Editing Modernism in Canada


June 9, 2010

The Reflex

I’ve been discovering this week at DHSI that I don’t really know what I talk about when I talk about digital humanism. As someone who also talks about modernism, and Canadian modernism, and labour, and print, this fogginess is nothing new. It might even be productive.

The tools we are encountering, and the ways in which we work through them, are restructuring the ways we think about text, and place, and time. Our conversations about the digital realm and the boundaries of our various disciplines are a key part of relating to these very technical concepts and grappling with the future we are propelled toward. But we’re also talking about the way we relate to modernity and how the issues we are confronting right now are also a way of reaching through to the earlier moment that we have taken up as modernists.

I have been considering the ways in which modernist print betrays anxieties about modernity through reflexive styles of rhetoric and form. Giddens has discussed how modern self-conceptions depend on constantly ordering and re-ordering social relations to accommodate continual knowledge input. It is a process of selection and shaping – not determinism; the modern actor is self-defined and highly conscious of the world around her. I’ve been considering the conversations floating around DHSI, and our own para-conversations here and elsewhere, as part of a reflexive field. As a researcher, I have to redefine myself and my position constantly to account for new tools and approaches. As a reader, I begin to connect texts and ideas in ways I was blind to before. As a conscious actor, I have to try to filter through a world of potential to find what has meaning to me and what fits to who I am. The reflex, as I experience it, is about redefining oneself as much as it is about kickback. It’s destabilizing, and exhilarating.

Vanessa’s post reflecting on the ways TEI’s structures work to enforce typographic codes, even as these codes were challenged by many modernist writers, shows so much insight into the way our tools can force us to re-think our texts – or to reify what was once revolutionary. I want to consider our conversations in the same way. I become absorbed in the intensity of a good conversation, and have had a few already. I am an inveterate gesturer. Pub stools make for good conversational bases. I want our conversations to flow back and forth from screen to stool and back again with fluid boundaries. I will do my best this week to seek out more voices and challenge more of my thoughts on these tools and approaches. I invite you to join me (and to try to convince me about Twitter…)!

3 Responses to “The Reflex”

  1. Dean Irvine says:

    Please tell me you’re making a Duran Duran allusion with your title. I’d love to talk more about Giddens and reflexive modernity, but my mind is now completely caught up in thoughts of Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, and John Taylor. Yes, and the drummer and guitar player I never really cared about. (Did I mention that The Reflex video was shot in Toronto?)

  2. Andrea Hasenbank says:

    This is why you are Fearless Leader, Dean.

    Yes – Duran Duran ftw. John Taylor, occasionally with a hat, is my favorite. This one’s for you!


  3. Vanessa Lent says:

    Do I foresee a collaborative paper entitled from Medazzaland to Metadataland on the horizon? Did I take it too far?

    Andrea, you’ve hit the nail on the head here for me with reflexive modernity. The TEI class is so fascinating but I find myself distracted from the details with thoughts of what the bigger implications of such text-wrangling are for us as scholars and readers of modernism. I eagerly anticipate these conversations, in person, on bar stools, and virtually, here in our online community.

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