This Is Not the Beginning or the End of Literature

Abstract (in English): 

It is too easy to fall into prognostications of electronic literature as the end of literature or as a new beginning. (...) Such views imply too much teleology, and see electronic literature purely as the unfolding of the possibilities of the apparatus. The rhetorical logic at work is literalization, i.e. taking literary works as the sum of their technical features. (Rui Torres & Sandy Baldwyn, eds. 2014. PO.EX: Essays from Portugal on Cyberliterature and Intermedia. Morgantown, WV: Center for Literary Computing: xv-xvi).

Our panel title, adapted from Manuel António Pina’s poetry book (1), serves to interrogate our notions of literary art today, when we consider its current production and distribution through various media (printed codex, programmable media, digital platforms, Internet, social networks). The ironical paradox contained in the phrase “it is just a little bit late” seems to suggest the idea that not much has changed despite the so-called “big changes” (in the case of Pina, it is relevant to know that his work was published in 1974, the year of the Portuguese revolution). Taking his ironical premise into the field of literature, it is legitimate to ask ourselves how literary art has changed across these media incarnations, how meaningful is “the electronic” for a definition of literature, what changes are actually significant, and how they impact on notions of author, work, reader and literary experience. The papers in this panel offer three perspectives on the end(s) of electronic literature and may be described as attempts to de-literalize its technical apparatus.

(1) Manuel António Pina (1943-2012). The title of his poetry book is “Ainda não é o fim nem o princípio do mundo calma é apenas um pouco tarde” [“It’s not yet the beginning or the end of the world remain calm it’s just a little bit late”]. This book was originally published in 1974.

(Source: ELO 2015 Conference Catalog)

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Hannah Ackermans