[Below is the first draft of the introduction to my dissertation Introduction]

During the early twentieth century an entire network of forces—wars, technology, communication media, globalizing commerce, social movements—contributed to the irreversible and world-wide expansion in the volume of information confronting each individual.  Information overload has become a regular part of our lexicon in the digital age, but began to make itself felt through the intersection of these social and cultural shifts.  In Modernist Fiction and the News, David Rando describes the effects the increase of information had on individuals in the modernist period:

The early twentieth century was the first period to face the impossibility of adequately storing, remembering, and prioritizing the avalanche of information that new recording technologies and mass communication networks pressed upon consciousness, thereby altering not only human experience but also reality itself.  In modernism’s attempt to articulate human experience in a time of rapidly changing media, we begin to understand the transfigurations and dislocations of experience that have only intensified in our era. (1)

Rando traces a connection between the expansion of information and the media technology that deliver it and the individual’s experience of modernity.  The unprecedented volumes of information and the new media that accompanied them forced modernist authors to devise methods to represent and grapple with this condition of overload.  Paul Stephens, in The Poetics of Information Overload, argues that authors worked with and against existing information organization trends in reaction to the pressure these new conditions put on the human sensorium which tested:

the limits of cognition, perception, and memory (both personal and collective).  Rather than passively observing an end of history, or drowning in information, avant-garde writers have swum within and against the currents of information flows—demonstrating  not only agitation but also absorption. (Introduction)[1]

Modernist authors innovated on every conceptual and formal level, developing experimental poetic and narrative forms, dissolving divisions between high and low art, and experimenting with new ways of using print media, all as part of their work against the traditional information landscape.  However, these efforts to undermine established artistic and cultural values were accompanied by a renewed engagement with canonical works that comprise the Western literary tradition.

Indeed, many modernist authors, Joyce, H.D., and Pound among them, rather than charging forward, turned back and began integrating elements from throughout the literary and historical archive, with special emphasis on the Greek origins of the Western tradition.  In his 1923 article, “Ulysses, Order, and Myth,” T. S. Eliot famously labeled this practice of drawing connections between modernity and ancient texts the “mythic method,” which he attributed to Joyce’s use of Homer’s Odyssey as the basis for Ulysses: “In using the myth, in manipulating a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity, Mr. Joyce is pursuing a method which others must pursue after him. … It is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history” (177).  Eliot suggests that the mythic method represents a new approach to history and the overwhelmingly large body of information it represents.  He focuses on the principles of order and control ancient texts provide for what he felt was a derelict and directionless modern era.  However, the practice of drawing connections between the conditions of modernity and elements from different times reflects a much more profound shift in how these authors orient their work to the archive.[2]  In Homer and Modernism, Leah Culligan Flack argues that this impulse to turn back to foundational texts from the past opened into an alternative type of information organization:

Despite insisting on its own novelty, modernist art depended on a vital relation to the past, by influence, contrast, or a combination of both.  Engaging the Homeric tradition helped these writers to reject the Futurist agenda to discard the past and to articulate a productive model of historical thinking that opened new channels of connection between the present and the past. (3)

Establishing these “channels of connection” between the conditions of modernity and ancient texts became essential tactics for these authors who saturated their works with elements from the literary and historical tradition.  These different avenues of connection bypass the intervening periods of history, instead drawing connections between elements according to shared characteristics, regardless of their provenance.  Modernist authors began to gather elements from diverse periods of history and different global traditions and represent them in their works with a volume and frequency unprecedented in Western literature.  In their works, Ulysses, Palimpsest, and A Draft of XXX Cantos, Joyce, H. D., and Pound integrated material from the literary tradition as part of a larger trend symptomatic of a shift in how authors and individuals of the modernist period oriented themselves not only toward their literary pasts, but toward information in general.  This reorientation to information prompted authors to expand the possibilities of print media and methods of using intertextual references in ways that predict later information technologies, in particular the database.

Joyce, H.D., and Pound use ancient materials in far more complex ways than simply paralleling narratives from different time periods.  In their otherwise very different works, each connection between an aspect of modernity and elements from other time periods represents an informational link based on associational relationships between the two elements.  This dynamic expands from relationships between elements from antiquity and modernity into an entire logic of associational connections between elements of information from throughout all periods of history.  For these authors, in particular, such strategies serve as partial solutions to the overwhelming size of the archive.[3]  In place of the chronologically organized archive in which each element is sorted and filed according to its historical provenance, Joyce, H.D., and Pound reformulated history as a network of interrelated fragments.  This fragmentation does not represent a shattering of time itself, but a reorganization of the rigidly chronological logic of the Western archive.  The historical model for information organization works according to a causal logic that connects elements to one another through a model that mimics our sense of the diachronic progression of linear time.  The mythic method, as these modernist authors actually used it, represents an informational logic which privileges relationships between elements over the representation of linear time.

