J. M. Coetzee’s aesthetic automatism

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This article traces author J. M. Coetzee’s employment in the computer industry in the 1960s, arguing that this experience was central to the development of his conception of literature and the writing process. Drawing on his archives and on insights from critical code studies, software studies and media archaeology, the article examines Coetzee’s programming work and generation of computer poetry. It places his scholarly interest in literary impressionism and stylostatistics, the topics of his MA and PhD theses, in this practical context and outlines his early engagement in the field of humanities computing. The article demonstrates that one of the major results of his programming experiences was the development of a platform of what I call “aesthetic automatism”, or the redeployment of modernist formalism in an age of computation. This platform attempted to retain aesthetic autonomy by, counter intuitively, acknowledging the constructedness of form and language itself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-337
Number of pages30
JournalMFS - Modern Fiction Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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