The Textual Life of Airports

By | January 17, 2012

Continuum is excited to announce the publication of The Textual Life of Airports: Reading the Culture of Flight, a highly original and unique monograph by Christopher Schaberg (Assistant Professor of Contemporary Literature and Critical Theory, Department of English, Loyola University, New Orleans, USA) — now available in the US and coming to the UK next month!

Textual Life of AirportsTales of near disaster, endless delays, dramatic weather shifts, a lost bag that suddenly appears—such stories are familiar accounts of a place that seems to thrive on and recycle its own mythologies.  Through references that range from Modernist fiction to postmodern poetry and American nature writing, Schaberg demonstrates that U.S. airports have been routinely imagined as fraught places. He also considers contemporary films, public art installations, and advertising ephemera concerning the culture of airports.  In this sustained analysis of representations and real spaces, he argues that airports serve as oddly accepted figures for lived dystopian fantasies and fictions.  At stake in this critique is a looming sense that the preparatory zone for modern mobility is in fact an incubating point of worst-case scenarios, numbed perceptions, sheer boredom, and occasional terror.

Schaberg uses literature in order to analyze the textual life of airports, and shows in turn how airports are literary-theoretical spaces.  In the style of Roland Barthes, he treats cultural fragments and literary works as productive and active texts.  The “textual life” of airports emerges from playful readings that draw out the narrative threads and stitches of these sites.  And like Walter Benjamin scavenging the Parisian Arcades, Schaberg looks for hints and hidden potentials in the material culture of airports, and tracks the rhetorical and stylistic trends that reoccur across texts and images that reflect airport settings. The Textual Life of Airports is sure to be of interest to students and scholars of critical theory, American studies and comparative literature. But don't take our word for it…

Endorsements for The Textual Life of Airports:

"From the canon of airport reading to aesthetic images of baggage, from the resonances of 9/11 to the semiotic absence and presence of birds in the terminals, Schaberg approaches airports with a keen critical energy that will make you welcome your next four-hour layover in Atlanta or your missed connection in Newark as an opportunity to explore his fascinating insights.  I have sometimes felt that all the good topics in cultural studies have been exhausted; this book restores my faith that fertile ground remains.  I savored every paragraph." — Randy Malamud, Professor of English, Georgia State University, USA, and author of Reading Zoos: Representations of Animals and Captivity (Macmillan and NYU Press, 1998) and Poetic Animals and Animal Souls (Palgrave 2003)

"From The Hardy Boys to Don DeLillo, from early aviation to 9/11 and after, The Textual Life of Airports explores that most quotidian space of ennui—the airport—to argue that it is a complex contact zone of travelers and workers, readers and screeners. In this lively, erudite, and elegantly written book, this place shaped by hard architecture and ambient music becomes transformed from an epicenter of dread and boredom to a site of intense inquiry, a place in which we might even wish to linger." — Caren Kaplan, Professor in American Studies, University of California, Davis, USA, and author of Questions of Travel: Postmodern Discourses of Displacement (Duke University Press, 1996)

"The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Masterpiece Theatre host Russell Wayne Baker once lamented that the public imagines reading poetry to be worse than carrying heavy luggage through Chicago's O'Hare airport. In The Textual Life of Airports, Christopher Schaberg offers a shrewd response: the airport is the poetry." — Ian Bogost, Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Digital Media, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

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