Saturday, October 11, 2008


Big thanks to Meredith McGill and everyone at the Rutgers Center for Cultural Analysis for having me up to discuss Mechanisms as part of their New Media Literacies seminar the other day. So, basically, the way this works is you have fifteen or so terrifically bright grad students, post docs, and faculty who have read large chunks of the book spend three hours talking through the work with you, then (after some wine at a reception) whisk you off to a tremendous Greek restaurant where more mine is consumed, along with copious amounts of delicious food. Seriously, one of the nicest visits I've had, and some invaluable feedback. Rereading one's own work sometimes seems like equal parts guilty pleasure and mortification, but too often in this profession we want to hear about what's new, what's next, and what's in progress---as though ideas shed their interest value once published. Not so. Going back to Mechanisms in such good company was a pleasure.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tabbi in Contemporary Literature

Joseph Tabbi, Professor of English at UIC, founder of ebr, and current president of the Electronic Literature Organization offers some very probing and thoughtful comments about Mechanisms in "Locating the Literary in New Media" (MUSE subscription required), a review essay published in Contemporary Literature 49.2 (Summer 2008): 311-331.
To separate an operative signal from noise is not only the goal of information science but also, Kirschenbaum reminds us, the foundation of modern bibliographic studies in its concern with the transmission of literary texts. Kirschenbaum cites essentially all modern textual scholars on this point, from his University of Virginia mentor, Jerome McGann, back through Randall McLeod, Fredson Bowers, and W. W. Greg, who in 1932 stated, "at the root of all literary criticism lies the question of transmission, and it is bibliography that enables us to deal with the problem" (qtd. in Kirschenbaum 214). Kirschenbaum argues--implicitly, through case studies, rather than polemically--that such an informatic, forensic approach is as relevant today as ever, and even more so as the devices for storage and routes of literary transmission are multiplied by computers and carried by expanding networks of communication.

The essay also takes up recent books by Thomas Foster, Kate Hayles, and Martin Kevorkian. Well worth a look all around.