Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Jonathan Boulter


This dissertation contributes to the critical expansions that Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Walkowitz identify as New Modernist Studies. This expansion is temporal, spatial, and vertical. I engage with the effects Modernist texts have “above” the page: lived experience. I examine the structural similarity of linguistic metaphor and the mind as considered by cognitive scientists. Identifying the human mind as linguistic and language as an artifact of the human mind, my research extrapolates upon what I call the “psycho-ecology” of reading, a self-representational knot between text and mind that constitutes lived experience. Far from being an abstraction, psycho-ecology is concrete: atypical textual engagement is equated with a transformation in perception. The prologue traces a lineage between Modernism, phenomenology, and the cognitive sciences. The first chapter considers the relationship between two narrative levels in Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The second chapter considers temporal experimentation in Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse (1927) in relation to Martin Heidegger’s formulation of being as that which discloses our experience with language as temporal and finite. The third chapter examines the “sentimental information” of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939) from a phenomenological approach to information theory. The final chapter analyzes Samuel Beckett’s Endgame (1957) as a zero-player game that discloses the limits of agency in psycho-ecology. The dissertation follows a trajectory beginning with the intimacy a reader has with alphanumeric text towards the increasing experience of illiteracy when encountering new languages such as digital code.