I read an article a few days ago about “e-literature”; what caught me about this phrase was its specificity. While some people are condemning the current state of bookselling and publishing (you know, because the kindle and the iPad are destroying the literary world as we know it), this article looked at the future of literature from the view of a digital humanist, which to me is very exciting. This new “e-literature”, according to the author, is reinventing the standards of fiction so as to open new avenues of interpretation. Through this literature, authors can not only represent their work in multiple formats, literally bringing readers outside of the book and forcing them to look at the work differently, but also create a fluidity between the real world of the Internet and the world of literature.
The digital humanities is a popular field right now in academia. There’s a growing interest and definitely a growing demand from some of the top schools for individuals who can tackle the issue of the humanities and where it stands in our tech-driven society. Digital humanists create new avenues of investigation and creation by incorporating and using the new technologies of today. The responsibility of digital humanists is quite profound. To find a place for the humanities in this evolving, electronic society means a restructuring of not only the presentation of the humanities but also a new analysis of it. Right now, the humanities are in need of that new outlet, a new form of expression that will invigorate the field and bring back some much needed attention to these departments. But there is still much hesitation and doubt of this potentially positive relationship: to change the structure of analysis and investigation, digital humanists would need to prove the necessity and advantages of this new form.
Though, as a former coworker of mine once said, ‘Academia is always pretty behind when it comes to technology’, the Internet is proving, once again, to be the ultimate channel for this new creative form of fiction.
As is stated in the article, It isn’t enough to call ebooks a new form of literature. In it’s basic structure, ebooks have the same general narrative form as the novels of the past 500 years. The linearity of the novel has remained intact, albeit for a few exceptions in which text space and representation have been manipulated. E-literature creates a completely new world for literature and its representation of the real world. Amy Marcott’s piece “Flying the Coop” was written in the form of a forum discussion. Save the blank page it finds itself on, the text uses screennames, time stamps, text response space. The conversation among the characters centers around the people affected by loved ones with Alzheimer’ Disease (AD). Markott does a great job at focusing on the dynamics within a forum, and how personalities can be conveyed in such a limited setting as the Internet. Sure, online people can create completely new identities, new representations of themselves or hide behind anonymity, but even these actions shine light on distinct personality traits: of who we are as individuals and who we become when given an opportunity for expression in a free landscape.
What strikes me as most interesting about this emergent literature is its true capability in mirroring real life. Whereas with a novel, you buy a book, you sit down, you open the book and begin reading, with e-literature you can so easily stumble upon the website, jump out of a non-fiction piece (like an article) and into a new work of fiction. That vital part of the experience of reading is gone. E-literature does not demand any different form of attention from its readers; its an adaptation of literature. Now whether this new evolutionary trait is one that will win out in the end, is highly doubtful. But it is nonetheless an exciting new approach to fiction. By incorporating it into an online format, it brings the literary world one step closer to the reality of everyday life.
There are some issues with an altogether too realistic form of literature. What if Marcott’s piece was designed to look like a forum, with a clear banner at the top, sections colored in various tones of green to provide distinction. What if someone truly did stumble upon this site and began reading the piece not as literature but as a forum for individuals with loved ones with AD? The idea of literature becoming indistinguishable is much easier to believe when its format can be so easily manipulated. The possibilities for e-literature are truly incredible: it can bring fiction from a once isolated instance of thought distributed to readers to an ever evolving, interactive piece of the human experience.