Pleasure and E-Lit: Looking at the Difficult and Unfamiliar in the Undergraduate Classroom

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

In their 2001 book Art with a Difference: Looking at Difficult and Unfamiliar Art, Leonard Diepeeveen and Timothy Van Laar observe “Artwork is not just an object; it is an object (or event) that does something. The most basic thing an artwork does is give its viewers an implicit set of instructions for its use; it suggests ways in which it ought to be experienced” (95).

While not written with electronic literature in mind, the book was designed as a supplementary text for beginning arts courses with an awareness of the difficulty that many beginning or non- specialist readers have in understanding contemporary art. The e-lit classroom can be beset by similar difficulties; even the most avid readers in a class can be puzzled by or resistant to the diverse cognitive and ergodic “reading” activities that accrue under the banner of electronic literature.

In my upcoming Spring 2018 300-level Electronic Literature course, I will be exploring over two dozen pieces of e-lit with a group of upper-level fifteen students who will be keeping a reading journal over course of the term. The journal entries will be published WordPress sites and shared with the class as a whole.

For the purposes of this paper, I propose to work with the “assessment” criteria developed by James Pope in 2010 and recently revisited in his article “Further on down the digital road: Narrative design and reading pleasure in five new Media Writing Prize narratives” published in Convervegence (August 2017). Utilizing Pope’s “assessment” criteria, I will review my students’ reading journals and end-of-term survey responses with the goal of continuing to deepen our collective understanding of how readers react to and make sense of digital storytelling with a particular attention paid to the sites of resistance and potential parallels with the challenges associated with looking at other forms of difficult art. The proposed conference paper will share my findings as well as offering insights into how this course and others might evolve based on the findings with the objective of contributing to the ongoing development of e-lit pedagogies in the undergraduate classroom.

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Li Yi