Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Computers were once thought of as number-crunching machines; but for most of us it is their ability to create worlds and process words that have made them into a nearly indispensable part of life. As Jacques Leslie puts it, if computers are everywhere, it is because they have grown into "poetry machines." The term "cyberspace" captures the growing sense that beyond - or perhaps on - the computer screen lies a "New Frontier" both enticing and forbidding, a frontier awaiting exploration, promising discovery, threatening humanistic values, hatching new genres of discourse, and alerting our relation to the written word. The purpose of this book is to explore the concepts of text and the forms of textuality currently emerging from the creative chaos of electronic technologies. The essays gathered here address several needs in cybertext criticism: they engage in a critical, though not hostile, dialogue with the claims of the first generation developers and theorists; they search for a middle ground between a narrowly technical description of the works and general considerations about the medium; they outline a poetics tailor-made for electronic textuality, and they relate cybertexts to the major human, aesthetic and intellectual concerns of contemporary culture. Within the general territory of electronic textuality, they focus on three areas.

Introduction / Marie-Laure Ryan --
Pt.1. Cybertext theory. Aporia and epiphany in Doom and The Speaking Clock: the temporality of ergodic art / Espen Aarseth. Theorizing virtual reality: Baudrillard and Derrida / Mark Poster. Virtual topographies: smooth and striated cyberspace / Mark Nunes. Cyberspace, virtuality, and the text / Marie-Laure Ryan --
Pt.2. Cyberspace identity. Women writers and the restive text: feminism, experimental writing, and hypertext / Barbara Page. "The souls of cyber-folk": performativity, virtual embodiment, and racial histories / Thomas Fisher. The disturbing liveliness of machines: rethinking the body in hypertext theory and fiction / Christopher J. Keep. Postorganic performance: the appearance of theater in virtual spaces / Matthew Causey --
Pt.3. Cybertext criticism as writing experiment. Artificial life and literary culture / N. Katherine Hayles. Virtual termites: a hypotextual technomutant explo(it)ration of William Gibson and the electronic beyond(s) / Lance Olsen. Myths of the universal library: from Alexandria to the Postmodern Age.

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Jill Walker Rettberg