Lyric Recollection and the Preservation of Ephemeral and Social Elit

Abstract (in English): 

Though not an ideal solution, lyric reflection can be a significant method of preserving electronic literature. Having lost Flash, one solution is mimetic: a technical project resulting in a faithful copy of the original work, allowing the work to be experienced in all its particularity and interactivity. Failing that, footage, screenshots, and thorough, plainly descriptive writing can make a long-term accessible record so that at least that space in the genre’s history can be seen and understood by future generations. What happens, however, when a work a work features elements of ephemerality? On a computational level, this can happen to a far greater degree than with a traditional print book. Outside of rare tragedies, we can retrieve an old text from the archives, but we cannot retrieve the experience of, for instance, Multi-User Dungeons in the late 1990s. Lyric recollection, however, provides a literary model for securing something very close to the experience of the work.

Two particularly notable sources here are William Wordsworth for an early example and Indra Sinha for a specifically elit example. In his preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth wrote, “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility … the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquility gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.” The poem, therefore, is not located in the original experience nor is it trying to be a mimetic copy of it. In the tranquil reflection, however, the poet is able, ideally, to capture the process of remembering so clearly that a new instance of the original type of emotion is actively produced by this new virtual encounter. In a similar way, Sinha records 1990s MUDs in his 1999 memoir The Cybergypsies, carefully shifting between forms to recreate the imaginative depth of the experience. We might also imagine a lighter form of this in the wild success of Façade – which parallels something of the social, writing-based experience of MUDS – on YouTube.

Pavel Curtis suggests in 1997 that “it is difficult to properly convey the sense of the experience in words. Readers desiring more detailed information are advised to try mudding themselves” (124-5). Writing such as Sinha’s presents a model for how we might preserve important elements of generational and platform-specific electronic literature for future personal, authorial, and scholarly consideration. Such writing about personal online experience was popular around that time. In 2020, Anna Weiner’s Uncanny Valley and Joanne McNeil’s Lurking indicate a return to this more broadly. Among more formal archival efforts, in imagining a long literature history of elit for the future, lyric narratives – particularly in incorporating instances of the computer text as in Sinha – will inevitably play a significant role in how future generations ephemeral and social elit works.

(Source: Author's own abstract)

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Lene Tøftestuen