783742745
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783742752
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783742769
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783742776
ISBN Digital (XML): 9781783746231
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0102
BIC subject codes: DS (Literature: history and criticism), DSK (Literary studies: fiction, novelists and prose writers), FA (Modern and contemporary fiction), DSB (Literary studies: general); BISAC subject code: LIT004120 (LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh), LIT000000 (LITERARY CRITICISM / General); OCLC Number: 970399821.

About the Author

Part I: Introduction
1. Authors, Institutions, and Markets
2. What, Where?

Part II: Critique
3. Aesthetic Critique
4. Political Critique

Part III: Legitimation
5. Sincerity and Truth
6. Labour and Theory

Part IV: Discipline
7. Genre and Class
8. Discipline and Publish

Part V: The End

9. Conclusion


Professor Martin Paul Eve
is Chair of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London. He is also the author of Pynchon and Philosophy (2014), Open Access and the Humanities (2014), and Password (2016). Martin  was awarded the KU Leuven Medal of Honor in the Humanities and Social Sciences in May 2018.

Part I: Introduction

Chapter One: Eloquent Outsiders: Authors, Institutions & Markets and Chapter Two: (Anti-)Academic Fiction

This first chapter sets the scene for the book through an initial analysis of an ancient text from the First Intermediate Period, "The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant”. Noting that this tale is concerned with temporary subversions of power hierarchies, I also draw attention to the way in which this work of early metafiction pre-anticipates its readerly discourse communities as educated readers. From this I draw a parallel to the works of contemporary fiction that will be studied throughout the volume.

The remainder of this chapter then outlines the three areas of investigation – metafiction, genre, and markets – that form the overlapping points of interaction that are explored throughout this book in its engagement with contemporary fiction. These investigations are centred around the institutional form of the university and framed through the lenses of critique, legitimation and discipline.

For the purposes of this synopsis, the most crucial argument that is made in this first chapter is that the self-referentiality of metafiction might be seen as a form of critique. Metafiction is art that, from within art itself, questions the contemporary conditions of aesthetic and critical possibility for art and fiction. Taken together with the other arguments of this chapter, these three areas of canon, metafiction and academic reading practices form the background contexts to the narrative that I will more thoroughly plot throughout this work: namely that, in the contest for critique, specific works of metafiction seek legitimation over and above university English (and in particular, criticism) and discipline the academy in order to achieve this.

This second chapter sets the parameters of exclusion and definition of the types of text that are examined in this book. The main method by which this chapter proceeds is a digital humanities approach in which I visualise the history of the campus novel through histogram plot counts for a cluster of terms pertaining to the university. The narrative that emerges is one in which the texts that enact the critique-legitimation-discipline triad are often not set in and around universities, but have sporadic mention of phenomena associated with the academy. It is from this thinking, these "anxious” tics of reference, that the book derives its title. Such novels betray an "anxiety of academia”.

Part II: Critique

Chapter Three: Self-Canonisation, Literary-Historical Fictions and Aesthetic Critique

Following the introductory section, chapter three examines the ways in which certain authors invoke the aesthetic value judgements of the academy with respect to literary fiction in order to situate their own work within various canons.

In this chapter, I examine the ways in which two novels – predominantly Tom McCarthy's 2010 work, C, and as a correlative text with less emphasis, Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves [2000] – respond to ongoing debates about canonisation, generic taxonomies and questions of value that are central to university English and literary criticism. There are three interlinked points of argument that I seek to make here.

The first is that novels such as C and House of Leaves pre-anticipate their own academic and market reception as "literary fiction” and attempt to place themselves within various aesthetic lineages that confer value, usually through intertextual reference. In McCarthy's case, I will argue, these intertextual affiliations sit within a lineage of modern and postmodern fiction. In this chapter, I particularly focus on the latter camp of postmodern influence since it has been relatively under studied to date. Indeed, while McCarthy has been read as a "forensic scientist of modernism” by Justus Nieland, I here am more interested in how these works become histories of the present, within a broader intertextual frame that stretches into the postmodern period.

