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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2019

The Quest for Immediacy in American Literature and Media Culture


The introduction argues that American literature participates in American culture’s ongoing quest for immediacy, that the effort to generate ever-new reality effects has sparked the innovation of new literary techniques and forms, and that a common strategy American writers have used since the nineteenth century to create texts of greater immediacy has been to study and rework the reality effects of photography, film, and television. The chapter defines immediacy as a culturally and historically situated effect that indicates how the relation between reality and representation as well as between knowledge and mediation is construed in a given culture. In media history, claims to immediacy play a central role in the competition and alignment between media. The introduction shows that literature participates in this dynamic and promotes an understanding of literature as a medium rather than an art form. The chapter argues that literary studies will produce more complex accounts of literary history if it reconceptualizes the dynamics of literary experimentation and innovation from a comparative media perspective. The introduction also outlines the book’s chapters.

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