Reading the Obscene
Transgressive Editors and the Class Politics of US Literature
Jordan S. Carroll



The Naked Editor

IN JANUARY OF 1966, the New York City Police Department placed Ed Sanders under arrest for possessing obscene literature with intent to sell.1 When he was not singing for the satirical rock band the Fugs, Sanders served as the editor and publisher of a little magazine named Fuck You / A Magazine of the Arts, which he sold to friends and customers of his shop, the Peace Eye Bookstore. Before the bust, the state had Sanders under surveillance. Because Sanders had made a name for himself as a civil rights activist, antiwar protester, and marijuana-legalization advocate, the police sent an informant to keep tabs on him by auditioning for his band.2 This experience made Sanders doubt the police officers when they said they stumbled on the obscene literature at Peace Eye in the process of investigating a burglary. He suspected instead that the cops had broken into the shop themselves to find a pretense to seize copies of Fuck You as evidence of criminal activity. Police escorted Sanders to the Ninth Precinct headquarters to be charged with a misdemeanor. What happened next, however, proved to be even more outrageous.

The incident was precipitated by a line from Fuck You’s contributors page. Sanders filled this front matter with dirty jokes, razzing his authors while advertising blow jobs, celebrating underage sex, and inventing editorial-board orgies. In this spirit, the editor introduced himself in his biography as a “a pacifist dopethrill psychopath & Guerilla Lovefare spaceout,” boasting to the reader that “in addition to having the Ankh symbol tattooed on his penis, you will find the first 53 hieroglyphs of Akh-en-Aten’s Hymn To The Sun Disc, on his nuts.”3 Of course, during his booking Sanders failed to record any identifying markings—the tattoos obviously did not exist—but Sergeant Charles Fetta and another officer still insisted that they needed to ascertain if he was telling the truth. The police officers marched Sanders to a bathroom, forced him to disrobe for inspection, and bent down “a bit too closely” to examine the editor’s genitals.4 Later, Sanders put out a press release announcing himself as “the only person in the history of American obscenity cases who has had his penis examined during station house questioning.”5 Needless to say, the authorities did not find any offending inscriptions.

On the surface, this may seem like a case of an overzealous cop with a personal vendetta. While most police rifling through the stock at Peace Eye laughed at the magazines they were confiscating, Sergeant Fetta appeared shaken by Fuck You’s contents. He later testified against Sanders and even shadowed him, popping up at a Fugs concert in Tompkins Square Park to search the audience’s bags.6 As unusual as Sanders’s treatment in jail might have been, though, it was normal in midcentury America for an editor to be persecuted and imprisoned for publishing sexually explicit material.

From obscenity law’s earliest cases to the present, editors have put their bodies on the line to publish controversial works. Public opinion and legal precedent cast editors as personifications of their publications and representatives of the audiences who read them. Fulfilling what I call the “editor function,” editors served as punishable subjects responsible for the entire publishing enterprise.7 If editors convinced the authorities that they were chaste readers, they had a better shot at escaping censorship. But, if they were shown to be impure, they were likely to face prison time. It should come as no surprise, then, that the cops examined the editor’s body to search for signs of his publication’s malicious intent. Although authors may sometimes take credit for transgressing censorship laws, the courts almost always tried editors and other cultural intermediaries for obscenity.

The scene between Sergeant Fetta and Sanders tells us something about the gender dynamics of these censorship struggles as well. Sanders is victimized, but it is the cop who ultimately looks shameful. In his account of the incident, Sanders hints at Sergeant Fetta’s closet homosexuality: his shock upon encountering sexually explicit materials seems to betray some secret weakness or perversion, while his desire to inspect the editor’s body suggests a ploy to get close to another man’s naked penis. Sanders comes off as masculine by comparison. He is bold, boastful, risk taking, rule breaking, and a little contemptuous of the cop’s predilections. The editor possesses masculine self-control—the censorious authority does not. Similar scenes run throughout the history of censorship in the twentieth century. Such confrontations allowed men to reassert their masculinity even in moments when disempowering circumstances appeared to place their manhood in jeopardy.

