E-locutio: stitching styles and pulling threads in electronic literature

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Classical rhetoricians have long known “style” as an integral component of Cicero’s five canons of rhetoric, where it refers to the application of compelling language patterns to achieve specific persuasive purposes: for example, the use of the chiasmus or “cross” (“ask not what your  country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”) as a tool that forces the reader to reflect on relationships between and reversals of concepts. From written style (what rhetoricians call elocutio) to "programming styles,” the application of technique/techne/craft to the expressive media we work in is evident, whether the medium is page, memory core, or cloth. Although we are more accustomed to viewing this process as “poetics,” reframing such activity as the application of style enables us to more fully see the suasive material dimensions of work in different media: asking not “what does this thing say” but “what does this thing do to us.” This paper explores some common stylistic elements that appear among writing, programming, and embroidery. While visual screen analogies are relatively easy to parse (for example, “resolution” in embroidery is a result of thread count--lower count, lower resolution— just as screen-based resolution is determined by pixel count), other stylistic features common to all three media occur more fully under the hood. In the course of the talk I will discuss stylistic activities that seek to optimize limited resources (fiber, memory, narrative), create patterns of expression (knots, loops, repetitions), and build networks and relations between ideas ("threads"). I'll use as my primary example the Knights Tour algorithm, used in electronic literature composition in such tools as Juan Gutierrez’ Literatronic engine, and present electronically embroidered reinterpretations of a Knights Tour storyline.

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Vian Rasheed