mar 18/18 • page & screen
“In evaluating electronic poetries, therefore, we should not subordinate the second term to the first.”
– Majorie Perloff, “Screening the Page/Paging the Screen”
One theme running through our study of electronic literature and digital humanities is the blurring and merging of various disciplines, mediums, and roles. There are works that combine many elements into a single piece, but there are also works that exist in multiple forms. As Perloff says, these differential texts may vary in tone, readability, or other qualities, but no single variation is necessarily definitive.
In the same way that David Mitchell’s The Right Sort didn’t feel like Twitter fiction simply because it was published on Twitter, works may exist in multiple forms through adaptation (commonly book-to-film), but usually the primary text remains the definitive version*. Early in the semester, we talked about the frustration that sometimes accompanies experiencing digital works because they come with an unfamiliar set of rules. We’ve also discussed how the close analysis our studies require may also require different reading methods. Differential texts live at the intersection of familiar and unfamiliar, or in this week’s case, the intersection of page and screen, and might be one way of introducing electronic literature to the broader public.
Between Page and Screen plays with space through augmented reality (AR). It was a new kind of reading experience and frustrating at times. Struggling to get the application to recognize the marker, or physically turning the book to get the text to appear on a readable plane–these moments are part of the experience (part of the challenge and fun!) but also left me wanting to take screenshots so that I could more closely examine the text. Soliloquy, too, had an engaging mechanic (hovering over text to make it appear) but made me wish I could see all the text at once.
Both these works feel so similar to traditional print texts that instinct takes over, and I want to see them on the page. But in this way, the medium challenges us to think about the way we are used to encountering poetry and experiment with a new kind of reading. For those skeptical about digital poetry, these works might be a good place to start.
*Exceptions: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere comes to mind; originally a TV series, many people came to it later through the novel, and it also exists as a radio drama (my personal favourite) and stage play. Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy similarly exists as both a series of books and radio plays without one version emerging as the definitive text. Even Fight Club could fit this category – reading the book, it seems impossible that it could ever exist as a film, but when watching the film, it seems impossible for it to succeed as a novel.
Amaranth Borsuk & Brad Bouse, Between Page and Screen (2012)
Kenneth Goldsmith, Soliloquy (2001)
Majorie Perloff, “Screening the Page/Paging the Screen” (2006)