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MFS: Modern Fiction Studies (2012) - Dirty Media: Tom McCarthy and the Afterlife of Modernism




This essay explores the remainders of aesthetic modernism in the fiction and art of Tom McCarthy. Reading McCarthy as a media archaeologist of the modern, the essay places McCarthy’s work in dialogue with recent scholarly approaches to modernist media environments. McCarthy understands modernism not as a repertoire of forms, or a utopian techno-poetics, but as confrontation between the noble subjectivity of the human and inhuman media. Recalling modernism’s sustained attentiveness to the inhuman, McCarthy’s paean to dirty media aligns his experimental work with the renewed prestige of certain strands of modernism in contemporary media theory.