Secondly, this chapter teases out the methods by which these types of referential strategy functionally act in ways similar to the academic discipline of literary criticism with respect to value ascription and canon formation. In the case of C and House of Leaves, this most notably manifests itself in the works' allusive self-placements within authority-conferring canons but also through an implied process of research. In other words, although C does not contain overt depictions of academics or universities, its knowing nods to Freud, Derrida, Woolf, Pynchon, DeLillo and Ballard – alongside its implied archive of historical research and the author's journalistic writings on high modernism – signal that the novel is, at least in part, about the classificatory history of twentieth-century literature. Traditionally, discussing this classificatory history has been the role of the academy but it is also clearly encoded within novels such as C and House of Leaves.

Thirdly and finally, then, in its network of references I will argue that C might be seen as a literary-historical novel; a text that charts the death of realism, the exhaustion of modernism, and the ongoing struggle to classify that which lies beyond the postmodern. As I will show, with its high-academic, "difficult” reference points, its implied (but empty) historically researched archive and its patrilineal authority-conferring self-situation, C becomes a text that reveals a quasi-academic process of canonisation through a mirror imprint of university English. I demonstrate these phenomena through a tripartite analysis of C as a work of literary history, moving then to explore the under-examined postmodern intertexts for the novel, and closing with some remarks on canon and authority.

Chapter Four: Political Critique and the University

Having explored notions of aesthetic critique as a function of metafiction that deals with the academy, the fourth chapter, "Political Critique and the University” primarily examines Roberto Bolaño's 2666, a novel that can be situated, aesthetically, within the traditions of utopian fiction and the North American encyclopaedic, postmodern novel. This chapter also contends, however, that Bolaño's novel is exemplary of a type of didacticism that cloaks its mechanism behind an overloaded structure of metafiction. One of the explicit targets of this didacticism is the neoliberal university that, in 2666, is structurally twinned with the police department and is thus complicit in the novel's femicides. This chapter suggests the ways in which Bolaño's novel attempts to perform a type of ethical critique of the academy while also outlining its mode of crypto-didacticism; a political critique. Taking theoretical cues from Theodor W. Adorno and Pierre Bourdieu, I here read 2666 as a metafictional work that signals its own desire to teach, thereby once more showing how the space of critique comes to be inhabited by certain types of novel.

By "political critique” in this chapter I mean that texts such as 2666 thematically represent ethical and political issues that intersect with the interests of the academy. There are, of course, some challenges inherent in this mode. Fiction and the academy may independently reach the same conclusions about issues of ethical import in the present. For instance, it is no coincidence that postcolonial and ecocritical themes should arise in a world recovering from the British Empire and one in which the threat of climate change looms as an unparalleled global catastrophe. Yet, we also could say that, for literary criticism, there might be a link between the spaces. It could be that literature responds to the ethical issues of the day and criticism responds to the literature. In the time of the "novel after theory” this becomes more complex, though. Novels such as 2666, as I will show in this chapter, contain representations of academics (in fact, specifically literary critics) while also dealing with a set of topical ethical themes. These texts therefore demonstrate a metafictional process in which they are aware of the way in which such ethical and political tropes will be read back out of their pages. As Judith Ryan puts it, such novels "write back”. I choose, therefore, to call this interrelation of ethical themes "political” because rather than purely being about ethics, meta-ethics, morality and so forth, it is the way in which these ethical concerns are translated into a social power practice for the distribution and arrangements of the exercise of authority in which I am most interested. This is explicitly not to situate "politics” and "aesthetics” in opposition to one another. As Caroline Levine has correctly noted, politics itself can fall under the discourse of formalism. In the novels that I write of in this chapter, however, it is specifically the textual polis that works to influence the ethical route through which its hermeneutic denizens walk.

