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Literary Digital Humanities and the Politics of the Infinite


In the context of relationships between traditional and digital forms of memory and dissemination, this essay discusses two key positions in the digital humanities. The aestheticist position is broadly defined by the extension of literary values into the digital milieu, as it is articulated in the work of Johanna Drucker, N. Katherine Hayles, and Jerome McGann. The populist position rather emphasises engagement with contemporary social media, as it is represented by the work of Pierre Lévy and Henry Jenkins. This comparison is designed to analyse a problematic parity between the two positions that is couched in their conception of archives and texts as being infinite; an infinitude that is political in the sense that engagement with it may facilitate or prohibit subjective agency and collective knowledge. Yet, through deconstruction, this analysis is designed to propose an alternate conception that negotiates the difficult relation between the finite and the infinite aspects of technological memory accumulation, and that poses the possibility of an alternate politics that problematically links the poles of engagement and disengagement with such accumulation.

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