Better with the Sound On; or, The Singularity of Reading and Writing Under Constraint

Abstract (in English): 

This essay rewrites and overwrites, with all the political and creative connotations those terms contain, Joseph Tabbi’s essay "Electronic Literature as World Literature, or, the Universality of Writing under Constraint" through the lens of disability. Using three small case studies, I explore the concept of digital accessibility through the concepts of defamiliarization and writing under constraint.

Electronic literature uses defamiliarization to provide a powerful force against the mainstream digital media, considering reader engagement and reflection in its success rather than attention counted in time and size of the audience. Using Eugenio Tisselli's The Gate as a case study, I argue that for a work to defamiliarize, its authors need to consider what is familiar to a variety of audiences.

In electronic literature, the practice of writing under constraint is widely accepted as a creative catalyst; through self-imposed textual restraints, we find new meanings and forms. I argue that through, constraints can become meaningful the lens of disability because you have to interrogate your medium by making it more accessible. I use Franci Greyling's Byderhand as an example.

Not everything is for everyone, but one must still think through which groups of people are systematically excluded. Through the case study of Lyle Skains' No World 4 Tomorrow, I argue that considering accessibility is key in successfully addressing the intended audience.

Finally, I take a broader perspective to interpret accessibility of electronic literature as an example of speculative interfaces.

(author abstract)

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Hannah Ackermans