The American Literary Avant-Garde at the Start of the Information Age
by Todd F. Tietchen
Pub Date 01 Oct 2018
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After the second World War, the term “technology” came to signify both the anxieties of possible annihilation in a rapidly changing world and the exhilaration of accelerating cultural change. Technomodern Poetics examines how some of the most well-known writers of the era described the tensions between technical, literary, and media cultures at the dawn of the Digital Age. Poets and writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Charles Olson, Jack Kerouac, and Frank O’Hara, among others, anthologized in Donald Allen’s iconic The New American Poetry, 1945–1960, provided a canon of work that has proven increasingly relevant to our technological present. Elaborating on the theories of contemporaneous technologists such as Norbert Wiener, Claude Shannon, J. C. R. Licklider, and a host of noteworthy others, these artists express the anxieties and avant-garde impulses they wrestled with as they came to terms with a complex array of issues raised by the dawning of the nuclear age, computer-based automation, and the expansive reach of electronic media. As author Todd Tietchen reveals, even as these writers were generating novel forms and concerns, they often continued to question whether such technological changes were inherently progressive or destructive.
With an undeniable timeliness, Tietchen’s book is sure to appeal to courses in modern English literature and American studies, as well as among fans of Beat writers and early Cold War culture.
“Technomodern Poetics is a deeply engaging study of the relationship between Cold War experimental artists—with an emphasis on literary artists, but also film makers, visual artists, and musicians—and the development of information science and computational media.”—Priscilla Wald, author, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative
“Todd Tietchen’s powerfully transformative account of the post–World War II avant-garde lets us understand and appreciate the technological imagination of some of the period’s most provocative writers and artists. By reading the Beats and other figures for their surprisingly canny engagements with a culture of information—across material practices, historical contexts, and aesthetic innovations—Tietchen reminds us that we still have a lot to learn about how Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, and more made art from the emergence of our digital age.”—Mark Goble, author, Beautiful Circuits: Modernism and the Mediated Life