“Immaterial Labor, Restaurant Work, and Stewart O Nan s Last Night at the Lobster”,John Macintosh (University of Maryland-College Park)

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

the Lobster”


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 O’Nan’s 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 restaurant’s 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

Time: 16:40

Place: G-160