German Net Literature: In the Exile of Invisibility

Abstract (in English): 

German net literature had an early and very public start through competitions organized in 1996-8 by the major newspaper Die Zeit and IBM, but was declared dead or stillborn immediately afterwards. Consequently, net literature became a subject of controversy between artists, theorists, and literary critics from which not only a strong community evolved but also a literary system. In this system, competitions served as public, peer-reviewed mediators for net literature and became an important feature of “post-processing.” Since the end of the 90s however, German net literature became slowly invisible. The lack of public awareness of net literature is common to many countries. Post-processing is a key for public visibility and according to Siegfried J. Schmidt et al. an important component in a literary system. In search of reasons for the state of invisibility of German net literature, I analyze mechanisms of post-processing in our community, which I regard as a literary system. This descriptive synopsis is the first paper in an upcoming series that opens up questions towards the role of peer-review, public reception, and artists' community-building.

Pull Quotes: 

At an early stage in the 90s, German net literature became a subject of a controversial debate between artists, theorists, and literary critics. A strong community evolved in which net literature was embedded in an infrastructure that made net literature publicly visible. Everything started with a call for a competition whose jury hardly defined what it was looking for; consequently, a critical study on terminologies and definitions unfolded. I regard competitions as public, peer-reviewed mediators for net literature. The advents of the German Pegasus-Award that launched in 1996 were of crucial importance for the community and its emerging field.

“It is remarkable that net literature in Germany has been stronger when its post-processing mechanisms were active: when juries from magazines called for submissions for an award in net literature. In Germany, prizes for works (of net literature) were awarded between 1996 and 1998 (Pegasus) and 1999 (Ettlinger Prize for Literature).

Critics are tasked with not only understanding a work of net literature but also with contextualizing, explaining, and critically discussing it. In Germany, critics from the literary tradition failed in giving an appropriate account to the new emerging field.

Nowadays, only occasionally competitions take place. The honored works are of quality but the impact of these competitions is low and does not reach many recipients. Additionally, there is (almost) no post-processing devoted to works of German net literature anymore. In fact, net literature in Germany became as invisible as its community.


Patricia Tomaszek

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Patricia Tomaszek