Arakelian 02/03/2014


Ed Folsom, "Database as Genre: The Epic Transformation of Archives." PMLA 122.5 (Oct 2007), 1571-1612

Folsom’s analysis brings attention to the issues in cataloging genre. The focus of his article is Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. He uses Whitman’s work to demonstrate how Leaves of Grass crosses the boundaries of multiple genres and how attempting to pin the work down to one genre categorically limits the piece. Folsom uses his critique of genre in order to describe the fractal and rhizomorphous potential of works and how such configurations can impact the archiving of databases.


Genre, generic, fractals, fractal databases, database, narrative, database versus narrative, Whitman, Leaves of Grass, archive, rhizomorphous

Key Cites

Maovich, Lev. The Language of NEw Media. Cambridge: MIT P, 2001.
Dimoch, Wai Chee. Through Other Continents: American Literature across Deep Time. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2006.

Crucial Quotes

“Rigidity is a quality of our categorical systems, not of the writers or usually the works we put into those systems” (1571)

“fractals may be the most useful analogue for how to map gen...Fractals push us not away from the particular and toward the universal (to return to Whitman’s struggle to define the term genre) but rather toward a universality of particulars” (1573-1574)

“The battle between database and narrative that Manovich posits explains something about the way Whitman’s poems work, as they keep shifting from moments of narration to moments of what we might call data ingestion” (1575)

Questions Raised by the Text

What are some present day examples of data base versus narrative scenarios?