Can a novel be a species of ambient media a portable dispenser of atmosphere, an artificial environment to disappear into? Hasn't it always been one? The young György Lukács wrote that in Greek tragedy, "the chorus was able to provide a background which closes the work in the same way as the marble atmospheric space between figures in a relief closes the frieze."1 For Lukács, this closure reflected the spirit of an "integrated" society not yet torn asunder by alienation.2 The novel, on the other hand, confronts an impossibly broken world and labors to restore this sense of atmospheric wholeness, if only provisionally. When we find ourselves shut out of the unified world of the epic, where "the starry sky [was] the map of all possible paths," the novel comes on the scene as a makeshift star projector.3 As an instrument for projecting a sense of total, enveloping space against a background of wreckage and division that is, for generating ambience.

And yet to denizens of the contemporary internet, the word "ambience" may summon a different set of associations, none of them especially literary: looping videos of cozy cafés or beachside scenes; "chill lo-fi beats" that envelop the listener in a cocoon of crackly sound; streaming apps with an "autoplay" mode designed to furnish an audiovisual background rather than capture your full attention.4 These are the shapes ambience has come to take on an internet that revolves around a consolidating set of platforms, each one its own pseudo-fiefdom, extracting a tribute of data from its users in exchange for access to its various boons streaming media, social clout, any product you could possibly imagine delivered directly to your door. If one of the most powerful feelings associated with hanging around on social media platforms in particular is one of over-closeness, of being bombarded by all manner of strident personal disclosure and soul-deadening cultural detritus, the rise of ambient media online over the past decade testifies to these platforms' ability to monetize an antidote to this feeling: the sense of inhabiting a world apart, far from all the noise.            

Which is to say: online, ambient media take on a mood-regulating function. It is a sort of therapy-by-atmosphere, a self-administered cure that works by placing the watcher/listener/user in a fictional space suffused with an overall vibe, a vaguely felt sense of aesthetic unity among diffuse and low-intensity sensations. As Paul Roquet writes, "until recently, the ambient marked a relationship with the existing space where the audience already was" think of the classic television broadcast of a yule log burning in a fireplace, meant to spruce up the family room for the holidays.5 In contrast, platform-driven ambient media "promise instead an atmospheric escape from wherever you find yourself, [ . . . ]  an off-the-shelf 'vibe' consumable as a product."6

Screenshot of a YouTube video titled "you're studying in a haunted library with ghosts ( dark academia playlist )." An image of a chandelier is set against a dim background.
"you're studying in a haunted library with ghosts": ambience's minimal fictionality

Was there ever a more off-the-shelf vibe than dark academia? Indeed, is it any wonder that dark academia has been taken as a privileged example of such a vibe?7 With its standardized stylistic grammar gothic architecture, classical sculpture, weathered-posh fashion and its animating desire to conjure a hazy but enveloping sense of place, perhaps dark academia was all but destined to become a major category in ambient media. Dark academia ambience videos drop viewers into a generic elsewhere through a swirl of images, music, and evocative titles the last of which provide a basic set of narrative coordinates: "you're studying in a haunted library with ghosts," prompts one especially popular video; "You're in the Dead Poets Society," declares another. Amid the floating sensations, a setting and a character: you, the "main character" so often invoked in social media posts; the focalizing "one" set against the interchangeable "many."8 These videos' titles speak to dark academia's elemental if sometimes suppressed literariness a literariness we can trace back to the trend's primal scene, roughly a decade or so ago, when users of Tumblr and other blogging platforms seized on campus novels like Donna Tartt's The Secret History (1992) and Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (1945) and, as Amatulla Mukadam describes elsewhere in this cluster, emptied their bank accounts to style their lives after them.9

So while dark academia is easy enough to sneer at from a certain moral or aesthetic high ground, it is nonetheless an object of serious interest for the literary historian intent on mapping the traffic between literature and the platform-based digital media that direct and capture so much of contemporary life including, of course, the reading, writing, and distribution of literature itself. This traffic goes both ways, though its routes are sometimes circuitous. The Secret History itself opens with protagonist Richard Papen's diagnosis of his own "fatal flaw": "a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs."10 Richard goes on to recount how he was seduced by a series of images: a collection of photos in a brochure for the idyllic Hampden College; a group of rich and fashionable friends who often appear less as people than as "hologram[s]," as so many floating signifiers of ruling-class belonging.11 For Richard, a middle-class outsider, Hampden is not a place so much as it is a provider of ambience, a means of cultivating leisure-class vibes. Something, in other words, like the YouTube video "A playlist to make you feel like a Donna Tartt character." It is not entirely ridiculous to suggest that dark academia's foundational text already anticipates its robust afterlife at the center of an online image culture, where the ivied halls of prestige are "compressed" into images and transmuted into tools for aspirational self-fashioning and reparative self-soothing.12


