The value of books : the fantastic flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and the social hieroglyphic of reading

Hateley, Erica (2013) The value of books : the fantastic flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and the social hieroglyphic of reading. In 40th Annual Children's Literature Association Conference : Play and Risk in Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Culture, 13-15 June 2013, Biloxi, Mississippi. (Unpublished)

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The late eighteenth century witnessed the emergence of new technologies of subjectivity and of the literary. Most obviously, “the novel as a literary form appeared to embody and turn into an object the experience of life itself” (Park), and the novel genre came to both reflect and shape notions of interiority and subjectivity. In this same period, “A shift was taking place in the way people felt and thought about children and the accoutrements of childhood, including books and toys, were implicated in this change” (Lewis). In seeking to understand the relationships between media (e.g. books and toys), genres (e.g. novels and picture books), and modes of subjectivity, Marx’s influential theory of commodity fetishism, whereby “a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things”, has served as a productive tool of analysis.

The extent to which Marx’s account of commodity fetishism continues to be of use becomes clear when the corollaries between the late eighteenth-century emergence of novels and pictures books as technologies of subjectivity and the early twenty-first century emergence of e-readers and digital texts as technologies of subjectivity are considered. This paper considers the literary technology of Apple’s iPad (first launched in 2010) as a commodity fetish, and the circulation of “apps” as texts made available by and offered as justifications for, this fetish object. The iPad is both book and toy, but is never “only” either; it is arguably a new technology of subjectivity which incorporates but also destabilises categories of reading and playing such as those made familiar by earlier technologies of literature and the self.

The particular focus of this paper is on the multimodal versions (app, film, and picture book) of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which are understood here as a narrativisation of commodity fetishism, subjectivity, and the act of reading itself.

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ID Code: 60823
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Keywords: children's literature, electronic publishing, iPad apps, reading
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LITERARY STUDIES (200500) > Literary Studies not elsewhere classified (200599)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Children & Youth Research Centre
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 16 Jun 2013 22:33
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2013 00:36

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