Friday, September 26, 2008

Aleady dead?

... Is e-literature just one big anti-climax? (Hat tips to Maxine Clarke and Lee Lowe.)


  1. Oh gosh. As the former DigitaLit columnist for the Inquirer I must comment on this. The article is well researched and makes some good points, and the writer clearly doesn't believe the new form is actually dead.

    But there are a few problems as I see it. First of all, the fact that the publishing industry has not made use of digital technology in any forward-thinking way is hardly proof of the limitations of digital literature. This is in large part an unimaginative group of people, and anyway, the publishers were never the artists. It's their job to make safe-ish investments of money, not to make the art.

    Also. I fail to see how university departments focusing their money and energy on digitizing books could be a bad thing, or how this could truly interfere with the creation of any new writing. Since when is the creation of art dependent on SCHOOLS to promote it?

    But these are quibbles. The real problem with the question this article poses is the misunderstanding at its heart. (Even if he isn't actually confused on this score, lots of people are.) "That it may be, but is it still writing?" the journalist asks. And toward the end of his piece he says "My feeling is that these "other forms" will have less and less to do with literature." Well, that's a faulty claim if you haven't first successfully defined literature. Whatever counts as writing or poetry or literature or whatever is necessarily going to have to change as the mode of producing this writing changes, and this change has only begun. Everything CANNOT be compared to the novel. The NOVEL is a relatively new form. So is printing, for goodness' sake. Communication and storytelling, however, have been around for as long as humans have. It'll just keep changing, and we can't declare something dead that is still in the process of becoming.

  2. Katie, exactly!

    As I posted elsewhere, though not as cogently as you, I like to draw a parallel here to the radical evolution in music that has come about as a result of electronic sound reproduction and the consequent confrontation with the acoustic experience. We have no way of predicting what electronic (and not just online!) literature will be like, no more than the users of those first scratchy 1920s 78 rpm records could have imagined a Jimi Hendrix or heavy metal or John Cage. But I have no doubt that something very interesting, marginal or not, will result.