Electronic Literature

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This post conveys information for DIKULT 203, Electronic Literature. You’ll find here a course description, our reading schedule, assignments, grading rubrics, and links to electronic literature collections and coding resources.

Screen shot of Jim Andrews' "Aleph Null," a work of visual poetry.

Screen shot of Jim Andrews’ “Aleph Null,” a work of visual poetry.

I’m Professor Kathi Inman Berens, a Fulbright Scholar visiting UiB from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. I earned my Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. You can learn more about me here. My office hours will be Thursdays 9-10AM in HF Building 235a. I am also available at other times; email me at kathiberens at gmail dot com to set up an appointment. I’d like to meet with each of you at least once this term. Our class meets Tuesdays in Datalab 124, Thursdays Group Room O.

The University of Bergen is home to the ELMCIP Knowledge Base, an ambitious database archive of seven thousand cross-referenced records of electronic literature. We will each contribute one entry to the ELMCIP knowledge base. You’ll also write a “close reading” analysis of a work of e-lit, make your own adaptation of the poetry generator Taroko Gorge, collaborate on a “locative” story that we’ll set here in Bergen near campus. Together we’ll conceptualize that story, build it, play it using our mobile devices, then write about it.

This is UiB’s official description of DIKULT203’s requirements and guidelines.

Reading Schedule

Here is the Reading Schedule.

UiB mandates about 1000 pages of reading. We should measure our time in hours rather than print pages. Longer works of e-lit on this syllabus might take 3 hours to read and 2 more hours to write notes and compare to other works. Shorter works will vary in duration. The criticism will aid you in contextualizing the e-lit and will deepen your knowledge of e-literature’s medial fragility and the challenge of preserving access to it, and e-lit’s emerging role in the canon of literature.

I am a good teacher of writing. We’ll approach e-literature texts as objects for you to emulate, remix, rip off and analyze.

Books
Emerson, Lori. 2013. Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound. Minnesota University Press.

Pressman, Jessica. 2014. Digital Modernism: Making It New in New Media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ryan, Marie-Laure, Lori Emerson and Benjamin Robertson: The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media. 2014. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Strickland, Stephanie. 2014. V: WaveTercets/Losing L’Una (second edition). Denver: Spring Gun Press.

Online Archives
Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 1
Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 2
ELMCIP Knowledge Base
I Love E-Poetry
Electronic Poetry Center
Eastgate Systems
Authoring Software

Course Description: What is Electronic Literature?

At the simplest level, it’s a collaborative experience you initiate between yourself, a computer, software, and the artist’s designed concept. Often but not always, these experiences convey a story; sometimes words do different kinds of expressive work than the semantic work we’re accustomed to in print-based media, where the materiality of words is usually invisible. Sometimes, as in Jim Andrews’ visual poetry I’ve captured above in this post’s thumbnail image, there are no words or letters at all.

In print media, words are the vessels of “ideas,” but in electronic literature the medium (animation, text, image, sound, touch) is as much an expressive part of the art as the “ideas.” Ideas are never unaffected by the medium in which they are conveyed. E-lit works “perform on request” (Ted Nelson, cited in Scott Rettberg (“Electronic Literature,” The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media, 2014), and YOU the reader convey that “request” by touching the computer through keyboard, touchpad, screen or mouse. We’ll investigate “the literary” as a type of experience that may or may not involve words, but which is one way or another about “writing,” even if the writing we examine is source code and its outputs.

E-books are not electronic literature. E-books are printed stories converted to digital display for convenience, so they can be stored and read on portable digital devices. Electronic literature requires an algorithm to run. It “performs,” and so do you, actively shaping your experience of the story, or understanding the limits of your agency as a reader to intervene in that particular story’s machinic process. I’ll teach you how to classify electronic literature according to platform, interactivity and genre; but as you read entries in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media, you’ll see that even the same work can be classified differently depending on how readers engage it. (See, for example, Roberto Simanowski’s short illustration of this dilemma on p. 135, “The Double Life of Texts.”)

Learning Outcomes

After successfully completing this course, students will have:

    an overview of the history and genres of electronic literature
    familiarity with key works of hypertext fiction, digital poetry, and interactive fiction.
    an understanding of how visual, kinetic, temporal and interactive features work in narrative and poetry in electronic literature, and how they complicate our understandings of the reader and of the literary in general
    an understanding of the basic principle within the programming.

After successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

    apply theories about electronic literature in their own interpretations of specific works
    reflect upon their own creative practice and use feedback to improve their work
    write specifically for digital environments
    grasp elementary principles of programming
    understand coding and design as elements of writing practice.

Requirements

Course Work
There are two compulsory activities leading up to the assessed final project.

1) Students will participate in a collaborative practical project
2) Each student will choose a work of electronic literature to they present orally to the class and write a critical description of at least 400 words

In order to take the exam it is required that the student has participated in at least 75 percent of the teaching and classroom activities. Course participation is approved by the course leader.

More detailed presentations of compulsory and semester assignments will be presented on the student portal.

Final Projects
Students can choose between two alternative assignment types:

1) Create a work of electronic literature and write an introduction to the work of 1,500 words that sets it in a critical context.

2) Write a comparative analysis of two works of electronic literature, 4000 words in length.

Teaching Methods

There are sixteen lectures and eight sessions in the lab over thirteen weeks. In addition, each student will have one supervision meeting with the lecturer in connection with semester thesis.

Because we are collaboratively building a locative work of e-lit, sometimes our “lab” will be outside on the sites testing our project. You will also be expected to attend Prof. Inman Berens’ lecture at the Bergen Public Library Thursday, Nov. 4th at 7PM.

In our instructor-led labs, some of them co-conducted with Professor Scott Rettberg, we will creatively blend experimental conceptual work and practical digital techniques.

Each student will have one supervision meeting with the lecturer in connection with semester thesis.

Assessment Methods

Students can choose between two alternative assignment types:
1) Create a work of electronic literature and write an introduction to the work of 1,500 words that sets it in a critical context.
2) Write a comparative analysis of two works of electronic literature, 4000 words in length.

Grading Scale
Grade scale A-F.

I look forward to working with you!

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