An essay by George MacBeth for the Electronic Book Review
Avoiding the “twin pitfalls of either Luddite dread or AI boosterism,” in this paper for the Electronic Book Review George MacBeth offers a close Re-Reading of the Canadian poet David Jhave Johnston’s epic ReRites project (a year long, 12-volume long “emotional science project” co-authored with a bespoke GAN). The paper uses this work to explore the vicissitudes and aporias of what the author terms “techno-graphomania,” or what has elsewhere been called “algo-literature” or “algo-poetics.” It reads Jhave’s ambitious project alongside other modernist works of creation via conscious erasure (such as Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning), and informational glut/overproduction or entropy (such as Hans Haacke’s News or Peter Manson’s Adjunct: An Undigest). It seeks out the lyricism in Re-Rites’ generative logorrhoea or lesesucht, while also critically interrogating the dangers and/or limitations of such an ongoing creative entanglement with large language models (LLMs). It concludes by rereading Ezra Pound’s “Caesarian operation” on an earlier iteration of T. S. Eliot’s Wasteland drafts – with the assistance of Wayne Kosternbaum and Marshall McLuhan – as an analogue to these contemporary “algo-literary works [which] resituate human authorship as the act of extracting form through erasure of a prior work or identifying meaningful patterns in the output.”
Full Citation: MacBeth, George. “‘A Shifting Surface World’: The Techno-Graphomania of David Jhave Johnston’s ReRites”, Electronic Book Review, April 2, 2023. https://electronicbookreview.com/essay/a-shifting-surface-world-the-techno-graphomania-of-david-jhave-johnstons-rerites/.