The Word and the Bit: Information and 20th/21st Century Literature

Buysse, Jordan, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Felski, Rita, English, University of Virginia
Pasanek, Brad, English, University of Virginia
Unsworth, John, English, University of Virginia

  The Word and the Bit considers the aesthetics of information, and the information of aesthetics, in 20th and 21st century literature. By examining literary texts centered on the relationship between language and information, I argue for the importance of modes of reading that negotiate computational and instrumental uses of language--its transformation to and from ‘mere data’. In doing so, I deploy recent developments in computational methods for literary study--in particular text analysis--in order to reflect and interrogate a contemporary cultural shift towards the technologization of language.
   I move through a wide range of examples, from a pair of recent American novels, the late Modernist style of Gertrude Stein, to the constraint-based writing of the Oulipo and contemporary algorithmically generated writing. These varied texts are gathered together largely by their formal commitments rather than cultural context or ideological bent. I demonstrate how they exemplify literary forms that work between the technical discourse of information and code and the humanistic sense of the term as informing--developing and expanding the mind.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Literary Theory, Computational Literary Studies
Issued Date: