Lineages of German-language Electronic Literature: the Döhl Line

Abstract (in English): 

There are numerous essays and reviews on German-language electronic literature, which run from the mid nineties to the present day. Most of these texts, however, are written in German – a language that is no longer accepted and common as an universal language for science.

In order to present the overview of German language electronic literature, we filtered out some historical lines that may explain better how the development of individual genres came about. A good starting point may be the very first experiments of authors with computers to generate electronic poetry, a subject the international community mostly agrees upon.

The following model of historical lines of development is suggested:

  • Concrete Experiments
  • Collaborative Writing and Authoring Environments
  • Hypertext: From Hyperfiction to Net Literature
  • Code Works
  • Blogging and more  

A historical analysis shows that these  five lines of net literature are based upon two prior German strands going back to philosophical, poetical and artistic experiments in the 1960s: On the one hand, the Stuttgart School by Max Bense with exponents Reinhard Döhl and Theo Lutz, the latter producing a first example of digital poetry in 1959. On the other hand, the computer graphics experiments of 1960 and the punched-card linker projects by artists Kurd Alsleben and Antje Eske in Hamburg.

  • Stuttgart School or Group (Bense/Döhl/Lutz etc.) > Stochastic Texts
  • Hypertext/ Mutuality (Alsleben, Eske) > Computer Graphics, Linker

 The presentation for ELO Paris 2013 introduces this model of lineage for the development of German-language electronic literature. Taking time- and textspace constraints in consideration, the foucus is set on the strand „I Stuttgart School“ and the line „1. Concrete Experiments“. For all other lines the sympathetic reader finds  descriptions and historical examples in the essay „From Theo Lutz to Netzliteratur“ in Cybertext Yearbook 2012.

 The presenter has been part of the net literature community that spans Germany, Austria and Switzerland as a researcher, publisher and artist for twenty years.

(Source: Author's abstract, 2013 ELO Conference:

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Scott Rettberg