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Literature’s Elsewheres: On the Necessity of Radical Literary Practices

Literature’s Elsewheres: On the Necessity of Radical Literary Practices

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Publication Date: April 5th, 2022
The MIT Press
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An examination of a series of diverse, radical, and experimental international works from the 1950s to the present.

What is a literary work? In Literature’s Elsewheres, Annette Gilbert tackles this question by deploying an extended concept of literature, examining a series of diverse, radical, experimental works from the 1950s to the present that occupy the liminal zone between art and literature. These works—by American Artist, Allison Parrish, Natalie Czech, Stephanie Syjuco, Fiona Banner, Elfriede Jelinek, Dan Graham, Robert Barry, George Brecht, and others—represent a pluralized literary practice that imagines a different literature emerging from its elsewheres. 
Investigating a work’s coming into being—its transition from “text” to “work” as a social object and pragmatic category of literary communication—Gilbert probes the assumptions and foundations that underpin literature, including the ideologies and power structures that prop it up. She offers a snapshot from a period of recent literary and art history when such central concepts as originality and authorship were questioned and experimental literary practices ranged from concrete poetry and Oulipo to conceptual writing and appropriation literature. She examines works that are dematerialized, site-specific, unique copies of other works, and institutional critiques. Considering the inequalities, exclusions, and privileges inscribed in literature, she documents the power of experimental literature to attack these norms and challenges the field’s canonical geographic boundaries by examining artists with roots in North and South America, East Asia, and Western and Eastern Europe. The cross-pollination of literary and art criticism enriches both fields. With Literature’s Elsewheres, Gilbert explores what art can’t see about the literary and what literature has overlooked in the arts.

About the Author

Annette Gilbert is Associate Professor in Comparative Literature at Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nuremberg. Her recent publications include Under the Radar: Underground Zines and Self-Publications 1965–1975 and Publishing as Artistic Practice (Sternberg Press).

Praise for Literature’s Elsewheres: On the Necessity of Radical Literary Practices

"This stuff is a riot, a mad laboratory, exploring questions you’re not usually allowed to ask…yet this isn’t a survey of a particular moment – or movement – in art. It’s not about literature either, or not exactly. It’s about what happens in the hinterland between the two. The ‘elsewheres’ in the title is not just a reference to the elusive, disappearing nature of some of this work, but to its location in a cultural sense, on the ‘cusp’ or the ‘removes’ of literature as a discipline.”
—The London Review of Books