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The Experience of the Unique in Reading Digital Literature

Abstract (in English): 

Traditionally in literary criticism, importance has been laid on the uniqueness of the expression (the author says something that nobody else has said before, or, says something in a way that nobody else has done before) and the uniqueness of experience (my reading of a book is always different compared to any other readings). With digital literature we are facing a wholly new situation. Cybertextual literature possesses devices for creating a different textual whole for each reader and reading session. Even though the piece of computer code underlying the work remains the same, the surface level may be different on each and every run. In this situation the reader may truly face a unique text, something that nobody else may ever see.

I will ponder the consequences of this new textual condition, especially from the perspective of personal reception and interpretation. I will also present some examples of this sort of works, and classify certain main categories, such as truly unique vs. pseudo unique text, and text where uniqueness is created through programming alone, and such where (one or several) reader(s) is partly responsible.

(Source: Abstract for Officina di Letteratura Elettronica/Workshop of Electronic Literature)

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Patricia Tomaszek