Perhaps the real question of the novel's ambience, then, is: can the novel itself function as such a mood-altering device?13 Or, to put it more bluntly, is this what the novel has been reduced to under what Nick Srnicek and others have called "platform capitalism"?14 Tartt's novel gives us a sharp preemptive critique of dark academia's love affair with ambience to the point where privileged college students commit a ritualistic murder "for the aesthetic," as they say online. But in the age of the online platform, where the curation of atmosphere has become not just a privilege of the elite few but rather a widely accepted and heavily monetized function of the internet itself, ambience has sunk far deeper into the tissue of the novel.

A moodboard, nine images laid out in a symmetrical grid: a view of a mug of coffee from above, with the light catching a ripple on the surface; a bundle of silverware tied loosely together by a black ribbon and placed on a rough wood table; a black-and-white shot of a shadowy balcony viewed from below; a castle seen from the middle distance, set against a uniformly gray sky, with steam rising from a chimney; a plaster bust in imitation ancient-Greek style, but splitting in two along the center with a skull emerging between the two torn halves; an interior, photographed from the corner of the room, with marble walls and black and white tiling; a black-and-white shot of a cathedral seen from street level, too large to fit fully in the frame; a white hand holding a crown with starred points against a white background; an x-ray of two outstretched hands. General color palate is gray, white, black, and brown; though they are clearly discrete, all images nonetheless blend together in an impressionistic wash.
Dark academia moodboard, from Tumblr user sapphicsecrecy

The specificity of the novel's ambience in the age of the platform lies in its absorption of the tropes, logics, and textures of ambient digital media. One such media object is the moodboard, a curated collection of images, often arranged in a three-by-three grid, intended to produce an overall impression, an energy or vibe.15 Such objects circulate widely within the loose collections of authors, readers, and industry professionals known as Book Twitter and #bookstagram, as well as other social media spaces dedicated to the discussion of literature spaces that, as Mel Monier notes elsewhere in this cluster, overlap with online communities devoted to dark academia.16 Authors create and post moodboards, often also called "aesthetics," both to guide their own writing process, distilling the mood they want their books to evoke, and to promote their work, advertising the vibes readers can expect to catch from a given book. Polished skull, copper crown, parquet floor, brooding spire: these are the vibes I am writing to; if you enjoy these vibes, consider adding my book on Goodreads. Readers, especially "book influencers" on social media platforms, in turn create their own aesthetics. The moodboard is a mechanism for generating social-media buzz, but it also makes a philosophical argument about the essence of the novel, writ large. Character, plot, narrative point of view from the perspective of the moodboard, these are immaterial. At its core, says the moodboard, a novel is a diffuser of atmosphere. Ontology of the vibe: literature is nothing more, and nothing less, than the moods it elicits.17

Digital technologies like the moodboard guide the writing process from the start for a considerable number of terminally online contemporary writers largely writers of genre fiction, as a trawl of the "#thursdayaesthetic" tag on both Instagram and Twitter, for instance, illustrates. It makes sense, then, that readers have started to detect the blurry fingerprints of such technologies on the writing itself. Especially in online spaces dedicated to YA literature, readers have been worrying about exactly this. In 2018, on graphic designer and fantasy writer Claire Wenze's Tumblr, an anonymous commenter asked:

am I imagining it or is the rise of Pinterest moodboard graphics encouraging some YA fantasy to trend more visually "safe" and samey? like the [Victoria Aveyard's] red queen series almost seems like it was engineered with aesthetic moodboards in mind18?

