Pre-web Digital Publishing and the Lore of Electronic Literature

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This Element examines a watershed moment in the recent history of digital publishing through a case study of the pre-web, serious hypertext periodical, the Eastgate Quarterly Review of Hypertext (1994-1995). Early hypertext writing relied on standalone, mainframe computers and specialized authoring software. With the Web launching as a mass distribution platform, EQRH faced a fast-evolving technological landscape, paired with an emergent gift and open access economy. Its non-linear writing experiments afford key insights into historical, medium-specific authoring practices.

Access constraints have left EQRH under-researched and threatened by obsolescence. To address this challenge, this study offers platform-specific analyses of all the EQRH’s crossmedia materials, including works that have hitherto escaped scholarly attention. It deploys a form of conceptually oral ethno-historiography: the lore of electronic literature. The book deepens our understanding of the North American publishing industry’s history and contributes to the overdue preservation of early digital writing.

(Source: Cambridge University Press copy)

Pull Quotes: 

Overall, this study offers a multi-faceted, plurivocal understanding of a historic yet fleeting moment in the late 20th century publishing industry. Chapter 2 examines the media-historical dilemma of the EQRH, highlighting Mark Bernstein’s and Eastgate’s critical role and documenting the ways in which his particular vision translated into practices of solicitation, author liaison, contractual matters, packaging, distribution, PR and communications. Chapter 3 zooms in on the EQRH itself as an experimental platform for new hypertext forms and genres and provides platform-specific analyses of its primary material, including hitherto un- and under-documented works. In the concluding chapter, I evaluate the lasting significance of the EQRH and explore some ideas of where small e-literary publishing is headed now and in the years to come.

Critical writing referenced:

Titlesort descending Author Year
A [S]creed for Digital Fiction Alice Bell, Astrid Ensslin, David Ciccoricco, Hans Kristian Rustad, Jessica Laccetti, Jessica Pressman 2010
Bookishness: Loving Books in a Digital Age Jessica Pressman 2020
Canonizing Hypertext: Explorations and Constructions Astrid Ensslin 2007
Canonizing Hypertext: Explorations and Constructions Astrid Ensslin 2007
Capitalisme et schizophénie, mille plateaux Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari 1980
Comparative literature: sharing knowledges for preserving cultural diversity Dolores Romero López, Paola Mildonian, Jean-Michel Djian, Djelal Kadir, Alfons Knauth, Marcio Seligmann Silva 2009
Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature Espen Aarseth 1997
Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic literature Espen Aarseth 1997
Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries Loss Pequeño Glazier 2001
Electronic Literature Scott Rettberg 2014
Electronic Literature as World Literature; or, The Universality of Writing under Constraint Joseph Tabbi 2010
Fairy tales and the art of subversion: The classical genre for children and the process of civilization Jack David Zipes 2006
futureTEXT: hypertext fiction Jim Rosenberg 1999
Hyperfiction: Novels for the Computer Robert Coover 1993
Hypertext Theory Astrid Ensslin 2020
Hypertext: An Introduction and Survey Jeff Conklin 1987
Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy Gregory L. Ulmer 2003
Literary Gaming Astrid Ensslin 2014
Literary Journals Sue Waterman 2009
Love and Loss in Robert Kendall's "A Life Set for Two" Dene Grigar 2018

Publishers referenced:

Title Location
The Eastgate Quarterly Review of Hypertext
134 Main Street
02472 Watertown , MA
United States
Massachusetts US
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Astrid Ensslin