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The Poetics of Information Overload

From Gertrude Stein to Conceptual Writing

2015
Author:

Paul Stephens

The Poetics of Information Overload

What does avant-garde poetry have to say about information technology? A lot.

The Poetics of Information Overload reveals a fascinating genealogy of information saturation through the literary lens of American modernism. By reading twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature in the context of information systems, Paul Stephens shows how the poetry of the past century has had, as a primary focus, the role of data in human life.

‘Isn’t the avant-garde always technological?’ asks Paul Stephens in this exciting book, which poses key questions and ventures revealing answers at every turn. He offers one of the freshest and smartest perspectives on the past century’s avant-garde, as well as an exceptionally clear view of the most exigent poetry from our contemporary moment.

Craig Dworkin, University of Utah and author of No Medium

Information overload is a subject of vital, ubiquitous concern in our time. The Poetics of Information Overload reveals a fascinating genealogy of information saturation through the literary lens of American modernism.

Although technology has typically been viewed as hostile or foreign to poetry, Paul Stephens outlines a countertradition within twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature in which avant-garde poets are centrally involved with technologies of communication, data storage, and bureaucratic control. Beginning with Gertrude Stein and Bob Brown, Stephens explores how writers have been preoccupied with the effects of new media since the advent of modernism. He continues with the postwar writing of Charles Olson, John Cage, Bern Porter, Hannah Weiner, Bernadette Mayer, Lyn Hejinian, and Bruce Andrews, and concludes with a discussion of conceptual writing produced in the past decade.

By reading these works in the context of information systems, Stephens shows how the poetry of the past century has had, as a primary focus, the role of data in human life.

Awards

Honorable Mention: Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present Book Prize

The Poetics of Information Overload

Paul Stephens has taught at Bard College, Emory University, and Columbia University. He edits the journal Convolution and lives in New York City.

The Poetics of Information Overload

‘Isn’t the avant-garde always technological?’ asks Paul Stephens in this exciting book, which poses key questions and ventures revealing answers at every turn. He offers one of the freshest and smartest perspectives on the past century’s avant-garde, as well as an exceptionally clear view of the most exigent poetry from our contemporary moment.

Craig Dworkin, University of Utah and author of No Medium

Well-documented and elegantly written, Stephens's book demonstrates the vitality of literary and poetic studies in the age of big data criticism.

Leonardo Reviews

Enthralling and rigorous.

Neural

The Poetics of Information Overload

Contents

Preface: Stars in My Pocket Like Bits of Data
Introduction
1. "Reading At It": Gertrude Stein, Information Overload, and the Makings of Americanitis
2. Bob Brown, "Inforg": The "Readies" at the Limits of Modernist Cosmopolitanism
3. Human University: Charles Olson and the Embodiment of Information
4. "When Information Rubs/Against Information": Poetry and Informatics in the Expanded Field in the 1960s
5. Paradise and Informatics: Lyn Hejinian, Bruce Andrews, and the Posthuman Adamic
6. Vanguard Total Index: Conceptual Writing, Information Asymmetry, and the Data Glut
Afterword. "Proliferating Raw Data": Robert Grenier in the Expanded Field of New Media Poetics
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index