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ParaliteraryThe Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America$
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Merve Emre

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226473833

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226474021.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 17 February 2020

Brand Reading

Brand Reading

Chapter:
(p.94) Chapter Three Brand Reading
Source:
Paraliterary
Author(s):

Merve Emre

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226474021.003.0004

While speech and bodily posturing offer two distinct if interrelated approaches to communication, consumption offers a new angle on what it means to communicate as a nationalized subject. This chapter focuses on the consumption of tourism as exemplified by the American Express Company, including the sanitized reading materials deployed in its massive expansion of family-oriented, middle-class international travel. Yet some of the company’s most enthusiastic consumers were countercultural writers who co-opted the company’s advertisements, pamphlets, travelers checks, and brand in order to insert their experimental literary works into a broader field of national-corporate discourse. The counterculture, this chapter argues, was opposed to corporate culture in theory, yet its intimacies were sustained by American Express’s global network of office spaces, financial instruments, and writing technologies. In American Express’s corporate archives, as well as in novels by James Baldwin (Giovanni’s Room), William Burroughs (Naked Lunch), Erica Jong (Fear of Flying), and, most explicitly, Gregory Corso (The American Express), the chapter identifies an aesthetic of literary branding: one crafted to communicate a queer sense of national belonging. These novels introduced countercultural writers to businessmen eager to read their fiction and to co-opt the interaction rituals of the counterculture as representative of American freedom.

Keywords:   William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Erica Jong, American Express, corporate culture, counterculture, tourism, Cold War

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