Scott Selisker Awarded NEH Grant to Advance His Book on Social Networks in Fiction

May 14, 2021
Scott Selisker

Scott Selisker, author and associate professor of English at the University of Arizona, is working on his second

book with the help of a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities, or NEH.

Selisker’s book, tentatively titled "Social Medium: Character Networks in Contemporary U.S. Fiction," draws on sociology and other fields to offer a new approach to American fiction, based on the ways authors use social networks within fiction. It describes the character network – the web of connections between characters and groups – as a key formal feature of fictional narrative that is used in multiple genres across multiple time periods.

“It shows how novelists have used these webs of connection between characters to explore what aspects of ourselves and communities are shaped by social positioning,” Selisker said.

Selisker is working on the final chapter titled “Networked Collectives in the Fiction of Silko and Yamashita.” This chapter examines the roles of grassroots networks in fictional representations of contemporary American political movements. This chapter draws on research from the novels Almanac of the Dead (Penguin Books, 1991) by Leslie Marmon Silko and I Hotel (Coffee House Press, 2010) by Karen Tei Yamashita.

To aid his research, Selisker has received a 2021 NEH Summer Stipend award. NEH is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. According to the NEH website, the Summer Stipend “supports continuous full-time work on a humanities project for a period of two consecutive months.”

Selisker plans to spend two weeks reviewing Silko’s research and drafts for Almanac of the Dead at the Beinecke Library. He will also be spending another two weeks reviewing the research Yamashita conducted for I Hotel at the University of California Santa Cruz Library. By analyzing the multimedia archives, Selisker believes he will be able to have an in-depth understanding of the networks each novel examines.

“My hypothesis is that studying their understanding of networks and networking will have lessons for our digitally networked present, particularly about the different roles that emerge in non-hierarchical collectives,” Selisker said.

Selisker’s research trip comes in time for the 30th anniversary of Silko’s Almanac of the Dead, which is set in Tucson, Arizona. Many university students and faculty as well as Tucson locals feel a sense of devotion to this novel, Selisker said.