"Minor characters," writes Alex Woloch, "are the proletariat of the novel."1 Defined entirely by the functional role they play gardener, maid, or mechanic they are never treated to the rich, interiorizing narration of their literary betters. Such characters are proletarians not only because they turn the mill-wheels of the novel, but also because they are so often subsumed by one of the most totalizing languages of social type: occupation. What is true of the novel is true of class society more broadly. For proletarians, and for commoners in general, what you do is who you are. Inasmuch as class is first and foremost a function of the division of labor, peasants and carpenters and factory workers are meaningful social actors only inasmuch as they contribute to the reproduction of society through their labor. Only an elite few possess a character independent of occupation.

Such ideas about the link between class, character, and occupation have softened over time, but nonetheless persist within the novel tradition, even if they are sometimes contested by it. The social realist and particularly the naturalist novel, notably, turn characters into protagonists in and through labor. The minor can become major. These developments connect to a developing spirit of capitalism in which occupation is not just social type but a means of self-fashioning. What is at stake in such a shift is a link between literary and moral character that has been operative since the time of Aristotle. The georgic and the pastoral traditions have long provided a model for character formation through (agrarian) labor but according to the more common view, at least if we believe Hannah Arendt, real character only develops beyond labor. With the capitalist universalization of labor and, alongside it, the homilies of the work ethic, a democratization of moral character emerges. Certain types of labor cultivate integrity and fortitude but also produce various forms of disposition and inclination. They make laborers into characters, not to mention subjects.

Focusing on the connection between moral character and the labor process, Richard Sennett's 1998 book, The Corrosion of Character, remains one of the best guides to the psychic and social consequences of a new and bewildering postindustrial society, whose transformed occupations and reconfigured labor processes entail new dimensions of experience and perception.2 Though its primary subject is the economy and its social effects, the book repeatedly explores the simultaneously literary and moral meaning of the term "character." Scholars of the moral language undergirding literary character will find in Sennett's book an obverse example, as he pursues his claims about the psychic and social fragmentation of postindustrial capitalism through a host of narratively developed characters. His book is self-consciously literary, built around the chance encounter that forms the stock-in-trade of many a novel. Waiting in an airport lounge one afternoon, Sennett encounters the son of a man he interviewed 25 years earlier for the book he co-wrote with Jonathan Cobb about the lives of blue-collar workers, The Hidden Injuries of Class. The father, Enrico, had as his premier aspiration the entry of his children into the middle class, and now the son, Rico, has apparently realized his father's deferred American dream: he wears an expensive suit, carries a computer in a briefcase, and travels to Europe on business. Sennett takes his seat beside Rico and begins an informal interview that forms the entry-point for his reflection on the changing character of the labor process. Whereas Enrico the father worked his entire life as a janitor in a downtown office building, Rico the son has changed jobs multiple times, moving his family across country in the process. Whereas Enrico lived in a world of linear time, his job protected by a strong union and his savings for his children's college accumulating steadily through a straightforward and easily calculable relationship between time and money, Rico has been forced to sail the high seas of a discontinuous temporality, charting incalculable futures and exposed to risk at every turn. Plunged into "the sheer flux of networking," he has had to adapt continuously as the companies he worked for downsized or as new opportunities emerged.

Sennett's book is novelistic to a strong degree, not only built around the chance encounter but around novelistic structures of characterization and point of view, with Rico's story framed by the plane ride meeting. Sennett is the author of three novels, and has long been known for his deployment of such narrative techniques in sociology. Careful readers will note that Sennett admits to "disguising identities" where "constructing" might in fact be the better term, since these disguises have meant "changing places and times and occasionally compounding several voices into one or splitting one voice into many." Admitting to and yet disavowing the literary quality of his book, he writes "[t]hese disguises put demands on the reader's trust, but not the trust a novelist would seek to earn through a well-made narrative, for that coherence is now lacking in real lives." 3 Sennett repeatedly emphasizes this point about the narrative basis of character. Enrico lived in a world of "long-term narrative time in fixed channels."4 As a result, he developed moral "character," an ethical sense of the world and his place in it. His experience of the labor process provided rubrics which he could then use to instruct his children and organize his home life. He developed character, and he also, implicitly, became a character, living a life that could be narrated. Rico, on the other hand, finds nothing in his fluxive worklife that can give order to his family life, as the latter is based around the sort of long-term relationships the former precludes. Thus, the kernel of the crisis of character for Sennett and Rico both:

How can long-term purposes be pursued in a short-term society? How can durable social relations be sustained? How can a human being develop a narrative of identity and life history in a society composed of episodes and fragments?5

Without answers to such questions, people like Rico will find that "short-term capitalism threatens to corrode [their] character, particularly those qualities of character which bind human beings to one another and furnishes [sic] each with a sense of sustainable self."6

Sennett's treatment is notably nostalgic for the loss of certain ways of being. While left-wing nostalgias for industrial capitalism abound, they are rarely cast in such explicitly moral terms. This makes Sennett's book uncomfortably close to the industrial nostalgias we are likely to hear about in one of the hundreds of articles on Donald Trump and the so-called "white working class." Leaving aside the question of whether or not Trump's support amongst this demographic has been exaggerated, contemporary white revanchism does frequently invoke, in a mythic register, the character-building moral force that now-vanished, blue-collar labor provided, especially inasmuch as such meaning depended on racialized and gendered hierarchies.7 Sennett is explicit about his progressive commitments and notes with alarm that Rico responds to his crisis of character by adopting a "cultural conservative" world view,  complete with talking points about welfare moms, drugs, and overly permissive parenting. Sennett debates these points with Rico but also concludes that his conservatism is merely ironic, a negative image produced by the life he lives rather than a set of sincere commitments. What Rico needs is not the tougher drug policy and welfare austerity that the 90s delivered but, in fact, narrative:

What is missing between the polar opposite of drifting experience and static assertion is a narrative which could organize his conduct. Narratives are more than simple chronicles of events; they give shape to the forward movement of time, suggesting reasons why things happen, showing their consequences. Enrico had a narrative for his life, linear and cumulative, a narrative which made sense in a highly bureaucratic world. Rico lives in a world marked instead by short-term flexibility and flux; this world does not offer much, either economically or socially, in the way of narrative.8

Rico the son is Enrico the father without the N of narrative, rich but not enriched. By narrative, Sennett means something more specific than storytelling as such. He means a particular compact between character and narrative that is the real-world correlate of the realist novel and, in particular, the bildungsroman. Rico lacks development. Even in his own story, he remains a minor character.

