Representations of the Digital in Swedish Literature

My dissertation project deals with representations of the digital in Swedish literature between 1950 and 2010 and aims to trace how these representations are manifested as themes, motifs and metaphors.

Academic research on digital technology and literature tends to focus on works that you either can read in a digital interface or that are “born digital”. Literary scholars have long been occupied with the differences or similarities between printed and digital. What interests me is instead how the gradual transition from analogue to digital affects literary narration. Literary works are not isolated from changes in society but on the contrary closely linked to them. Media technologies are not just empty vessels that carry a message in a neutral way, they affect to a high degree how we express ourselves, even what we can think, or as Marshall McLuhan puts it: “The medium, or process, of our time – electric technology is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life. It is forcing us to reconsider and re-evaluate practically every thought, every action, and every institution formerly taken for granted.”

A preliminary thesis for my project is that a pre-digital and a digital discourse exist that effect not only what you can write but also how we are writing, and that these two discourses can be find in the literary representations of the digital. Since this approach to the digital has not been explored to the fullest in a Swedish context before I will have to begin with a mapping of in what books representations of the digital can be found. The main material in the project will consist of literary works, novels and poetry, but also literary criticism and cultural debate that explore the digital in different aesthetics forms. This inventory will then work as a departure point for further analyses of possible topics that are central for the project’s thesis, such as:

– The rise and fall of language and communication – Code and alphabet.
– Cybernetics and cyborgs – the relationship human-machine.
– Big machines and electronic brains – Utopias vs. dystopias.
– New interfaces, new writing modes – reconfigurations of the codex.