Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities)


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Our metageographic consciousness, to use a term explored by Jon Hegglund, preserves the historical conditions of its founding moments. For these reasons and others, geographic information systems GIS and their re-articulations in spatial representations have been seen as particularly dangerous for use in critical contexts.

Digital Modernist Studies: Strong and Weak Paradigms

Indeed, an entire field of work in critical cartography and critical GIS developed alongside the first uses of such tools; this field has grown to include feminist geography, a critical Marxist geography, and what has been called neogeography, a response to the microlocative technological regime just described.

Objections can and should be retained within a critical practice of spatial modernist studies, as the best examples demonstrate. Indeed, critical awareness of the epistemologies contained within our technologies of representation—including the familiar Mercator projection—is one of the primary benefits of this work. The weakest and, I maintain, the best spatial humanities projects in modernist studies thus evince awareness of their compromised epistemological status, making use of that status to produce a range of openly anti-mimetic geographies.

What we are mapping here instead of physical space is the conjunction of desires and the city, an illicit rendezvous of character and topoi, cartography and narrative drive. Christie et al. Work by Amanda Golden and others who employ these technologies on radically anti-representationalist texts, to take a converse case, demonstrates the pedagogical utility of a strong GIS-based realism when exploring a defamiliarized urban landscape.

We should note that both these examples remain within the classic metropolitan framework of modernist studies. A mental map of the geographies of new modernist studies would differ quite dramatically from these remediations of modernist texts. The next generation of work on spatial modernist studies has before it the prospect of that greatly enlarged geographic field. Other geographical projects that exemplify the weak conjunction between field and digital method have come out of the literary laboratories at Stanford, UCLA, and the University of Virginia.

Cultural history, he suggests, would begin to look more like the plan of a railway network than the unilinear epochs of a teleological history.


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A common theme in all these projects is the fragility of geography, the way that the warp and weft of city space can so easily unravel and be reworked within literary space, and the way that literary space reveals the fragility and contingency of the city itself. Not all of the leading work in digital literary studies advances through what I am calling weak conjunctions of literary objects and digital method. If, for these reasons, large textual corpora are unsuited to modernist aesthetic works, we might find better objects for the weakly conjunctive studies I have in mind.

Far after the many deaths of the Author, we use correspondence to understand everyday life and intellectual history, find points of connection between persons and movements, determine the fates of manuscripts, make corrections, assert final intentions.

We tend not to use letters to study larger social and aesthetic formations, as letters invoke the particularity, intimacy, and ephemerality that still attaches to the high culture of letter-writing as Woolf understood it. A recent renaissance of work on letters has put the limits of that traditional particularism into question, developing expanded maps of literary epistolarity. A number of projects focusing on earlier periods are now studying the potential of letters for modeling literary fields and exchanges, developing weakly affiliative but far-reaching models of epistolary culture.

Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen

In the study of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, several research projects on digital letters have developed under similar auspices. As with much in modernist studies, copyright restrictions limit the breadth of most projects, particularly those outside university library collections. The content of most letters will be reserved for edited editions developed by specialist scholars rather than library archivists , and those editions will usually be covered by copyright restrictions. Yet much can still be done with a sealed letter, as unread correspondence in the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Henry James evinces.

Recent advances in metadata standardization help us do so: the Berliner Intellectuelle research group at the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Arts and Sciences has developed rigorous standards for describing digital letters, and correspondence data projects at Oxford and Stanford have developed a variety of tools and techniques for manipulating letter metadata. What we begin to see when we look at these sealed letters, and at their information-rich envelopes, is both the individuality of the letter-writer and the way she is embedded in a larger epistolary culture.

Stout fig. Andrew Jewell and Janis P. Lines designate co-addressed correspondents. Indeed, any given circle of writers will have its own particular mode of connection, its own epistolary signature. Precisely for this reason, a weak theory of literary correspondence, one that closely examines the intricate knots, coteries, and clusters of affiliation within a given literary culture, accounts for the specificity of literary correspondence better than would a strong theoretical model premised on the totality of a whole period or cultural field.

These initial examples, extracted from sealed letters, should incite us to better weak models of modernist epistolary culture: models which would be more particular, more granular, and more embedded in specialist scholarship.

Genre | MCLC Resource Center

In these cases of modernist correspondence and modernist space, we have seen the virtues of weak bonds between writers, addresses, envelopes of information, library archivists, and specialist scholars; between novels, maps, satellites, emotional topography, and metropolitan perception. None of these heterogeneous assemblages will crystallize into anything so strong as a single new critical hermeneutics.

This is the sense in which we are all digital modernists now, a thesis that implies the invisibility of the most common digital methods. The relative invisibility of digital arguments or evidence does not, of course, exhaust the influence of efforts like the Modernist Journals Project MJP on the larger field. The recent renaissance in scholarship on print culture and the little journals undoubtedly derives in part from the scope, simplicity, and ease of access promoted by that project. And yet this expanded and disseminated archive has been one of the signal successes of digital modernist studies.

This first weak conjunction between modernist studies and digital method aims at recovery, categorization, and dissemination. The exigency of the Modernist Journals Project, for Scholes and Wulfman, was the discovery that advertisements had been removed from not just one but most library runs of the little journals they set out to digitize, so that an essential element of cultural history had become unavailable to those studying periodical culture.

