Dear Colleagues and Students,
You are cordially invited to a talk sponsored by the Department of
American Culture and Literature.
Speaker: John Macintosh (University of Maryland-College Park)
“Immaterial Labor, Restaurant Work, and Stewart O Nan s Last Night at
Abstract: The idea that work has become newly precarious dominates
discussions of labor today. Responding to deindustrialization and the
rise of immaterial labor, theories of precarious labor describe
cognitive, creative, and affective laborers. However, grouping these
disparate forms of work together tends to privilege the experiences and
concerns of a now downwardly mobile middle class while occluding work,
historically gendered and racialized, at the bottom of the labor market.
This talk analyzes Stewart ONans Last Night at the Lobster (2007),
a novel about a closing chain restaurant, by reading the creative work
of the novelist alongside its representation of affective work performed
by Manny, the restaurants manager, and Nicolette, a server. It
focuses in particular on fantasies of ownership and loyalty, two
strategies that enable workers to manage affect and alienation while
simultaneously tempering any concerted resistance to exploitation. The
argument concludes that a politically useful theory of precarious labor
needs to have a better account of struggles of workers at the bottom,
not only the recently insecure.
Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2019