Modernist Digital Humanities

Whereas mainstream digital techniques reflect a naïve quantitative positivism;

Whereas that positivism appears as a realism—as claim of representational fidelity—in the midst of modernist analysis;

Whereas critical self-reflexivity calls for

Whereas it seems modernist digital humanities has


stepped past that threshold into thingness;

It Seems that the digital humanities use a methodological realism to investigate artistic modernism.

It Seems inappropriate that we would pursue methodological realism to the exclusion of methodological modernism.

But if realism requires or suggests

Then is naïve, chauvinistic positivism even realist at all?

What would a better methodological realism look like?

What would a methodological modernism look like?

Taking seriously the discontinuities of

does not require

jettisoning mathematics

so much as
skewing or reimagining

numbers, planes, scales, and graphs.

We whisper in your ear a great secret:
they have been symbols all along.

If you value
statistical rigor
above all things,
we can wait as you click off and wish you well.

Now then.

We can decouple
methodological strategies from
the content of the objects
we study.

is stopping us
from using
modernist methods
for understanding
realist texts.


realist methods
for understanding
modernist texts.

There’s not necessarily a debt to be modernist with a
modernist text.

(unless debt is how you manage your cognitive economy, in which case enjoy your symptom!)

Modernist digital strategies should themselves be

(once upon a time)

you thought modernist style was worthy of your

attention and curiosity.

Yes, perhaps it’s been awhile since modernist style last took you out for a nice dinner or really looked into your eyes, like really looked into your eyes, but we humbly suggest it may be about that time you basically ignored modernist style when it clearly needed to have a serious talk about what happened back there, or that time you forgot to bring that special goat cheese back from the store, the kind that modernist style wanted to warm up and put on some lightly dressed arugula for a simple but satisfying supper.

We can reconfigure works from other time periods through modernist methods. Modernism therefore becomes a digital strategy that can inform

What might it look like to read other movements and centuries through methods latent in modernism?

we then be able to extract
a true theory of modernism—
a modernist mode of analysis?

The heightened reflexivity purchased by trying to develop modernist tools for modernist texts and modernist cultures will ensure that the specter of modernism in all its

will be more vivid & there at every stage of a

we boil down
the realist novel
the bildungsroman
the scientific romance
the epic poem
the manifesto
the stream-of-consciousness novel
into sets
natural expressions
that we can use to
translate texts into different genres?

Genres Become Algorithms
A Machinic Narratology

Isn’t this still rather metaphorical, you ask.

Of Course.

But the figurations are natively literary

Do get back to us when you assemble persuasive arguments that consist exclusively of things that provably exist in front of you right now. Perhaps you can drop them on your foot or run into them to ensure they are not metaphors.
Send pictures of the bruises!

Let loose generic imperatives and literary movements and lists of formal characteristics of modernism. They do not need euthanasia; they need to get let out in the air, out of their cells, deployed through digital humanities approaches to deform texts of interest.

We continue to invest in the heavy industry of making machines out of literary theory.

It’s okay, really.
When was the last time you wrote/said/argued,
“Jameson/Latour/Haraway/Agamben/Sedgwick/D&G wrote/said/argued”?
Probably yesterday.
Don’t let’s lie to each other

So in addition to importing interpretive machines from other disciplines, use those detested periodizations *

* you don’t really detest them, btw, it just sounds legit & heavy when you interrogate, problematize, and complicate them

as imperatives that invade other periods, other genres.

We can decouple
methodological strategies from
the content of the objects
we study.

Or recouple them
sure, whatever.
So long as you rekindle that
with modernist style,

we’re just happy
you’re happy.