Towards the study of the literary phenomenon in digital media

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Literature created in digital media exists in a realm whose borders may be changing, malleable, or nonexistent. In this realm, where anything may happen, traditional theories are insufficient to understand the literary phenomenon in non-print platforms. Electronic literature demands an analysis that matches its nature, which does not necessarily coincide with existing theory, since electronic literature exists to be consumed through technologies which have been available just recently and which, by transforming the ways we read and write, challenge the canon of literary form, and establishing a new paradigm for text creation and reading. According to Roger Chartier, “The electronic text revolution is at once a revolution in the technology of the production and reproduction of texts, a revolution in the medium of writing and a revolution in reading practices.” (“Readers and readings in the Electronic Age”) as a corollary, this revolution implies also a new way of approaching the literary phenomenon from a critical perspective.

This paper proposes that a global analysis is possible to understand electronic literary works and how they function within an ever changing digital materiality. The analysis model sustained by this paper is based in four perspectives: materiality, structure, textuality, and sense. Each of these aspects contains a series of guidelines that will help to describe how is it that each of them is manifested in the work analyzed and will provide a set of ideas to be considered during analysis, thusly helping illuminate other unaccounted aspects.

These four perspectives rise from a minute examination of the intrinsic relation between post-structuralist ideas and new hypertextuality theories, as well as the study of related phenomena. This analysis also takes into consideration the open work concept as proposed by Umberto Eco, which allows this model to be applied to non-traditional (or multilenear) printed texts whose special characteristics do not warrant traditional literary theory analysis. In other words, this method can be applied to texts regardless of the platform they use. 

The analysis of open works, be it in print or digital platforms, must happen within an unbound framework. This paper's proposal may be used as a starting point to address this kind of work. However, during the application of the theory other new aspects will emerge, since open works are precisely characterized by being prone to constant mutation and by their impossibility to fit in a specific and established genre or theory. Traditional narration methods may describe many aspects related to time, narrator, characters, and other components. Still, as a consequence of the use of ergodic elements, they need to be modified and complemented (Gunder 28) for the study of open literary works. Consideration of electronic text theories allows for this new focus. This paper defines a format/model proposed to analyze open literary works, taking into consideration that it is only a proposal and that it does not disregard the use of other analysis theories, but complements them.

(Source: Author's description from ELO 2018 site)

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Linn Heidi Stokkedal