Reading Digital Literature: A Subject Between Media and Methods

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Simanowksi's overview essay describes the agenda of part one, "Reading Digital Liteature" of the Reading Moving Letters collection: to gather semiotic readings of digital literature that provide future readers of these varied aesthetic forms with sophisticated theoretical and methodological tools for intepretation. While doing so, it provides short glosses of key concerns addressed in the essays from this section. One overarching concern is how to strike the correct critical balance when reading literary works in which natural language is often subsumed by other semiotic flows: how can the critical reader address medial specificity without sacrificing an interest in a work's linguistic properties, which, traditionally, have been at the forefront of literary study? Like much of Simanowksi's critical writing on digital literature, the essay aims to enable scholars and critics to produce meaningful, analytic interpretations of works of digital literature, rather than simply empirical descriptions of their functional interactions.


Pull Quotes: 

The question of when to call a specific aesthetic phenomenon digital "art" rather than digital "literature" may be accompanied by the question of how much text such a phenomenon must contain in order to still call it "literature."

[A] more appropriate question may be how the audience engages with a piece that contains letters without being reduced to pure text. If the piece still requires reading as a central activity, we may call it digital literature.

Though the study of digital literature, no doubt, ought to take into account non-linguistic features of the text (navigational, interactive, performative, multimedia aspects) that are no less definitive of its literariness, it should not... emphasize medial specifics at the expense of the concrete object.

[E]ven though a work of digital literature and art may be the unpredictable result of the audience's interaction with the work and with each other, the specific mode of interaction is designed and controlled by the artist; often symbolically enough to reflect its deeper meaning.

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Eric Dean Rasmussen