Widening the Net: Knowledge and the Novel in the Internet Age (3F029119)
The ever-increasing availability of information, made possible by the Internet today, transforms the way people perceive and acquire knowledge. This project maps the effects of this epistemological shift in the literary form of the novel, hypothesizing that the notion of the sublime helps us understand how literary fiction dramatizes it. The sublime aesthetic, which presents the unpresentable, reflects the way the unfathomable scope of the Internet challenges the imagination. In order to enhance our understanding of how the novel achieves this, I will focus in a selection of Dutch and Flemish novels on two major domains: world and identity. How do characters acquire knowledge about their worlds, and how do they create and manage identities through for instance online interactions? My narrative analysis draws on key concepts from cyberculture theory, such as virtual reality, and links them to narrative categories such as setting, character and narration. In that way, my research will not only improve our understanding of how Dutch literary fiction reflects upon the Internet and how the genre may change because of it. It will also offer a new perspective on the contemporary novel and its responses to an epistemological shift.