The Editor Function

Literary Publishing in Postwar America

2021
Author:

Abram Foley

Offering the everyday tasks of literary editors as inspired sources of postwar literary history

The Editor Function follows avant-garde American literary editors and the publishing practices they developed to compete against the postwar corporate consolidation of the publishing industry. Marking an end to the powerful trope of the editor as gatekeeper, it demonstrates how practices of editing and publishing constitute their own kinds of thought, calling on us to rethink what we read and how.

Michel Foucault famously theorized “the author function” in his 1969 essay “What Is an Author?” proposing that the existence of the author limits textual meaning. Abram Foley shows a similar critique at work in the labor of several postwar editors who sought to question and undo the corporate “editorial/industrial complex.” Marking an end to the powerful trope of the editor as gatekeeper, The Editor Function demonstrates how practices of editing and publishing constitute their own kinds of thought, calling on us to rethink what we read and how.

The Editor Function follows avant-garde American literary editors and the publishing practices they developed to compete against the postwar corporate consolidation of the publishing industry. Foley studies editing and publishing through archival readings and small press and literary journal publishing lists as unique sites for literary inquiry. Pairing histories and analyses of well- and lesser-known figures and publishing formations, from Cid Corman’s Origin and Nathaniel Mackey’s Hambone to Dalkey Archive Press and Semiotext(e), Foley offers the first in-depth engagement with major publishing initiatives in the postwar United States.

The Editor Function proposes that from the seemingly mundane tasks of these editors—routine editorial correspondence, line editing, list formation—emerge visions of new, better worlds and fresh textual and conceptual spaces for collective action.

Abram Foley is lecturer in literature and the creative industries at the University of Exeter. He has worked as editorial fellow for Dalkey Archive Press and is the founding editor of ASAP/J.


Contents


Introduction: The Editor Function


1. Editing and the Open Field: Charles Olson’s Letters to Editors


2. Editing and the Institution: John O’Brien and Dalkey Archive Press


3. Editing and the Ensemble: Nathaniel Mackey's Hambone


4. Editing and Eros: Chris Kraus, Semiotext(e), and I Love Dick


Coda: Editing and Entropy


Acknowledgments


Notes


Index