Aesthetics of Surface, Ephemeral and Re-Enchantment in Digital Literature: How Authors and Readers Deal with the Lability of the Electronic Device

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Abstract (in English): 

Whenever the program of a work, created by an artist, is run by a computer, the digital device necessarily plays a role in its updating process: because of the operating systems, the software and the ever changing speed of computers, the digital device may sometimes affect the author’s artistic project, or even make it unreadable on screen. Thus, readers do not know what they should consider as part of the artist’s intentionality, and what they should ascribe to the unexpected changes made by the reading device of their personal computer. Critics who are in keeping with a hermeneutic approach may ascribe certain processes, actually caused by the machine, to the artist’s creativity. What is more, authors lose control over the evolution of their work and the many updates it undergoes. Thus, the “digital” artist is given four options when dealing with the lability of the electronic device, which will be described in this article by close readings of The Dreamlife of letters by Brian Kim Stefans, Revenances by Gregory Chatonsky and La Série des U by Philippe Bootz.

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On a five year old i-book, the sporulation [in "Dreamlife of Letters"] is clearly visible; on a recent macbook, the animation is run slightly faster, and the sporulation seems less visible; on a more powerful non-portable computer, it becomes even imperceptible! In this particular case, the reader is given no opportunity to grasp the meaning the author wants to convey. He is not even able to guess it, for there is no theoretical paratext to warn him about the fact that certain surface events may become invisible (482).

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Alexandra Saemmer