One Candle, a Thousand Points of Light: The Xanadu Meme

23 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010  

William L. Benzon

Independent

Date Written: March 15, 2010

Abstract

I treat a single word 'xanadu', as a 'meme' and follow it from a 17th century book, to a 19th century poem (Coleridge's "Kubla Khan"), into the 20th century where it was picked up by a classic movie ("Citizen Kane"), an ongoing software development project (Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu), and another movie and hit song, Olivia Newton-John's Xanadu. The aggregate result can be seen when you google the word, you get 6 million hits. What is interesting about those hits is that, while some of them are directly related to Coleridge's poem, more seem to be related to Nelson's software project, Olivia Newton-John's film and song, and (indirectly) to Welles' movie. Thus one cluster of Xanadu sites is high tech while another is about luxury and excess (and then there's the Manchester Swingers Club Xanadu).

Keywords: meme, evolution, cultural evolution, Coleridge, Xanadu, history, culture

Suggested Citation

Benzon, William L., One Candle, a Thousand Points of Light: The Xanadu Meme (March 15, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1578468 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1578468

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