Theoretical Permutations for Reading Cybertexts

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

"Theoretical Permutations for Reading Cybertexts" is a review essay on Markku Eskelinen, Cybertext Poetics: The Critical Landscape of New Media Literary Theory (London: Continuum, 2012), and C.T. Funkhouser, New Directions in Digital Poetry (London: Continuum, 2012). Both books engage new media works and practices in ways that are transformative of the conceptual apparatus and tools of literary theory and literary analysis. Moving between the deep analysis of the Funkhouser’s and the high-level abstraction of Eskelinen’s will give readers an exhilarating sense of just how new media is changing our aesthetical experience and our way of thinking and writing about the textual experience.

Markku Eskelinen’s Cybertext Poetics and C.T. Funkouser’s New Directions in Digital Poetry set new standards for the theory and analysis of digital texts. Eskelinen’s groundbreaking book synthesizes his research of the last decade into a theory for the new media textual condition with profound implications for the entire field of poetics. Through Eskelinen’s transmedial reframing of the operative categories of the field, it becomes clear how certain "universals" of literary theory have been in fact strongly dependent on a limited corpus of print-based situations. Funkhouser’s close readings of digital poetry are also deeply informed by a hands-on poetics of digital writing and reading practices on the web. Building on his historical account of computer poetry, his main concern here is to analyze the multimedia and programmable specificity of post-WWW digital poetry. Eskelinen’s permutational descriptions of the narratological and ludological variables involved in ergodic and non-ergodic works, and Funkhouser’s close attention to the signifying dynamics sustained by the variability of programmable forms extend the critical landscape for thinking about literary poiesis, digital and otherwise.

(Source: Author's abstract at DHQ)

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Scott Rettberg