Information Multiplicity: American Fiction in the Age of Media Saturation

Overview

"With the birth of information theory and cybernetics in the late 1940s and early 1950s," writes John Johnston, "a decisive step was taken toward the immense techno-scientific transformation of the world into coded bits of 'information' and machinic assemblages." Beginning with Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, the novels that have reflected this transformation have similarly assembled disparate bits of information and narrative into fictions saturated with data and transcribed "clips" from media such as ...

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Overview

"With the birth of information theory and cybernetics in the late 1940s and early 1950s," writes John Johnston, "a decisive step was taken toward the immense techno-scientific transformation of the world into coded bits of 'information' and machinic assemblages." Beginning with Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, the novels that have reflected this transformation have similarly assembled disparate bits of information and narrative into fictions saturated with data and transcribed "clips" from media such as motion pictures, television, recordings, and computer files.

Realism having thus fractilized into high-speed collage, thought itself is redefined from the High Modernist "stream of consciousness" into what the machine psychologist Daniel Dennett refers to as "multiple drafts" or "circuits" operating concurrently in the human brain. In a series of close readings, Johnston traces how this viral influx of information into human consciousness has been replicated in works by Thomas Pynchon ( Gravity's Rainbow and Vineland), Joseph McElroy ( Lookout Cartridge), William Gaddis ( J.R.), Don DeLillo ( Libra), and William Gibson ( Necromancer).

From John Johnston's Introduction: "Information multiplicities are profoundly corrosive of older cultural forms and identities, dissolving both subjects and objects alike into systems, processes and nodes in the circuits and flow of information exchange. But they also bring about new kinds of energy and even strange new forms of 'artificial life.'... Contemporary culture—or more specifically what is called postmordern techno- or cyberculture—is a restructuring process that can similarly be described: as an artifactual space created when information re-structures modern or traditional culture in order to make it a better habitat for information."

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

Making thoughtful use of Deleuze, Guattari, and even Baudrillard, Johnston offers a learned yet clear analysis; this volume will become indispensable to college and university collections of literary criticism.

Choice

Making thoughtful use of Deleuze, Guattari, and even Baudrillard, Johnston offers a learned yet clear analysis; this volume will become indispensable to college and university collections of literary criticism.

Booknews
Johnston (English, Emory U.) analyzes works by Thomas Pynchon (Gravity's Rainbow and Vineland), Joseph McElroy (Lookout Cartridge), William Gaddis (JR), Don DeLillo (Libra), and William Gibson (Neuromancer), in light of definitions and theories proposed by Claude Shannon, Norbert Wiener, Daniel Dennett, and Deleuze and Guattari. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801857058
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Pages: 307
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

John Johnston teaches in the department of English at Emory University.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Pt. I Writing (in) the Machinic Universe
1 The Literary Assemblage: Writing Machines and Late Capitalism 11
2 Information and Mediality: The Novel as Psychic Apparatus 31
Pt. II The Novel of Information Multiplicity
3 Rocket-State Assemblage: Gravity's Rainbow 61
4 Narration, Delirium, Machinic Consciousness: Lookout Cartridge 97
5 Capitalism and Entropic Flow: JR 123
Pt. III The Novel of Media Assemblages
6 Fictions of the Culture Medium: The Novels of Don DeLillo 165
7 An American Book of the Dead: Media and Spectral Life in Vineland 206
8 The Disappearance of Media: Cyberspace in Neuromancer 233
Coda: "Change for the Machines": The Complexity of Bodies in Synners 257
Notes 267
Index 297
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