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Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary [With CDROM]
     

Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary [With CDROM]

by N. Katherine Hayles
 

A visible presence for some two decades, electronic literature has already produced many works that deserve the rigorous scrutiny critics have long practiced with print literature. Only now, however, with Electronic Literature by N. Katherine Hayles, do we have the first systematic survey of the field and an analysis of its importance, breadth, and

Overview

A visible presence for some two decades, electronic literature has already produced many works that deserve the rigorous scrutiny critics have long practiced with print literature. Only now, however, with Electronic Literature by N. Katherine Hayles, do we have the first systematic survey of the field and an analysis of its importance, breadth, and wide-ranging implications for literary study.

Hayles’s book is designed to help electronic literature move into the classroom. Her systematic survey of the field addresses its major genres, the challenges it poses to traditional literary theory, and the complex and compelling issues at stake. She develops a theoretical framework for understanding how electronic literature both draws on the print tradition and requires new reading and interpretive strategies. Grounding her approach in the evolutionary dynamic between humans and technology, Hayles argues that neither the body nor the machine should be given absolute theoretical priority. Rather, she focuses on the interconnections between embodied writers and users and the intelligent machines that perform electronic texts.
 
Through close readings of important works, Hayles demonstrates that a new mode of narration is emerging that differs significantly from previous models. Key to her argument is the observation that almost all contemporary literature has its genesis as electronic files, so that print becomes a specific mode for electronic text rather than an entirely different medium. Hayles illustrates the implications of this condition with three contemporary novels that bear the mark of the digital. Included with the book is a CD, The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1, containing sixty new and recent works of electronic literature with keyword index, authors’ notes, and editorial headnotes. Representing multiple modalities of electronic writing—hypertext fiction, kinetic poetry, generative and combinatory forms, network writing, codework, 3D, narrative animations, installation pieces, and Flash poetry—the ELC 1 encompasses comparatively low-tech work alongside heavily coded pieces. Complementing the text and the CD-ROM is a website offering resources for teachers and students, including sample syllabi, original essays, author biographies, and useful links. Together, the three elements provide an exceptional pedagogical opportunity.
 

 
 
 
 
“In Electronic Literature, N. Katherine Hayles has delivered a wonderfully structured synthetic overview of writers, texts, critics, and publication venues for the field of electronic literature. In it, she has managed to articulate a non-canonical canon, a body of work and set of ideas that are flexible rather than fixed, inclusive rather than exclusive.” —Rita Raley, University of California, Santa Barbara
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“Kate Hayles has been there since the beginning. She helped formulate the field of digital literature. All readers will be charmed by her new book; high school and college literature and art teachers, in particular, will find this book (and the CD) immediately helpful to introducing students to creative writing in a new media mode.” —Thom Swiss, University of Minnesota
 
 
 
"Kate Hayles stays with a text, whether electronic or otherwise, like almost no other reader or player, inhabiting each work with care and caring, transforming its material specificity to embodied sense and sensuality rather than a hollow category. In the course of defining a field she has set it abloom and in the process refreshed our imagination." —Michael Joyce, Vassar College
 
 
“No critic, save N. Katherine Hayles, has the wide grasp of literary criticism, new media history and technology, cyberculture and its philosophical implications, and the interplay between electronic and print imaginative writing. Now, in the five straightforward, readable chapters of Electronic Literature, she supplies the tools and builds the contexts necessary for everyone to grasp the importance of her topic and integrate it into her or his own knowledge base. Her book and CD package will be snapped up by scholars and students alike.” —Dee Morris, University of Iowa

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Electronic literature is an emerging literary genre that challenges the traditional understanding of literary criticism and theory. It is this challenge, in part, that is responsible for keeping the emerging genre out of the classroom, and with this work, Hayles means to grant it entry. Drawing on technology-related literary criticism and theory, she creates a new space for electronic literature to be read and understood. She argues that the impact of the digital on modern writing cannot be underestimated.” —Library Journal

“Hayles surveys cutting-edge electronic literature in the 21st century and provides a CD-ROM including dozens of complete works. . . . One argument runs through the book: human bodies and technologies are always mutually forming and reshaping one another in what the author calls 'recursive feedback loops.' . . . as an introduction to the avant-garde in computers and literature the book has value.” —Choice

“Electronic Literature is much more than a didactic summary of Hayles’s thinking on the digital revolution in one of the bastions of traditional humanist culture: the book. Although this aspect of the book is far from being unimportant . . . Electronic Literature is also a synthesis of the research in the field as a whole, and in this sense the best possible critical overview that is currently available. Moreover, it is extremely up to date, given the numerous references to extremely recent sources, and in-depth discussions with all the authors who count in the field.” —Image [&] Narrative

“Hayles brings to the discussion a deep legacy of critical thought around digital ontology, narrative, and the technologies of expression. For the uninitiated, Hayle's explication is tremendously useful. She understands not just the texts but also the contexts from which they emerge, and she is able to use electronic literature as a gateway to suggesting new philosophical ways of perceiving collective computations like the stock market.” —Rain Taxi
 

“N. Katherine Hayles’s Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary exemplifies the current disciplinary drive to establish a critical language for speaking about digital literature. . . . Hayles portrays the future of electronic literature as one of undecidable flux in which code, medial output, humans, and machines are in constant play with one another. . . . This anthology of electronic literature will play a significant role in defining the perception of contemporary electronic literature, thus shaping the practice of future generations of digital artists.” —Postmodern Culture

“Katherine Hayles is a major shaper of this field, and I think this book is a valuable addition because it’s an introduction, a primer to what digital literature is an how it can be . . . There’s a lot of work to be done in the criticism of this emergent field: to explain not only the link between print and digital media but also the link between contemporary and older works, literary forms and reading practices.” — Jessica Pressman on FiveBooks.com

Library Journal

Electronic literature is an emerging literary genre that challenges the traditional understanding of literary criticism and theory. It is this challenge, in part, that is responsible for keeping the emerging genre out of the classroom, and with this work, Hayles (English & design/media arts, Univ. of California) means to grant it entry. Drawing on technology-related literary criticism and theory, she creates a new space for electronic literature to be read and understood. She argues that the impact of the digital on modern writing cannot be underestimated. Almost all contemporary writing, she writes, begins in the digital realm, starting as text files on a computer, and this digital birth has deeply affected how literature is written and understood. Through a thorough reading of both "classic" and new texts, Hayles demonstrates that electronic literature is created by and with both the reader and the technology. One does not take precedence over the other; instead, they work as an interconnected whole to read-or, as Hayles prefers, perform-the text together. Recommended for academic libraries. [Complementing the text are a CD-ROM containing 60 works of electronic literature and a web site, http://newhorizons.eliterature.org, with resources for students and teachers.-Ed.]
—Deborah Hicks

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780268030858
Publisher:
University of Notre Dame Press
Publication date:
03/28/2008
Series:
ND Ward Phillips Lectures
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
223
Sales rank:
1,307,466
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

N. Katherine Hayles is John Charles Hillis Professor of Literature and Distinguished Professor in the departments of English and Design/Media Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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