 Part III: Legitimation

 Chapter Five: Controlling the Truth

Having examined in Part Two the ways in which aesthetic and political critiques of the academy are respectively enacted in a set of very different texts, this third section explores the strategies through which such works legitimate themselves over and above the discipline of literary studies. For this first chapter on this topic, I turn to one of the clearest examples of a work of twenty-first-century metafiction that blurs the boundaries between criticism and fiction, knowing the reading methods of the academy: Percival Everett's Erasure [2001]. Indeed, the author can certainly claim to know a thing or two about academics: Everett is a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California. In the finest tradition of biting the hand that feeds, though, Erasure offers not only a charged satire of the literary market's racial pigeon-holing, but also an insider critique of the academy. In fact it is widely recognised that, alongside Colson Whitehead, Touré, Dexter Palmer, Karen Tei Yamashita, Sesshu Foster, Sherman Alexie, Salvador Plascencia, Yxta Maya Murray, Marta Acosta, the Program Era charted by McGurl is key to Everett's literary identity. In this way, through an authorial claim to insider knowledge and then through an intricate parody of the academy's practices, Erasure is a novel that brilliantly demonstrates the type of outflanking of the academy undertaken by much contemporary metafiction of this nature.

The primary way in which I examine Erasure is through the axes of sincerity and strategy. It is never clear, at any point in Everett's novel who is speaking and whether or not they are sincere, an aspect that chimes with Adam Kelly's recent work on the "New Sincerity”. Indeed, in the multiple layerings of intentionality within this text we find a clear example of the core elements of literary deconstruction; never binaries, but overlayed erasures. Even this reading, though, can be taken to a higher plane. Indeed, in giving his novel the title Erasure, Everett signals, in advance, that he is aware of the interpretative strategies that the academy will deploy to read his work. The title, though, is ambiguous. It can, in one instance, be seen as an instruction: read this book through the lens of a Derridean legacy. In the other, though, it outflanks the reader who does so: the text knows what such a reading will entail and has laid a trail for the reader. In this way, Erasure becomes a novel that centres on race, while framing itself as a text of a "post-racial” climate even as it knowingly demonstrates the falsity of such a cultural supposition. In other words, Erasure is an extremely clever puppeteer of the academic reader, exploiting postmodern ambiguity (and High Theoretical concerns) to accurately portray the contradictions in the present legacies and continuations of racial discrimination. It is also a text, though, that uses its superiority and knowingness over an academic discourse community to its own advantage: the novel legitimates itself through a foreknowledge of reading techniques, an outflanking of definitive interpretation, and a collapse of the outer academic/critical (truth-claiming) discourse and inner-fictional spaces. This is not simply a nihilistic plurality. It is, rather, a game of regressions, of metafictions where the text can only be read by backing away from pluralities and seeking meaning in the fact that the singular topography of the novel contains multiple hermeneutic responses, even while the fiction disparages such an attitude. In this blurring of the creative and critical spaces, however, the claims for sincere truth telling spill over into the fiction. In the critique of the critical space enacted by the creative, a legitimation claim is raised that centres on the monopolization of discourse that can speak the truth. It is a "regime of truth”, as Michel Foucault might put it.

Through these strategies, Erasure can be seen as a text that brilliantly highlights the problems of legitimation against academia faced by much contemporary metafiction. On the one hand, if art is to have a critical societal role, it must supplant criticism in staking ethical claims. In the case of Everett's novel, the text would have to "say something” about race and authorship (sincere but didactic ethics as opposed to strategic and apolitical aesthetics). If university English remains the most prominent space where such strategies of meaning-making in fiction are validated, though, and if the didactic function that was explored in the preceding chapter on Bolaño holds, then the contest for legitimation arises. Fiction is usually perceived as the more viable market force in such a contest; the mass-market paperback of Orwell as societal critique while universities are converted into factories to defer employment and incur debt. On the other hand, though, "serious” fiction finds itself bound to the academy as the foremost, but not the only, training school for reading literary fiction. Such fiction, it would seem, wants to have its cake and to eat it. It wants readers who are perceptive and, most likely, trained in a background of literary theory. It then wants such readers to lose their academic trappings. It wants them to climb the ladder and then to discard it. Even while they dangle the toys of childhood in front of a reader, such works seem to say that it is time to grow up. Time to leave school. In other words, in their desire for an erasure of the academy, we might term such works "academic fictions”.

Chapter Six: Legitimation, Labour and Academia

The sixth chapter examines the recent work of Jennifer Egan, and most notably A Visit from the Goon Squad [2010]. This novel, which Egan originally intended to feature an academic specifically pontificating on the "great rock 'n' roll pauses”, is is a text populated by a disproportionately high number of, often unfulfilled, postgraduate researchers: "I'm in the PhD program at Berkeley”, proclaims Mindy; "Joe, who hailed from Kenya [...] was getting his PhD in robotics at Columbia”; "Bix, who's black, is spending his nights in the electrical-engineering lab where he's doing his PhD research”; while only Rebecca "was an academic star”. Indeed, in this text, academia seems a place of misery, of "harried academic slaving”, and, ultimately, of "immaturity and disastrous choices”. Taking a three-part structure, this chapter begins by examining the characterisations of the text's academics and, to mirror the text's mocking discourse, their "structural” placement within the novel.

Although it may be unwise to speak of the 'career' of a writer so evidently in full-flow as Jennifer Egan, it is nonetheless true that certain trends can already be seen over the arc of her writing since 1995 that are relevant for this book. Whether the foremost of these areas is the emergence of new technologies and the way in which they shape our concepts of (re)mediation or in Egan's seemingly broader interest in the place of affect in experimental fiction will remain a topic for a scholarly debate that is only beginning to give Egan her due. It is also apparent, however, that certain institutions and spaces are given quantifiably more space within Egan's work than would be merited under strict societal mimesis, even if they do not occupy a huge proportion of Egan's novels, and that, in line with a broader concern of postmodern fiction, one such space is the university. Indeed, from even Egan's earliest published fiction, her acclaimed The Invisible Circus, it can be asserted that the academy plays a key role, even if that action remains offstage and invisible.

As much of this book points out, satire of the university through fictional representation is, of course, hardly a new phenomenon. In Sean McCann's reading of the role of theory/academic discourse in these types of text, however, we begin to be able to account for some of the complexities of contemporary fiction beyond the postmodern period; it becomes a legitimation strategy in which "Roth and the many writers who resemble him […] assume that the only route past bureaucratic confinement of various sorts is to embrace a level of sophistication and expertise that enables them to trump the restrictions that detain more pedestrian minds”. Ultimately, in this reactionary stance, although the university "epitomizes the worst features of a manufactured society”, it "also becomes the indispensable launching pad for the effort to imagine one's way beyond its limits”.

It is clear, with this context and periodisation in mind, that Jennifer Egan's treatment of academic life should be viewed with some caution and most probably delineated from ideas of the traditional campus novel. It is equally apparent, however, that in this specific generic genealogy, the high frequency of instances of the academy cannot be dismissed as an incidental detail. Over the course of this chapter I demonstrate that, in fact, Egan's critique of the university is, in some ways, and as with Everett's, an immanent meta-critique. While the history of the campus novel is often premised on hermetically sealing the campus, Egan's novel seems to play on bursting the very notions of inside and outside that facilitate this genre. By depicting these dichotomies, Egan brings Robert Scholes' definition of metafiction to a new, twenty-first century juncture as she, once more, blurs the boundaries between fiction and critique. She also, simultaneously, however, critiques the structures of labour upon which much of the academy is founded. This is, I contend, an extension of the legitimation techniques that meld aesthetic and political critique that we saw in the preceding chapter on Everett. This ambivalent attitude towards the academy reflects the fact that, once more, Egan's novels are on the same turf and they must fight for the right to speak alongside the academy, even while needing to denigrate the academy for that legitimation.

