A Stretch of the Imagination: Transforming Writing Under Constraint into an Inclusive Practice

Abstract (in English): 

In electronic literature, the practice of writing under constraint is widely accepted as a creative catalyst; through self-imposed textual restraints, we find new meanings and forms. At the same time, some of us are often reading and writing under constraint due to various disabilities. Yes, we can describe electronic literature as “formally inventive” in its wide use of multimedial writing, but no text or its reception is purely formal because it is always material, situational, and embodied as well.

Bringing up accessibility of these texts generally leads to a knee-jerk reaction: "I don’t want to be limited", "it would stifle my creative freedom", or, god forbid, "why does everything have to be so politically correct?" What if we move past this initial resistance not toward denial, rejection, or a resigned compliance, but with the same creative energy that we allow other forms of writing under constraint?

This essay rewrites Joe Tabbi’s essay “Electronic Literature as World Literature, or, the Universality of Writing under Constraint” through the lens of disability. I explore the concept of digital accessibility by speculating upon what accessible electronic literature can be.

(Conference abstract)

Pull Quotes: 

Although there are a variety of approaches to electronic literature, there is a persistent assumption that difficulty raises quality.The request for accessibility, then, leads to two dismissive reactions: On the writing side: but will that limit me?
On the reading side: but it is supposed to be difficult.

The philosophy behind writing under constraint is that you tap into creativity you would otherwise not have found, a newfound interrogation of what media and stories are and could be. The constraint is often random, like not using the letter e, but through the lens of accessibility, the constraint can become meaningful because you are interrogating your media by making it more accessible.

Works referenced:


A Stretch of the Imagination: Transforming Writing Under Constraint Into an Inclusive Practice

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Hannah Ackermans