Scalable Autobiographical (Re-)Mediations: the Challenge of Hyper-nonfiction Writing in Joan Didion’s The White Album, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Sara Suleri’s Meatless Days

Mauro Carassai


The paper shows how selected works of pre-internet American autobiographical nonfiction already presupposed forms of cognitive mapping more typical of recent epistemological developments in the field of digital humanities. By means of a renovated focus on the too-often overlooked potentialities of early electronic literature, my analysis sheds light on the possibility of reenvisioning hypertext as a tool able to mediate the reading experience between the impersonal approach of so-called distant reading more typical of empirical sciences and the subjectiveoriented practice of close reading in the humanities. The second half of the paper narrows its focus on highlighting the ways in which these narratives challenge the capabilities of human cognition. As a whole, my study hopefully illustrates how it is mainly the task of the reader – especially the critical reader – to recognize and make visible in traditional printed texts a number of germinal technological features that not only had not been envisioned or conceived of as such by their authors but that allow us to reconfigure our views on the current characterizations of digital technologies used for macroanalysis of large-scale data sets.


autobiographical nonfiction; digital humanities; American literature

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