on “e-literature” as a field (part 2)

While I’m not finding this conversation between Mark Bernstein and myself to be terribly productive, I also am not fond of having my opinions mis-represented. Allow me, then, to post one final time about the wording in our MLA 2012 proposal.

I’ve had a few days to think and I now recognize that – while I’m very well aware of those important books by Michael Joyce, Yellowlees Douglas etc. – Glazier’s wasn’t the first book on what we now call electronic literature and my wording in the proposal certainly could have been more precise. However, whether you support the efforts of the Electronic Literature Organization or not, I still am of the opinion that giving a cluster of writing practices a name (‘e-literature’) along with institutional support does indeed change how we understand those writing practices and in turn likely changes the practices themselves. I never once thought or suggested that what came before Glazier’s work is meaningless or unimportant; I just wanted to point out that these works did not call or conceive of digital literature as ‘e-literature.’ As some of you know, my work is in fact deeply historical – as evidenced by my founding of the Archeological Media Lab and my writing on early digital poetry. But, again, I am interested in thinking through the ways in which our understanding of computer-mediated, digital writing (or whatever we ought to call it) has changed and evolved over the years. I welcome any comments on this issue.

2 thoughts on “on “e-literature” as a field (part 2)

  1. Scott Rettberg


    I agree with you (and with Eastgate’s Bernstein) that the early scholarship of electronic literature is important to remember, document, and use. In putting together the ELMCIP Knowledge Base http://elmcip.net/knowledgbase we are trying to make sure that those important early critical works remain a vital part of the discourse. And we are working with the ELO and with other international efforts to make sure that the documentation of e-lit work and scholarship lasts, and is shared. We also encourage authors, critics, and publishers to contribute to the Knowledge Base, and make sure that basic information about works of electronic literature is shared.

    One can only hope that Mark Bernstein continues to put similar effort into guaranteeing that the hypertexts he published remain accessible. It breaks my heart to see them out of circulation. They are important enough that they should not only be remembered, but read.

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