Wenze's response, a masterclass in vernacular media criticism, proposes that the rise of the moodboard is a result of three coalescing factors: the congealing of "YA [fantasy] as a Marketing Category," the "Birth of Easily Accessible Appealing Visuals Online" through platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, and authors' and artists' "Great Migration To Tumblr" from more primitive blogging services like LiveJournal all of which took place roughly around the same time, in the late 2000s and early 2010s.19 The general dissolution of story into atmosphere is enabled in no small part by web applications that generate revenue by appropriating data and intellectual property alike, turning one creator's (often uncredited) work both into promotional material for another's and, more crucially, into that all-important, nigh-metaphysical substance, engagement. Which is to say: if you see vibes as a "corrupt[ing]" influence on the novel, you have platform capitalism to thank.20

The concern behind the anonymous commenter's complaint has filtered through YA-world more broadly, even making an appearance in a Kirkus pan of one novel that "reads like a mood board, full of repetitively atmospheric images and scenes but never creating a substantive whole."21 But while the discourse about the moodboardification of the novel is most vigorous in the YA-sphere, it is dark academia fiction, YA or otherwise, that both registers and thematizes this transfiguration of the novel into a vibe-dispenser most sharply. A Goodreads reviewer weighs in on Victoria Lee's A Lesson in Vengeance (2021), a YA psychological thriller set in a boarding school that may or may not be haunted: "If you read books just because of their ~vibes~ then this might be for you but I personally had to resort to a 2.20[×] text to speech narrator to get through this book."22 There is, as they say, a lot to unpack here not least a salutary reminder that today's readers, whether out of frustration or convenience or some other motive, can choose to consume literature ambiently, less as a pursuit demanding their full attention than as a textural backdrop to their everyday activities.23 "Feel good with our comfort mood playlist," a push notification from Audible, Amazon's audiobook app, exhorted me just the other day. I can't be the only one who can see The Secret History slotting frictionlessly into such a playlist. With its interminable scenes of aimless whiskey sipping and cigarette smoking its general atmosphere of coziness, despite all the murdering might even be a book that works best when listened to, when it washes over you ambiently rather than absorbing the entirety of your attention.  As you drive to work, as you do your taxes,  as you chop onions, Hampden College envelops you.

A banner phone notification from the Audible app that says "Feel good with our comfort mood playlist, explore our top picks for you."
Nudged into ambience: an Audible haiku

In an indirect way, then, the Goodreads reviewer hits on an important formal feature of Lee's novel, one it borrows from The Secret History and pushes to a nearly self-negating extreme. Indeed, as good a slogan as any for A Lesson in Vengeance, and for a broader swath of recent dark academia fictions, is: no character, no plot, just vibes. It is a book that traffics not so much in story as in the sometimes literally frozen image: recurring scenes of two girls poised at the edge of a snowy cliff; a group of students holding séances in the woods, their faces smeared with goat's blood; meticulous descriptions of sharp, preppy outfits that grind the narrative to a halt. While one gets the sense that A Lesson in Vengeance wants the reader to see this atmospheric stagnation as a "literary" supplement to its heavily genrefied narrative its villain, a thinly veiled Donna Tartt analog, writes a book that doubles the novel's events and serves as its ideal-ego, incredibly pitched in-scene by a bookseller as "literary fiction... [that] crosses over into the territory of mystery and thriller" it is maybe more accurate to understand these moments of vibing as evidence of the novel's suppressed engagement with the logic of ambience, if not quite with ambient media themselves.24

The novel itself seems to know this on some level. Despite characters' pointed refusal to use cell phones or social media, it's hard not to see the series of rituals and spiritual cleansings protagonist Felicity Morrow (yes, named in homage to The Secret History's Julian Morrow) carries out, mainly in an effort to get some relief from an onslaught of traumatic memories, as makeshift ambient technologies distilled down to their occult core.25 "You're obsessed with magic," Felicity's girlfriend tells her at one point, "because you can't stand to live with yourself otherwise."26 For many subjects living under platform capitalism, where the situation with mental health remains one big smoldering and intensifying crisis despite there being an app for that, the stakes of mood-altering are quite literally life or death. This is ambience in its darkest form, as a DIY therapy in a political economy that has condemned us to suffer alone.27

Speaking of suffering, what about school? Isn't the real atmosphere dark academia calls up that of the university, in particular the tastefully disheveled ease of Oxbridge or the Ivy League? True enough, but some qualifications are in order. "At the center of dark academia," Amelia Horgan has recently argued, "is the fantasy of uninterrupted time and deep concentration, afforded by the quietude of elite campuses."28 Put another way, dark academia imagines the academy not so much as a space of intellectual community so much as a kind of negative space, an empty chamber that shuts out the outside world, allowing Serious Thinking to take place.29 It is striking just how little instruction takes place in dark academia fiction.

