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.

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