At the same time, the masculinity performed by these outlaw editors looked different from traditional or working-class notions of manliness. The circumstance around the strip search reflected the cultural hierarchies at play in many conflicts over obscenity, which often pitted well-read editors from middle-class backgrounds against opponents who they cast as uncultivated and uneducated. Sanders’s narrative depicts Sergeant Fetta as a know-nothing, misreading the hieroglyphics in Fuck You as both sexually threatening and erotically appealing.8 The ability to interpret and contextualize the magazine’s messages and ideograms served Sanders as a signifier of formal education and literary learning. Although it is true that the editor did not have any tattoos on his person, hieroglyphics and other ancient writing systems were central to his poetics. Sanders, who considered attending a graduate program to study classical languages, learned to sight-read hieroglyphics at the New School and once taught a class on revolutionary Egyptology at the Free University. The New York State Police, perhaps detecting treason in the course title, recorded this fact in its files on criminals and subversives.9 Sanders also named Peace Eye after the Eye of Horus, and every issue of Fuck You contained the editor’s playful drawings of glyphs, historical or invented, alongside peace signs and cartoon hypodermic needles. Sanders’s interest in hieroglyphics placed him in the same current as his two influences, Ezra Pound and Charles Olson, both of whom he had published.

Sergeant Fetta, presumably never having read Pound’s ABC of Reading or Olson’s “Projective Verse,” failed to understand that the lewd hieroglyphics functioned as images suspended between graphic materiality and referential significance. Moreover, he lacked the reading skills to see that the erotic content in Fuck You represented “experiments with words rather than experiments with sexuality.”10 Repeating a familiar scene, the would-be censor reveals himself to be obtuse and oversexed when faced with the educated editor’s publication, which he glosses in an all-too-literal way as he seeks out signs of deviance. The police officer’s bad reading practices prompt him to make a fool of himself, looking for secret messages on the editor’s penis. By contrast, Sanders exemplifies a middle-class manhood that takes a cerebral attitude toward sexuality, treating dirty speech as a language game in which bodies serve as signifiers.

Although Sanders was writing and editing for a coterie of poets, by 1966 the notion that graphic depictions of sex could be read as exercises in form would have been a familiar idea for mass audiences of educated readers who had made books like Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Naked Lunch bestsellers. Sanders represents only a more extreme example of a type of professional-managerial masculinity that established its bona fides by showing that it could adopt a sophisticated attitude toward obscene literature. During this period, it was not unusual for a lewd hipster living in a squat to share the values and training of the professional-managerial class (PMC). As Mary Rizzo has shown, Sanders joined a wave of young people who came from middle-class backgrounds but who sought to escape their families’ conformism, consumerism, and complicity with the capitalist system by adopting a lifestyle of “voluntary poverty.”11 Sanders affiliated himself with Dorothy Day’s Catholic Workers—a communalist movement whose members renounced material possessions to serve the poor—until he was caught printing copies of Fuck You on their mimeograph machine. Later, he became a spokesperson for the counterculture of hippie dropouts who, as he told Firing Line host William F. Buckley, still retained their “middle-class equipment.”12 Sanders shares with his professional-managerial counterparts the view that sex is an abstraction or a symbol that can be manipulated to produce a rhetorical or aesthetic effect on his readership. No matter how scandalous Sanders and others like him may have seemed, they retained the prejudices and privileges of their class origins.

Working backward from this tableau, Reading the Obscene traces how obscenity became a central concern of PMC men. Chapter 1 provides a historical overview that traces how the editor became the perpetrator of obscene crimes and the PMC reader became the protagonist of censorship struggles. Together these figures conspired to initiate a middle-class sexual revolution that transformed sexuality into an abstraction. Chapter 2 shows that H. L. Mencken set the template for these professional-managerial readers at the beginning of the twentieth century by casting them as the country’s unrecognized elite, a group smart enough to see through the emotionalism of censors and scolds.13 By midcentury, this vision went mainstream as transgressive publications came to offer a kind of sentimental education for a generational cohort of affluent, white men who grew up to become engineers, lawyers, professors, and advertising executives.14 Chapter 3 details how they spent their adolescence reading horror comic books like Tales from the Crypt with their friends. EC Comics editors William Gaines and Al Feldstein guided them through how to read even graphic scenes of violence as meaningless little puzzles, promulgating a game-playing attitude that prepared them for the cynical humor of Mad magazine and, ultimately, for the pointless rat race they would face as adults. As readers grew older, they began sneaking copies of Playboy under their mattresses. Chapter 4 shows how Playboy editor-publisher Hugh Hefner helped them become big men on campus by teaching them to take a step back from their interactions and think about how they appeared to women. By practicing this detached attitude during seduction, they learned the impression-management skills they needed to get ahead at work.