Sennett's book not only has at its center a narrative sensibility drawn from the novel but identifies narrative as a central feature of social life, dangerously attenuated by postindustrial reorganization. Sennett, we will remember, distinguishes between his own disguises and the disguises of the novelist, inasmuch as the lives of Rico and the other people in his book lack, as he states, the coherence of literary characters. And yet, this distinction seems itself disguise, given that his writerly book supplies, through its use of literary characterization and sociological analysis, the resonant meaning his subjects lack as characters. Indeed, Sennett's narrative of characters without character is very much of a piece with the contemporary novel of ideas, giving polemical shape to the emptiness and fragmentation of modern life through exercises in world-building, scene-setting, and stylization that take up the slack for protagonists condemned to postindustrial minority. Narrative, here, is conservative in the larger sense of the term, providing vanishing forms of experience and understanding lacking in the lives of the characters themselves. Deindustrial nostalgia both in its left and right variants relies upon a narrative of loss, a narrative of the loss of narrative meaning.

In the world of contemporary fiction, a good correlate for Sennett's worldview might be found in the novels, short stories and essays of David Foster Wallace, certainly among the most skilled chroniclers of the fragmented and incoherent minor characters of the postindustrial world. Like Sennett, Wallace often relied on a moralizing, forensic narrative mode that looked with nostalgia on the steady, routine-oriented worklife of people like Enrico. This impulse became stronger over the course of Wallace's life and is perhaps clearest in The Pale King, his unfinished and, consequentially, fragmented office novel. For all its disorder and incoherence, the novel is nonetheless clear in the order and meaning it seeks to bring to the lives of its characters, order it locates in the most maligned of institutions and workplaces, the IRS.9 The Pale King, notably, is an office novel, just as Sennett's reflections on the changing character of work begin with an office worker. In fact, the contemporary novel itself seems to have a privileged relationship with the office as workplace and with white-collar work and workers more generally.

Labor and Genre: The Office Novel

In many accounts, the office and white-collar labor become stand-ins for postindustrial labor in general, even though the latter category includes the vast and complex occupations that we might describe as in-person service and that differ greatly from office work.10 The contemporary novel has comparatively little to say about these latter occupations - about store clerks, rideshare drivers, and baristas. While it might be tempting to explain these observations in terms of the middle-class character of novelists noting, for example, that both groups are more likely to work in offices other literary and artistic modes produced by primarily middle-class creators often center in-person service. We will have much more success with an approach that looks for answers not in biography but in the relationship between the social division of labor and the system of genre, where the latter is understood as a division of labor particular to the aesthetic universe.

We began by discussing character and have transitioned to the topic of genre. This should not be surprising, since character, genre, the social division of labor and, in turn, class have been linked since the first systems of literary classification. Aristotle, for example, distinguishes tragedy from comedy and both dramatic genres from epic according to a number of formal features but first and foremost according to the types of people represented. "[T]ragedy stands apart in relation to comedy, for the latter intends to imitate those who are worse, and the former better than people are now." 11 Aristotle defines "greater" and "lesser" in moral terms, first and foremost, but this moral character has a direct connection to social class, and he notes that, effectively, tragedy concerns a small handful of noble families upon whom misfortune falls, as these are examples of people of good character who are "driven to suffer or do terrible things" as the result of "missing the mark" rather than bad character.12 Later receptions of Greek dramatic categories, during the Renaissance, for example, tended to affirm and reify this classed conception.13 As such, we might say that genre is a function of character, character a function of social class, and social class, finally, a function of the division of labor, since both older and newer class distinctions revolve fundamentally around a distinction between those who toil and those who do not. Only those who can avail themselves of the surpluses generated by toiling commoners will find themselves with enough time on their hands for politics, war, and intrigue as determined by the whims of the gods and the demands of the high genres such as epic and tragedy.

Beyond the distinction between those who work and those who do not, between the shepherd of pastoral and the knight errant of chivalric romance, between the petit-bourgeois strivers of the realist novel and the unemployed rogue of the picaresque, other labor divisions matter for genre, divisions not just between workers and non-workers but between kinds of workers. In capitalism, with its complex and frequently global division of labor, these distinctions come to the fore. Drawing upon Marx, Alex Woloch develops a "labor theory of character" in the 19th century realist novel, and particularly the bildungsroman, in which "the free, full development of the central protagonist is contingent on the utilization, and delimitation, of minor characters."14 Mere functionaries, flattened minor characters serve to set in motion the rounding development of the protagonist. Whether or not such minor characters are literal workers, though they often are, they are always figurative workers, producing the narrative conditions for the production and reproduction of the protagonist. In the main, the central characters of such novels are not mere employees. They are students, small proprietors, adventurers, entrepreneurs, ladies, independently wealthy, self-employed. But as social realist impulses emerged and strengthened and as the advent of the worker's movement demanded more attention to the lives of the working class, a variant novel of development and a variant labor theory of character emerged, associated to some degree with naturalism if not also the worker's movement, that found in work itself, and in the urgencies and resistant materials of industrial work in particular, a foundry for character. Think of Émile Zola's Étienne Lantier or Chester Himes' Bob Jones, whose experiences in coal mine and shipyard propel them through their respective novels. This is what Sennett notes in the life of Enrico.

In the post-industrial world, such protagonism no longer exists. We have, instead, majorly minor characters. We can explain the high ratio of office novels to service labor novels by noting first that the office novel has that plurality of characters, that manyness, which the realist novel of social interaction requires. There are a lot of people in a big office friends, associates, total strangers and because the work is often communicative in nature, there is ample time for drama and melodrama caused by chance and routine interaction. But offices are frequently so vast that the asymmetries and inequalities one might expect in the novel of work are murky. There are managers and bosses, to be sure, but those managers are themselves managed and so on and so forth. Offices are spaces of a grand middleness, in which everyone's development is fostered by one person and obstructed by another.

Sennett relies on Mark Granovetter's argument about the "strength of weak ties" and the network models of sociality that predominate in late capitalism, as individuals seeking gainful advantage from their interactions eschew long-term relationships and instead cultivate a great number of ephemeral bonds.15 This is certainly a large part of the office environment in the era of flexible labor, as job assignments and work relations shift constantly. However, office environments hold out the promise of strong ties and the sort of development-inducing relationships the novel demands. They involve much more than verbal interaction among workers, and feature downtime in which other forms of interaction amiable, ludic, sexual might be pursued. Compared to in-person service workplaces, with their high turnover and their frequently complex mixture of contingent or part-time workers on different shifts, offices provide many more opportunities for long-term relationship building. Office work is often, though not always, more communicative in nature than in-person service work. The service worker-customer relationship is an exception, but this area of interaction between bartender and regular, for example, or nurse and patient is narrower than that of the office. As a whole, in-person service does not offer the same potential for character, in Sennett's sense of the term. On the contrary, it involves role-playing and impersonation and the cultivation of various discontinuous subjectivities. As such, it has its correlative in the theater and, more generally, in any and all genres where performativity is emphasized: from the lyric poem to performance art and other post-studio arts that emphasize the transience and evanescence of the object.

