#reader-core: Aesthetics and Algorithmic Capitalism 

Since Jane Austen’s publication of Sense and Sensibility in the 19th century, we’ve moved on from empire waist gowns, empire itself, and of course, industrial capitalism. And with these social, political, and economic changes, modes and practices of readership have also evolved in tandem with our contemporary platformed based economy. Reading itself has been transformed by these structural economic conditions. We are now reading within the landscape of surveillance capitalism, or as Susanna Sacks and Sarah Brouillette have phrased it, reading with, aside, and against algorithms (2023), a dynamic visibly captured via the rise of the reader-aesthetic.

Harrington-Lueker, Donna. Books for Idle Hours: Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the Rise of Summer Reading.

While we may sometimes remember particular “beach reads” and other vacation reading we bring with us, most of the light reading that dominates the myriad summer reading lists isn’t meant to last. Donna Harrington-Lueker has traced the origins of the phenomenon of summer reading in the late-nineteenth-century United States, highlighting the role of ephemerality and entertainment as publishers and reviewers developed the concept of “summer reading,” as well as how tenacious many of the practices of summer reading are, from reading in public spaces to stockpiling books in convenient corners of a hotel room or guest house.

Scott B. Guthery. Practical Purposes: Readers in Experimental Philosophy at the Boston Athenaeum (1827-1850)

Guthery’s objective is “to inquire as to what the books Athenaeum members borrowed can tell us about the influence they had on their community” during the period 1827 to 1850 (xix, 17). However, his concern is not solely with who those readers were and what books they borrowed, but the connections between what they read, what they built, and what they wrote. He then goes beyond this to explore what the specific books they selected (and did not select) can tell us about what they sought and what they valued in that literature and how they thought about what they were reading and building, making this truly a unique contribution to the academic literature.

David Letzler. The Cruft of Fiction: Mega-Novels and the Science of Paying Attention

In this thought-provoking, well-written study, David Letzler combines computer science and information theory with genre criticism to propose an innovative way of theorizing reader response to the excesses often found in postmodern and some modern mega-novels. These are “the extremely literate, erudite tomes around which one must plan one’s life for a month” (1) by such authors as Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace, as well as James Joyce. Acknowledging that reactions to these novels range from passionate admiration to dismissive scorn, Letzler aims to delineate the ways in which they require modulation of readers’ attention and, in so doing, provide practical lessons for the information age.