"Wasserman’s incisive book considers what fiction can tell us about living among things that are so frequently disposable, such that we “confront at every turn not so much the death of things, but their perpetual dying.” The Death of Things manages to show us quite a lot, too, about how fiction can serve as its own kind of cache—one that doesn’t preserve ephemera, exactly, but creates its own kind of afterlives for fading things." —Sophie Haigney, The Nation
"Moving with ease between theories of the novel, object-oriented ontologies, and critical infrastructure studies, the book makes us notice the agency of “stuff” in our desires to re-animate futures that never came to pass, revivifying narrative categories of setting and object. Wasserman’s witty, direct style makes the ambiguities and anxieties that circulate around the ephemeral a pleasure to read." —MSA First Book Prize, Honorable Mention Citation
Also short-listed for ASU's Institute for the Humanities 2022 Book Award.
"As in person, so in print: Sarah Wasserman is a witty conversationalist and infallible guide to postwar American literature. Her writers are known for largesse of form, ambition of argument, and fascination for quirky objects, and it is an elective affinity, for that is her own mode. The things we least regard may be the things that most tell us who we are. Such is the wisdom found in this book. Transience, like books about it, makes things glow. —John Durham Peters, Yale University
"Sarah Wasserman adds an important new chapter to our understanding of how narrative prose fiction represents the object world—not just the life of things, but also their dying, their death, and their unsettling, uncanny afterlife. The great range here demonstrates the persistence of things as a focus of the American literary imagination, and the insistence of things as a force in the human world, both individual and collective. To apprehend that insistence she offers an expanded definition of ephemera that will be useful to readers across fields, and to anyone trying to understand the dynamics by which objects form and transform human subjects. " —Bill Brown, author of Other Things
"Across a wide range of genres and authors, Sarah Wasserman argues that material artifacts—a poster, a dropped cotton bale, a collection of postage stamps, a dubious antique, a roll of blueprints, or a sign in a shop window—provide crucial plot points and also serve to signify emerging cultural forces. Tracking the structural transformations of post-World War II modernity, Wasserman calls attention to the ways these apparently trivial objects embody potent and latent energies. Whole histories reside in the clutter and stuff of small things deployed, she asserts, not as inert objects, but as agents of memory and imagination enacting the tension between what vanishes and what remains." —Johanna Drucker, author of Iliazd: A Meta-Biography of a Modernist
With entries on Sensing, Knowing, Making, and Doing, this volume makes clear that regardless of time period or physical media, modeling invokes particular registers of phenomenology and epistemology; as a facsimile of a thing or a process, it inevitably creates ways of sensing, knowing, and operating in the world. The volume points toward larger conceptual debates about the way in which models of the past as well as new digital ones—models within models—profoundly shape the world around us. Contributors include Johanna Drucker, Peter Galison, Lisa Gitelman, Annabel Wharton, and several others.
Obsolescence is fundamental to the experience of modernity, not simply one dimension of an economic system. The contributors to this book investigate obsolescence as a historical phenomenon, an aesthetic practice, and an affective mode. This volume thus brings together essays from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives on the topic of obsolescence. Contributors include Bill Brown, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, John Durham Peters, Susan Strasser, William Urrichio and several others.
“‘And things were looking like a movie’: Suburban Chic and the 1980s.” In On Style: Collected Essays. Eds. Jasmin Dücker, Olga Tarapata, and Eleana Vaja. Routledge, 2019.
“Spaß mit der Future-Past: Coney Island und die Obsoleszenz.” In Obsoleszenz: Kulturelle Figurationen des (Nicht-mehr-)Besonderen. Eds. Dietrich Boschung and Günter Blamberger. Fink Verlag, Winter 2019.
“No Place Like Home: 9/11 Nostalgia and Spike Lee’s 25th Hour” REAL: Research in English and American Literature, Vol. 27. Series Eds. Winifried Fluck and Donald Pease. Tuebingen: Narr Verlag, 2011.
“Digital Intimacies: Slow Fish in a Swift Sea.” Column in Flaunt Magazine, September 2018.
“What’s Old in New America.” Column in Flaunt Magazine, September 2017.
Book Review: Amnesia and Redress in Contemporary American Fiction by Marni Gauthier. MFS Modern Fiction Studies. Volume 59, number 4. Winter 2013. 880-883.