The office holds out the promise of strong ties, but that promise is based on interactions that are, in fact, stultifying: the development of non-development in the gray flannel middleness of the cubicle village. This is a problem for corporations as much as novelists, and over the last few decades firms have tried to restructure work relations to avoid this sort of productivity-inhibiting enervation. In the vision of the new managerial theory, the ideal workplace is one where self-managing and self-directed workers map themselves across various projects and teams of workers, incorporating the tactics of impersonation and self-reinvention necessary for in-person service work. Such a transformation allows for development at the expense of strong ties, providing one essential ingredient for the realist novel by removing another. The office novel is therefore as much problem as solution and ends up, in its pure form, merely symptomatic of the weakening of the novel form and the "waning of protagonicity" that Fredric Jameson argues begins with realism and is finally completed in our period.16 It should not be surprising, then, that the most successful contemporary office novels succeed by escaping the office in one way or another and, perhaps, escaping the novel as well. Whereas the office novels of midcentury imagined an outside to the office that was also an outside to labor but nonetheless still firmly within the generic confines of the novel the expatriate novel of Paris, for example, that taunts the thwarted characters of Richard Yates's classic office novel, Revolutionary Road contemporary exemplars plot their escape by engaging the other of office labor, in-person service, and as such, given the connection between genre and the division of labor, probing the limits of the novel form as contemporary genre constructs it. I think here in particular of Tom McCarthy's Remainder, Helen DeWitt's Lightning Rods, and Colson Whitehead's Zone One.17 I choose these not only because they are popular novels and, by my measure, good ones, but because they are critically successful and, to some degree, regarded as examples of what the 21st century novel can and should do.

Performance and Singularity

Remainder is unique for being almost universally admired. It is also, not coincidentally, uniquely insightful about service work and the service relation. This might seem to contradict my claim above about the illegibility of the in-person service environment for the novel, but Remainder is not merely a novel. It is a novel that internalizes within its generic conventions the conventions of performance-based conceptual art, which as I've indicated above have a privileged relationship to in-person service work. It is also, explicitly, a novel of corroded character. The protagonist has been separated from his prior life and any direction or coherence it might have given him by an amnesia-producing and unidentified falling object. Though he regains his memories of his prior life, and with it a substantial liability settlement from equally unidentified parties, these memories don't matter to the narrative or to him, and he suffers from a crippling sense that his life is inauthentic. In fact, he regains more than his memories, or regains them in such an order that they bring, in returning, an inassimilable remainder. What sets the plot in motion - the "event that, the accident aside, was the most significant of his whole life" - is his recall of a memory that he can't integrate with the rest of his life and that, moreover, unlike his other experiences, feels real.18

The narrator lacks, in other words, the compact between narrative and character described previously. The novel is, as such, not a quest that produces character development but a quest for character development. In her defining review of Remainder, Zadie Smith identifies the novel as the repudiation of a moribund and yet hegemonic "lyrical realism," descended from Balzac and Flaubert.19 "Lyrical realism" is a cult of the detail, of the adjective, but it's also about the detail integrated with character, the description of gesture or appearance that serves to sum up an identity. In Remainder, this link between detail and character has been severed, producing a sort of mania. The unassimilable remainder, which may not in fact have happened, needs to be realized by the protagonist, enacted and performed, in order to yield the sense of authenticity he seeks. And so the novel unfolds as he spends his great fortune first on recreating this recollected remainder and then, once this simulation fails to yield the experience of coherence he lacks, other events he has encountered which produce the same, elusive frisson. Realism is not so much repudiated but transformed into an all-devouring vortex, as the protagonist and his assistant become the managers of hundreds of interconnected, simulacral labors, hiring builders and designers and actors to recreate his memory in such a way that he can slow it down, circumnavigate it, pull it apart, and inspect its details and particulars with the sort of analytic and synthetic power we have come to expect from digitally constructed models.

The dislocated, remaindered memory that forces its way into the narrator's consciousness unfolds, more or less, as the rooms of an apartment building. He is in the bathroom at a friend's flat during a party and struck by a feeling of déjà vu, recalling a bathroom just like it, though with key differences, in a building he can't remember visiting or inhabiting. From there, the various rooms and floors of the memory slide into place: the woman on the floor below frying liver, the pianist two floors below, the concierge on the ground floor. In order to recreate the memory and the missing authenticity it indexes, he must buy a building that resembles the building of his recollection, but also employ people to play the role of each of the occupants or workers he recalls. The narrator's employees are personal servants, in a manner of speaking, but because they only perform a single action, in a continuous loop, they are also performers, background actors in a tableau vivant.

This sort of labor relation has its closest analogue in contemporary performance, installation, and conceptual art, and many of the people the narrator comes into contact with attempt to understand what he is doing as art. We might consider, by comparison, the work of Santiago Sierra, who attempts to lay bare the exploitation of the wage relation by staging works where individuals, hired by the artist, dig pointless holes in the ground, stand facing a corner all day, or let themselves be tattooed with a single line of ink. In such naively autocritical works, the artist becomes an entrepreneur, hiring others to assist in the provision of artistic labor. Or rather, Sierra provides the art, and his employees the labor. Likewise, we might think of the elaborate choreography that Jeff Wall puts in motion with his large-format photographs, often produced as tableaux vivants. His photographs can have the motion and immediacy of snapshots, but they are elaborately staged, and in this dimension, as Wall has made clear in his writing, they owe as much to the example of conceptual artists like Dan Graham as they do to the history of photography and fine art painting. Many of these photographs involve workers, cleaners in particular. In Morning Cleaning, Mies Van der Rohe Foundation, Wall "worked in collaboration with the cleaner" charged with mopping the floors of the foundation to produce an image in such a way that "the picture resembles very closely what a snapshot made at the moment would show."20 In other words, Wall steps into and artistically mediates the employer-employee relation. The cleaner is not actually cleaning but producing an image of cleaning. The relationship between this sort of photography and the simulated moments in Remainder should be clear.

