This short essay considers the increasingly nostalgic life of physical books. From immaculate leather-bound collections to “dummy” libraries, in private homes or department stores, since at least the mid-nineteenth century, old books have enjoyed past-directed affective relationships with users and consumers, communicating continuity with, appreciation of, and longing for aspects of time past. These relationships, falling along a spectrum from library-as-utility to library-as-simulation, can be mapped onto different kinds of nostalgic experience.
Shelf Lives: On Nostalgic Libraries
S. D. Chrostowska is associate professor of humanities and social and political thought at York University and currently a Humbolt fellow in Berlin, working on nostalgia in modern critical thought. The author of Literature on Trial (2012), Permission (2013), and Matches (2015), she has contributed to, among other publications, diacritics, New German Critique, New Literary History, SubStance, Angelaki, and boundary 2. Her literary writing has appeared in BOMB, Review of Contemporary Fiction, Alphabet City, and elsewhere.
S. D. Chrostowska; Shelf Lives: On Nostalgic Libraries. Public Culture 1 January 2016; 28 (1 (78)): 9–21. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-3324992
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