Literature has been part of the purview of Social Text since the journal's inception, although the literary has never been presumed to be its paradigmatic or primary object of study. The "Prospectus" in the first issue frames "avant-garde literature or art" in terms of its "dialectical relation to mass audience culture," rejecting the "stale dichotomies between 'popular' and 'high' art." But the essays included in the issue make it impossible to consider art as an autonomous sphere of activity that would somehow be -- to use the phrase that nearly two decades later would be the linchpin of an important exchange in ST 52/53 (1997) between Judith Butler and Nancy Fraser -- "merely cultural." Already in the first issue of the journal, the reader is forced to move from Edward Said's essay on the material effects of Zionism "from the standpoint of its victims," with its insistence that ideas do not "exist only in the realm of ideas" but are "mixed in with historical circumstances," to Bruce Boone's essay contending that Frank O'Hara's poetry can be read for the way it registers the traces of the "oppositional language practice of the gay community." The juxtaposition itself is an argument that literature must be considered as a "form of social knowledge," as Stanley Aronowitz phrases it.
Abstract: Literature has been part of the purview of SOCIAL TEXT since the journal's inception, although the literary has never been presumed to be its paradigmatic or primary object of study. Moreover, from issue 4 (1981) through issue 39 (1994), the journal not only published scholarship on literature, but also sporadically published poetry and fiction. There are intriguing parallels between the experimentalism of the essays in the journal, especially in the rubric of short, theoretical pieces called "Unequal Developments" featured in early issues, and the experimentalism of the poetry and fiction.