Note status: :evergreen_tree:

In Brief

This is the “topic” list for my comprehensive exam, with links to my own reading notes.

It is 35 “work units” long (countable by searching “work Unit1” without a space), as defined in my program’s PhD Program Handbook.

Book title links go to OpenLibrary’s listings, and article title links go to the most open article versions I can find.


How do we, in modern or postmodern times, make meaning out of texts? To what extent are the experiences we might think of as “our own” interwoven with cultural, legal, or scientific texts?

Since the rise of electronic mass media and World War 1, American authors since have approached these meaningful questions through works that thematize information, and particularly informatics (or systems for information control). The explorations authors have posed through their works have often paralleled insights written more overtly in fields like feminist epistemology, science and technology studies, and critical race theory.

One strategy for depicting information systems and epistemological experiences has been to write “ensemble” novels, which focus less on a single character’s experiences and instead blend those of multiple characters. This exploration has often been conducted in what, at time of publication, were considered “minor genres” like science fiction or less-than-literary venues like trade paperbacks. Works like The Ballad of Beta-2 and Dhalgren expressly blend characters in ways that challenge the readers’ understanding of precisely what has happened in the story. Simultaneously, the works investigate how meaning is conveyed through cultural forms. As one example, The Ballad of Beta-2 revolves around a young anthropology graduate student attempting to decipher a folk song whose meaning appears to have been corrupted during transmission across generations living on slower-than-light star ships. The difficulties interpreting the information conveyed through the song’s text invoke not only the semantic play frequent in blues and jazz traditions, but also W.E.B. DuBois’ interweaving of “Negro spirituals” with other lyrical sources in the chapter epigraphs of The Souls of Black Folk. Works like Dhalgren, Gravity’s Rainbow, and Tropic of Orange destabilize characters and settings, as the texts work through the interplay of military or police control and political or demographic borders. Works like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Snow crash pose questions of the boundaries of bodies and language. While these works do not come from a single “coherent” tradition, genre, or authorial demographic, they consistently explore the questions of subjectivity, and more precisely how subjects subjected to systems of information control make meaning out of their position in multiple systems of meaning.


  1. Asimov, Isaac. Foundation. 1951. Spectra, 1991. (320 pp., workUnit1.)
  2. Delany, Samuel R. The Ballad of Beta-2. 1965. A, B, C: Three Short Novels. Vintage, 2015, pp. 172–262. (90 pp. workUnit1.)
  3. ———. Dhalgren. 1974. Vintage, 2001. (801 pp. workUnit1 + workUnit1.)
  4. ———. Nova. 1968. Vintage, 2002. (241 pp. workUnit1.)
  5. DeLillo, Don. White Noise. Penguin, 1986. (326 pp. workUnit1.)
  6. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 1968. Four Novels of the 1960s. The Library of America, 2007, pp. 435–608. (177 pp. workUnit1.) (My public notes.) :ballot_box_with_check:
  7. Divya, S.B. Machinehood. Gallery / Saga Press, 2022. (416 pp., workUnit1 + workUnit1.)
  8. Erdrich, Louise. The Round House. Harper Perennial, 2013. (321 pp. workUnit1.)
  9. Okorafor, Nnedi. Binti: The Complete Trilogy. Daw Books, 2020. (358 pp. workUnit1.)
  10. Older, Malka. Infomocracy. Tordotcom, 2017. (400 pp. workUnit1.)
  11. Pynchon, Thomas. The Crying of Lot 49. 1966. Harper Perennial, 2006. (160 pp. workUnit1.)
  12. ———. Gravity’s Rainbow. 1973. Penguin, 2000. (776 pp. workUnit1 + workUnit1.)
  13. Stephenson, Neal. Snow crash. 1992. Del Rey, 2000. (440 pp. workUnit1 + workUnit1.)
  14. Yamashita, Karen Tei. Tropic of Orange. Coffee House Press, 1997. (270 pp. workUnit1.)


Theory Books

  1. Benjamin, Ruha. Race after Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code. Polity, 2019. (285 pp. workUnit1.)
  2. Chu, Patricia E. Race, Nationalism, and the State in British and American Modernism. Cambridge UP, 2006. (196 pp. workUnit1.)
  3. Day, Ronald E. The Modern Invention of Information: Discourse, History, and Power. Southern Illinois UP, 2001. (152 pp. workUnit1.)
  4. Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Pantheon, 1972. (237 pp. workUnit1.)
  5. ———. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. Vintage, 1994. (387 pp. workUnit1.)
  6. Hall, Stuart et al. Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order. 1978. 2nd ed. / 35th Anniversary ed. Red Globe Press / Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. (472 pp. workUnit1 + workUnit1.) (My public notes.)
  7. Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. U Chicago P, 1999. (350 pp. workUnit1.) (My public notes.)
  8. ———. My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts. U Chicago P, 2005. (288 pp. workUnit1.)
  9. Hayot, Eric. Information: A Reader. Columbia UP, 2021. (408 pp. workUnit1 + workUnit1.)
  10. Lee, Maurie S. Overwhelmed: Literature, Aesthetics, and the Nineteenth-Century Information Revolution. Princeton UP, 2019. (277 pp. workUnit1.) (My public notes.)
  11. Purdon, James. Modernist Informatics: Literature, Information, and the State. Oxford UP, 2016. (224 pp. workUnit1.) (My public notes.)
  12. Richards, Thomas. The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire. Verso, 1993. (179 pp. workUnit1.)
  13. Tucker, Jeffrey Allen. A Sense of Wonder: Samuel R. Delany, Race, Identity, and Difference. Wesleyan UP, 2004. (344 pp., workUnit1.)

Theory Articles

Batch One (workUnit1)

  1. Budd, John M. “Instances of Ideology in Discursive Practice: Implications for Library and Information Science.” The Library Quarterly vol 71, no 4, 2001, pp. 498–517. JSTOR. (20 pp.)
  2. Colatrella, Carol. “Information in the Novel and the Novel as Information System: Charles Dickens’s ‘Little Dorrit’ and Margaret Drabble’s ‘Radiant Way’ Trilogy.” Information & Culture vol. 50, no. 3, 2015, pp. 339–371. JSTOR. (33 pp.)
  3. Daston, Lorraine. “Objectivity and the Escape from Perspective.” Social Studies of Science vol. 22, pp. 597–618. SAGE. (21 pp.)
  4. Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” pp. 149-–181. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Routledge, 1991. (32 pp.)
  5. ———. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” p. 183–201. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Routledge, 1991. (18 pp.)

Batch Two (workUnit1)

  1. Olson, Hope. A. “The Power to Name: Representation in Library Catalogs.” Signs, vol. 26, no. 3, 2001, pp. 639–668. (29 pp.)
  2. Radford, Gary P. “Positivism, Foucault, and the Fantasia of the Library: Conceptions of Knowledge and the Modern Library Experience.” The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, vol. 62, no. 4, Oct. 1992, pp. 408–424. (16 pp.)
  3. Sekula, Allan. “The Body and the Archive.” October, vol. 39, winter 1986, pp. 3–64. JSTOR. (62 pp.)
  4. Vidhyanathan, Siva. “Afterword: Critical Information Studies: A Bibliographic Manifesto.” Cultural Studies, vol. 20, nos. 2–3, 2006, pp. 292–315. (24 pp.)
  5. Wark, McKenzie. “Information Wants to Be Free (But Is Everywhere In Chains).” Cultural Studies, vol. 20, nos. 2–3, 2006. (18 pp.)

Reading Details

By: Ryan P. Randall
Started: 2024-04-22
Amount read: 5 of 35 works

5 pages
  • :seedling: = emerging note
  • :herb: = established note
  • :evergreen_tree: = evergreen note
  • open access = open access
  • :closed_lock_with_key: = paywalled
  • general web link = general web link

Leave a comment