The most rewarding interactions in my social relationships have always been the resolutions of doubt or longstanding apprehension. The moment when an ambiguous feeling is finally vocalized feels like a distinct step forward. As my readings about privacy & surveillance this semester have shown me, secrets are the currency of intimacy. Since they’re little-known, secrets have value. They must be earned through gossip, profile ‘creeping,’ or good old two-conversation. But some secrets are somehow inherently deficient when compared with their scarcity and difficulty of obtainment. I see parallels between ‘secret deficiency’ and our class’ experience with electronic literature.
The secrets, the hidden messages, contained in Volume 1 of the ELC set demanding prerequisites to their elucidation. A lot of the time there is not even a prescribed order to the pieces. ‘10:01’ and ‘Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky’ can be navigated in many different configurations. ‘Deviant’ can be played and replayed without a completion condition ever being reached. This slipperiness was reacted to in our class by interpretive resistance. The interpretable content was often overshadowed by the configurative context; the secrets weren’t worth learning because the jarring novelty of the medium was overestimated. I can say for myself that reservations and preconceptions held me back from full engagement in and submission to electronic literature. I read a letter from Jack Kerouac to one of his publishers that defined some qualities that he considered useful in the enjoyment of poetry. He emphasized the importance of readerly submissiveness to the piece at hand, a quality I find helpful in the appreciation of any challenging literature, and of secrets. Frequently voiced doubts in our class of whether eLit is even ‘worth’ reading seem distant from a submissive attitude, and I think this was a barrier to involved interpretation.
That said, I think this class served to well to unclench the initial apprehension to what is new and weird. Students leave this class with wider eyes and changed attitudes. Learning to work through uncertainty is a useful skill not only in academia but in life. Even when the resolution of doubt proves disappointing, working towards that resolution bears its own intrinsic rewards. Maybe relationships are not founded on secrecy after all, but on the co-operative navigation through it.