Extending modernist stream-of-consciousness aesthetics: Digital variations on William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury

Abstract (in English): 

In the development of The Sound and the Fury (1929), William Faulkner proposed using coloured text to help the reader navigate the work’s stream-of-consciousness. Subsequent editors and textual critics have produced colourized versions of Faulkner’s novel. Inspired by these colourized print texts, the born-digital novel Little Emperor Syndrome (2018) was developed. This digital literary work and practice-led research explores the potential of born-digital modes to reimagine modernist stream-of-consciousness through recombinant poetics as defined by Bill Seaman (2001). Little Emperor Syndrome utilizes a stream-of-consciousness style inspired by the first and second (Benjy and Quentin) chapters of The Sound and the Fury. Using recombinant poetics, this digital text also allows the reader to recombine the text (or lexias) in various modes: ‘stream-of-consciousness’ (i.e. similar to Faulkner’s style), ‘cosmos’ (chronological), and ‘chaos’ (random). In Digital Modernism, American media theorist Jessica Pressman (2014) juxtaposes born-digital literature with the modernist period because of substantial points of connections between early 20th-century modernist literature and early 21st-century digital texts. This article does likewise. Through textual criticism, digital scholarship, and practice-led research, this article reimagines Faulkner’s modernist stream-of-consciousness. Following Pressman’s theory of ‘digital modernism,’ this article proposes that the digital recombinant poetics proposed by Seaman and exemplified in Little Emperor Syndrome represents an expression and extension of the high modernist aesthetic utilized by early 20th-century authors such as Faulkner.


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David Wright