On Reading 300 Works of Electronic Literature: Preliminary Reflections

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Abstract (in English): 

Note: Tabbi's essay was posted on July 22, 2009, on the online forum On the Human, hosted by the National Humanities Center where it generated 35 additional posts. It was reprinted, along edited versions of these responses, in Beyond the Screen: Transformations of Literary Structures, Interfaces and Genres (Transcript, 2010). These responses are archived separtedly in the ELMCIP Knowledge Base As "Responses to 'On Reading 300 Works of Electronic Literature: Preliminary Reflections.'"

Pull Quotes: 

[T]he often-noted "obsolescence" of works published in perpetually "new" media is an institutional and cognitive problem as much as a technological challenge.

Whatever transformations the Humanities undergo in new media, a condition for the field's possibility has to be the ability to re-read, and the freedom to cite, the work of peers and precursors.

An evolving glossary of electronic literary terms... has to be applied to works consistently and with an awareness of tag clouds forming throughout the Internet... Moreover, the terms will have to change as the kind of work produced in electronic environments change, and these changes can be tracked.

What scholars can then construct is not so much a universal set of categories defining 'electronic literature,' 'net literature,' or 'digital or online literature,' but rather a practice capable of producing a poetics.

What I'm reading, for the most part, doesn't often differentiate between between 'critical' and 'creative' writing; the most prolific e-lit authors are also programmers and designers who seem to be as comfortable conversing with scientists and technologists as with other writers.

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Eric Dean Rasmussen