In this essay the Warwick Research Collective (WReC) addresses the question of “what is and isn’t changing” in literary studies by reflecting on the material conditions that structure its disciplinary workscape. The essay notes that the pressures of a specifically academic form of capitalism, responding to and flourishing in a period of institutional crisis, tend to replicate top-down, marketized models of academic entrepreneurship in the ways we read. Departing from more widely favored models of “collaboration” and “interdisciplinarity” as solutions to this problem, the essay reflects instead on the history and potential of the collective as a form of self-organized, nonhierarchical knowledge production. It argues that the interlinked crises of how to read in world-literary terms, and on what scale, unavoidably index more general crises of the humanities and of academic labor when considered against the backdrop of an unstable neoliberal hegemony, particularly that of the mass automatization and shedding of labor. The essay concludes by considering political and literary examples of collaborative authorship before addressing the question of WReC’s own process, a form of joint working-through that the collective regards as fundamental to any emancipatory politics.

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