Part IV: Discipline

Chapter Seven: Class, Genre and Discipline

In this book's penultimate chapter before the conclusion, and starting the section on "discipline”, I note that although, in some ways, Sarah Waters’s Affinity looks akin to historiographic metafiction, M.-L. Kohlke has persuasively argued that the text is more accurately dubbed "new(meta)realism”, a mode that demonstrates the exhausted potential of the form. This chapter suggests that genre play and a meta-generic mode, dubbed taxonomography, might be a further helpful description for the mechanism through which Waters’s novel effects its twists and pre-empts the expectations of an academic discourse community. This reading exposes Waters’s continuing preoccupation with the academy but also situates her writing within a broader spectrum of fiction that foregrounds genre as a central concern. Ultimately, this chapter asks whether Waters’s novel can, itself, be considered as a text that disciplines its own academic study in the way that it suggests that the academy has become, once more, blind to class.

The neo-Victorian fiction of Sarah Waters, primarily her 1999 novel Affinity, affords an excellent case-study to explore these issues. Although Affinity initially looks like historiographic metafiction, it might better be designated under a new label: ‘taxonomographic metafiction’. This term is a shorthand I propose for ‘fiction about fiction that deals with the study/construction of genre/taxonomy’ and constitutes, I contend, a useful alternative means of classifying such works. As a pre-emptive rationale for the selection of Affinity, on which much critical work has already been done, it is important to note that there are certainly other novels in which this mode may be observed, not least the later fiction of Thomas Pynchon, as theorised by Brian McHale, and other outright neo-Victorian works such as A. S. Byatt’s Possession [1990]. Indeed, one of my core contentions is that many texts could be categorised as taxonomographic metafiction, even if hypothesised here from close reading of a single text.

Affinity, however, provides an example, par excellence, of the fixation upon genre as a disciplining tool that I will here be describing, particularly so because the novel’s plot twists rely upon readers’ conceptions and expectations of genre. Indeed, rather than performing its genre play through a multitude of voicings, as has become customary among other contemporary authors working on genre – for instance David Mitchell in Cloud Atlas [2004] – Affinity not only explicitly encodes its generic games within its own narrative statements (as, surely, do many metafictional works) but also, as will be shown, functionally deploys genre for its narrative path. In fact, Waters’s novel hinges upon genre for the unfolding interrelation between its narrative and its metanarratorial statements, making it eminently suited for a taxonomographic analysis. While, then, it could be argued that the usual suspects of neo-Victorianism (Byatt, Fowles, Atwood, Waters etc.) seem, on the surface, to be no longer exciting in terms of their genre-play and have been eclipsed by Pynchon, Miéville  and other more ‘global’ authors, by re-reading and returning to Waters’s Affinity, we can actually see that even back in 1999 this ‘new’ form of taxonomography was in gestation and critics have missed an opportunity to look at neo-Victorianism in this way.

The second thrust of this chapter, though, as one might expect for the subject of this volume, is to suggest that the specific taxonomographic games that Waters plays are directed at the academy. It is my contention that Waters uses the academy's fixation upon alternative histories of sexuality in the Victorian era (via Foucault's argument against the "repressive hypothesis”), the Victorian prison and Victorian spirituality to mislead the reader until a crucial moment in the novel. In fact, Waters seems to know that readers who have been schooled in the high-Theory period of the academy will be on the lookout for these features. This allows Waters to cloak her antagonist using class (itself, interestingly enough, another term for "category” or "affinity”). Academic readers of the text are often so busy congratulating themselves on feature spotting the tropes of sexuality/prison/spiritualism that they overlook the servant character, whose class (and gender) situation allows her to remain hidden until the key moment in the novel. In this way, Waters disciplines the academy, asking them not to make the same mistake twice. "Look out for class”, her novels seem to say, "because you have been neglecting it at your peril”. As such, I argue here that despite the fact that Waters's novels are saturated with Foucauldian imagery, they are in fact anti-Foucauldian in their focus on class, an area that Foucault dismissively consigned to the dustbin of Marxism.

