Born Digital: Writing Poetry in the Age of New Media

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This study investigates Anglophone digital poems, created with and disseminated through digital computer media, for their visual, kinetic, and textual practices. I seek to articulate an analytic method grounded in close readings of selected poems. I have chosen to focus on poetic practices that raise questions about spatiality, temporality, kineticism, and word-and-image construction. My chief interest lies in how poetic form is orchestrated and what forms of engagement these digital constructions present the reader with. Underlying the main arguments of this study is an understanding of literary works in general as materially, culturally, and historically situated entities. Such “attention to material” is brought to bear on the digital poems that I analyze. Building upon N. Katherine Hayles’s notion of a “media-specific analysis,” I propose a materially specific analysis. In line with this proposition, I investigate particular properties of three clusters of poems. I propose terms such poemevents, cinematographic poems, and visual noise poems. A common feature of digital poems is the multisensory experience created through visual, auditive, tactile, kinetic, and textual artifice. The reader’s level of interaction is often of utmost importance. To articulate the different roles that the reader has to take on, I use two compound terms: reader/user and reader/viewer/listener. I argue that the active embodied engagement that is required of the reader/user in some digital poems and the denial of an active participation in others is part of the works’ materiality. Digital poetry as a field is expanding; it would not be too daring to claim that the exploration of the writing of poetry in the age of new media has only begun. I conclude the thesis by looking forward to what might lay ahead, how literary scholarship can be inspired by digital poetic work, and the questions about literary materiality that it poses. See thesis presentation at

Critical writing referenced:

Title Author Year
Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary N. Katherine Hayles 2010
Platform Studies Series 2009
Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms, 1959-1995 Chris Funkhouser 2007
Jim Rosenberg’s Diagram Poems Series #3: A Few Preliminary Notes on Translation Issues Arnaud Regnauld, Hélène Perrin 2007
The Aesthetics of Net Literature: Writing, Reading and Playing in Programmable Media 2007
Curating Ambiguity: The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One Scott Rettberg, Franz Thalmair 2007
Electronic Literature: What is it? N. Katherine Hayles 2007
The Problem of Form: Transitoire Observable, a Laboratory for Emergent Programmed Art Philippe Bootz 2007
The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age Sven Birkerts 2006
Code.surface || Code.depth Rita Raley 2006
Expressive Processing: On Process-Intensive Literature and Digital Media Noah Wardrip-Fruin 2006
New Media Poetics: Contexts, Technotexts, and Theories 2006
First Person: New Media as Story, Performance and Game 2006
Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One 2006
New Philosophy for New Media Mark B.N. Hansen 2006
New Media Poetics: As We May Think/How to Write Adalaide Morris 2006
Beyond Taxonomy: Digital Poetics and the Problem of Reading Talan Memmott 2006
Writing the Virtual: Eleven Dimensions of E-Poetry Stephanie Strickland 2006
Hypertext 3.0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization George P. Landow 2006
Rhetorics of Surface and Depth in Digital Poetry Anna Katharina Schaffner, Andrew Michael Roberts 2006

Platforms referenced:

Title Developers Year initiated
Flash 1996
BASIC 1964
APL (A Programming Language) 1964

Publishers referenced:

Title Location
The MIT Press
55 Hayward Street
02142-1493 Boston
United States

Events referenced:

Title Date Location
E-Poetry 2007 20.05.2007
Le cube Issy les Moulineaux, Paris 8 University
2 Rue de la Liberté
93200 Saint-Denis

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Patricia Tomaszek