World Wide Writing: Digital Humanities Meets World Literature



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.