Experimenting with Globally-Digital Spaces

Date:

Abstract

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.