Social media pose the greatest challenge to the novel since its rise to social influence in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a key genre for imagining personal identity and social affiliation. Because digital social media are capable of representing individuals directly, without the mediation of representative texts such as the novel, autobiography, and personal memoir, they challenge the very representative status of such literary texts. In short, it is not just the shift from print to digital media that has challenged the novel as a dominant form for social representation; it is also the shift in representative status that social media make possible. The essay traces the historical shift from the literary protagonist with whom readers identify to the cinematic celebrity to the socially manufactured subjectivity available to everyone on various social media.
The Reader Writes Back: Social Media and the Novel
john carlos rowe is USC Associates' Professor of the Humanities and professor of English, Comparative Literature, and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, where he chairs the Department of Comparative Literature. He is the author of 9 books and more than 150 essays and reviews and editor or coeditor of 11 books, including Literary Culture and U.S. Imperialism: From the Revolution to World War II (2000), A Concise Companion to American Studies (2010), Afterlives of Modernism: Liberalism, Transnationalism, and Political Critique (2011), and The Cultural Politics of the New American Studies (2012).
John Carlos Rowe; The Reader Writes Back: Social Media and the Novel. Novel 1 November 2017; 50 (3): 452–464. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-4195096
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