First and Second Waves of Indian Electronic Literature

Critical Writing
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In her seminal book Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (2008), Katherine Hayles historicizes electronic literary works as first generation and second generation published before and after the advent of Web respectively. In addition to this, Leonardo Flores, in his essay “Third Generation Electronic Literature” (2019), defines three waves of electronic literature. He discusses the electronic literary works, which are mostly hypertext, kinetic and text-based, published between 1952 and 1995 as first generation, the multifaceted features of second generation works started after the rise of Web in 1995 and continues to the present. Third generation works encompass of social media networks, apps, mobile and Web API services began around 2005. These works have made important contributions to understanding the field of Western electronic literature. On the other hand, scholars have discoursed about the non-western electronic literary works and emphasised about their generations. Sandy Baldwin, Reham Hosny and Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang in their “Introduction” to the special issue of Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, point out the canonisation of Hayles as it “suggests other works, from other languages and regions are non-classical and outside of the family” (Introduction). In other words, the non-western electronic literary works might have different periods of genesis and generations which might not fit in the categorization of western digital literature. However, the discourses on the canonisation of the western electronic literature open up some important questions to the realm of Indian electronic literature: can we apply the same conceptualisation of three waves to the Indian electronic literature? If not, how do we define the waves of Indian electronic literature? First what is electronic literature in India and is it recognised by mainstream public, academia and research? In this essay, we will try to answer these questions.

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Shanmuga Priya