Intersecting Approaches to Electronic Literature: Close-Reading Code, Content, and Cartographies in “William Poundstone’s “Project for the Tachistoscope: [Bottomless Pit]”

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

What does it mean to close read electronic literature? Should one closely engage the screenic content, the programming code, or the operating patterns of a work? This panel proposes that critical analysis need not be limited to one approach or one focal point of attention, and seeks to demonstrate what can be gained when scholars collaborate to apply multiple methodologies to engage a single work. All three panelists will read the same work of digital literature, William Poundstone’s “Project for the Tachistoscope: [Bottomless Pit]” (EL Collection, vol.1), but using three different critical methods with the collaborative goal of approaches that mutually inform and enrich each other. Jessica Pressman will approach the Flash-based animation from the lens of traditional literary hermeneutics, close reading the onscreen literary aesthetics to explore the relationships between form and content as well as locate the points of aporia and mystery that traditional reading strategies are left struggling to explain. Mark Marino will follow by using Critical Code Studies to open up the programming practice of the work and present a close reading of the underlying code in ways that further and complicate points of analysis made by Pressman. Finally, Jeremy Douglass will use information visualization to display the work in decidedly new ways, repurposing the “text” and Pressman and Marino’s analysis of it in ways that push the readings in new dimensions. The three papers will intersect and speak to one another as they work together to present a critical close reading of a digital literary work in ways that espouse multiplicity, multimodality, and collaboration as critical methodologies. The proposed format is three brief speed-presentations followed by a discussion amongst the panelists that shows how the various methodologies inform and inspire reconsideration and further analysis of the arguments made in the initial presentations. This cycling back through to the panelists will take the form of an interwoven, back-and-forth discussion amongst the speakers.

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Audun Andreassen