Between Literature and Performance
Chapter 6 discusses whether the model of computing changes our ideas about the relationship between the literary writer and his or her audience. A number of critics have suggested a shift toward the performative in contemporary culture. Punday links this interest in performativity to a change in audience, as general readerships have given way to increasingly niche subgroups. Today’s writers increasingly have ad hoc relationships with their audiences, making the ability to provoke responses especially important to establishing oneself as a writer. This chapter counters the common assumption that readers have somehow gained control over the reader-writer relationship. Punday turns to Henry Jenkins’s analysis of participatory culture, especially online discussion concerning shows like Survivor as well as hoaxes like the YouTube Lonelygirl15 series, to show that the image of a controlling author continues in today’s computing culture. These tensions are explored through two examples of literary authors caught between older and performative models of the writer: Jonathan Franzen and J. K. Rowling. Both have provoked controversy through conflicts with their fans, and they demonstrate a fundamental unease with how the literary writer should be understood today.
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