In both the Sierra and the Wall, as well as Remainder, the actions are highly gratuitous, serving an aesthetic rather than practical purpose, as if servitude itself is what workers provide rather than some sort of practical assistance. The technical definition of a service is a commodity that is used up entirely at the time of its sale that is, a commodity that leaves behind no remainder. In Remainder, although buildings are bought and transformed, the end-result of all the involved labors is the provision of a service in this technical sense of the term, the creation of a vanishing experience, an aura, a mood, that the monomaniacal narrator deems therapeutic. Even in the case of Wall and Sierra, where the transactions can result in the production of a tangible artistic good, the emphasis still lies upon the evanescence of the service relation rather than manufacture as such. Wall telegraphs his understanding of this dimension of service labor by writing, about the photograph, that "cleaning is mysterious since it is the labour that erases itself if it is successful."21

As much as they are aggregated under the heading of service, the reenactments in Remainder, like the service labors of a Walmart store clerk, depend upon a vast network of industrial and white-collar labor. The narrator comes to understand his own managerial labors and those of his accomplices as part of a very particular industry logistics which sits at the intersection of industrial labor, in-person service, and white-collar work. He describes the logistical accomplishments of his assistant, Naz, in coordinating one of his reenactments as follows:

He got it all together for the day after that. He got the license from the Council and the license from the police, organized all the staff and back-up staff, the caterers and runners and who knows what else. It struck me as I waited that all great enterprises are about logistics. Not genius or inspiration or flights of imagination, skill or cunning, but logistics. Building pyramids or landing spacecraft on Jupiter or invading whole continents or painting divine scenes over the roofs of chapels: logistics. I decided that in the caste scale of things, people who dealt with logistics were higher even than the ones who made connections.22

Naz's managerial labor superintends in-person service ("caterers and runners") but also industrial labor of the sort involved in "building pyramids." The narrator's reflections on Naz's work are more or less identical to conclusions that owners and managers the world over have reached in the past few decades, submitting postindustrial capitalism to a so-called logistics revolution. Rather than displacing industrial labor, logistics re-organizes it, combining it with white-collar administrative work in a form that has its center of gravity in firms that sell products or provide services directly to consumers (Amazon, Walmart, Uber, Apple).23

In Remainder, however, this logistical system is disconnected from average people, who rely on it for food, housing, transportation and other basic needs. The examples the narrator comes up with Martian exploration, military expedition, the building of monuments are telling, as they are projects entirely oriented to the needs of the ruling class. Remainder may suggest, however, that the logistics of pyramid building and the logistics of Walmart are closer than we think. While the logistics of Walmart is supposedly designed to meet ordinary needs it must sell things people want the true goal of such a system is the generation of profit and, from that profit, more profit. Though capitalism must at the very least keep alive a working class to exploit, maintaining the survival of proletarians is a presupposition of capitalist development, not its goal. In the present era, as the conditions of proletarians deteriorate, profit-generating profit begins to look no less wasteful or unproductive than the massive, slave-built tomb ornaments of the Egyptian ruling class. Logistics is efficient at generating profits, not at meeting needs, and Remainder and its protagonist both give shape to a historical moment when neither capitalism, nor its workers, nor the characters in its fictions can develop meaningfully. Industrial capitalism frequently generated extra profits through investment in labor-saving machinery, thus over time lowering the cost of consumer goods and raising the standard of living. But logistics is less about increasing the productivity of labor than it is about driving wages to their minimum.24 The result is an era of stagnation, with little increase in productivity, wages, or other markers of capitalist historical change. In other words, it is not just the non-development of characters that's at stake in Remainder, but the non-development of capitalism. Capitalism, too, has a crisis of character, a lack of direction.

Corporate Non-Development

This link between the protagonist and capitalism as such is clear from the beginning of Remainder. Meeting with his financial advisor after receiving the settlement, the narrator decides against a diversified investment strategy and, against his advisor's objections, plows his fortune into the technology and telecommunication sectors. In this regard, he reflects the unproductive misallocation of wealth effected by 21st-century capitalism, as Silicon Valley firms with no demonstrable revenues suck up billions of dollars, and logistics firms move things around the planet in increasingly frenzied ways with little demonstrable effect on net accumulation. Not only are his investments whimsical, but the provenance of his wealth is entirely unexplained, dropping from the sky attached to a non-disclosure agreement like the debris that separated him from consciousness. Capital not only develops without reason but without backstory.

The waywardness of capitalist development is also the subject of the great office novel of the decade, Helen DeWitt's Lightning Rods, in which characterlessness is presented less through anomie and fragmentation than through a cartoonish upward-mobility that, in fact, leads nowhere at all. The novel unfurls an entire world from the sexual fantasy of its central character, Joe, a thwarted traveling salesman who finds the market for his particular product, vacuum cleaners, already saturated. In the mold of many a rags-to-riches narrative, his indolent daydreams produce epiphany, and from epiphany marketable invention: a universalization of his sexual fantasy that he soon installs at the center of corporate America or, more precisely, in its bathrooms. Joe deduces that firms might insulate themselves from sexual harassment lawsuits if they provide directly for their male employees' sexual needs, just as the most coveted employers today (such as Google and Facebook) provide in-house cafeterias, gyms, childcare, movie theatres, and other perks and diversions to ensure that their employees more or less live on site. Joe's fantasy involves a woman whose upper and lower body are on two sides of a wall. While her clothed upper half is engaged in day-to-day activities, her unclothed lower half can be fucked from behind. In the workplaces where his fantasy is installed, female employees specially contracted as sexual service-providers enter the bathroom, undress from the waist down, and enter a "transporter," which places their naked half on the other side of the wall, in the men's bathroom. In this way, an "outlet" is provided for those male employees while maintaining the anonymity of all involved. Joe convinces his corporate client that the most highly-productive male workers display a "drive" that, while beneficial to the corporate bottom line, leads them to sexually harass co-workers and invite lawsuit. The female workers are thus "lightning rods," drawing away the destructive sexual energy of "results-orientated" men.

Joe's apparatus establishes a division of labor that runs through female employees as much as between them and their male counterparts, sexually commodified from the waist down while their upper half is reserved for clerical and white-collar work. Gramsci remarks in his writing on Fordism that by mechanizing physical action, the automated factory frees up the workers' minds, allowing them more time to think.25 While one might question the degree to which factory work is purely physical, some of the lightning rods do resemble Gramsci's case. The narration of Lightning Rods shifts to focus on a few of the women who work as lightning rods, and tells the story of Renée, a perfectionist black woman who teaches herself French by reading through the entirety of Proust's À la recherche du temp perdu while putting in her time on the transporter. She also saves up enough money through her extra lightning rod work to attend Harvard Law School and, as we learn through the proleptic narrative, eventually become a Supreme Court justice.

Joe refuses Renée's application for the job of lightning rod at first, on the grounds that her black skin would ruin the anonymity of the program. But Renée threatens to sue for workplace discrimination and Joe, in damage control mode, introduces a new innovation: black PVC tights that still provide access, but disguise the skin color of the lightning rods. DeWitt's novel is, among other things, a vicious indictment of the hypocrisies of workplace regulations around equal access and equal opportunity. The transporter is installed, significantly, within the wheelchair-accessible bathroom, and Joe frequently speaks of the men whose needs he is satisfying as a minority group deserving special treatment. He also displays a surprisingly sincere desire to meet the needs of disabled users of such bathrooms, and invents fully adjustable fixtures, including a variable height toilet that can be automatically stowed away under the floor. Not only does this meet the needs of people of various heights but it solves the problem that "as an accoutrement to a sexual encounter, the toilet is a real cold shower." The lightning rods are "bifunctional personnel" office workers who double as sexual service providers and what the novel seems to intimate is that equal opportunity and civil rights legislation is also often bifunctional, meeting unmet needs and providing equality of opportunity while intensifying the exploitation and degradation of work. Renée is an example then of the success of equal opportunity legislation, rising through the ranks to one of the highest offices in the country on the virtue of her extraordinary merit. But behind this equality, the novel suggests, a deep subjugation persists. The lightning rods, on the one hand, protect women in the workplace from sexual harassment but do so in a way that deeply reinscribes the sexual division of labor. The novel therefore describes a superficial meritocracy that floats atop a vast sea of gendered and, we must presume, racial oppression.

