Andrew Mather – Thinking Expansively: “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock”.

Despite our debates and rationalization, I’ve become increasingly unable to define what “digital” is as this class has progressed over the weeks. Were you to ask me two months ago, I would have simply defined digital as the virtual, the internet and everything on it. Videos, essays, even old poems would be digital, in my pre-college mind, but that description is decidedly unsatisfactory to me now. I still see digital as pertaining to the world of online culture, but I don’t think online culture is digital’s sole descriptor. Benjamin Peters describes digital as more of a term of the 20th century rather than the 21st century, something that pre-dated the internet. When I consider that, I feel it describes the modern more than anything else. Modern culture, trends and lifestyles. And with THAT in mind, I can see “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock” as a digital work.

T.S. Eliot’s poem describes a fairly…not nihilistic scene, but an anxiously real one. “Streets that follow like a tedious argument”, “Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels”, “With a bald spot in the middle of my hair- [They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!]”, it all paints a not necessarily hopeless or pessimistic world, but a truthfully ugly one. It describes a moment in a person’s life, their observations and their worries, from ye-olde motels to thinning hair. It describes his now, his moment. It is the modern of his life. It is the digital of a world without computers. 

I see digital as an internet lifestyle, a virtual reality. And that’s right. Eliot would likely see digital as artsy smokehouses and patients in the sky. And I suppose that’s right too.

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2 thoughts on “Andrew Mather – Thinking Expansively: “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock”.

  1. Andrew,
    I enjoyed reading through your post since I feel the same way you do when it comes to finding a good definition of “digital”. I would have defined it fairly close to what you would have described it as before the class. I completely agree with your statement that ” [the digital pertaining] to the world of online culture, but I don’t think online culture is digital’s sole descriptor.” I do think that digital applies well to the modern world, but I can see where you are coming from in terms of the meaning of “digital” in the older days and how it applies to Eliot’s poem. The digital of the poem is the here and now, the emotion and sensation of the character rather than how it is today with having computers and all the technology that we do have.

    • Andrew and Nina,

      Both of you wanted to emphasize the point “[the digital pertaining] to the world of online culture, but I don’t think online culture is digital’s sole descriptor.” It is because of this point, especially having read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, where I can identify with the logic you both used in associating the poem and digital. With this particular poem, the words and descriptions are so vivid that, if you understand them, they almost paint a picture by themselves. That, in a sense, makes them digital.

      On Andrew’s original post, he comments “I see digital as an internet lifestyle, a virtual reality… Eliot would likely see digital as artsy smokehouses and patients in the sky.” This shows that digital, in itself, can transform meanings as the user sees it. Both of the examples that Andrew uses can be described as digital because they are so complex and different to each person.

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