This paper attempts to evaluate the legacy of James Joyce’s avant-gardism for the literary experimentation of Mark Amerika, Kenneth Goldsmith, and Mark Z. Danielewski, three contemporary American writers and artists, working a hundred years after the first of Joyce’s crucial four “shocks of the new” shook the foundations of fiction. In doing so, the paper attempts to bridge the divide between the historical avant-garde and the neo-avant-garde as defined by Renato Poggioli and Peter Bürger, and regarded disparagingly by critics like Robert Hughes. Positing a threefold legacy of Joyce’s “revolution of the word” in its treatment of writing as trace, forgery, and idiom, the paper discusses Amerika’s Grammatron, Goldsmith’s uncreative writing, and Danielewski’s House of Leaves as continuing in and expanding on the achievements of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. This they achieve by pursuing what Marjorie Perloff has termed “differential poetics” and N. Katherine Hayles has rethought as “Assemblage” – two poetic strategies dominant at the beginning of the 21st century.
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