Many of these readers also found the avant-garde and counterculture during their college years. Chapter 5 reveals some of the ways undergraduate favorite Allen Ginsberg used his embodied and affective performance style to undo some of the hang-ups he experienced during his abortive career in advertising, and it seems likely that many of his readers would have found in his work an escape valve for their dissatisfaction with their own buttoned-down lives. Some, like Sanders, went further on this trip than others did, but the vast majority of Ginsberg’s readers remained on upwardly mobile life paths. Chapter 6 demonstrates that many professional-managerial readers later graduated to readings from Grove Press and its house magazine, Evergreen Review. Expressing the idiosyncratic personality of Barney Rosset, the press used masochistic narratives to challenge its well-salaried readership to imagine what it would be like to let go completely and give up all of the power and prestige they had accrued over the course of their lives.

Some editors taught their audiences to see reading the obscene as a way of learning how to become good professional-managerial subjects, while others urged their readerships to use obscenity to heal the hidden injuries of the middle class. Either way, they all shared a belief in the power of profane speech to resolve the inner contradictions of professional-managerial masculinity.

Approaching this problem from another angle, this book is about the taming of obscenity. Whenever we think we are encountering raw, unedited obscenity, the surrounding context qualifies if not neutralizes its transgression. We see this even in the case of the editor of Fuck You, whose work seems furthest from the most respectable erotica purchased by white-collar readers. Sanders mocked the conceit that obscene language or images would allow the reader to transcend the page and access the real with any immediate certainty. In what may have been both a Warholian provocation and a lucrative confidence job, Sanders made a lot of money selling immodest artifacts from famous authors. For example, he hocked a jar of Ginsberg’s cold cream with a signed inscription assuring the new owner that it was a “bona fide ass-wine or cock lubricant” that Ginsberg and his lover used together.15 How can we be sure, though? We are told that the cream once held the impress of “A. G.’s cock-dent,” but it has been “fluxed out.”16 Similarly, Sanders lists a fifteen-dollar “packet of pubic hair” including samples from such literary legends as Frank O’Hara and Amiri Baraka, but one imagines that a tangle of hairs from over a dozen luminaries and some unnamed donors would leave one specimen indistinguishable from another, regardless of its provenance.17

Sanders himself joins in this game, advertising special limited editions of Fuck You, each made unique by a “blotch” of the editor’s sperm on the cover.18 The overblown promotional copy that accompanies these offerings underscores the silliness of transgressive attempts to escape print mediation and enjoy direct access to the obscene body itself: indexical marks and forensic evidence fail to get us any closer. Instead, we see obscenity recast as an entrepreneurial gimmick that confirms the reader’s insider status, reaffirms the editor’s marketing acumen, and ultimately enriches the press. Fuck You’s ironic promotional strategies proved important in the obscenity trial that took place in 1967 as a result of the charges brought against Sanders during the raid of Peace Eye. Before the case against Sanders was dropped due to insufficient evidence, the prosecution’s central exhibit was a parody advertisement for pornography from an imaginary subsidiary of the press, the Lady Dickhead Advertising Agency.19 As we shall see, attempts to shock middle-class morality often converge with the salesman mentality, revealing obscenity to be elusive if not inexistent.

Obscenity is so hard to pin down because it depends entirely on context. Legal definitions will be explored at length in the next chapter, but, broadly speaking, obscenity included a complex of proscribed feelings—shame, lust, and morbid curiosity—that are usually associated with sex but sometimes connected to violence. Over the course of the twentieth century, obscenity law aspired to content neutrality: the state permitted publications depicting sex and violence so long as they did not appeal to impulses and emotions forbidden by contemporary community standards. Obscenity debates therefore often turn on legalistic versions of reception theory in which jurists try to imagine how audiences might feel about a book or periodical. Of course, obscene affects can stick to just about anything: a 1943 study of arousal in adolescent boys found that “love stories” were just one item in a long and varied list of erotic stimuli that included “punishments, examinations, sitting on warm sand, tight clothing, travelling by car, exciting sporting events.”20 To detect the diffuse and fleeting feelings associated with obscenity, judges and juries typically relied on clues from the publishing context to decide how a text or image was understood by its intended audience. This gave editors who were responsible for publishing controversial materials a strong incentive to pitch their publications to well-respected readers considered to be above suspicion. To this end, they sought out upscale audiences of professional-managerial men who supposedly had the self-possession to read transgressive literature without feeling obscene.

In this regard, Reading the Obscene builds on the work of Janice Radway’s pathbreaking study, Reading the Romance. Radway suggests that the central problem facing book publishers is that they must produce ever-changing product lines for a dispersed and constantly shifting consumer base.21 Industry profits depend on editors becoming experts in reader response as they struggle to anticipate which books will be popular with paying customers.22 These difficulties were only compounded for transgressive editors whose publications risked running afoul of censors. On pain of imprisonment, these editors needed to predict not only how well books would sell but also how they would be read and interpreted by a readership composed of both private citizens and state actors. As such, they were forced to develop a repertoire of strategies to ensure that their books would seem to be properly received by irreproachable readers in the PMC.

Tracing the role of extreme literature in the lives of middle-class men, Reading the Obscene shows that editors reframed erotic and violent publications as rehearsal spaces for ambitious professionals to perfect the emotional and cognitive discipline believed necessary to manage themselves and others.23 The PMC seems an unlikely public for borderline obscene material until one considers that, within the precincts of their occupations, professionals have often been asked to engage in unfeeling, amoral, or exceptional behavior: lawyers may say things they do not believe, doctors may gaze at nude bodies, and scientific managers may treat human beings as numbers. This abstracted attitude proves to be central to middle-class manhood as well. For the PMC, masculinity meant maintaining control over one’s emotions and rejecting passive affects coded as feminine and feminizing.

Reading the Obscene argues that reading transgressive texts in normalizing or aestheticizing ways enabled white-collar workers to practice rising above private responses such as puritanical disgust and obscene desire. Through dirty books, they cultivated the self-abstraction required to carry out their official duties. Editors taught professional-managerial readers to suspend their personal judgments and impulses, an exercise in maintaining professional composure that helped them prepare to serve as functionaries in impersonal bureaucracies. By setting up carefully staged confrontations with de-censored material, editors convinced white men from the PMC that obscenity builds character. Bringing together legal history with literary sociology, Reading the Obscene traces the emergence of a self-disciplining middle-class sexuality over the course of the twentieth century while articulating an account of how editors constitute their own audiences by training them to adopt new reading practices.

As this brief overview suggests, Reading the Obscene offers an alternative theory of editorship that diverges from those of sociologists of literature who see successful editors as selecting books that reflect an audience’s preexisting tastes. For Pierre Bourdieu, a strong editor knows which texts will appeal to their target audience because they share with their readers the same class background.24 If there is no elective affinity between a text’s aesthetic and an editor’s readership, the result will be a misfire for the editor. According to Bourdieu, this prearranged harmony between editor, text, and audience has less to do with conscious decision-making and more to do with “practical mastery,” the editor’s intuitive feeling for the social rules of art.25 The connection between editor, author, and audience ultimately derives from a common outlook conditioned by similarities in educational training, family circumstances, and socioeconomic positions.

Howard Becker arrives at a similar conclusion, albeit from a different theoretical perspective. Becker maintains that artistic activities are coordinated through conventions: spontaneous order emerges in the art world because most artistic practices, products, and institutions reflect a general agreement on how things are done.26 In what Becker calls the “editorial moment,” participants in the art world evaluate their artistic decisions with reference to these often-unspoken norms.27 During the editorial moment, artists place themselves in the positions of others to imagine how their work will most likely be received by their peers and the public based on known conventions.28 Of course, good artists sometimes learn to silence their inner critics, and some mavericks work to change their audience’s view of what art should be. But Becker tends to cast the editorial moment as a step toward achieving consensus with the rest of the art world.29 Like Bourdieu, Becker describes editing as the knack of choosing artworks that fall into alignment with the presumed sensibilities of an intended audience.

