Black Box:  Spying, Literature, and Surveillance

How is surveillance represented in contemporary literature? My case study is a recent experiment in what might be called the twitter novella: Jennifer Egan’s Black Box, which beginning on the evening of May 24th, 2012 was published as a series of 60 tweets released in ten nightly installments by The New Yorker, then in the print magazine on June 4th. Black Box confronts data-surveillance on its own ground, representing the automatic sorting of data as a personal encounter with the enemy. That it does so digitally is significant. I will argue that Black Box is a covert action, in enemy territory, on the side of literary humanism.

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