Electronic Literature, Chapter 3: Hypertext Fiction

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This research collection includes references from the third chapter of Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg (Polity, 2018), on Hypertext Fiction. Hypertext fiction was the first form of electronic literature to garner sustained critical interest during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A small but dedicated group of writers began to work seriously in the genre at the same time as the personal computer and then the Internet were becoming widely adopted, writing stories designed as interlinked fragments of text, with multiple possible reading sequences to be navigated through the reader’s selection of links between them. At the same time, postmodernism was reaching the peak of its literary and theoretical interest. Hypertext fiction represented a bridge between the literary experimentation of the late twentieth century and the cultural shifts accompanying the move to networked computing. Although other practices of digital writing preceded literary hypertext, without the small critical industry that developed around hypertext fiction during this period, electronic literature would likely not have been established as a field of academic research and practice in the way that it is today. While we cannot understate the importance of hypertext for the development and growth of the electronic literature community, there is less recent activity in this genre than in some of others discussed in this book, though in some ways the core ideas and basic techniques of hypertext have migrated into genres such as installations, interactive 3D works in CAVEs, and apps for mobile devices. This chapter considers how hypertext emerged within a particular literary, historical, and technological context, and how it served to facilitate the foundation of a critical and creative community of practice.


Namesort descending Residency
Scott Rettberg
Shelley Jackson
Brooklyn , NY
United States
New York US
Stuart Moulthrop
United States
Thomas Stearns Eliot
United Kingdom
Virginia Woolf
United Kingdom
William Gillespie
United States
Illinois US
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Scott Rettberg