Confession of an E-Lit Illiterate

What to say about e-literature, my nemesis in culture and technology studies.

It is gimmicky. It is too slow, too fast, too fussy, confusing, boring, angsty, overly produced or not produced enough, seemingly made for a small audience of other e-authors (and a few culture and technology students; the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 comes with a textbook, the ultimate kryptonite for learning to enjoy reading anything). Worst of all, it is almost impossible to not compare this form of literature to the graspable, lovely, traditional containers of printed words we call books.

But it is when I compare these two forms of literature that I will admit, through clenched teeth, that many “real” books also fall into these categories of lameness listed above. And, to throw a wrench in my whole previously held notion that e-lit is a dead-end art form, some of the e-lit pieces we read this semester really worked. I think I can explain why my opinion changed over the course of the semester; I must have learned something that changed the way I read electronic literature, how I processed it, as well as a self reflection on what it was that made me hate it.

The more I read it, the more I liked it. From my extremely limited knowledge of sciences and maths I would call that a positive correlation, from which I can hypothesize that I gained a literacy skill which allowed me to understand something, to really read something. This skill didn’t just change my opinion about the interactive digital format, but also about poetry and writing and words and meaning.

In conclusion, I think that although I have had issues with a lot of the e-literature that we looked at this semester, a lot if it was also amazing. I think the digital format allows for ridiculous potential to tell stories.I look forward to seeing what new pieces will be added to the Electronic Literature Collection in the future.


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