Irony, Archives, and (Dubious) Posthumanism

I’m currently discussing DFW’s “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction”[1] with my freshman English class, and so of course it was quite appropriate that Christy Wampole just wrote an opinion piece in Saturday’s New York Times, “How to Live Without Irony.”

In hyperarchival news:

To address this issue, the Wikimedia Foundation is collaborating with JSTOR, a service of the not-for-profit organization ITHAKA, to provide 100 of the most active Wikipedia editors with free access to the complete archive collections on JSTOR, including more than 1,600 academic journals, primary source documents and other works. The authors who will receive accounts have collectively written more than 100,000 Wikipedia articles to date. Access to JSTOR, which is one of the most popular sources on English Wikipedia, will allow these editors to further fill in the gaps in the sum of all human knowledge.

And The New Yorker has a piece by Gary Marcus on “Ray Kurzweil’s Dubious New Theory of Mind.”


[1] There are two things to note about this link: 1) it links to a .pdf of the original Review of Contemporary Fiction piece from 1993, so is (perhaps) slightly different than its final appearance in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (1997), and 2) it is dedicated to “M.M. Karr” (Mary Karr), which takes on all sorts of different significances in the wake of Max’s biography of DFW.

ENGLIT 0365: Literature and the Contemporary

I will be teaching Literature and the Contemporary this summer during the second six week session at the University of Pittsburgh. This course examines contemporary cultural expression across a range of forms and media. It investigates the contemporary as both a complex reworking of past narratives and traditions, and as the production of the experimental and the new. In particular, this section of Literature and the Contemporary, subtitled “Human/Machine: Exploring the Posthuman Imagination,” will examine how intersections between human and machine, between the biological and the technological have been represented in a wide range of texts. Beginning with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we will then read significant 20th and 21st century novels that approach questions of posthumanity in complex and often quite shocking ways:

Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2010 [2009]).

J.G. Ballard, Crash (New York: Picador, 2001 [1973]).

Jennifer Egan, Look at Me (New York: Anchor Books, 2002 [2001]).

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (New York: Perennial, 2006 [1965]).

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Norton Critical Edition), 2nd ed., ed. J. Paul Hunter (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2012 [1818]).

Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983).