In an article published in today’s Irish Times, writer Fiona O’Connor continues her explorations into the state of the small presses by asking, ‘Can small presses save us from formulaic Fast Fiction?’.
O’Connor reviews the recent Literary Criticism and the Small Press symposium at the University of Westminster, organised by Dr. Georgina Colby, Dr. Kaja Marczewska and Dr. Leigh Wilson as part of The Contemporary Small Press project, as a hub for bringing together writers, readers, publishers and theoreticians with an interest in the impact of small press publishing on literary production.
“A recent symposium held at London’s University of Westminster, Literary Criticism and the Small Press, focused on the means of production in literature as a shaping influence on literary writing. It’s an area of criticism largely ignored to date, but given the corporatisation of mainstream publishing, one that is badly in need of some attention. To what extent is literature tailored for commercial objectives? Just how much of what reaches the bookshops is decided not by writers but by those who, as one writer put it, “couldn’t write fuck on a venetian blind”?”
Quoting Dr. Leigh Wilson, O’Connor raises the question of ‘aesthetic ownership’ as literature becomes more and more generic and increasingly ‘morphs into content’ (O’Connor).
“Dr Leigh Wilson, convenor of the small presses’ symposium and co-founder of the contemporary small press network: https://thecontemporarysmallpress.com/ puts it like this, “If someone goes to McDonald’s and their Big Mac isn’t the same as always, that’s a failure”. Wilson distinguishes between the legal ownership still belonging to writers, and the notion of aesthetic ownership – the particular writing style, unique trace of ownership as human stain on the writing that says “you can tell this is mine because of the way it’s written”. Wilson fears that it is this aesthetic ownership, gained in the years following the copyright act and the modernist developments of the 1920s and ’30s, that is now in question.”