In the Mix: The Potential Convergence of Literature and New Media in Jonathan Lethem's "The Ecstasy of Influence"

Zara Dinnen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
364 Downloads (Pure)


This article considers the reinscription of certain ideas of authorship in a digital age, when literary texts are produced through a medium that substantiates and elevates composite forms and procedures over distinct original versions. Digital media technologies reconfigure the way in which we apply such techniques as collage, quotation, and plagiarism, comprising as they do procedural code that is itself a mix, a mash-up, a version of a version of a version. In the contemporary moment, the predominance of a medium that effaces its own means of production (behind interfaces, ‘pages,’ or ‘sticky notes’) suggests that we may no longer fetishize the master-copy, or the originary script, and that we once again need to retheorize the term ‘author,’ asking for example how we can instantiate such a notion through a medium that abstracts the indelible and rewrites it as infinitely reproducible and malleable.1 If the majority of texts written today—be they literary, academic, or journalistic—are first produced on a computer, it is increasingly necessary to think about how the ‘author’ in that instance may be not a rigid point of origin, but instead a relay for alternative modes of production, particularly composite modes of production, assuming such positions as ‘scripter,’ ‘producer,’ or even ‘DJ.’

By embarking on this path of enquiry, this article attempts to produce a theoretical framework though which we can consider how literary textual practices themselves elevate the composite forms of new media, perhaps remediating earlier composite practices such as allusion, quotation, and plagiarism. Bringing these ideas together in relation to a 2007 essay titled “The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism Mosaic” by the United States author Jonathan Lethem, it will argue that Lethem’s essay can be read as a practice of textual remixing and Lethem himself as an ‘author’ who has (re)produced, rather than unequivocally authored, a particular kind of composite work, one connected to and engaged with the discursive particularities of digital media.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-230
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Narrative Theory
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Remix
  • New Media
  • Essay
  • Jonathan Lethem
  • Mark Amerika


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