Udith Dematagoda (Waseda University, Tokyo)
Fellow in Research Area 5: "Building Digital Communities"
July – December 2023
Writing Against the Void: A Computational Approach to Global Modernist Aesthetics
The sociologist Pierre Bourdieu described modernism as the 'institutionalisation' of anomy, a state resulting from the delayed effects of the dual revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries (French and Industrial). Though an incisive description, it requires updating. In common with prevailing Eurocentric theories, it ignores an unevenly experienced process of technological modernisation throughout the world and thus precludes a properly global theory of modernism – one that is too embroiled with a historical period of modernity. The research begins with the hypothesis that modernism must be considered an immanent and ambient aesthetic mode apparent across different literary, cultural, temporal and geographical boundaries. It is a hypothesis that owes much to the illuminating and speculative Planetary Modernisms by the late Susan Stanford Friedman, who presented modernism as a multilingual, cross-cultural archive of comparable aesthetic innovation across historical time and geographical space. By theorising the constitutive elements of this potential 'global modernist aesthetic', the larger project that my time at the Excellence Cluster will inform, aims to apply recent innovations in data science methodologies, artificial intelligence and sentiment analysis to a corpus of curated texts in order to find patterns of (dis)continuity that exist beyond mere temporal notions of the literary text and its historical development.
Udith Dematagoda is a modernist literary scholar and Assistant Professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, based at the Institute for Advanced Study (WIAS). Originally from Scotland, of Sri Lankan heritage, he received his PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2016, and was previously Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Zukunftskolleg at the University of Konstanz from 2017 to 2020. His first monograph, Vladimir Nabokov and the Ideological Aesthetic, was published in 2017, and his second – a study of masculinity, technology and ideology in the work of 'modernist fascist' writers – is forthcoming. Among other places, his scholarly writing has appeared in Modernist Cultures, Studies in the Novel, The Journal of Wyndham Lewis Studies and Angelaki. He is also the editor of Left Wings over Europe, a volume of the Collected Works of Wyndham Lewis, which will be published towards the end of 2023 by Oxford University Press, and general editor of Hyperidean Press, an independent publisher of avant-garde prose and poetry.