This conjoining of equality and inequality occurs because the division of labor runs through rather than between people. The result is a crisis of character in which superficial, cartoonish development all the characters in the story follow a monotonic curve from success to success, earning riches and fame presupposes a machinelike depersonalization reducing women to their genitals. Within the lightning rod contraption, each woman is entirely fungible. DeWitt often represents the women who work as lightning rods attempting to draw moral lessons from their experience. They almost invariably see their work as "character-building" in the sense described above, and attribute their remarkable later success to the conditioning effect of degrading work. These reflections are purposefully unconvincing in DeWitt's treatment, consisting of nothing more a thin fabric of pop psychological cliché. "Besides," a lightning rod named Lucille thinks to herself, considering the unpleasantness of her work, "the thing to remember is there are two ways of looking at things you don't like that life throws at you. One way is to emphasize the negative and just fall apart because every little thing isn't exactly the way you like it. The other way is to look at it as an opportunity to practice dealing with things you don't like."26 The passage continues in this manner of bland free indirect discourse for almost a page. The point here is that whatever connections Lucille sees between her work as a lightning rod and her work in general is pure ideology. The real connection between her divided labors does not exist at the level of character: it exists as mechanism, as transporter.

The division of labor fragments corporations as much as it fragments individuals. Lightning Rods is, among other things, an allegory of outsourcing. The division between the space of formal equality and the space of gender-based oppression requires that the lighting-rod service be provided by a separate corporate enterprise, one that furthermore must take control of a portion of the client corporation's human resources operation, planting anonymous lightning rods among a larger female workforce. The Lightning Rods corporation must become, therefore, a de facto temp agency. In this sense, the novel describes in outlandish terms the very real restructuring of work over the last several decades, as firms increasingly split into core and peripheral groups of employees, with the core employed directly by the firm and the periphery composed of workers who are, in fact, employees of another firm. This allows corporations to hold certain employees at arm's length, reduce their exposure, and hire and fire at will. Taking its cue from real firms of today, Lightning Rods describes a situation in which even workplace sexual oppression has been outsourced, leaving the contracting firm to behave as if it were entirely virtuous.

For Sennett, postindustrial corrosion of character emerges, in part, because of the transformation of the labor process. He describes, for example, a computerized bakery in which bakers no longer require the specialized understanding of the physics and chemistry of bread. They simply push buttons and the machines take care of the rest, performing inscrutable and occluded operations. This lack of understanding leads, in his view, to a disidentification with the work itself. I have attempted elsewhere to show how, beyond the inscrutabilities of work machinery, incomprehension also results from increasingly complex supply chains, in which workers perform tasks whose relationship to the larger ensemble of production and distribution remains unclear: assembling a circuit board whose destiny is never known, for example.27 These epistemological issues are intensified by contract production and outsourcing, as Lightning Rods makes clear. Few employees of the contracting firm know about the program, and among those who do, none are privy to the Lighting Rods corporation's proprietary processes.

As a result, the lightning rod is an innovation that doesn't appear to change much of anything at all. Unlike the production technologies at the heart of capitalist growth, lightning rods technology is unobtrusive by design, peripheral to the main work of the client corporations, a way of reducing litigation costs and achieving mild gains in productivity. This cost reduction is partly offset by the service fee paid to Lightning Rods, so such an innovation is unlikely to be as profitable as technologies that directly increase labor productivity. By the end of the novel, the main contribution of lightning rod technology seems to be its effect on the political sphere. Its adoption by government offices at the behest of the FBI diminishes political sex scandals while, at the same time, giving the FBI leverage over politicians (they insist on abrogating the anonymity of the program and installing cameras at the lightning rod facilities). We never learn the nature of the work that Lightning Rods's first client performs, nor are we given much sense that it matters. As Sianne Ngai notes, there is a "historical indefiniteness" to the novel:

[w]hat at first seems to be a story about the future is a history of the present, but not a specific one like, say, the 1950s (as suggested by references to Joe's first job selling vacuum cleaners door to door) or, say, the early 1990s (as suggested by references to accessible bathroom, PC feminists, and the first appearance of blue M&Ms).28

Ngai connects this to the bizarre stasis of capitalist development as described by Moishe Postone a "treadmill" in which movement forward serves to keep capitalism in the same place.

Against this background of corporate non-development, the characters in the novel present us with parodic over-development, disclosed by the novel's satirical use of prolepsis:

Years later, when Lucille was making a million a year as a litigation lawyer, she was sometimes asked to identify the thing that had made the single biggest contribution to her career.29

Years later, when Renée was making constitutional history as a Supreme Court Justice, she was sometimes asked to identify the thing that had made the single biggest contribution to her career.30

Years later, when Hayley was a millionaire, people used to think the way she got started was through her connections.31

Years later he would tell the story and people would never quite believe that you could feel that way when a hitherto unsuspected competitor has suddenly turned up to undercut you by 50%.32

Each of these proleptic moments sets up a moralizing "life lesson" delivered in the tone of the TED talk or the business and management section of an airport bookstore, not to mention the self-help industry. They are also essentially interchangeable, so much so that Ngai believes the novel's use of a tonally consistent free indirect discourse establishes a universe in which "there is only one character distributed across a multiplicity of nodes" through the mechanism of the lightning rod.33 After the proleptic transition in the last quote above, we are treated to the following boilerplate from Joe:

That's because most people don't see the larger picture. They focus on what's in front of their nose. Most people never think about the fact that you only ever get one life to live, and a business is just a part of that life. If you don't think about how your business fits into your life as a whole, one day you're going to wake up and find you sold away the only life you were ever going to get for the sake of the bottom line. Well, there's only so much money you can spend in this life, and the thing you've got to remember is, the one thing you can't buy back, no matter how much money you have, is time. A billion dollars won't buy back one single minute.34

In every case and with every character, prolepsis triggers an avalanche of platitudes. In contrast to the prolepsis we find in the classic character novel, in which either the narrator offers up a dramatic irony for the reader, allowing a glimpse of a future invisible to the character, or the characters themselves are transported to a future standpoint from which their mistakes shine in the light of hindsight, there is no error or irony here whatsoever. Renée is a perfectionist not only in the sense of attempting perfection but in actually achieving it: "she made a point," we are told, "of doing things right the first time." Thus, the novel violates one of the essential aspects of the Aristotelian definition of ideal character: someone who suffers misfortune not because of bad character "but on account of some missing of the mark." The characters in Lightning Rods never miss their mark. They are drawn toward their target like lightning to a radio tower. The one exception to this story of perfection is Joe, who begins the novel, let's remember, as a frustrated traveling salesman and whose story one might expect to resemble the narratives of corroded character we've described previously. But from the moment of his invention, all is perfect. His path is blessed. His invention, and indeed the whole novel, begins in masturbatory fantasy, however, and so we might wonder if that isn't how we are meant to understand it, as a sexual daydream in which the characters are essentially props for a fantasy whose true and only character is an elaborate, woman-dividing mechanism.

