Communication, Computation, and the Icon-Novel
This talk will explore the relationship between contemporary literary culture and an Internet culture shaped by Web 2.0 platforms that prioritize the circulation of information and the collection of vast amounts of data. It considers modes of avant-garde art, such as asemic writing, that decouple writing from semantic content and seem to thematize crises of communication and interpretability in an era of proliferating signs: text, images, memes, gifs. From within this frame, it identifies the genre of the icon-novel, exemplified by Xu Bing’s Book from the Ground and Fred Benenson’s Emoji Dick, as uniquely illustrative of a larger cultural confusion about whether the Internet has finally embodied the dream of universal communication or utterly travestied it.
Aarthi Vadde is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. She is the author of Chimeras of Form: Modernist Internationalism beyond Europe (NY: Columbia UP, 2016), the co-editor of The Critic as Amateur (Bloomsbury 2019), and the co-editor of an open-access cluster of essays on “Web 2.0 and Literary Criticism” (Post45). She is currently at work on a book manuscript entitled “We the Platform: Contemporary Literature after Web 2.0.” Scholarly articles have appeared in Comparative Literature, Modernism/Modernity, New Literary History, NOVEL, and PMLA. In 2021, Vadde joined the editorial team of the eleventh edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, and is co-editing Vol. F: The Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. Aarthi co-hosts the podcast Novel Dialogue.
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This event is made possible by the Charles K. Colver Lectureships & Publications.