Unlike Becker and Bourdieu, this study emphasizes the activist and innovative side of the publishing enterprise. Simply put, Reading the Obscene argues that editing is a form of prefigurative reading.30 While the majority of editors may only discern their readership’s tastes, the most influential editors instill new reading habits in their readers.31 Celebrity editors who want to invent new audiences have an array of teaching tools at their disposal. By describing an ideal reader, editors encourage their audiences to conform to its likeness. Through these reader representations, editors convey information about their target demographics and even the characterological traits of their intended audiences. Editorial pages, prefaces, and letters to the editor often present exemplary interpreters responding to the editor’s publications. Whether explicitly or implicitly, these paratexts serve as manuals for reception.32 In many cases, the ideal reader turns out to be the editor him-or herself. For example, editors such as Mencken, Hefner, and Rosset all described themselves as their own target audiences.

More subtly, editors impress on readers a shared sensibility through their manuscript selections. Readers become habituated to a publisher’s house style through repeated contact with periodicals or publications in a series. Even without offering clear directives on how to read their work, editors foster new inclinations in readers simply by curating texts that elicit similar responses. By suggesting that editors help inculcate new reading habits, I am stating more than the obvious point that editors work to produce advertiser-friendly audiences who can be depended on to keep purchasing their publications—I am arguing that editors transform their published work into training regimens for developing know-how for grappling with innovative genres, styles, or modes of reading. As Radway has shown, readers can always resist these disciplining practices, but transgressive editors are quick to erase these rogue readers from the archive before the censors can detect them.33

The theory of editorship presented in Reading the Obscene allows us to avoid the false dilemma between censors who believe that pornographic readers simply reenact what they see on the page and free speech liberals who maintain that pornography has absolutely no effect on audiences. Borderline obscene publishers in midcentury America served a formative function.34 Editors did more than simply convey certain propositional statements about sexuality to their readers: they helped readers use extreme content to build new capacities that they not only could use to negotiate with texts but also could deploy elsewhere in their own lives. Acquiring these skills and aptitudes did involve some form of desensitization; transgressive texts gradually ceased to seem so overwhelming as readers learned the protocols for dealing with them. Writing about pornographic film, Linda Williams repurposes Walter Benjamin’s work on the mimetic faculty to argue that “through screening sex, our bodies are not simply shocked into states of arousal but habituated and opened up to this changing environment in newly socialized ways.”35 However, this book goes further to argue that the transferable schemas earned through persistent porn-reading can be used for surprising and creative purposes that often have little to do with autoerotic or otherwise sexual activity. Later chapters will show that the pornographic sometimes reproduces such unsexy skills and dispositions as work habits.

Although each of the figures I examine has been widely celebrated, this study resists the heroic myth of the outlaw editor and questions triumphalist histories of obscenity liberalization. As I argue in the afterword, recent events such as the weaponization of free speech have made it clear that a reconsideration of the politics of transgression is long overdue. Many of the same editors who worked to dismantle censorship also displaced obscenity onto othered audiences who they actively worked to exclude from their readerships. With this in mind, I seek to deflate some of the maximalist claims about obscenity made by theorists following Georges Bataille, who have often presented obscenity as inherently sublime and subversive.36 When desensitization becomes a sign of distinction for PMC readers, we are forced to abandon the idea that obscenity overturns hierarchies and disrupts social order.

In the following chapter, I will begin to fill in the details of this admittedly schematic description of professional-managerial masculinity by weaving together the histories of erotic publishing, obscenity law, class formation, and gender politics in the United States. Along the way, I shall show that editors played a key role in instructing legal and lay audiences alike in how to read the obscene.


1. Ed Sanders, Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, The Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side (Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2011), 183–91.

2. Ibid., 163.

3. Ibid., 186.

4. Ibid., emphasis original.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., 214–15, 248.

7. I have proposed the editor function in response to Foucault’s analysis of the “author function,” which argues that texts “really began to have authors (other than mythical, ‘sacralized’ and ‘sacralizing’ figures) to the extent that authors became subject to punishment, that is, to the extent that discourses could be transgressive.” Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow, trans. Josué V. Harari (New York: Pantheon, 1984), 108. However, in the US context editors have been held accountable more often than authors during obscenity trials. This study treats the category of “editor” as a discursive position rather than an occupational category. Many of the editors detailed in this project were also publishers, but, as we shall see, what binds them all together as editors is their ability to shape the reading practices of their audiences and speak on their behalf in legal or cultural controversies. Given this approach, I do not make hard and fast distinctions between periodical and trade book editors, especially given that several of the editors in this study fulfilled both roles. Reading the Obscene hopes to show that editing studies is a subfield in its own right that straddles periodical studies and book history. Andrew Piper applies the term “editor-function” to fictive editors (i.e., authors who claim that their works are found manuscripts). Andrew Piper, Dreaming in Books: The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 109. While I sometimes use “editor function” to refer to the editor as a figure or persona, I am also using it to denote a legal and authorial responsibility that allows the editor to stand in for a press, its catalog, and its readers. Philip Lewis also uses this term to examine editorship through a Foucauldian lens, but within the context of academic journal publishing. Philip Lewis, “Notes on the Editor-Function,” Bulletin of the Midwest Modern Language Association 12, no. 1 (Spring 1979): 20–31.

