Invited Talks

This is a summary of my invited lectures and presentations.

Twitter Literature: Practices and Methods of Using Twitter Data in Literary Research

November 25, 2018

Event sponsored by the Digital Scholarship Group at Northeastern University.

From Text to XML: Digitizing and Encoding Books

October 20, 2018

Event sponsored by the Department of English at the University of Virginia.

Collaboration through Praxis

March 15, 2018

Event sponsored by the University of Virginia
Scholars’ Lab.

Human Machines and Mechanical Humans: Approaching Robotics through the Humanities

November 07, 2017

Event sponsored by TEDx Charlottesville.

Talk published online.

How to Survive and Thrive in Graduate School

October 15, 2017

Event funded by the University of Dallas
English Department.

Highbrow or Lowbrow? Considering the Gothic and Digital Literature

March 05, 2017

Event funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

For a reflection of the talk, visit the Digital Humanities @ Washington and Lee blog page.

Below are national and international conferences at
which I have presented.

The Global Networks of Twitter Literature

March 16, 2019

Conference Paper, Contemporary Literature, Information Technologies, and Participatory Culture Seminar, American Comparative Literature Association; Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

In Twitter and Tear Gas, Zeynep Tufekci argues that Twitter has enabled networks of protest on a global scale previously unseen. Yet these global networks are not just ones of protest; recently, Twitter has increasingly served an international literary community. To measure the change in the global writing network on Twitter, I scraped Twitter using Python scripts and Twarc (developed by DocNow), for hashtags related to the writing community (such as #fictioncommunity). The data I gathered showed that between 2014 and 2017, there was a 600% increase in the use of Twitter as a space for literary engagement; in 2017 alone, over 600,000 tweets were identified as related to the writing community. This data thus indicates a growing literary culture that is fusing literary and social concerns in a public and visible way. My paper seeks to reexamine the circulation and implications of world literature enabled by Twitter as a literary platform. The global reach of Twitter has been augmented by the robust Twitter translation community; Twitter is thus defining an alternative structure of globality that breaks down national and cultural borders. In turn, this alternative globality has profoundly altered the shape of the reading public along socioeconomic and generational lines. Using both aggregated data and readings of particular tweets, my paper calls for sustained scholarly attention to the use of social media as a force that is redefining the global literary community.

Augmenting the University: Using Augmented Reality to Excavate University Spaces

June 15, 2018

Poster Presentation, DH2018, Mexico City, Mexico

Project collaborators: Monica Blair, Ankita Chakrabarti, Victoria Clark, Tanner Greene, and Spyros Simotas.

Project description published in: Digital Humanities 2018, Puentes-Bridges: Book of Abstracts. Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (June 2018): 600-601.

Fictionalizing Appropriation: Kamila Shamsie’s Ethics of the Other

March 25, 2018

As scholars from Spivak and Said to writers such as Shriver and Fee have shown, the issue of Othering and cultural appropriation is an ethically fraught one, and arguments both for and against it are gaining in strength. Yet Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie stakes out a middle ground, one that is also rife with ethical implications. Questioning why American writers and intellectuals fail to incorporate Pakistani characters and figures in their works, she states: “The moment you say, a male American writer can’t write about a female Pakistani, you are saying, Don’t tell those stories. Worse, you’re saying, as an American male you can’t understand a Pakistani woman. …She’s other. Leave her and her nation to its Otherness.” Shamsie suggests that exclusive writing within one’s own “group membership” fundamentally rests upon an ethical failing. Indeed, while her novels echo concerns with (post)colonialism and speaking, Shamsie uses the affordances of storytelling as a way of overcoming – or at least mitigating – the Othering that is endemic to the creative act of imaginatively entering the life and being of another. In so doing, Shamsie positions herself between the views of art-as-appropriation and appropriation-as-ethically-irresponsible. Reading Shamsie’s 2014 novel, A God in Every Stone, against questions of (trans)national identity, I examine the ethical implications and repercussions of both the necessity of – and the limits to – the imaginative appropriation of the Other.

Multimodal Translation: The Ethics of Interpreting W.G. Sebald’s Novels

October 15, 2017

With the incorporation of photos in his narrative texts, W.G. Sebald has presented a unique challenge to translators, for his work has fused documentary, memoir and fiction. Sebald himself oversaw the layout of photos within his work, and critics such as Stefanie Harris have emphasized the vital role that these images play by forcing the reader to “ask how [the images] might function with and against the language of the text.” Yet despite this vital role, translators have largely ignored the placement and layout of Sebald’s photos. Scholar Noam M. Elcott has stated: “The nuances of Sebald’s startling layouts (as well as his radical use of languages) virtually have been eliminated in English translation and passed over in silence by critics and scholars.” In other words, because of the inattention that both translators and scholars have paid to images and layout within Sebald’s novels, an integral part of Sebald’s texts has been lost to non-German-reading audiences. I therefore argue that, just as it is incumbent upon the translator to take social, cultural, and political backgrounds into account, so too should translators attend to the modalities of the literary text. Indeed, with the rise of technology and the increasing growth of multimodal literature – literature that incorporates a range of literacies, including linguistic, visual, and topographical – scholars have begun to address the design of such multimodal texts and the ways in which such texts both enable and resist readerly constructions of their storyworlds. Drawing upon these theories of multimodal literature, I use Sebald’s The Emigrants (Die Ausgewanderten) – a novel that exemplifies the difficulties of cross-cultural communication – to argue for modality as both an essential factor in translation and an essential part of translation studies.