The modernist tendency to refer back to the foundational texts in the tradition in this new way is part of a much larger set of cultural and technical changes in how individuals conceive of and interact with information.  Joyce, H.D. and Pound recognized that twentieth-century culture has inherited the inertial stability of an archive so massive and rigid that it threatened to suffocate their ability to realize new forms.  Such a crisis does not need more stories, poetry, and theory—more information—added to the archive in traditional modes, but instead a confrontation with the forms the archive itself takes.  Ulysses, Palimpsest, and the XXX Cantos, because of the complex literary, textual, and media effects they exhibit, represent a radical intervention in the logic by which information is organized and accessed. Modernist studies has isolated these literary and media effects as the gathering and arrangement of diverse intertextual materials for a long time.  This study adds to this body of work by arguing that these textual elements were assembled according to a definable associational logic, a practice which developed in reaction to the information overload.  Joyce, H.D., and Pound, experimented with integrated literary techniques, material media effects, and associational logic that together create texts that forecast the development of databases as a media platform and information organization method.

[1] Stephens traces the origin of the term “information overload” using Google Ngrams:

Google’s Ngram Viewer gives an idea of the increasing frequency with which the term appears in the Google Books database.  “Information overload” first began to appear in journals of psychology and organizational management around 1960.  The term is sometimes traced to Bertram Gross’s 1964 The Management of Organizations, but clearly circulated in a number of contexts prior to this. … Gross in turn cited Vannevar Bush’s 1945 “As We May Think” as the earliest theorization of the problem.  The rise of information theory in the 1940s, accompanied by figures such as Bush, Alan Turing, Norbert Wiener, John von Neumann, Claude Shannon, and Warren Weaver, brought with it far-reaching implications.  Like the computer itself, the postwar notion of information overload could be said to emerge at the complex intersection of military, corporate, and educational interests. (Introduction).

Stephens explicitly ties the overload of information to the expansion of technical sectors of information production and management, which he argues affected individuals making art in the period.

[2]  Despite his prescient recognition of the importance of these new methods for approaching literary history, Eliot’s model for integrating elements from the past into present literature fundamentally misunderstands the dilemma that information overload presents.  The archive’s very size makes what he prescribes as the author’s responsibility to the tradition impossible.  In “Tradition and the Individual Talent” T.S. Eliot writes that interaction with the tradition begins with

the historical sense … [which] involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and with it the whole literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. (956)

Eliot carefully conserves the “pastness” of the past, but also suggests that from the present, an author needs to internalize the “whole of literature” in order to discern her place in it.  It is important too, that Eliot sees the tradition beginning with Homer.  The information overload that confronted authors in the modernist period significantly complicated this model for interacting with the tradition.  This is not to suggest that Eliot’s essay speaks for modernism, or that he was necessarily correct in his assessment of the dynamics of borrowing from the past and the literary tradition’s function during the modernist period.  If anything, his approach to these questions is in line with his general cultural conservatism.  “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” and to a lesser extent, “Ulysses, Order, and Myth” have accumulated a certain purchase in the subsequent periods of literary criticism.  The printing of “Tradition” quoted above appears in the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, a volume that selects representative examples of commentary and theory from each period stretching from Aristotle to contemporary radical feminism such as bell hooks.

[3] In her article, “Information Overload and Database Aesthetics” Kristin Veel clearly states the difference between the chronological and informational methods of organizing information in the archive:

The ‘principle of provenance’, according to which records of the same provenance should not be intermingled with records of other provenances, was established as the dominant organizational principle in the early nineteenth century.  It replaced the earlier ‘principle of pertinence’, according to which archives were arranged by their subject content, regardless of their provenance or original order.  In the second half of the twentieth century, the organization of information faced new challenges, as well as increased possibilities, with the advent of digital databases; stripped of its physical tangibility and digitized, the same record could be made accessible in more than one context, and both provenance and subject content were no longer necessarily mutually exclusive as organizational principles.  Databases thus increased the number of possible combinations of data.  Today, reflections on the organization of information in an archive are invariably linked closely to issues of information overload—a condition that databases are designed to counter at the same time as they contribute to it. (308)

Veel also points out that databases do not necessarily provide any actual solutions to information overload.  This is an important point, and one that is clearly obvious in the twenty-first century where the presence of databases seems to have had little effect on the intensity of information overload.

Eliot, T. S.  “Ulysses, Order and Myth.”  Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot.  Edited by Frank Kermode. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1975, pp. 175-178.

Flack, Leah Culligan.  Modernism and Homer: The Odysseys of H. D., James Joyce, Osip Mandelstam, and Ezra Pound.  Cambridge UP, 2015.

Rando, David.  Modernist Fiction and the News.  Palgrave, 2011.

Stephens, Paul.  The Poetics of Information Overload: From Gertrude Stein to Conceptual Writing.  U of Minnesota P, 2015.  Kindle E-book.  