This dynamic is pushed to the extreme in Olivie Blake's self-published novel and viral TikTok sensation The Atlas Six (2020), where six young people with incredible magical powers are granted something like a year-long research fellowship at the Library of Alexandria.30 The ragtag group each with their own point-of-view chapters, accompanied by a full-page character portrait, forming in spirit something like a two-by-three moodboard spends hundreds of pages hanging around the curiously atmosphereless library, devising ways to manipulate the fundamental laws of physics more out of boredom than anything. Nothing much happens until the research fellows learn that to be fully initiated into the mysterious "Alexandrian Society," they must choose one of their number to die. The glittering prize for this impressively uneventful reverse death tournament is quite simply the space and time to develop one's abilities in the words of senior Alexandrians, to realize one's true magical "potential" in a setting untouched by the "mortal" world and its instrumentalizing concerns.31

This, then, is ambience's real magic trick: it takes what should notionally be the source of fiction's minimal autonomy its capacity to open up other worlds and turns it into something thoroughly heteronomous, its heels firmly dug into the dirt of this world: namely, an instrument for mood management and other forms of self-optimization. Indeed, for all the chatter about The Atlas Six's immersiveness, its ability to convince you that in the words of one Amazon reviewer, "you're not reading a book[;] you're entering an Olivie Blake Universe," a scan of its online reception suggests that the novel's chief appeal may in fact be an erotic one, a more or less pornographic enjoyment of Blake's attractively drawn characters and high-octane sex scenes.32 Not exactly atmosphere, then, but arousal. This is the most banal form of what Dylan Davidson describes as the longing "to be transformed" encoded in the very concept of "the aesthetic," both in its philosophical sense and in its more fallen contemporary sense.33 Put more callously, it is also ambience reduced to its fundamental principle: the mechanical manipulation of moods like so many raw materials.


"Mood as raw material" is one way to describe "plasm," the strange "new material" that the titular college in Elisabeth Thomas's Catherine House (2020) is dedicated to researching.34 Plasm, in the words of one of the few elite students selected to study its mysteries, is both "the prima materia" and "a network connecting all things, everywhere."35 While the students at Catherine House are encouraged to carry out their dark academia fantasies, left to meander the picturesquely dilapidated grounds and plied with an endless supply of wine and hors d'oeuvres, the school administration subjects them to occult plasm experiments. In a sinister process called "psychosexual mending," the students/subjects are induced to resonate deeply, overwhelmingly, with their surroundings: "I was buzzing in them like a tooth in a jaw, like a part in a machine," the narrator reports after one especially intense session.36 Mandatory vibe check: sometimes atmosphere is what hurts.

Plasm, the "network connecting all things everywhere," is as overt a figure for the internet as there ever was.37 More crucially, it is a figure that captures the specificity of the platform-era internet and further, one that gives an aesthetic form to the common ground between the digital platform and the neoliberal university. For Catherine House, the student is both a consumer of the individualizing "college experience" and an experimental subject, an interchangeable warm body whose chief purpose is to generate data. Is this really so different from the ways digital platforms address their users?38 The user, like the student, is addressed as a consumer, as an unrepeatable person capable of making choices based on their unique preferences. But on a more fundamental level, the platform, like Catherine House, also treats the user as a site of immediate data accumulation and therefore, of capital accumulation. As Liz Pelly writes about the new sources of profit that Spotify has opened up through its move to mood-based playlists, "the commodity is users and their moods. The commodity is listening habits as behavioral data."39Catherine House suggests that the university itself may be, in Pelly's words, another kind of "big mood machine."      

In fact, it would hardly be going too far to say that the neoliberal university treats its students as users; as short-term renters, recipients of encompassing but ephemeral "experiences" who are in turn subjected to all sorts of extraction, whether of their intellectual labor at the hands of lab directors, of their future earnings at the hands of lenders, or of ground rents at the hands of university housing divisions that operate as independent, for-profit business units. The point is that the user is not the owner. Both the digital platform and the neoliberal university sustain themselves by identifying a commons a resource that sustains life and that should be free to all, such as knowledge or social space, if not quite a miraculous "new material" that courses through all things and enclosing it, transforming it into a site for the extraction of private profit. Whoever wants to share in the bounty of the commons will have to pay up in some way or another. Anyone who has experienced something as banal as enduring a personally targeted ad or seeing one's likeness reproduced opportunistically on university pamphlets and websites, or as brutal as having one's creative work turned into a source of profit for faceless others or being unceremoniously yanked from university-subsidized health insurance, has surely felt this vibe: in the university, as on the online platform, we are but renters.