World Wide Writing: Digital Humanities Meets World Literature

July 15, 2017

Technology has profoundly changed global networks and literary systems. Indeed, writers have begun using technology as an integral part of their storyworlds, thereby transforming both the role of the writer and the role of the reader/user. The twitter fiction and Instagram narratives created by Teju Cole, for instance, are dependent upon collaboration between author and reader for their creation. Indeed, for his twitter story, “Hafiz,” Cole relied upon 31 of his friends to tweet out parts of the story, which he then retweeted in order to compile the story as a whole. Cole states: “‘Hafiz’ was a small attempt to put a number of people into a collaborative situation, to create a ‘we’ out of a story I might simply have published in the conventional way.” Digital spaces are increasingly used as collaborative publishing platforms that are not bound by economic, national, or linguistic boundaries. The global reach of digital and technological advancements is thus defining an alternative structure of globality that is divorced from national and cultural borders, and this alternative structure of globality has profoundly altered the shape of the reading public along socioeconomic and generational lines. Using Teju Cole’s experimental work as exemplar, my paper focuses on how what I am preliminarily calling “born-digitally-global” literature (to riff off of Kirshenbaum and Walkowitz) necessitates a world-wide audience that is defined not by nation but by particular online or digital communities. In so doing, my paper confronts how changes in technological literature are creating an alternative structure of globality that fundamentally relies upon collaboration.

Experimenting with Globally-Digital Spaces

October 15, 2016

Even as contemporary fiction in English has proliferated with the rise of digital literature and online publishing platforms, so too has the global turn in literary studies resulted in an explosion of Anglophone texts that jostle for well-deserved albeit limited attention within the academy. Indeed, this global turn is attested to by the recent establishment of prizes for international Anglophone writing, including the Man Booker International Prize, inaugurated in 2005, and the Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes, first awarded in 2011. Although the establishment of such prizes suggests that we can select among these works based upon literary merit or aesthetic values, I propose to read the digital and global trends in literary studies against one another: The resulting collection of texts showcases a contemporary Anglophone literature that is aware of itself as a technological production tied to a particular moment in literary history rather than to a particular locality. More specifically, these texts employ a “both-and” approach, relying upon traditional publishing platforms (no matter how international the dissemination) while including new media elements that extend beyond print to reach the burgeoning generation of digital readers. Such works range from Ruth Ozeki’s online “book trailer” for A Tale for the Time Being to Ali Smith’s incorporation of images and “Google poems” in Artful, from David Mitchell’s creation of a live Twitter account for one of his characters in Slade House to Kamila Shamsie’s use of a digital, interactive map to supplement A God in Every Stone. Even as these texts experiment with new technologies and print platforms, so too do they problematize scholarly conceptions of world literature that rely upon a geographically-locatable origin for its production and circulation. Thus, rather than proposing a theory according to which we should read contemporary literature, my paper offers these “globally-digital” Anglophone texts as representative of the experimental and technological problems and trends raised by contemporary literature.

Multimodal Worlding and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being

May 01, 2016

In The World, the Text, and the Critic, Edward Said defines a text’s “worldliness” as its existence as a form “always enmeshed in circumstance, time, place, and society,” and he further defines the reader’s positioning of the text within these bounds as an act of “worlding.” While not used as a way of categorizing world literature, Said’s concept of worlding and textual worldliness accords well with César Domínguez, Haun Saussy, and Darío Villanueva’s recent call for a definition of world literature that “answer[s] social and cognitive needs” by taking into account the content in a text – rather than merely its circulation and consumption – whereby it positions itself as a work of global scope. Yet even as they gesture toward the text’s social and cultural engagement as a fundamental feature of world literature, these scholars gloss over the print technologies that are the necessary material platforms upon which every text is constructed. Indeed, current studies of multimodal literature – literature that incorporates a range of literacies, including linguistic, visual, and topographical – has attempted to address both the design of such multimodal texts and the ways in which such texts both enable and resist readerly constructions of their storyworlds. Drawing upon theories of multimodal literature, I argue for a reassessment of world literature that takes into account the material platforms of print through a process that I call “multimodal worlding.” Ultimately, I show how the global reach of a text is dependent upon the material, printed platforms in which its storyworld is manifest. I use Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being as exemplary text, analyzing it in relation to the logical, psychological, ontological, and extensional implications of multimodal worlding.

