Archives Unbound: Modern Literature and the Rise of Information Science
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"Archives Unbound: Modern Literature and the Rise of Information Science" complicates a tendency in literary criticism to treat archives as fully integrated systems of power, knowledge and memory. Instead it shows how the early information sciences struggled to administer rapidly modernizing social fields in the Atlantic world between 1883 and 1944. By situating library science and modernist literature within broader cultural and political contests of the period, it argues that modernism developed reciprocal, yet critical, relationships with emergent information regimes such as state archives, national libraries, and the culture industry. The first two chapters explain how the status of factuality changed as information--the most lasting technology of modernism--replaced knowledge at the foundation of epistemic authority. American lynch mobs and Amazonian rubber atrocities provide rich examples of how public credibility in the United Kingdom required transatlantic fact-finding campaigns to adopt discursive forms pioneered by the information sciences. Yet those campaigns also complicate categorical appeals to factuality as a natural species of evidence by showing how "the facts" rely on generic, even literary, conventions to become meaningful. The second half of this dissertation turns from discursive forms to institutional practices by focusing on how two different national libraries used cultural history to secure political futures. As cultural institutions embedded in broader political projects, both the National Library of Ireland and the Library of Congress organized reading publics as if they represented ideal nations. Modernist writers James Joyce and Muna Lee responded by rendering visible the complexity of libraries and their publics, demonstrating how the institutionalization of social antagonisms might strain narrowly conceived nationalism. Drawing on a range of major and minor literary figures, "Archives Unbound" reveals the rise of information science as not only a concern for the technical control of social memory but also the production of cultural fictions that legitimated neo-imperialism.