Text & Context: Publishing in Contemporary Culture

Spring 2017

Mon­days & Thurs­days 9:30am–12:00pm,
John Maxwell,, @j­maxsfu
Han­nah Mc­Gre­gor,, @hkpm­c­gre­gor


The full list of course read­ings can be found in the MPub PUB800 Zotero group.

You should also be fol­low­ing the fol­low­ing, as we will make ref­er­ence to these over the course of the term:

As well, the “Rec­om­mended Read­ings” above, (col­lected at pro­vide on­go­ing con­text.


Course Out­line

One: What is Pub­lish­ing? – Jan­u­ary 5th

In­tro­duc­tions; the role of print in so­ci­ety; the role of lit­er­a­ture in so­ci­ety; the role of MPub­bers in pub­lish­ing.

Read­ings: Woolf, A Room of One’s Own; Homer: Iliad & Odyssey;

Two: Mar­kets, Au­di­ences, Publics – Jan 9

How does pub­lish­ing op­er­ate, at a foun­da­tional level? Who are publics? How should we think about the pub­lisher’s role in con­tem­po­rary so­ci­ety? Ariel on Wershler.

See Matthew Stadler. 2010. What Is Pub­li­ca­tion?

Read­ings: Warner, “Publics and Coun­ter­publics;” Wer­sh­ler, “The Eth­i­cally In­com­plete Ed­i­tor.”

Three: Struc­ture of the Pub­lish­ing In­dus­try – Jan 12

How does pub­lish­ing con­sti­tute it­self as an in­dus­try in con­tem­po­rary cap­i­tal­ism? How does this play out in Canada in par­tic­u­lar? Ariel continues with Wershler.

Read­ings: Lorimer, Ultra Lib­ris, In­tro­duc­tion & Chap­ter 1;  Wis­chen­bart, “Global Rank­ing of the Pub­lish­ing In­dus­try”

Four: Cul­tural Pol­icy – Jan 16,

Colonial heritage of Canadian publishing.  Tara on Akiwenzie-Damm; we look at alternative perspectives on this history.

Read­ings: Lorimer, Chap­ter 2; Aki­wen­zie-Damm, “We think dif­fer­ently;”

Four.five: Cultural Policy, continued – Jan 19

How has Cana­dian pub­lish­ing come to be the shape it is today? How has Canada seen it­self through the lens of its pub­li­ca­tions? Carmen on Paquette.

Read­ings: Lorimer, Chap­ters 3-4; Pa­que­tte, “Set­tler Colo­nial­ism and Cul­tural Pol­icy; Smith, “Soup Cans and Love Slaves.”

Five: Cana­dian Pub­lish­ing Today – Jan 26

What are the struc­tural pieces of Cana­dian pub­lish­ing in the 21st cen­tury? How does pub­lic pol­icy shape book and mag­a­zine pub­lish­ing today? Jessica K on magazine support.

Read­ings: Lorimer, Chap­ters 5,6, & 8; Narang, “Notes from the Un­der­ground.”

Six: Sup­ply Chains & Cir­cu­la­tion – Jan 30, Feb 2

How do pub­li­ca­tions find their way to au­di­ences? How are books mar­keted and dis­trib­uted? How are mag­a­zines cir­cu­lated? Tass & Lydhia to lead.

Read­ings: An­der­son, “The Long Tail;” The­ri­ault, “First, Do No Harm;” Hil­der­man, “Life After Print;” Hardes, “The Events Model;” Schiffrin, Words & Money.

*** Emerg­ing Lead­ers Sum­mit (first essay to emerge from this week) – Feb 6–10

*** SFU Read­ing Break (No­body is al­lowed to go to Russia) – Feb 13–17

Seven: Mag­a­zines On­line – Feb 20, 23

Pe­ri­od­i­cals have moved on­line in a mul­ti­tude of ways, some which main­tain a con­nec­tion to tra­di­tional modes, and some which throw off tra­di­tion. What hap­pens to pub­lish­ing mod­els when we go dig­i­tal? Summer & Lauren to lead.

Read­ings: Madri­gal, “A Day in the Life of a Dig­i­tal Ed­i­tor;” Lazauskas, “The New Model.”

Copy­right is often cred­ited with being foun­da­tional to the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try. How does it work, and what is hap­pen­ing to it in the 21st cen­tury? Apurva & Aurora to lead.

Read­ings: Hesse, “The Rise of In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty;” Boyle, The Pub­lic Do­main Chap­ter 1; Levy, “Ac­cess Copy­right;” Geist, “Fair Ac­cess.”

Nine: The Age of Ama­zon

The Rise of Ama­zon as a mono­lith of e-com­merce shifts the book in­dus­try to a new level. Katelynn, Keyan, and Dana to lead

Read­ings: Lorimer, Chap­ter 7; Bjar­nas­son, “Which Kind of In­no­va­tion?” O’Leary, “From Com­peti­tors To Col­lab­o­ra­tors;”; Maxwell, “Ama­zon and the En­gage­ment Econ­omy.”

