Monday, 13 December 2010

Literary Criticism in the age of information: Digital Humanities

The literary theories and criticism has witnessed several shifts in 20th Century. Beginning with 'New Criticism', it ran through 'Reception Theory', 'Stylistics', 'Russian Formalism', 'Structuralism', 'Marxism', 'Psycho-analytical school', post-structuralism', 'Feminism'; along with voices of Modernism, Post-modernism, post-colonialism, cultural studies, new historicism . . . and what not.

All these glasses (spectacles for some) gave us varied ways - colourful most of the times, 'cleared our vision if we have cataract' at times and also concave or convex on several occasions or a rainbow kind of spectrum passing through the prism glass. All these glasses transforms into mirror and we see our own self projected in your reading of literature.

However, it is important to inquire, what is the reason of such turns and twists in the 'studies' of the study of literatures?

Well, what John Wain (though said in some other context) wrote in 'Strength and Isolation: Pessimistic Notes of a Miltonolater' in Frank Kermod's The Living Milton (1960: Routledge) may have some answer to this shifting paradigms of 20th century.
He wrote: "The modern sensibility works in naturally with a medium like the cinema, with its endless fading in and fading out, its tracking, panning and all the rest of the devies for keeping dimension and angle in a continually shifting state . . . Symbolism on the one hand, the cinema on the other; concentration and discontinuity ..."

How far can we blame cinematic habit to these scenario is a debatable issue. But if it has a grain of truth, then what can we think about the sensibility of the man in the age of information - in an era of internet - the digital age - amidst flood of information and constantly changing world/reality? And what sort of theories and critical practices are we to confront in the 21st century?

The reading of these articles can help us make our position more sound and significant in the making and reading of 21st century literature:

  • What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments? Matthew G. Kirschenbaum.

  • A New Computer-Assisted Literary Criticism? Raymond G. Siemens
  • Research Prospects in Digital Humanities
  • Matthew Jockers's Macroanalysis: (Down load chapters from the book)
  • Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture
  • Humanities in the Digital Age

  • Marie-Laure Ryan quite categorically argues in ‘Introduction’ Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory: “Computers were once thought of as number-crunching machines; but for most of us it is their ability to create worlds and process words that have made them into a nearly indispensable part of life. If computers are everywhere, it is because they have grown into ‘poetry machines’. The digital revolution of the last decade has let words on the loose, not just by liberating their semantic potential, as most avant-garde movements of the past hundred years have done, but in a physical, quite literal sense as well.” (Ryan). She further remarks which opens up the floodgates for those who wants to research on language on the screen: “Sometimes the words on the loose become malleable substance in our hands, as we grab them with a hand-shaped cursor, move them, erase them, banish and recall them, pull more words form under words, cut them out and paste them into a new context; sometimes they become actors and dancers on the stage of the computer screen, animated by the scropt of an invisible program; sometimes they fail to regroup at the end of their trip, and the screen fills up with garbage, dismembered text, visual nonsense, or surrealistic graphics. Whether we play with them or watch them perform for us, whether we control them or they rebel against us, electronic words never stand still for long, never settle down on a page, even when a copy is sent to the printer; for the printer merely outputs a lifeless replica, as still photograph of objects in motion.” (Ryan).

    Any idea? Please share in comments . . .

    Digital Humanities and Computer Assisted Literary Criticism from Dilip Barad

    Activity: (Give your response in the 'Comment' section below this post)

    Works Cited

    Aarseth, Espen. "Aporia and Epiphany in Doom and Speaking Clock: The Temporality of Ergodic Art." Ryan, Marie-Laure. Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999. 285.
    Aiden, Erez and Jean-Baptiste Michel. Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens of Human Culture. Global: Penguine, 2013.
    Arnold, Matthew. "The Study of Poetry(1880)." 1909-14. > TheHarvard Classics. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    Coldewey, Devin. "Data mining the classics makes for beautiful science." 20 Aug 2012. NBC News Technology. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    Deresiewicz, William. "Professing Literature in 2008." The Nation (11 March 2008).
    Dryden, John. "Of Drammatick Poesy." 1668.
    English, James F. The Global Future of English Studies. First. UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
    Frye, Northrop. "New Directions from Old." Frye, Northrop. Fables of Identity: Studies in Poetic Mythology. New York: A Harbinger Book, 1963. 264.
    Frye, Northrop. "The Archetypes of Literature." Frye, Northrop. Fables of Identity: Studies in Poetic Mythology. USA: A Harbinger Book, 1963. 264.
    Jockers, Matthew. "Characterization in Literature and the Macroanalysis Lab." 8 Jan 2014. Matthew L. Jockers. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    —. "Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History." 2013. University of Illinois Press. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    Kermod, Frank. 'Strength and Isolation: Pessimistic Notes of a Miltonolater' in The Living Milton (1960: Routledge)
    Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. "What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?" ADE Bulletin (2010): 7.
    Levy, Pierre and Rikka (Tr. from French) Stewen. "Toward Superlanguage." SOH University of California-Irvine. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    McLemee, Scott. "Crunching Literature." 1 May 2013. Inside Higher Ed. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    Peacock, Thomas Love. "The Four Ages of Poetry." Literary Miscellany 1820.
    Popova, Maria. "From Galileo to Google: How Big Data Illuminates Human Culture." 17 Jan 2014. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    Ricoeur, Paul. "Time and Narrative." Chicaco and London VOl III (1988).
    Rockwell, Geoffrey, Peter Organisciak, Megan Meredith-Lobay, Kamal Ranaweera, Stan Ruecker, Julianne Nyhan. "The Design of an International Social Media Event: A Day in the Life of the Digital Humanities." digital humanities quarterly (2012):
    Ryan, Marie-Laure. Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory. Ed. Marie-Laure Ryan. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.
    Wikipedia, Contributors. Digital Humanities. 10 Jan 2014. Wikipedia. 21 Jan 2014 <>.