Novel-Virus Viral Novels and the Irony Poisoning of Social Media Engagement

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines Twitter novels during two years of the coronavirus pandemic from 2020 to 2022 in order to glean a sense of historical change in culture and the role of fiction in the broader flow of discourse. The distinction between factual and fictional narratives has never been completely clear. The digital timelines of cultural production that spew forth on social media provide remarkable lenses through which to pose the question of mediated cultural, historical, or social turning points because their metadata stamps of time and location seemingly provide clear contexts and intertexts. But the archives of digital literature streaming during significant cultural events-3.11, the #metoo movement, or the current global pandemic-reveal the return of a rash of old problems of literary study (authenticity, authority, responsibility, literariness) disguised in the new medium as though unprecedented. Of course, there is nothing absolutely new about the blurred lines of fact and fiction that appear at moments of media shift and remediation. Drawing on a database of over 50,000 twitter novels, this chapter examines coronavirus-related literary discourse through the lens of “irony poisoning,” a phenomenon whereby repeated exposure to ironic discourse gradually numbs readers to irony, resulting paradoxically in acceptance of the very ideas those ironic statements were meant to criticize. These novel-virus viral novels document a literary history in new media that, while not fundamentally altering our vision of either fictional truth or fake news, can at least help us see the tension between them with more clarity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Coronavirus Pandemic in Japanese Literature and Popular Culture
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781000953244
ISBN (Print)9781032376356
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences

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