How the Information Revolution Will Change the Novel

Literature is a reflection of life, situated in the present culture but reflecting its universal values. How will the information age be brought to bear on writers and their works?

What's the Latest Development?


From academia to the novelist's desk, the information revolution is changing the way we write, says Wheaton College's Alan Jacobs. The English professor gives Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story as an example of a modern tale that is primarily about information and how navigating its ever-rising waters changes what it means to lead a human life. And just as academic research requires rigorous research and fact-checking, fiction is becoming more influenced by the availability of vast stores of information that lie just a mouse-click away. 

What's the Big Idea?

In the 19th century, Walter Benjamin noted that if the novel is to remain relevant, it must keep up with information, a form he considered to be larger than fiction itself. Toward this end, Benjamin recommended that novelists break the boundaries separating fact, fiction, memoir and essay. Given today's information excess, novelists risk being seduced by factual information, rather than knowledge gained through experience. Jacobs sees the new role of the fiction writer to be a "resourceful, imaginative and surprising filter for the daily whirl and swirl of information."

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