The early-twentieth-century information overload, itself the product of changes in technology, media, and global commerce, had powerful effects on modernist literature. Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce, Palimpsest (1926) by H.D., and A Draft of XXX Cantos (1930) by Ezra Pound react to this overload by devising literary, media, and informational techniques to collect and assemble fragments from the literary and historical archive according to an associational logic that anticipates the functions of databases.
Chapter One argues that Joyce’s use of The Odyssey as a framework for Ulysses began as a basis for the novel’s plot but expanded to determine all aspects of the text and overload it with information. This Homeric framework operates as a kind of programming for a series of information management systems Joyce developed to collect and organize the elements he integrated into Ulysses. The interlocking operations of these structures resemble latent information organization tables and interfacing methods of databases.
Where Chapter One focuses on Joyce’s use of Homer, Chapter Two argues that H.D.’s early work engages with ancient materials to form a feminist counter-archive of associationally related texts by and about women from literature and history. To access the obscured women’s tradition, H.D. devised methods whose functions can be illuminated through a comparison with contemporary digital interfaces. These efforts culminate in Palimpsest, which uses the layering metaphor evoked by the work’s title to connect and display the experiences of three women according to informational relationships.
Chapter Three argues that the intertextual elements appearing in Ezra Pound’s XXX Cantos are collected and arranged through patterns he identified in the archive and represented in the poem using strategies that resemble the node and edge structure of graph databases. Using these techniques, Pound recalibrated the archive and expanded the capabilities of print media for organizing and presenting informational elements.
The fourth and final chapter uses digital methods to reveal the underlying informational structures present in the XXX Cantos in a new way. It offers a machine-readable version of the poem marked-up using the Text Encoding Initiative’s encoding language to apply structural and semantic tags which define each intertextual element appearing in the poem. Additional bibliography, prosopography, and gazetteer files provide a linking structure to express relationships between the intertextual elements. This digital version of the poem serves as an embodiment of the argument from Chapter 3, and an application of digital humanities tools for the study of this complex modernist text.