8. Sanders, Fug You, 184.

9. Ibid., 150.

10. Sanders quoted in Daniel Kane, All Poets Welcome: The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 68.

11. Mary Rizzo, Class Acts: Young Men and the Rise of Lifestyle (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2015), 41–42.

12. Sanders, Fug You, 349.

13. Following a similar line of analysis, Richard Ohmann suggests that on the cusp of the twentieth century, periodicals such as Munsey’s, Cosmopolitan, and Ladies’ Home Journal trained the emergent PMC to embrace consumption patterns, ways of living, and modes of comportment that signaled their “moral and intellectual superiority” over other classes. Richard Ohmann, Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century (New York: Verso, 1996), 171–74. For the generation coming up under Mencken, however, moral probity and intellectual acumen increasingly came into sharp conflict.

14. Thanks to my anonymous reviewer for suggesting “sentimental education” as a formulation for this process.

15. Sanders, Fug You, 86.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Fuck You / A Magazine of the Arts 5, no. 2 (December 1962), cover, 2, /images/bibliographic_bunker/fuck_you/fuck-you-press-pdfs/fuck-you.05.vol-02.pdf.

19. Sanders, Fug You, 250.

20. Ludwig Marcuse, Obscene: The History of an Indignation, trans. Karen Gershon (London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1962), 17. For a theoretical discussion of affect and pornography, see Susanna Paasonen, Carnal Resonance: Affect and Online Pornography (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011), 60.

21. Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 30.

22. Many publishers tried to solve this problem by creating genre categories that promised to fulfill regular reader expectations, but, as Radway suggests, even the most preprogrammed examples of popular literature can elicit surprising and even subversive responses from readers. Ibid., 29, 45. While Radway explores this reception through ethnographic methods, as a historical study Reading the Obscene can only see hints of reader resistance in the archive.

23. Here one might find some parallels between midcentury American editors and nineteenth-century German editors, who “defended their texts on grounds that they promoted Bildung, the cultivation of the emotions and intellect.” Sarah L. Leonard, Fragile Minds and Vulnerable Souls: The Matter of Obscenity in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), 125.

24. Pierre Bourdieu, “The Production of Belief: Contribution to an Economy of Symbolic Goods,” in The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature, ed. Randal Johnson, trans. Richard Nice (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 96. John Frow critiques this argument by suggesting that Bourdieu transforms artworks—with all of their inner tensions—into “non-contradictory expressive unities” that reflect in a straightforward manner a unified class logic. John Frow, Cultural Studies and Cultural Value (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 38–39.

25. Bourdieu, “Production of Belief,” 95. For a systematic application of Bourdieusian theory to publishing, see John B. Thompson, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Penguin, 2012).

26. Howard Becker, Art Worlds (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982).

27. Ibid., 199–200.

28. Ibid., 200–201.

29. Ibid., 204.

30. Here I build upon recent work on extra-academic reading practices or “bad reading.” See Merve Emre, Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017); Tyler Bradway, Queer Experimental Literature: The Affective Politics of Bad Reading (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

31. Roger Escarpit briefly touches on this idea in Sociology of Literature, when he writes that publishers “influence the public by instigating new patterns and habits.” Roger Escarpit, Sociology of Literature, trans. Ernest Pick (London: Frank Cass, 1971), 51.

32. See Gerard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

33. Radway, Reading the Romance, 49–50.

34. On the formative function, see Joshua Landy, How to Do Things with Fictions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012); Lee Konstantinou, Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016).

35. Linda Williams, Screening Sex (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 18.

36. Georges Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality, trans. Mary Dalwood (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1986).