Digital Literature—In Search of a Discipline ?

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Academic research on digital literature was initiated many years ago; researchers and teachers like Jean-Pierre Balpe and Jean Clément at University Paris 8 have provided major contributions to the understanding of electronic poetry, hyperfiction and text generation. They have also managed to integrate digital literature into university courses in Information and Communication Sciences. But most of the Departments of Literature have not supported these educational experiments. Whereas a certain number of specific literary methods undoubtedly prove suitable for the analysis of poetry and narrative texts in electronic media (semiotics, gender and cultural studies, biographical or even thematical approaches), literary studies in France are quite reluctant to deal with digital literature. The ambiguous status of digital works, between literature, visual and performing arts, does not facilitate their integration into one specific discipline either. Thanks to its many specificities—including hypermedia—digital literature involves many creative and interpretative abilities, from film analysis to programming, from rhetoric to sound engineering. The teaching of digital literature undoubtedly requires multidisciplinary approaches: a pedagogical network integrating the Visual Arts , literary studies, musical studies, information sciences, communication sciences, and IT. Digital literature thus makes us dream about a university no longer divided into several disciplines, but providing students with networks of skills. Although there are only a few courses entirely dedicated to digital literature at French universities up to this day, the interpretation of animated or generated artworks and hyperfiction can be successfully integrated in many different pedagogical contexts, thanks to its multidisciplinary character. Three specific classroom situations will be presented in this chapter.

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Alexandra Saemmer