Chapter Eight: Discipline and Publish

The final chapter, before this book's conclusion, examines the works of Ishmael Reed, with a particular focus on his most recent novel, Juice! [2010] alongside the most recent novel by Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge [2013]. Honing in on the representation of the academic journal Critical Inquiry that appears in this text, I argue that the critical representation of scholarly communication paradigms is at once a comment upon narrow circulation and at the same time a critique of over-reading. Taking a paradigm of "over-reading” to represent incommensurate output compared to authorial input, I note that Reed's critique seems to preclude academic discourse through a triangulation effect in which it becomes impossible to speak. And yet, I finally close, academics continue to write. It may be, I argue, that while we perceive strong links and feedback circuits between university English and the fiction it studies, these loops of behavioural discipline seem to have fewer real-world effects on practice than we might assume.

As with all the texts studied in this book, Reed's and Pynchon's novels are texts that subtly, but persistently, situate the academy at their margins and as the subject of their ridicule. The most prominent of these references for Reed is to an article in "Critical Inquiry". At this moment, the narrator Bear describes how this journal will "fill an entire issue" with his cartoon of OJ Simpson "pretending to stab a white woman with a banana", which "sends out a whole bunch of signs". In Pynchon's novel there is the pretentious academic output of Heidi, who writes an article for the fictional "Journal of Memespace Cartography" entitled "Heteronormative Rising Star, Homophobic Dark Companion" that makes an overblown and implausible argument that irony has supposedly taken the fall for 9/11. The critique in both cases here is one of triviality and over-reading (in-accessibility), alongside an inefficacy compared to the domineering power of the media (un-accessible). The implication is that the unpacking of the obvious semiotics of Bear's cartoon – with its phallic and racial registers – is trivial and yet academic authors publishing in Critical Inquiry will be more than happy to waste their breath with verbose commentary on a straightforward matter.

The second point of discipline that we can infer from Reed's and Pynchon's swipes at academic publishing, however, is linked to the the economics of scholarly communications. For Juice! is a novel that is saturated by the mass media. The hysteria over the O.J. Simpson trial can only be described as a "media circus” in which the forces of mass technology were harnessed to achieve mass dissemination. In which case, what are we to make of Critical Inquiry? A recent (contentious) analysis in the discipline of physics claimed that "as many as 50% of [academic] papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, referees and journal editors”, a figure justified by looking at citation analysis. Certainly a survey of article counters on toll-access/subscription journals reveals a similar anecdotal picture for English studies. In addition, therefore, to a disparity of input/output ("over-reading”), there is a disjunct in circulation. A book such as Juice! that deals with the mass media and its multi-million-viewer coverage of a racially charged US murder trial that also mentions an academic journal with comparatively trivial circulation cannot but be making a critique of triviality and readership. At the same time, of course, we might ask what the circulation of Reed's and Pynchon's obscure novels is likely to be and from where their primary audience demographic might be drawn. We might conclude that the academy is one such site.

In this way, I contend that Reed's and Pynchon's novels are good case studies to show the unification of the structure that I have explored over this book. These novels discipline the academy by pre-invalidating the critical discourse that will be brought to bear on the works. In a cunning double-move, this legitimates the texts as originary art-objects above the critical voice. Finally, by claiming the legitimate right to speak and silencing the academic commentary that might run alongside it, Juice! and Bleeding Edge are left alone to speak in the critical space. Discipline, legitimation and critique.

As a closing remark, though, we might note that while I have here claimed that discipline is a silencing technique, English studies does not remain quiet. Its discourses continue to proliferate. Some, like this book, write at the meta-level, describing how such texts create feedback circuits with the academy that trouble and disrupt our normal practices (except that this then becomes one such set of normal critical practices). Others simply ignore such injunctions and proceed in the usual vein. The question then becomes one of whether English studies adapts to its object of scholarship or whether this relationship is actually one-way. We see fictions emerging that critique the academy. Do we see the academy responding to the injunctions of such fiction? I would answer positively to the former and, for the most part, more negatively to the latter. In this case, strangely given the course that I chart through this book, it seems that the anxiety of academia is most strongly held by fiction, and not vice versa.

Part V: The End

Chapter Nine: Conclusion

This brief chapter summarises and concludes the volume.