Music List:
1. Nymphs II/Nymphs III/Fight (Nymphs IV) – Nicolas Jaar
2. To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
3. Have You in my Wilderness – Julia Holter
4. Art Angels – Grimes
5. Dark Energy – JLin
6. Body Complex – Heathered Pearls
7. Gode – Andre Bratten
8. Talk from Home – Suzanne Kraft
9. At Long Last A$AP – A$AP Rocky
10. Elaenia – Floating Points
11. Apocalypse, girl – Jenny Hval
12. Hunch Music – Hunee
13. Summer ’96 – Vince Staples
14, Pomegranates – Nicolas Jaar
15. M3LL155X – FKA twigs
16. The Planet – Young Ejecta
17. Floods – Aris Kindt
18. s/t – Levon Vincent
19. The Hydrangeas Whisper – BOOF
20. Blues: The ‘Dark Paintings’ of Mark Rothko – Loren Connors
21. SOL – Eskmo
22. Viewlexx – Gestloten Cirkel
23. Utakata No Hibi – Mariah
24. Cole Dub – Time Wharp
25. Sacred Ground – Howling
26. Every Open Eye – Chvrches
27. Platform – Holly Herndon
28. Glass Piano: Phillip Glass – Bruce Brubaker
29. For Acquantice – Rrose
30. La visite – Etienne Jaumet
31. In Colour – Jamie xx
32. Sometimes I Sit and Think… – Courtney Barnett
33. Obsidian – Benjamin Damage
34. E mo tion – Carly Rae Jepson
35. Val Maira – Dave DK
36. Expressions – Linkwood
37. Stay Home – Submerse
38. s/t – Natalie Prass
39. Deep Into the Iris – Braids
40. Discreet Desires – Helena Hauff
41. Vulnicura – Bjork
42. Ten Love Songs – Susanne Sunforde
43. Grim Reaper – Panda Bear
44. Claustrophobia – Scuba
45. s/t – Nocturnal Sunshine
46. Sprained Ankle – Julien Baker
47. Prom King – Skylar Spence
48. Home. House. Hardcore – Head High
49. I Love You Honeybear – Father John Misty
50. Inevitable – Natasha Kmeto
51. 5 – FP Oner
52. Computer Controlled – Aphex Twin
53. The Beyond/ Where the Giants Roam – Thundercat
54. Fading Love – George Fitzgerald
55. The Epic – Kamasi Washington
56. Foam Island – Darkstar
57. Modern Warfare (Eps 1-3) – Special Request
58. Beauty Behind the Madness – The Weeknd
59. Corn – Arthur Russell
60. Radom – Pole
61. Impossible Romance – Visionia
62. Captain of None – Colleen
63. O. K. – Eskimeaux
64. Ilmaq – John Luther Adams
65. Houti Kush – RAMZi
66. Hallucinagen II – Kelala
67. Versammlung 1 – Wolfgang Voight
68. s/t – Hauntologists
69. A Year With 13 Moons – Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
70. Late Night Tales – Jon Hopkins/Various
71. King of Anxiety – Petite Noir
72. Honeymoon – Lana Del Rey
73. Simple Sounds – Jim O’Rourke
74. The Waterfall (Deluxe) – My Morning Jacket
75. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – Drake
76. Homesick – Matrixxman
77. Carrie and Lowell – Sufjan Stevens
78. Solo – Nihls Frahm
79. Dumb Flesh – Blanck Mass

Song of the year: Nicolas Jaar “The Three Sides of Audrey and Why She’s All Alone Now”

After a listen this morning, Colleen Captain of None would be upper 30’s lower 40’s. I slept on it in the second half of 2015, but I don’t want to move it up and change all the numbers below it. I would also like to include more rap, but I don’t have as many opportunities to listen to it because the lyrics interfere with my concentration while I work.


I am in the very beginning stages of a new digital project in which I will put the skills I have learned as a member of the Modernist Journals Project staff to use on A Draft of XXX Cantos.  I will use ABBYY 11 to OCR A Draft of XXX Cantos (thanks to TU Copy for those scans).  The Finereader files ABBYY creates will allow me to create viewable and searchable PDFs of the text for the future.  For now, I am most interested in the text files ABBYY creates.  I will be pulling the full text of these early cantos into Oxygen XML Editor and then using TEI markup language to create new ways of searching, arranging, and most importantly, sharing the text.  The project will end up being part of a dual format chapter in my dissertation tentatively entitled Database Modernism.  My dissertation examines the role of what I’m calling database aesthetics as well as textual and formatting experimentation in modernist literature.  Using TEI to attach metadata to Pound’s Cantos is an attempt to enact the text’s interfacing ambitions, close the gap between print and digital ontologies, and describe how these innovations of literary modernism on both the formal and content levels forecast late twentieth and early twenty-first century media culture.

My new timeline is up so please visit and poke around.  I hope to have a methodology and justification for the project soon, but for now it is what it is.  This is an open source project so if you have any interest in contributing please let me know at  


Here is the link:


Please also visit my pages on this wordpress having to do with the project for more explanation of what it represents.


researching, writing, triathloning


Manuscripts, materiality, method: a research network

Text and Medium: Intro to Digital Humanities

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