Wednesday, February 25, 2009


There is one point I forgot to make that I think are pretty important (though some were made in the comment field below):

"E-literature is the mode of literature most appropriate to new social conditions."

Appropriate in what way? It seems e-literature trains us to be better (read: smoother) participants in the new era. It's good for us. Teaches us to be good. It's Progress.

Just say no to Edification in art.


Blogger Max said...

I wouldn't want to put any words in her mouth, but yeah, that bit of her argument is terribly vague. She doesn't really explain what she means by reading becoming "a mix of deep and hyper, or focused and mobilized." And she also doesn't really explain why this is an innately good development. She just assumes that it is the way of the future, and so "e-lit" is a perfect match for it. I think Strickland is correct when she says that print readers are trained to have "deep, focused attention," but I'm not sure where she stands on that, or if she's trying to authorize it as the proper mode from which the e-reading mode should be adapted. What about other modes of print reading? Though people are trained by and large to read print texts in a "deep, focused" mode, obviously that is not the only way, or the one right way, to read print texts.

It seems like she relies heavily on the revelatory aspect of her topic to kind of lull the reader into a feeling that what she's saying is profound, even though it isn't fleshed out very well in several areas.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Isn't your main argument for promoting poetry in translation grounded on how edifying it is for people to be exposed to other cultures?

7:31 AM  
Blogger AG said...

I'll also just add that despite the great promise that the "electronic revolution" heralded, analog is by far superior to digital, especially in terms of "e-literature," which is supposed to be superior because it can spin and "tween" and twirl.

I'm no more interested in e-poetry than I am in e-ballet or e-theater, or in learning how to play the drums on the computer with "Drums on Expert."

7:32 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Here I think I would also like to bring in Jonathan Crary's idea that
"attention" becomes in the late 19th century a kind of cure for the perceived dangers of distraction - when we are distracted our minds may wander to dangerous places etc.

So here we have an updated attention - to keep our minds from straying.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...


No, that's not the reason.

Occasionally I have flirted with the idea (such as my Hejinian-Barbarism post), but ultimately no it's not for edification.

Oh god how dreadful to have to read foreign poets because it makes us good people.

However, I like to call attention to the politics of neglecting foreign literature.


7:41 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...


Also, I will search for the paper I gave at AWP and it gives my definitive statement on the matter...

Also, I want to say something about striated spaces in Strickland's notion of internationalism vs that of the web.

7:42 AM  
Blogger R. Sanford said...


I think I somewhat brought this exact point up originally as one of my biggest beefs with her maxims; I'm not sure what bothers me more, that she makes such an incredibly large statement (accusation?) while not supporting it terribly well, or that she feels in a place to make that kind of statement with any kind of authority in the first place.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Johannes -

Hmm. I don't think that she's talking about an "updated attention to keep our minds from straying." What she seems to be saying is that while the predominant mode in print texts is the "deep, focused" style of reading, the reading of e-materials remains "deep," but takes on a hyper/frenetic, as opposed to focused, quality.

It's still unclear whether she endorses this as the only way of reading "e-lit," and if so, for what reasons.

8:02 AM  
Blogger christopher said...

I wanted to say something in response to TT's comment in the last post, but I think it makes sense to comment here because both of you are talking about what should not be the purpose of reading: understanding in TT's case and cognitive "improvement" for Johannes. I'm not sure if it's a knee-jerk contrarianism or a latent conservatism (it's funny how often those two impulses produce a similitude of effect), but for some reason my first reaction to TT's comment is that a spam email containing a computer virus is not _Literature_. And yet, I don't (consciously, anyway) endorse any exhaustive definition of literature, so I find I lack any ground from which to argue that anything is or isn't. Nevertheless, and this is going to sound cliche (and also, I pretty much agree with all of TT's critique of Hayles), but doesn't it seem that both of you are reinforcing the categories you profess to undermine? Sort of a "This poem makes no sense, get it?" and "'Progress' is not Real Progress" kind of thing?


10:03 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

>> to be exposed to other cultures?

> No, that's not the reason.

For starters, writing in translation is usually taken as a reminder that any transparent way-things-are arguments are ideology. (This is, itself, an ideology, witness most of the translations of Milosz -- C. not O.V. -- I've seen.)

I'm wary of the consumer-imperialist view of writing in translation, but most days I don't see a better option: There might be something I respond to more over this hill, or this hill, or this one.

12:26 PM  
Blogger TT said...


Just to clarify, I don't think understanding should be booted as a purpose of reading, but that Hayles seems to assume that it is simply the given purpose. I don't think I consider spam as literature (though I'm sure it could be, but I'm not so sure it's even a question I find interesting), but mostly thought it could illustrate qualities of electronic textuality that Hayles' framework seemed blind to.

I think my critique of Hayles is not that she is incorrect, but that he structures are less than useful (for me, they seem to cover up as much or more than they illuminate).


5:21 PM  
Blogger christopher said...

Sorry, Tony. I was kind of picking a fight with a strawman, there. Should have phrased my comment as a request for clarification. You weren't making a negative argument, but affirming sensation etc. as alternately legitimate purposes. I think the spam/virus question is kind of interesting, though, so long as the systems it interacts with were thought of as those of "the reader" (an antiquated term?).

There's some sci-fi story I'm trying to remember, where a group of artists and musicians one night stumble by accident upon a combination drum-beat/ink-splatter with remarkable qualities (like, used as a rorschach, it brings patients out of comas, used as a pattern on a tie it sells out, used as a hook in a song it takes over and listeners loose all track of time) that proliferates like mad until they come up with the antidote. [Ah, just found it, Fritz Leiber, "Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-Tah-Tee" 1959.] Time for a reread.


8:13 AM  

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