State of the Field: Poetics, Digital Humanities, Critical Theory

By: Erin Glass

I’m interested in how writers (poets & fictionists, comparatively) in 20th & 21st century America define their role, practice and product and how these definitions are influenced by technologies of dissemination.  To say it another way, I’m curious about comparing poetics, as a set of aesthetic, instrumental techniques, with the forms of publication (the novel, the chapbook, the blog, etc).  How, for example, does ownership or lack of ownership of the “means of publication” manifest itself in the writer’s aesthetic?  Thus I can describe my interests as falling somewhat into three areas: 1) the social history of 20th & 21st American literature, 2) print culture & digital humanities and 3) poetics.  Finally, I should note that critical theory, especially with regard to aesthetics and technology, is central to my thinking.

This exercise revealed to me that — outside of DH studies — I am woefully ignorant of hot off the press scholarship.  My original list had about 20 journals and books each, but I’ve narrowed them down here. I should note, that I am most excited about the discovery of AMODERN, a very recent, open access, peer reviewed scholarly journal which brings together topics of aesthetics, technology and scholarly communications.

3-5 Journals

Before highlighting journals of particular interest, I’d like to mention my discovery of This Year’s Work in English Studies and This Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Studies.  Both provide a “narrative bibliography of published work, recording significant debates and issues” with respect to their topics and may be useful for grasping the trends in the discipline in any given year.

  • Digital Humanities Quarterly: Topics in DH.
  • Diacritics: “Founded in 1971, diacritics offers a forum for rethinking the aims and methods of the humanities. The journal features a reflexive approach to literary theory and criticism, “Continental” philosophy, and political thought. The past, present, and future relationships between intellectual creation, language, conceptual knowledge, and artistic invention are the main concerns of diacritics.”
  • Configurations: Configurations explores the relations of literature and the arts to the sciences and technology. Founded in 1993, the journal continues to set the stage for transdisciplinary research concerning the interplay between science, technology, and the arts. Configurations is the official publication of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA).”
  • AMODERN:Amodern is a peer-reviewed, open-access scholarly journal devoted to the study of media, culture, and poetics. Its purpose is to provide a forum for interdisciplinary conversations about the role of media and technology in contemporary cultural practices…The journal is distinguished by its focus on poetics as a scholarly practice, with particular emphasis on the unruly ways that people deploy media and technology behind, beneath, and despite their instrumental functions. Against the grain of determinism, we hope to attract work that bears witness to media as complex assemblages of institutions, subjects, bodies, objects, and discourses.

3 Books published in the last two years

  • From Codex to Hypertext: Reading at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century (2012): The start of the twenty-first century has brought with it a rich variety of ways in which readers can connect with one another, access texts, and make sense of what they are reading. At the same time, new technologies have also opened up exciting possibilities for scholars of reading and reception in offering them unprecedented amounts of data on reading practices, book buying patterns, and book collecting habits.
  • What is: Nine Epistemological Essays  (Johanna Drucker): From Elizabeth Guffey: “In What Is?, Drucker traces the invisible thread that links letters to writing to books to the digital age. In so doing, she makes sense of emerging technology and the way it has insinuated itself into the culture of book making, writing, and reading. Drucker’s grand arguments are based on modest means. In this case she is starting with the humble letter. But, by probing the philosophy of language as well as the rhetoric of art, she builds toward a broader picture. In the end, her investigation concludes with nothing less than a new understanding of digital materialism.”
  • How We Think DIGITAL MEDIA AND CONTEMPORARY TECHNOGENESIS (N Katherine Hayles): “How do we think?” N. Katherine Hayles poses this question at the beginning of this bracing exploration of the idea that we think through, with, and alongside media. As the age of print passes and new technologies appear every day, this proposition has become far more complicated, particularly for the traditionally print-based disciplines in the humanities and qualitative social sciences. With a rift growing between digital scholarship and its print-based counterpart, Hayles argues for contemporary technogenesis—the belief that humans and technics are coevolving—and advocates for what she calls comparative media studies, a new approach to locating digital work within print traditions and vice versa.
  • Without Masters: Reading and Other Forces (Sarah Wood): “Without Mastery engages the pleasures and rigours of reading, invoking Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, Plato’s Lady Necessity, Freud, Derrida, Cixous, animals, angels, ghosts and children to explore our desire for mastery – especially the omnipotence of thoughts. Masterful thinking has brought the planet into environmental crisis. The acquiescence of reading, Wood shows, allows us to make contact with the unthinkable.”

3-5 annual conferences

3 university press series

3 speaker series

  • I’m stumped!

3 scholarly blogs

3-5 twitter accounts maintained by scholars in the field

  • Kathleen Fitzpatrick (@kfitz): Director of Scholarly Communication at MLA, author of Planned Obsolescence and the Anxiety of Obsolescence
  • Bethany Nowviski (@nowviskie): Director, Digital Research & Scholarship, UVa Library
  • Dennis Tennen (@dennistenen): Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities and New Media Studies at Columbia University, Department of English and Comparative Literature.

3-5 twitter accounts maintained by institutions related to the field

  • UCB DH (@DHBerkeley)
  • DH Summer Institute (@DHInstitute): “…provides an ideal environment for discussing and learning about new computing technologies and how they are influencing teaching, research, dissemination, creation, and preservation in different disciplines, via a community-based approach.”
  • The Maker Lab (@UVicMakerLab): “Physical computing, fabrication, media history + counterfactuals at the University of Victoria.”
  • @scholarslab
  • @nypl_labs