Some exciting new efforts, like the Modernist Versions Project, respond to a similar need for the dissemination of modernist texts, in that case for the purpose of flexible pedagogical anthologies; other projects, like Woolf Online, are devoted to particular authors or works. Within many of those same projects we see a second weak paradigm in the description and reinscription of loose social ties, in the form of metadata that describes roles, contributors, dates, and places in a standard way.

This process of standardization itself allows for new forms of visualization and inquiry. The Modernist Journals Project Lab has made its hierarchical description of journal metadata available to other researchers, so that structured questions across a range of magazines can be rigorously pursued. Who contributed most to The English Review under Ford Madox Ford, and who among those contributors were most commonly found in the other little magazines?

What does the network of contributions to those magazines look like over time? Such questions have the potential to reshape our study of the little magazines through correlation and colocation, represented through network-visualization tools that can only provisionally and contingently be employed to examine modernist objects. A third weak paradigm for digital modernist studies is the use of consciously aleatory or procedural modes of criticism, modes that refuse strong models of authority, history, and genealogy in favor of cunning and chance.

Modernist precedents have been insistently recurred to in this way within the interdisciplinary conversation of the Digital Humanities itself. Meanwhile, non-academic modernist enthusiasts have developed paracritical yet often gorgeous digital approaches to the study of modernist texts. One could do worse, when comparing Hemingway or Beckett to their minimalist contemporary epigones, than to begin by simply comparing patterns of punctuation abstracted from text, as one amateur project does. These institutional projects, and others like them, have moved towards more openly collaborative, multi-institutional, and indeed international efforts, combining work on fundamental standards and techniques with interpretive applications geared to specific subjects, periods, and fields, including modernist studies.

As Latour and Steven Woolgar demonstrate in Laboratory Life , we require new epistemological vocabularies to account for the way that laboratory knowledge is produced and circulated by apparatuses, shared methods, inscription devices, visual arguments, apprenticeships, and shared publications in academic journals.

Serious work on spatial mapping, to take an example discussed at more length below, requires collaboration with technologists, satellites, and also critical geographers. The conjunction of such work with modernist studies proper is of necessity weak, implicating the critic in a set of tools, expert communities, and interdisciplinary conversations outside the field itself.

Yet this set of weak connections and affiliations has produced some of the most interesting recent re-readings of modernist space. The use of laboratory nomenclature does not herald some new positivism in the humanities oriented to outputs and results. Instead, modernist laboratories return us to an important mode of collaborative experimentalism, of the kind that was central to modernist architecture and poetics.

A final paradigm that weakly joins the field to digital method is the turn to collective platforms and distributed networks, oriented towards the production of critical editions, linked open data, and digital peer review, among other goals. With collaborators interested in digital approaches to literary correspondence, I have begun work on a Twentieth Century Literary Letters Project, following the example of existing projects in Renaissance and eighteenth-century letters.

A specifically modernist digital peer review network has now been created in the Modernist Networks Project headed by Pamela Caughie and David Chinitz.


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These distributed mechanisms for collective peer review and critical production rise out of existing scholarly mechanisms for collective labor and review, promise to enable new work in the field rather than revolutionize it, and yet count among the most intriguing shifts in the way we study modernism now. I turn now to two emerging areas of work in digital modernist studies as a way of fleshing out my account of the weak conjunctions between digital method and modernist field: first, new modernist geographies, and then modernist letters.

Our metageographic consciousness, to use a term explored by Jon Hegglund, preserves the historical conditions of its founding moments. For these reasons and others, geographic information systems GIS and their re-articulations in spatial representations have been seen as particularly dangerous for use in critical contexts. Indeed, an entire field of work in critical cartography and critical GIS developed alongside the first uses of such tools; this field has grown to include feminist geography, a critical Marxist geography, and what has been called neogeography, a response to the microlocative technological regime just described.

Objections can and should be retained within a critical practice of spatial modernist studies, as the best examples demonstrate. Indeed, critical awareness of the epistemologies contained within our technologies of representation—including the familiar Mercator projection—is one of the primary benefits of this work. The weakest and, I maintain, the best spatial humanities projects in modernist studies thus evince awareness of their compromised epistemological status, making use of that status to produce a range of openly anti-mimetic geographies. This volume of fourteen essays explores Chinese poetic modernism in all its facets, from its origins in the s through 21st century manifestations.

Modernisms in the plural reflects the complexity of the ideas and forms which can be associated with this literary-historical term. Collectively, the volume endeavors to present as complete a picture of modernist practice in Chinese poetry as possible.

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Author: Lucas Klein. Some call modern Chinese poetry insufficiently Chinese, saying it is so influenced by foreign texts that it has lost the essence of Chinese culture as known in premodern poetry. Yet that argument overlooks how premodern regulated verse was itself created in imitation of foreign poetics. Looking at Bian Zhilin and Yang Lian in the twentieth century alongside medieval Chinese poets such as Wang Wei, Du Fu, and Li Shangyin, The Organization of Distance applies the notions of foreignization and nativization to Chinese poetry to argue that the impression of poetic Chineseness has long been a product of translation, from forces both abroad and in the past.

Editors: Wendy Swartz and Robert F.

Modernity as historical epoch

Memory is not an inert container but a dynamic process. Urging a particular view of the past on readers is a complex rhetorical act.

Amanda Levete

The collective reception of portrayals of the past often carries weighty implications for the present and future.

Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities) Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities)
Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities) Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities)
Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities) Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities)
Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities) Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities)
Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities) Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities)
Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities) Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities)
Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities) Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities)
Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities) Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen (Perverse Modernities)

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