A Beam of Light: Reading the Portuguese Electronic Literature Collection

Critical Writing
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Year: 
2014
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Abstract (in English): 

This intervention presents an analysis of the Portuguese Electronic Literature Collection (PELC) I have been curating since August 2013 in the ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base. By aggregating and expanding existing records in the database and creating new ones, I have been developing a research collection that addresses the Portuguese creative and theoretical production since the 1960s in the broader field of electronic literature. The PELC uses resources from ELMCIP and PO.EX, the Digital Archive of Portuguese Experimental Literature, led by Rui Torres at the Fernando Pessoa University.
The standard format of a research collection within the ELMCIP KB enabled me not only to gather creative works and critical writing, but also other content types such as people, organizations, publishers (publishing houses and journals), databases and archives, and events (e.g. conferences, festivals, performances and exhibitions). As an extra media contribution, the collection contains a video interview to Manuel Portela and Rui Torres recorded during the ELO 2013 conference in Paris, bringing into question some of the important characteristics, influences and future directions of Portuguese E-Lit.
The Portuguese avant-garde from the past fifty years was marked by the PO.EX movement, a movement of experimental writers gathered around two main anthologies – Poesia Experimental 1 [Experimental Poetry] (1964) and 2 (1966) – exposing concrete poetry, conceptual literature, sound poetry, “object-poetry,” performances and happenings. From the 1960s until the late 80s, this heterogeneous movement increased and expanded the notion of media experimentation, from videopoetry to computer-generated literature, computer poetry and infopoetry. In this sense, E.M. de Melo e Castro’s videopoem Roda Lume (1968) is a pioneer example of combined text, sound and moving image, forerunning the WWW’s hypermedia poems. In the 1980s, besides his theoretical production, Melo e Castro developed a series of electronic videopoems called Signagens (1985-89) and gave rise to infopoetry (1979-onwards). In the same period, Silvestre Pestana developed his Computer Poetry series (1981-83), programming three visual animated poems in a Spectrum. However, it was Pedro Barbosa who introduced computer-generated literature in Portugal with two theoretical volumes of cybernetic literature, A Literatura Cibernética 1 (1977) and 2 (1980), which also contained a selection of the output texts (poetry and fiction) generated in a mainframe computer with FORTRAN and BASIC languages. Moreover, Barbosa created the text generator “Sintext” (1992-99), published various monographs such as A Ciberliteratura: Criação Literária e Computador (1996) and launched the electronic opera AlletSator (2001). Since the WWW, the panorama of Portuguese e-lit has been growing, mainly through the activity of Antero de Alda, Manuel Portela and Rui Torres. Torres has been creating several digital poems remixing appropriated literary databases and directing the journal Cibertextualidades.
My analysis of the PELC is therefore based on previous critical writing and reads Portuguese creative works using light not only as a poetic unifier element in the dematerialization of word and image in electronic media, but also as the symbolic beam of a corpus that ought to expand our horizon.

(Source: Author's Abstract)

Critical writing referenced:

Titlesort descending Author Year
Cibertextualidades 2 2007

Databases/Archives referenced:

Titlesort descending Organization responsible
ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base ELMCIP: Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice, University of Bergen, Electronic Literature Research Group, University of Bergen, Program in Digital Culture
PO-EX.net: Arquivo Digital da Literatura Experimental Portuguesa University Fernando Pessoa

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Scott Rettberg