I am posting here, in PDF format, an old and very “academic” essay—not the kind of thing we are primarily interested in for Imaginary Relations. This essay was never published, because it was never read. That is to say, I submitted it to several journals years ago, when I still hoped to have a career as an English professor, and none of them ever responded. Oh, two of them did respond to my follow-up queries by admitting they hadn’t gotten around to sending it to any readers yet (a year after submission), but apparently they never did get around to it. As far as I know, nobody has ever read this.
I’m posting it here only as a sort of theoretical justification for the project of Imaginary Relations. The overall goal here remains the discussion of how individual aesthetic works, broadly conceived, function to produce ideologies. That is, we are interested in anything from YouTube to David Mitchell, from video games to T. S. Eliot. How do such practices of watching, playing, and reading work to produce us as subjects? I do believe that literature has a persisting and important function in subject production, but that function has probably declined considerably even since this essay was written in the first decade of this century.
Still, we do continue to require middle-school children to read works such as The Kite Runner and Harry Potter, which work to naturalize the ideologies of neoliberal global capitalism. Young adult novels is still big business, and reading the right kinds of texts is encourage in early adolescence. Of course, once they get beyond about thirteen they are rarely asked to read another work of “Literature” (at least, if the experience of my own children in high school, and the testimony of my college students when I used to teach, is any indication). Beyond that age, we can pretty much count on video games and YouTube to do the work of keeping them in the proper relation to the relations of production.
So, if you’re not interested in academic theoretical texts, don’t bother with the PDF. We still hope that some readers will submit essays, along the lines of those already posted here, about the ideological function of aesthetic objects and practices. In the future, I plan to post a bit differently. Rather than weekly “posts,” which we did mostly to provide some example of the kinds of things we are looking for, we plan to publish a number of essays simultaneously, in “magazine” form, once we have enough submissions to constitute an “issue.”
As always, the comments feature remains open for any discussion of essays published here, including this one. I hope to hear from some readers, and look forward to any submissions, which I promise will be read and responded to in a timely fashion!