Marginal economies: Media circulation and the material culture of modernism

Timothy Carmody, University of Pennsylvania


My dissertation treats the aesthetics of the object and circulation in modernist literature and film, with a special focus on American poetry and international art cinema. Roughly half is devoted to the history of paper, printing, and office and information technologies beginning in the mid-19 th century, when industrially produced wood-pulp paper, newsprint, typewriting, the fast press, and modern filing and copying techniques emerged alongside the telegraph, photography, cinema, and other new media. In particular, I focus on how the industrial revolution affected the printing industry, decreasing the time and cost required to produced printed material, but also creating a huge demand for paper eventually met by the new process of wood pulping. This contributed directly to the sudden dominance of the newspaper, an explosion of both mass literacy and mass culture, a redefinition of urban space as the cities become plastered with advertisements, and stark changes in the organization and production of literature. As I argue in my first chapter, "The history of modernism is part of the history of paper." The second half of the dissertation transitions from the history of paper to a broader consideration of circulation and materiality. In particular, I am interested in "marginal economies," relationships that aren't quite ones of direct, transparent exchange, but where goods (and occasionally bodies) participate in different regimes of value. Throughout the dissertation, I believe I am able to both bridge gaps and find seams between (1) literary and cinema studies; (2) theories of print and non-print media; (3) early and late modernism; and (4) the study of media and the study of materiality. My goal in negotiating between what could be seen as oppositional approaches is to create unexpected and fertile readings of individual works, figures, movements, and ultimately modernism and modernity.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|American literature|Film studies

Recommended Citation

Carmody, Timothy, "Marginal economies: Media circulation and the material culture of modernism" (2009). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3381502.