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Beyond English Elit: International Electronic Literature at WRT: Writer Response Theory




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At the ELO’s “Future of Electronic Literature” conference at the University of Maryland, we held a panel on international (non-English) works. To facilitate that discussion, the members of that panel developed a wiki, which is now available here at WRT.

Wiki of International Electronic Literature

international elit panelThe wiki features scholars, works, and organizations from around the globe that focus on electronic literature. With your help, we plan to develop that list as a resource for other scholars and teachers of electronic literature. We Request Titles (and authors and acronyms) to add to this growing list. Contact me with additions.

The primary motivation of the panel was to examine the field of electronic literature beyond the English-language realms that so often dominate discussion (and origin-narratives) and to promote (and connect to) international scholarship across language lines to foster a more global network of electronic literary scholarship. Here, I reference pervasive narratives of the origins of electronic literature (from hypertext to IF to chatbots) in English in the United States, even though works from beyond English (from I-Ching to Rayuela) are often cited as inspirations. Below are a few notes about the panel, though certainly the wiki and notes by William Wend are the most detailed records.

The Panelists

To help answer this question, ELO pulled scholars from a variety of nations and linguistic backgrounds beyond English.

  • Chair: Helen DeVinney (University of Maryland)
  • Sandy Baldwin (West Virginia University, ELO Board Member, multiple languages)
  • Laura Borras Castanyer (Open University of Catalonia, Catalan, Castellano/Spansish, French, Italian)
  • Bertrand Gervais (Université du Québec à Montréal, French)
  • Juan B. Gutierrez (Florida State University, via Colombia, Spanish)
  • Mark Marino (University of Southern California, Spanish)
  • Jill Walker (University of Bergen, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish)

The Questions:

  • To what degree does “elit” typically mean electronic literature from the US and Western Europe?
  • What is the state of some of the art of electronic literature in non-English countries?
  • What non-English hypertexts can we recommend?
  • (How) Can we avoid first-world/third-world dichotomies?
  • How can we find that which is not posted on the web?
  • How can we include other works and currently underrepresented groups of artists?
  • (And one that came up at the panel) In what literary and artistic contexts in other linguistic milieu might electronic literature be understood and taught?

Sites of International Elit

Though the ELO no longer offers a prize for electronic literature, one town in Spain does. Laura Borras Castanyer presented the International Prize “Ciutat de Vinaròs,” which has awarded prizes to artists from as far away as Brazil’s Chico Marinho to Australian-based artist Jason Nelson.

Lists, Directories, Organizations, Conferences (Past and Present)
Though many of these polyglot sites admit works in English and multiple languages, the following sample of sources offer some other centers of electronic literature, from compendiums to conferences.

Certainly the largest list of scholars came from Spanish-speaking countries, since Laura, Juan, and I all spoke to that end. When asked what characterized Spanish-language works, Juan noted their frequent use of artificial intelligence. No doubt such a comparative literature of elit would reveal even more of the interesting patterns, divergences, and intersections.

Sandy Baldwin also raised the question of access to electronic literature that is not produced for and circulated on the Internet. How might any image of global electronic literary production suffer from our limited access via and to the Internet?

Towards the end of my presentation, I proposed a few questions about the inclusivity of ELO with respect to the greater body of artists making electronic literature. Over the course of the weekend, several scholars proposed solutions:

  • Broadening our objects of study to include YouTube, DJ mixes/visuals, and other electronic literary forms growing from a wider range of artists
  • Focusing on image-based works, such as certain net.art projects, since they transcend language
  • Focusing on computer source code, along the lines of Critical Code Studies
  • Changing our emphasis from literature alone to include the literary (following N. Katherine Hayles’ talk, Jill’s notes here)
  • Translating more electronic literature from other languages.
  • Producing multilingual works, such as the Wikinovela, and using multilingual systems such as Literatronica

While this panel is certainly not the first to explore international and multilingual explorations of electronic literature, its presence at the “Future of Electronic Literature” conference suggests a dislocation of the center-periphery vision of electronic literature, wherein elit radiates out of the English-speaking West like the fiber-optic cables of the Internet itself. As electronic literature continues to globalize, participants in the panel and the conference planned their trips to ePoetry 2007 in Paris (or back to the active elit communities in their home countries). No doubt the conversation will continue at such conferences and online even at English-based international locales like WRT.




3 Responses to “Beyond English Elit: International Electronic Literature”

  1. 1 Christy Dena

    Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/writerresponse/writerresponsetheory.org/wordpress/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 76

    This development is great to see Mark. I just wish I could read them!

  1. 1 William Patrick Wend
  2. 2 Chris Joseph » Beyond English E-lit: International Electronic Literature

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