Reconstructing Faulkner’s World: The Fictional Status of the Chronology and Genealogy in Absalom, Absalom!

July 01, 2015

Published in 1936, Absalom, Absalom! is perhaps William Faulkner’s most radical experimentation in the perspectivism of story-telling. Each of the four primary narrators – occasionally supplemented by a fifth, extradiegetic narrative perspective – tells of Thomas Sutpen, reordering and reinterpreting the events of this story to correspond with his or her personal understanding of the South and the Sutpen family. While these narrative perspectives comprise the bulk of the novel, Faulkner also included an appendix to Absalom, Absalom! consisting of a chronology, genealogy, and map. Most scholars have regarded these end materials as “crutches for the reader of a difficult book,” as John E. Bassett has pointed out, and indeed, Peter Brooks has called them “traditional schemata for the ordering of time and experience.” Yet in 1946, Faulkner sent another appendix to his publishers to be included in the Random House reprinting of The Sound and the Fury, writing, “When you reprint The Sound and the Fury, I have a new section to go with it. …When you read it you will see how it is the key to the whole book.” Faulkner regarded his appendix not as a mere crutch for the reader, but as an integral part, a “new section,” of the work itself. This view of his materials in turn suggests that, rather then serving as a means by which the reader can follow the events of the Sutpen story, the appendix of Absalom, Absalom! plays an integral role in the actual telling of the Sutpen story. In this paper, I argue that Faulkner designed the chronology and genealogy not as supplementary documents, but rather, he formally patterned them upon Biblical chronologies and genealogies even as he deliberately introduced textual variations within the end material. This argument has two primary implications: First, that textual discrepancies in Faulkner’s works – particularly those between the text of the novel and the appendices – are often intentional; and second, that these appendices and other so-called extra-textual material – including such items as Faulkner’s map of Yoknapatawpha and Edward Shenton’s original 1955 illustrations of Big Woods, which Faulkner himself critiqued and caused to be revised – are essential extensions of Faulkner’s story-worlds. This paper draws upon archival research from the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin in order both to examine the original manuscript and typescript copies of the chronology and to reassess the editorial practices surrounding the publication of the appendices of Absalom, Absalom!.

Articulating a Literary Space: J. M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians as World Literature

March 10, 2015

In an interview with Tony Morphet, South African writer J. M. Coetzee questioned the relationship between critical discourse and the positioning of a writer within a national space. Indeed, critics have insisted upon reading Coetzee’s work as an allegory for apartheid South Africa (Ann Waldron Neumann) and a historical narrative for the colonization of Africa (David Attwell). Other critics, such as Derek Attridge and T. Kai Easton, have acknowledged the tension that such nationalistic readings develop between Coetzee’s work and his professed global purposes. This tension between critical categories and the writer’s self-professed aims mirrors the theoretical debate between post-coloniality and globalization. Pascale Casanova has redefined this conceptualization by detailing the development of “literary capital” and outlining the struggle of minor literatures by stating that writers working within these spaces are forced either to assimilate themselves “within a dominant literary space” or else differentiate themselves “on the basis of a claim to national identity.” Yet whereas Casanova traces the effects that these restrictions have upon the development of literature within minor literary spaces, Coetzee uses his novel Waiting for the Barbarians to exploit the tension between differentiation and assimilation in order to posit an alternative model for the position and circulation of literature within a global community of writers. In doing so, Coetzee references and rewrites works of the Western canon, thereby deconstructing the center-periphery model governing the global-national discourse. Focusing upon Waiting for the Barbarians, this paper explores intertextuality and the circulation of texts within world literature.

‘The noise of voices’: ‘Oxen of the Sun’ and Information Theory

June 11, 2013

To account for the stylistic diversity of Ulysses, numerous critics have devised theories regarding the narration of the novel. David Hayman argues for the stylistic unity of Ulysses by positing the presence of an “arranger” with a meta-point-of-view. Hugh Kenner, on the other hand, accounts for the multiplicity of styles by conceiving of two narrators who blend the voices of the characters into their own, famously dubbing this practice the Uncle Charles Principle. More recently, Margot Norris addresses this issue from the stance of Possible Worlds theory, discussing the effect of the “narrative consciousness[es]” on the construction of the fictional world. All of these theories presume the hypothetical presence of some narrating agent or agents, with distinct voices, points of view, and “consciousnesses.” Yet “Oxen of the Sun,” the episode most splintered by shifting narrative positions and radically diverse styles, challenges this concept of narrating agents. Indeed, the stylistic virtuosity of “Oxen” resembles a textual network in cybernetic terms, displaying narrative characteristics of pattern/randomness, signal/noise, entropy/information. While critics such as Louis Armand and Daniel Ferrer have used cybernetics to analyze hypertextuality and the working of the content of the narrative, I examine cybernetics on the narrative level itself. My paper thus assesses the narration of “Oxen” not through a traditional notion of narrator or narrative consciousness, but through cybernetics, informatics, and network theory.

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