Futures of Labor, Futures of Genre

Colson Whitehead's Zone One describes a world in which, for the majority of people, fantasies of progress cling weakly to a world bereft of future. All the characters we meet in Whitehead's novel find themselves in the ebb tide of a zombie apocalypse. They are survivors on islands surrounded by vast oceans of the undead. Witness to the zombification of almost everyone they knew, these survivors are naturally skeptical about, if also somewhat susceptible to, what they call "pheenie" (slang for phoenix) optimism. The novel concerns a group of survivors put to work in lower Manhattan by a reconstituted US government (located in Buffalo) whose plans for the gradual re-emergence of civilization they term "American Phoenix," employing the marketing language of a vanished capitalism. All of the characters, however, are unified in their sense that pheenies are dangerous to themselves and others, that optimism will get you killed, even if they secretly nourish their own hopes and fantasies about the future.

It is partly such doubt, or capacity to doubt, and therefore to err in the Aristotelian sense, that gives these characters a reality that those in Lightning Rods lack. Survival is traumatizing, but also revivifying; they find in the zombified schlock of genre a meaning and a passion that they lacked in the sterilities of office realism. (The main character frequently recounts his white-collar past as he moves through downtown office buildings.) The novel is full of characters whose "latent talents announced themselves" in the midst of apocalypse.35 This is particularly true of the main character's counterpart, Gary, a working-class misfit and former mechanic who had been "befuddled and banished by the signs and systems of straight life" but who had "effortlessly...grasped and mastered the new rules, as if he had waited for the introduction of hell his whole life."36 Picking up on themes well-established in the zombie films of the 1970s, in which zombies represent a mindless horde of middle-class consumers George Romero's Dawn of the Dead takes place in a mall Gary thinks of the army of the dead as "the 'squares,' the 'suckers,' and the 'saps'" he had detested in the pre-apocalyptic world:

The dead had paid their mortgages on time, and placed the well-promoted breakfast cereals on the table when the offspring leaped out of bed in their fire-resistant jammies. The dead had graduated with admirable GPAs, configured monthly contributions to worthy causes, judiciously apportioned their 401(k)s across diverse sectors according to the wisdom of their dead licensed financial advisers, and superimposed the borders of the good school districts on mental maps of their neighborhoods, which were often included on the long list when magazines ranked cities with the Best Quality of Life. In short, they had been so honed and trained so thoroughly by that extinguished world that they were doomed in this one.37

The dead, in other words, lack character. For Gary, and for many in the novel, the optimism that they try to ward off is a fantasy of re-industrialization, a return to the kind of authentic, manual labor at which Gary excels. The capital of the provisional government is in formerly deindustrialized Buffalo, described as "the exalted foundry of the future."38 This is not just metaphor, however, but described specifically as wartime reindustrialization, with "the former homemakers and chronic asthmatics and assorted old biddies on the assembly lines cranking out ammo day and night." Not only does zombie reindustrialization give Gary a place, but it reverses the feminization of labor: "Nowadays, Rosie the Riveter was a former soccer mom who had just opened her own catering business when Last Night came down and her husband and kids were eaten by a parking attendant at the local megamall's discount-appliance emporium."39 Through violence, zombie plague restores to these people the meaningful narrative they lacked. The "plague had a knack for narrative closure," as the narrator says in a witty aside about the narrative traditions of survivors.40

If survival means reindustrialization, then it's not surprising that throughout the novel, the zombies are identified with the postindustrial labor that many of the survivors did before the apocalypse, particularly in-person service and white-collar labor. The novel's first encounter with zombies occurs in the Human Resources Office of a law firm. The main character, Mark Spitz, works as part of a "sweeper unit" (including Gary), whose job is to check for remaining zombies non-dangerous "stragglers" in downtown Manhattan office buildings. In this allegory of reindustrialization, Buffalo's main reconstructive project is a reconquest of the island of Manhattan, beginning downtown. First, soldiers clear away the dangerous zombies and then the "sweeper units" take out the rest. Newly assigned to the "sweeper unit," Mark Spitz experiences the return of drudgery for the first time since the beginning of the apocalypse. "Hard to believe" he says, in free indirect discourse, "that reconstruction had progressed so far that clock-watching had returned, the slacker's code, the concept of the weekend." This observation prompts a brief relapse into optimism, "reaffirming his belief in reincarnation: everything was so boring that this could not be the first time he'd experienced it."41 However, such pheenie feelings are premature. Kicking down the door to Human Resources and the old world of work he thought was returning, he encounters a number of zombies who are not harmless "stragglers" but fast, flesh-eating zombies. The passage's comic flair comes not only from its use of the term "Human Resources" to describe the attacking zombies but Whitehead's artful weaving of his past work history into the flow of what is essentially an action scene. He describes his assailant as follows:

Surely this one possessed the determination befitting a true denizen of Human Resources, endowed by nature and shaped by nurture into its worthy avatar. The plague's recalibration of its faculties only honed the underlying qualities. Mark Spitz's first office job had had involved rattling a mail cart down the corridors of a payroll company located in a Hempstead office park not too far from his house... The only downer was the ogre head of Human Resources, who'd been relentless about Mark Spitz's paperwork, downright insidious about W-this, W-that, the proper credentials. She served the places where human beings were paraphrased into numbers, components of bundled data to be shot out through fiber-optic cable toward meaning.

"Your check can't be processed without the complete paperwork." How was he supposed to know where his Social Security card was?... "You're not in the system. You might as well not exist." Where was The System now, after the calamity? It had been an invisible fist floating above them for so long and now the fingers were open, disjoined, and everything slipped through, escaped. By August, he'd scurried back to the service industry, doling out pomegranate martinis on Ladies' Wednesdays. He tried to heave Human Resources off him. The skel's eyes dipped to the soft meat of his face. It went in for a bite.42

As zombie, Human Resources wants to do to Mark Spitz after the apocalypse precisely what it did before: convert him into an undead denizen of "the system." The contagious zombie named Human Resources is an allegory for the corrosion of character in postindustrial society, the waning of protagonicity through the transformation of humans into resources, into bundles of data.

