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Digital Modernism examines how and why some of the most innovative works of online electronic literature adapt and allude to literary modernism. Digital literature has been celebrated as a postmodern form that grows out of contemporary technologies, subjectivities, and aesthetics, but this book provides an alternative genealogy. Exemplary cases show electronic literature looking back to modernism for inspiration and source material (in content, form, and ideology) through which to critique contemporary culture. In so doing, this literature renews and reframes, rather than rejects, a literary tradition that it also reconfigures to center around media. To support her argument, Pressman pairs modernist works by Pound, Joyce, and Bob Brown, with major digital works like William Poundstone's "Project for the Tachistoscope: [Bottomless Pit]" (2005), Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries's Dakota, and Judd Morrissey's The Jew's Daughter. With each pairing, she demonstrates how the modernist movement of the 1920s and 1930s laid the groundwork for the innovations of electronic literature. In sum, the study situates contemporary digital literature in a literary genealogy in ways that rewrite literary history and reflect back on literature's past, modernism in particular, to illuminate the crucial role that media played in shaping the ambitions and practices of that period.
Jessica Pressman is a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, San Diego.