Vibe is easy enough to read as a figure of the degradation of aesthetic experience under platform capitalism. Even viewed generously, it can seem less like a substantive category and more like a useful nullity, a general placeholder for the opposite of so many aesthetic concepts: no story, just vibes; no genre, just vibes; no ideas, just vibes; no autonomy of the literary work, just vibes.40 But vibes, especially those on offer in ambient media, nonetheless have a particular historical content. This is the ultimate lesson of Catherine House, and the critical insight that dark academia as a whole gives us, often despite itself: ambience is one structure of the feeling of the commons being enclosed. (I draw the architecture of this phrase from Olivia Stowell's argument that dark academia itself is "one structure of the feeling of no future."41)

That is: ambience gives form to the experience of having what Ann Cvetkovich and others call "public feelings" sold, or better, rented back to you as private feelings and in the case of dark academia, private school feelings.42 All this courtesy of those insatiable rentiers, the platform and the university. If literature itself has become one such mechanism for renting feelings and here it seems relevant to note that consumers do not technically own the ebooks on their Kindles or the audiobooks on their smartphones this is simply another way of saying, at the highest and most visceral level of abstraction, that literature has taken on an ambient function.43 Dark academia distinguishes itself by taking this ambient function as its central, if submerged, theme.

Scrying into the gauzy dim of the contemporary novel, dark academia returns a truth at once historical and speculative: on the platform, literature becomes a matter of vibes, a way to enjoy what we don't have as if we had it, a way to rent back the commons.44 In doing so, it also gives us a glimpse in blurred negative of the materials, the experiences, the sensations that should that could be free to all of us. But this final reversal from should to could is as far as we should expect magic to take us. For the next one, from could to will, we'll need something far stronger than a vibe.

Mitch Therieau (@mitchtherieau) is a writer and PhD candidate in Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University. You can find his writing in Post45, n+1, The Drift, The Baffler, and Chicago Review, among other places.