This process of depersonalization is always incomplete or partial, however, and the novel self-reflexively details its characters' relentless, narrative impulse to attribute identities to the zombies they encounter. Mark Spitz names one of the fast zombies in the HR suite Marge, as she sports a hairstyle like that of "Margaret Halstead, the charmingly klutzy actress who'd trademarked it."43 Mark Spitz and his unit mates not only eliminate the zombies but sort, categorize and characterize them, especially the "stragglers," whose relative docility allows more time for typifying reflection. Unlike the fast-moving zombies, motivated by instinct to attack living humans and spread the infection, stragglers "did not move, and that's what made them a suitable objective for civilian units."44 The stragglers are frozen in a particular action, usually a work action: "Their lives had been an interminable loop of repeated gestures; now their existences were winnowed to this discrete and eternal moment."45 If their work-lives had rendered them two-dimensional, zombification further reduces them to a single point. In an astounding passage, Whitehead paints an "imponderable tableau" of laborers caught forever in a workplace gesture, very much like the re-enactors of Remainder: "The pock-faced assistant manager of the shoe store crouched before the foot-measuring instrument...The vitamin-store clerk stalled out among the aisles...In the desolate consumer-electronics showroom, the up-selling floor salesman halted mid-pitch...[S]ome brain-wiped wretch [stood] at the fry station of the big hamburger chain..."46 As the sweeper unit encounters and kills these stragglers, the members often play a narrative and characterological detective game called "Solve the Straggler," in which they attempt to deduce from frozen gestures the tragic events that preceded their zombification. The stragglers are minor characters as Woloch defines them, subsumed entirely by typification, subordinated so entirely to function that they are absorbed into a single image.

The discussion of "Solve the Straggler" occurs during the sweeper team's encounter with a zombie they dub "Ned the Copy Boy," whom they find in a "warren of one- and two-room offices" occupied by "[l]ast-chance operations outracing collection agencies and bankruptcy judges, slumping into sadder and shoddier offices in their withering prospects."47 These enterprises are also stragglers, left behind by the new economy, unable to adapt. The identification of the stragglers with stagnant enterprises helps to explain why the tableau described above is composed almost entirely of service workers. As Robert Baumol has argued persuasively, productivity in postindustrial economies rises more slowly because the comparatively stagnant service sector occupies an increasing share of the economy, both in terms of output and employment.48 While manufacturing and industry more generally are easily remade by processes of mechanization and automation, services by definition depend upon human interactions that are hard to transform through technology. The stragglers are therefore emblems of a sector so stagnant that it grinds to a halt, an economy not only with zero productivity growth but zero productivity altogether. As with the simulated memories of Remainder, the stragglers also inhabit a moment as monad or singularity, an absolute memory.49

In Remainder, singularity is a solution to thwarted development, and Zone One also hints that zombies represent a kind of emancipation. Thwarted development no longer poses a problem for the stragglers, complete in themselves, utterly absorbed by their work. This reveals the paradox of the zombie in the novel. They represent both a complete subjection to the corroded character of the workplace and at the same time an escape from it. Encountered as individuals, the zombies are given names and identities; they are extensions of the lives they lived before apocalypse. But seen as a mass, in which all their identifying characteristics have been subsumed, they are no longer creatures of this world. They are no longer minor characters or characters whatsoever.

This extra-worldly aspect of the zombies becomes apparent at the end of the novel. The reclamation of Lower Manhattan had required the construction of a wall on Canal Street to establish a manageable zone in the southern part of the island, from which the zombies could be cleared. At the end of the novel, the wall falls, predictably, before a crush of zombies piling up on Broadway:

The damned bubbled and frothed on the most famous street in the world, the dead things still proudly indicating, despite their grime and wounds and panoply of leaking orifices, the tribes to which they had belonged, in gray pinstriped suits, classic rock T-shirts, cowboy boots, dashikis, striped cashmere cardigans, fringed suede best, plush jogging suits. What they had died in. All the misery of the world channeled through this concrete canyon, the lament into which the human race was being transformed person by person. Every race, color, and creed was represented in this congregation that funneled down the avenue. As it had been before, per the myth of this melting-pot city. The city did not care for your story, the particular narrative of your reinvention; it took them all in, every immigrant in their strivings, regardless of bloodline, the identity of their homeland, the number of coins in their pocket.50

For readers in the Trump era, the image of a horde of zombies explicitly compared with migrants bashing down a wall and pushing into the fortress of Lower Manhattan is probably a bit too on the nose. The passage identifies New York with an aspirational (and mythic) America, presumed to accept all immigrants without exception. But the universalization in question, the universalization of lament, removing from each zombie all narrative identifiers, might be better understood as an allegory of proletarianization rather than citizenship, where the proletariat is a humanity-without-qualities, stripped of all identifying particulars. The singular zombie lament recalls Marx's early description of the proletariat as "a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society, a class [Stand] which is the dissolution of all classes, a sphere which has a universal character by its universal suffering and which lays claim to no particular right because the wrong it suffers is not a particular wrong but wrong in general."51 The proletariat is a curious sort of class, in these early formulations of Marx, since unlike other classes it cannot emancipate itself and then, in turn, subordinate another class: the wrongs it attempts to overturn (hunger, want) are general wrongs experienced by any dominated humans; if it becomes another ruling class, it perpetuates its own servitude. Therefore, it emancipates itself only by abolishing all classes and class society, abolishing even itself.

By the last page of Zone One, it seems the zombies have won. The collapse of the wall coincides with the collapse of fortifications throughout the continent and beyond. Mark Spitz is pushed back to the river by what is described as a "sea of the dead." Trapped between river and sea, he decides to "swim for it," despite not knowing how to swim well, leaving it unclear whether he plunges himself into the river or the zombies. This conclusion reprises the incident where Mark Spitz receives the name by which we know him. Trapped on an interstate bridge by a horde of zombies, his co-workers jump off into the water below. But Mark Spitz doesn't, instead fighting off the undead, possessed by a strange certainty that he cannot die:

He was a mediocre man. He had led a mediocre life exceptional only in the magnitude of unexceptionality. Now the world was mediocre, rendering him perfect. He asked himself: How can I die? I was always like this. Now I am more me. He had the ammo. He took them all down.52

There is some doubt, in the two tellings of this story, about whether or not he refused to jump because he cannot swim. But the questions around his swimming are there, it seems, to disclose another key detail: the second time the story gets recounted is the only moment in the entire novel in which Mark Spitz's race is mentioned. He's black and, as we learn, the name his co-workers give him is partly based on the stereotypical notion of black people being unable to swim. He is thus, through this story and through his name, pulled back into the typifying, racializing, and categorizing orbit of character. The zombification of the world allows him some escape from these characterological forces, but they remain immanent, strengthening as civilization strengthens. The trick of the novel is that it presents Mark Spitz as the most "average" person a majorly minor character, a B-student from the suburbs who worked a series of predictable office jobs and patronized chain restaurants, remarkable only in his unremarkability and then attaches this averageness to black identity, demonstrating how much readers will have assumed the median and mean of American culture to be white. Before the apocalypse, the novel wants to show us, he was already a zombie, already part of the undifferentiated mass, and clearly feels a sort of liberation in becoming what he was before the apocalypse, but more so. Only the victimizing, classifying, racializing (and yes, racist and classist) language of character can pull him back out of that world. This is where the emancipatory tones of his final submersion in the zombie mass come from; the submersion represents an escape from character.

