All the Good Literary Citizens

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The idea of literary citizenship suggests writers should belong to a kibbutz of bibliophiles where everyone contributes to the greater good by writing reviews, attending readings, and supporting independent, neighborhood retailers. But all this goodhearted community camaraderie has devalued writing as labor, Becky Tuch claims over at Beyond the Margins. She writes that the concept of “literary citizenship” sounds a lot like the kind of rhetoric employed by major corporations to undermine laborers’ value:

In fact, companies have long employed these kinds of tactics, namely spinning poor working conditions into “enrichment opportunities” for workers.

Tuch isn’t saying all community-oriented programs exploit writers, only that writers should pause a moment for some critical self-reflection.


Ian MacAllen is the Rumpus Deputy Editor and founder of English Kills Review an online literary magazine focused on books, authors, and New York City. His writing has appeared in Joyland Magazine, The Billfold, Fiction Advocate, Electric Cereal, Thought Catalog, and io9. He holds a Master’s Degree in English from Rutgers University and lives in Brooklyn. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →