In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

in intrinsic moral terms, by the formal language in which s/he is judged. The space may be a difficult one, and it may be contracted or expanded depending upon how liberal a liberal regime actually is, but the separation of formal actor from concrete act permits a limited sense of the human being beyond the deed. The point is seen when a more rhetorical, morally thick, conception of violence is given greater political currency. Ideas of “men of violence” or of “terrorism” are of dubious value given that today’ s “terrorist”may be yesterday’ s “freedom fighter”or tomorrow’ s “father ofthe nation.”Yet, when law incorporates a concept such as that of “the terrorist,” it reduces the philosophico-juridical gap between actor and act. Fusing the person with the crime, it essentializes and dehumanizes the former. While the responsible legal subject may be guilty of terrible crimes, s/he retains the form of subjectivity s/he brought into the social contract. The same person represented as a terrorist already stands outside it. The invidious choice between a forced abstraction of humanity, which holds violence at a distance, and an equally forced concretization, which identi­ fies some humans as essentially violent, appears increasingly to be placed before those living in western societies. Alan Norrie King’ s College London Work Definitions of “work”take up a number of pages even in the oed, reflecting the multiple and complicated networks in which some version or another of its meanings has a role. But for literary studies in the university the cen­ tral meaning would seem to be simply a literary composition (often plural, the oed notes) viewed in relation to its author (e.g., the works of Virginia Woolf). The oed follows with its usual samples of usage, in this case dat­ ing back into the 14th century. Things are rarely that simple, however, and certainly not the world of work(s) in literary studies. Early 20th-century modernism emerges as more complicated as more studies proliferate, and within that complexity one strand in particular had a great deal to do with overloading the usages ofwork as a name for literary compositions. Largely in reaction against industrialization and the “industrialized”imagination of a rapidly growing “mass culture,”the connection between literary composi­ tion and work reacquired a whole range ofmeanings involving labour. More specifically, the range pointed toward a kind of handcrafted artisan labour Retro Keywords | 57 Evan Watkins teaches in the English department at the University of California, Davis, across several fields including cultural studies, composition theory, American studies, and politics of education. He has published numerous essays in these fields and several books, including most recently Everyday Exchanges: Marketwork and Capitalist Common Sense. He is completing a fifth book, to be entitled Class Degrees: Vocational Education, Work, and Class Formation in the United States, to be published soon. “Work” appears in nearly every other title as well, which makes it reasonably hard to miss. that could stand in dramatic contrast to the culture industry’ s repetitive, anonymous, banal, machine-made proliferation of cultural goods. Crudely, “the work of literature” also came to mean the idea that making literature took one hell of a lot of work in contrast to this other stuff. Modernism in some of its many versions at least remains the matrix of institutionalized literary study in the u.s., and the elaboration of literary works into the work of literature as I’m describing above had a central role in that development. To some great extent it helped determine everyday practices in the classroom—the work one does as a student of literature in the university. Ifit takes a lot ofwork—artisan and individualized—to make a work of literature, correspondingly one can expect that the encounter with one of these much worked on works will also require a lot of work. Back when I was an undergraduate, somewhere around the 14th century when oed recorded usages commence, we learned a de facto ranking of literary works by how long they took to write. We knew the Wake was better than Ulysses not only because it was harder to read, but more importantly because it took...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 57-65
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.