Ten: Born-dig­i­tal Gen­res

Fan­doms; We­b­comics; Dig­i­tal Hu­man­i­ties; coun­ter­publics… Bec to lead.

Read­ings: Zeta El­liott, “Black Au­thors and Self-Pub­lish­ing”

Eleven: Schol­arly Pub­lish­ing & the Mono­graph

The Schol­arly Mono­graph is in a pinched place; the printed book has tra­di­tion­ally been the ne plus ultra of schol­arly au­thor­ity. What hap­pens to the aca­d­e­mic book when aca­d­e­mic dis­course goes dig­i­tal?  Haiqin & Kirsten to lead

Read­ings: Fitz­patrick, Planned Ob­so­les­cence, Chap­ters 1 and 2.

Twelve: To­wards a the­ory of pub­lish­ing

Can we con­ceive of a The­ory of Pub­lish­ing? Can we even get any crit­i­cal per­spec­tive on pub­lish­ing, wor­thy of an aca­d­e­mic dis­ci­pline? Jessica R to lead.

Read­ings: Malik, “Hori­zons of the Pub­lish­able;” Bhaskar, The Con­tent Ma­chine

Thirteen: The Business of Literature

What, then, is the relationship between literature and publishing? We consider Richard Nash’s eloquent essay on the topic.

Readings: Nash, “The Business of Literature”


This course is an ex­am­i­na­tion of the sig­nif­i­cance, con­tem­po­rary state and de­vel­op­ing trends in pub­lish­ing, mostly from a Cana­dian per­spec­tive, across book, pe­ri­od­i­cal, on­line, and schol­arly forms.

As a sem­i­nar, PUB­800 op­er­ates as a com­mu­nity of in­quiry in which, through read­ing, writ­ing, and dis­cussing, we will to­gether build a col­lec­tive un­der­stand­ing of pub­lish­ing and its key is­sues. We will work largely in pub­lic: all writ­ten and pre­sented work will re­side on this web­site, which will grow to be the archive of our ef­forts. We will write, and pub­lish, and thereby ac­tively shape our writ­ing and read­ing con­texts.

Re­quired Texts:

Lorimer, Row­land. 2012. Ultra Lib­ris: Pol­icy, Tech­nol­ogy, and the Cre­ative Econ­omy of Book Pub­lish­ing in Canada. Toronto: ECW Press.


PUB­800 is a grad­u­ate sem­i­nar: the fun­da­men­tal mode here is in­formed dis­cus­sion: we read things to­gether and argue about the im­pli­ca­tions.

More specif­i­cally, the class is dri­ven by stu­dent-led dis­cus­sion. Each of you will be re­spon­si­ble for lead­ing the dis­cus­sion on the topic and/or read­ings for a ses­sion (to be ne­go­ti­ated in ad­vance). …

You will also write two short es­says (roughly 2500 words) on top­ics to be ne­go­ti­ated. Es­says will be posted on the course web­site (that is, in public), and peer-re­viewed by your col­leagues.

The as­sess­ment struc­ture for the course is as fol­lows:

Par­tic­i­pa­tion [40%]: Attendance is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a successful graduate seminar. In ad­di­tion to at­ten­dance and ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in sem­i­nar dis­cus­sions, you will be ex­pected to read­ be­yond the (quite min­i­mal) as­signed read­ings. We will use Zotero and to add, ex­plore, and com­ment on ar­ti­cles we collectively dis­cover, and you are expected to contribute to the literature we discuss (quality being more important than quantity). You will each also be responsible for leading class discussion on one topic (to be negotiated in Week 2). In PUB­800, we will not do for­mal pre­sen­ta­tions or slides, just fo­cused con­ver­sa­tion. At min­i­mum, you should look to lead with a (~20–minute) crit­i­cal sum­mary of your topic, in­clud­ing the fol­low­ing points:

  1. What it is;
  2. Who is in­volved? To whom does it mat­ter?
  3. Why it is im­por­tant or dis­tinc­tive;
  4. What’s in­ter­est­ing/con­tro­ver­sial/wrong/in­spir­ing about it;
  5. What do your class­mates think?

Short Essay #1 [30%]: Due Feb 20th. The essay has three parts: A prospectus (5 marks, due 1 week prior) de­scrib­ing where this essay should/would be pub­lished (and why), and what it adds to the crit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions about pub­lish­ing. Stu­dents are also en­cour­aged to at­tempt to pub­lish com­pleted es­says in these venues; the essay itself (20 marks), of roughly 2500 words, polished and edited, with proper academic citations (Chicago), and posted on the course website; and a peer review (5 marks, due 1 week later) of a classmate’s essay – focused on the strengths of the essay (rather than calling out its failings), connecting it to literature or discourses that you may be aware of but which are not directly referenced in the essay itself. The review should be between 400 and 600 words, and feature hyperlinks and bibliographic references as appropriate.

Short Essay #2 [30%]: As above, but due March 24th (with prospectus a week prior, and peer review a week later)