This escape can only happen, the novel tells us, outside of realism. In the outer space of the "genre" novel, everything that happens plot, character, detail is entirely generic, as Ted Martin shows us in his reading of Zone One. All characters inhabit a universal set of forms, much like the singular character Ngai identifies in Lightning Rods.53 Genre in the generic zombie novel is, in fact, a universalization of a single set of generic structures that does away with the system of genre and the class-based, characterological division of labor. Within the zombie horde, all such distinctions have disappeared, along with all possibilities for character and its developmental arcs. The novel presents submersion within the zombie mass as pure debasement, and terrifying as such, rather than as an image of a classless emancipated society. But perhaps, Whitehead means to intimate, this is simply how classless society looks from the emptied floors of a vitiated office realism.


Jasper Bernes is Managing Editor of Commune. He is author of The Work of Art in the Age of Deindustrialization (Stanford, 2017) and two books of poetry, Starsdown (2007) and We Are Nothing and So Can You (2015). The Communist Prospect, about revolution in the twenty-first century, is forthcoming from Verso.



  1. Alex Woloch, The One vs. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 27.[]
  2. Richard Sennett, The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, 1st ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998).[]
  3. Ibid., 11.[]
  4. Ibid., 26.[]
  5. Ibid., 27.[]
  6. Ibid.[]
  7. Steve Bannon, for example, describes the social meaning his father derived from his job as a telephone lineman as follows: "His job was everything, but his paycheck was a way to be part of civic society...[a]s a child he never talked at all about how high the AT&T stock was. It was the Little League season or the charity event at the church or the May queen." Rick Wartzman, "Populists Want to Bring Back the Blue-Collar Golden Age. But Was It Really so Golden?" latimes.com, accessed June 6, 2018,.[]
  8. Sennett, The Corrosion of Character, 22.[]
  9. David Foster Wallace, The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2011). For a longer discussion of these dimensions of the novel see Jasper Bernes, "Art, Work, Endlessness: Flarf and Conceptual Poetry among the Trolls," Critical Inquiry 42, no. 4 (June 1, 2016): 779-80 and Jasper Bernes, The Work of Art in the Age of Deindustrialization, 2017, 169-70.[]
  10. To give two examples, see Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (New York: Basic Books, 1976); Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Verso, 2005).[]
  11. Aristotle, Aristotle - Poetics (Indianapolis: Focus Publishing/R. Pullins, 2005), 37.[]
  12. Ibid.[]
  13. Sidney, for example, complained of a "mongrel tragicomedy," inappropriately "mingling kings and clowns." Heather Dubrow summarizes the "classical" genre theory which Rennaissance writers ascribed to Aristotle and others as follows: "genres are often categorized in terms of the style in which they should be written and the social class that they concern, so that pastoral, for example, is typically described as a literary kind that evokes lowly shepherds and demands a suitably base style." Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Philip Sidney: Selected Prose and Poetry, ed. Robert Kimbrough (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), 150; Heather Dubrow, Genre (Routledge Revivals) (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2014), 57.[]
  14. Woloch, The One vs. the Many, 29.[]
  15. Sennett, The Corrosion of Character, 24.[]
  16. Fredric Jameson, The Antinomies of Realism (London and New York: Verso, 2013), 96-97. He describe this waning as "a movement of the putative heroes and heroines to the background, whose foreground is increasingly occupied by minor or secondary characters whose stories (and 'destinies') might once have been digression but now colonize and appropriate the novel for themselves."[]
  17. Tom McCarthy, Remainder (Paris: Metronome Press, 2005); Helen DeWitt, Lightning Rods (New York: New Directions Books, 2011); Colson Whitehead, Zone One: A Novel (New York: Doubleday, 2011).[]
  18. Ibid., 64.[]
  19. Zadie Smith, "Two Paths for the Novel," The New York Review of Books, November 20, 2008.[]
  20. Craig Burnett, Jeff Wall, Modern Artists (London: Tate Publishing, 2005), 90.[]
  21. Ibid., 90.[]
  22. McCarthy, Remainder, 196.[]
  23. Jasper Bernes, "Logistics, Counterlogistics, and the Communist Prospect," Endnotes, no. 3 (September 2013), 172-201.[]
  24. Ibid.[]
  25. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, Reprint, 1989 edition (New York: International Publishers Co., 1971), 309-10.[]
  26. DeWitt, 94.[]
  27. Bernes, "Logistics, Counterlogistics, and the Communist Prospect"[]
  28. Sianne Ngai, "Theory of the Gimmick," Critical Inquiry 43, no. 2 (Winter 2017): 504.[]
  29. DeWitt, Lightning Rods, 156. []
  30. Ibid., 190.[]
  31. Ibid., 200.[]
  32. Ibid., 237.[]
  33. Ngai, "Theory of the Gimmick," 504.[]
  34. DeWitt, Lightning Rods, 237-238.[]
  35. Whitehead, Zone One, 25.[]
  36. Ibid., 25-26.[]
  37. Ibid., 25.[]
  38. Ibid., 35[]
  39. Ibid., 18.[]
  40. Ibid., 130.[]
  41. Ibid., 8.[]
  42. Ibid., 17.[]
  43. Ibid., 14.[]
  44. Ibid., 48.[]
  45. Ibid., 50.[]
  46. Ibid., 49.[]
  47. Ibid., 80.[]
  48. William J. Baumol and David M. De Ferranti, The Cost Disease: Why Computers Get Cheaper and Health Care Doesn't (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).[]
  49. Fredric Jameson, "The Aesthetics of Singularity," New Left Review, II, no. 92 (2015): 112-13.[]
  50. Whitehead, Zone One, 243.[]
  51. Karl Marx, "Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right," in Early Writings (London and New York: Penguin Classics, 1992), 256.[]
  52. Whitehead, Zone One, 148.[]
  53. Theodore Martin, Contemporary Drift: Genre, Historicism, and the Problem of the Present (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), 184.[]