  1. György Lukács, The Theory of the Novel: A Historico-Philosophical Essay on the Forms of Great Epic Literature (Cambridge, Mass: M.I.T. Press, 1971), 42.[]
  2. Lukács, Theory of the Novel, 29.[]
  3. Lucács, Theory of the Novel, 29.[]
  4. On the phenomenon of "ambient TV," see Kyle Chayka, "'Emily in Paris' and the Rise of Ambient TV," The New Yorker, November 16, 2020.[]
  5. Paul Roquet, "In the Mood: Toward the Full Commodification of Ambience," Real Life, April 26, 2021.[]
  6. Roquet, "In the Mood."[]
  7. In an essay on what he calls the "vibes revival" on platform-based social media, Kyle Chayka takes dark academia as a privileged example of a vibe. See Kyle Chayka, "TikTok and the Vibes Revival," The New Yorker, April 26, 2021.[]
  8. See Alex Woloch, The One vs. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel, Course Book (Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2004).[]
  9. Amatulla Mukadam, "A Touch of the Picturesque," Post45: Contemporaries, March 15, 2022.[]
  10. ​​Donna Tartt, The Secret History (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1992), 7.[]
  11. Tartt, The Secret History, 380.[]
  12. In using the word "compressed," I follow Ana Quiring, "What's Dark about Dark Academia," Avidly, March 31, 2021.[]
  13. Mark McGurl proposes something more or less adjacent to this when he theorizes "the contemporary novel" as an instrument for "the therapeutic processing of information"that is, for managing the onslaught of "radical muchness, otherness, and ongoingness" that bombards the user-consumer under platform capitalism. See Mark McGurl, Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon (London; Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2021), 200-201. Such a vision of the novel as a mood-altering device returns the perhaps more commonly asked question about the novel's effects and uses outside its fictional world the question of the novel's efficacy as a politics-altering device, a tool for raising consciousness and effecting social change to the scale of individual experience. []
  14. See Nick Srnicek, Platform Capitalism, Theory Redux (Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity, 2017).[]
  15. For an especially provocative theorization of "vibe" as a sort of aesthetic gestalt, one with some striking symmetries to certain processes in machine learning, see Peli Grietzer, "A Theory of Vibe, by Peli Grietzer," Glass Bead, no. 1 (2017). The phenomenon of the "lookbook" parallels that of the moodboard in many ways, albeit with a less overt accent on aspiration and mood management.[]
  16. Mel Monier, "Too Dark for Dark Academia," Post45: Contemporaries, March 15, 2022.[]
  17. In this way vibes are the worst nightmare of critics who follow Michael Fried in seeing the reduction of art to "objecthood," to the status of a hollow prop in the beholder's radically subjective individual experience, as an unforgivable perversion of the artwork's autonomy. See Michael Fried, "Art and Objecthood," Artforum, Summer 1967.[]
  18. Anonymous commenter on Claire Wenze, "Half-Sick of Shadows," Tumblr, Half-Sick of Shadows, (September 2018).[]
  19. Wenze, "Half-Sick of Shadows."[]
  20. Wenze, "Half-Sick of Shadows."[]
  21. Erin Craig, Review of House of Salt and Sorrows, Kirkus Reviews, May 6, 2019.[]
  22. Joharis, review of A Lesson in Vengeance, by Victoria Lee, Goodreads, August 10, 2021. Goodreads, crucially, is owned by Amazon. See McGurl, Everything and Less, for a more thorough treatment of the implications of the platformization of book reviews.[]
  23. McGurl, Everything and Less, 37.[]
  24. Victoria Lee, A Lesson in Vengeance (New York: Delacorte Press, 2021), audiobook.[]
  25. I've written in more depth about the platform's reappropriation of occult and New Age tropes elsewhere. See Mitch Therieau, "Vibe, Mood, Energy: Or, Bust-Time Reenchantment," The Drift, January 19, 2022.[]
  26. Lee, Vengeance.[]
  27. No doubt these are hyper-privileged characters who come from impossibly rich families. Still, the broader point about mental health is easily abstractable from these charmed circumstances.[]
  28. Amelia Horgan, "The 'Dark Academia' Subculture Offers a Fantasy Alternative to the Neoliberal University," Jacobin, December 19, 2021.[]
  29. In this way, dark academia imagines the university as a sort of pod. For more on ambience and the form of the pod, see Mitch Therieau, "Pod-Products for Pod-People," The Baffler, April 2, 2020.[]
  30. Tor, the SF- and fantasy-focused imprint of Macmillan, recently acquired The Atlas Six. A new, edited and re-illustrated edition was published in March 2022. "Olivie Blake" is American writer Alexene Farol Follmuth's pen name.[]
  31. Olivie Blake, The Atlas Six (Tor Books, 2021), 39, 7.[]
  32. Lauren Schrey, "This Isn't Just a Book," Review of The Atlas Six, by Olivie Blake, Amazon, February 4, 2020. Two of the most viewed TikToks on the #theatlassix tag are especially concerned with what one BookToker calls the novel's "HOT characters." For an opposing view, see another top TikTok on the tag, a video captioned "what reading the atlas six felt like" and featuring the creator smiling placidly while a version of the song "We Are Young" by fun., sung in the gibberish language from the Sims computer games, plays in the background.[]
  33. Dylan Davidson, "To Be Transformed," Post45: Contemporaries, March 15, 2022.[]
  34. Elisabeth Thomas, Catherine House (New York, NY: Custom House, 2020), 51. There is an obvious resonance between this "new material" and the philosophical "New Materialism" espoused by Jane Bennett and others.[]
  35. Thomas, Catherine House, 196, 191.[]
  36. Thomas, Catherine House, 106.[]
  37. Conveniently, Catherine House is set between 1996 and 1999 the years directly before the advent of Web 2.0, the web-development architecture-cum-philosophy that would make platforms like Google and Facebook possible.[]
  38. Again, I am especially thinking with McGurl here see Everything and Less for the definitive discussion of contemporary literature's mediation of Amazon's "customer obsession."[]
  39. Liz Pelly, "Big Mood Machine," The Baffler, June 10, 2019.[]
  40. Robin James, "No Genre, Just Vibes," It's Her Factory, November 15, 2021.[]
  41. Olivia Stowell, "The Time Warp, Again," Post45: Contemporaries, March 15, 2022.[]
  42. See Ann Cvetkovich, Depression: A Public Feeling (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012). I owe the phrase "private school feelings" to Mark McGurl.[]
  43. John Warner, "Kindle and Nook Readers: You Know You Don't Own Those Books, Right?" Chicago Tribune, July 14, 2019.[]
  44. For a more optimistic reading of "enjoying what we don't have," see Todd McGowan, Enjoying What We Don't Have: The Political Project of Psychoanalysis, Symploke Studies in Contemporary Theory (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013).[]