WEEK 2: FOUNDATIONS I – MANIFESTOS AND LINEAGES
Our Readings covered were F.T. Marinetti’s “Words in Freedom“, Eugen Gomringer’s “From Line to Constellation” and “The Poem as Functional Object”, “The Dreamlife of Letters” and “Suicide in an Airplane 1919” by Brian Kim Stefans, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’s “Dakota” and Katherine Hayles’ “Electronic Literature: What is it?”.
With such a wide spectrum of works to look at this week, there are many points where I could begin my reflection. To start, I would like to comment on the week’s topic: Manifestos and Lineages. The manifesto form has never been one of my favourites, because the persuasive language and sensory language has always left me feeling somewhat manipulated by the author, or left out from facts about the topic at hand.
Lineages on the other hand, interested me. To follow a story’s descendant relationships usually helps me build a stronger context for a narrative. Similar to studying Latin to better your understanding for Germanic languages, to know where something has evolved from usually reveals a richer character or use of a word and in this case, a story.
Electronic Literature has not appeared out of the blue, it’s history is tangled with hypertext fiction’s popularity in the 1980’s and other computational lit but still relies heavily on it’s printed ancestor. introduces the contestant aspects of the electronic literature field and the vast variety of genres within the E Lit world that have been composed over recent history.
Katherine Hayles introductory story about Brother Paul was shoking, since this literary leap (from hand-written to type) is not something that I would have thought of as such a social alarm as our current digital discussion. The story does reveal how much our contemporary progress overlaps and diverges from print’s history. Even though the modifications are most prominent in digital lit, the fact that it is building on the expectations that are ingrained by the known print literature is rather refreshing.
Katherine clearly demonstrates the E Lit world “as both partaking of literary tradition and introducing crucial transformations that redefine what literature is” by the history of programs, software and hardware utilized by born-digital authors. “Electronic text remains distinct from print in that it literally cannot be accessed until it is performed by properly executed code.”
E lit has been tied to the developments in technology. In contemporary situations many users experience and participate in E lit with their smart phones, so the code necessary(or the structure), as well as the content, have had to change drastically to perform. The field itself is hybrid by nature. Digital Literature’s adaptive character has allowed innumerable combinations of sensory experiences, narrative expressions and interactions with audiences that is not possible within the print field. Like the Marinetti’s Futurist’s fantasy, E lit can “assault your nerves with visual, auditory and olfactory sensations”. Now, text can leaps from flat planes to the interactive space of the digital screen, new possibilities have emerged with the digital literary environment.
Katherine’s opening questions caught my attention, since I think this is being asked everywhere:
“Will the dissemination mechanisms of the Internet and World Wide Web, by opening publication to everyone, result in a flood of worthless drivel? Is literary quality possible in digital media, or is electronic literature demonstrably inferior to the print canon?”
Right now, I would say I am quite optimistic about the digital dissemination (although not SO hopeful that I would claim a Futurist positions). Like the progress of film in the 20th century with the introduction of new cameras, sound equipment and editing programs, we don’t miss silent black and white “moving-pictures”. Things of value are never lost- this is a statement I like to live by, and I think that the quality of literature’s content will not be lost with the digital age, if anything it will be open to new possibilities and avenues for understanding.