“The Future Literary: Literature and the Culture of Information”

Citation: “The Future Literary: Literature and the Culture of Information.” Time and the Literary. Ed. Karen Newman, Jay Clayton, and Marianne Hirsch. New York: Routledge, 2002. 61-100.

Excerpt from page 11

The vital task for literary study in the age of advanced creative destruction, I believe, is to inquire into the aesthetic value—let us simply call it the literary—once managed by “creative” literature but now busily seeking new management amid the My highest ambition for cultural criticism and the creative arts, in short, is that they can in tandem become “ethical hackers” of knowledge work. . . . (p. 68)ceaseless creation and re-creation of the forms, styles, media, and institutions of postindustrial knowledge work. In the regime of systematic innovation is the very notion of the literary doomed to extinction if—or, rather, especially if—it begins to venture “creatively” into the province of knowledge work, if it dares to imagine a literature of the database, spreadsheet, report, and Web page? After all, next to the great institutional documents of our times heralding “innovation” in their very logos—all the legions of dot.company prospectuses, Web sites, advertisements, and so on—what could literature be but a minor creativity like a screensaver? [ . . . . ] What is the future of the literary when the true aestheticism unbound of knowledge work—as seen on innumerable Web pages—is “cool”? Cool is the techno-informatic vanishing point of contemporary aesthetics, psychology, morality, politics, spirituality, and everything. No more beauty, sublimity, tragedy, grace, or evil; only cool or not cool.

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