The Scholarship of Electronic Literature

Electronic Literature is an emergent literary form and academic field that can be described as "literary works created with the use of a computer for the electronic medium such that they cannot be experienced in any meaningful way without the mediation of an electronic device" (Grigar, "The Present [Future] of Electronic Literature," 128-9). It is building through scholarly and creative efforts like scholarly publications, exhibits, presentations, and readings and performances.

NYC's The Kitchen Center for Video, Music, Dance, Performance, Film, and Literature, for example, hosted "An Evening with Electronic Literature Organization" curated by Stephanie Strickland on December 13, 2011 that drew a crowd of over 200 people to experience readings from the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 2. The Hugo House, located in Seattle, WA, hosted readings and performances curated by Lori Emerson, in association with the MLA 2012 Conference on January 6, 2012.

Recent national exhibits have done much to promote Electronic Literature. "Electronic Literature" curated by Dene Grigar and Kathi Inman Berens, for the MLA 2012 Convention and "Electrifying Literature", curated by Dene Grigar and Sandy Baldwin, for the ELO 2012 Conference & Media Art Show showcased e-lit to new audiences and new works of e-lit to scholars and artists involved in the art form, respectively. Upcoming shows like the Library of Congress "Electronic Literature Showcase," also curated by Dene Grigar and Kathi Inman Berens, also have the potential to raise the awareness and impact of e-lit.

Important to the growth of awareness of Electronic Literature are online journals and sites, like Hyperrhiz, ebr, Hermaneia, the Iowa Review Web, Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Turbulence, Drunken Boat, and Authoring Software, as well as the growing body of print publications like N. Katherine Hayles' Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary, Jörgen Schäfer and Peter Gendolla's Beyond the Screen: Transformation of Literary Structures, Interfaces, and Genres, Eduardo Kac's Media Poetry, and C.T Funkhouser's Prehistoric Digital Poetry; and organizations and initiatives like the Electronic Literature Organization in the U.S., ELMCIP in Europe, and "Creative Nations" in Australia, all of which undertake a variety of activities, such as sponsoring academic meetings, publishing proceedings, and leading projects for the development, archiving, and promotion of this genre of literature.

While in Europe the term "Digital Literature" is used to refer to Electronic Literature, in the U.S. digital literature is generally seen as print-based literary work digitalized for the web and stand-alone technologies like a CD-ROM. Examples of digital literature would include a copy of Homer's Odyssey found at The Perseus Digital Library or an electronic edition of Emily Dickinson's "manuscripts" at the Dickinson Electronic Archives. Put simply, Electronic Literature is considered a "born digital" art form with unique approaches to thinking about and working with digital technologies for the purpose of creating literary art.

Beginning a Study of Electronic Literature

In beginning a study of Electronic Literature, the best place to start is N. Katherine Hayles' book, Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary, published by Notre Dame Press in 2008. The first chapter, especially, is helpful since it lays out its definition, provides a historical context for what she identifies as "generations" of works of electronic literature, identifies some of its genres, and cites examples of important works. A version of this chapter was first published online by the Electronic Literature Organization and is generally seen as "the first systematic attempt to survey and summarize the fast-changing field of electronic literature, artists, designers, writers, critics, and other stakeholders" ("ELO Publications").

Those wondering why electronic literature is relatively unknown in a larger context may want to read the essay, "Electronic Literature: Where Is It?" by Dene Grigar, aimed as a companion to Hayles' essay. It suggests that differences in cognitive patterns between print and electronic works, assumptions of what constitutes the quality of "literariness," and even requirements for tenure and promotion contribute to its lack of presence in the academy. Additionally, Grigar further argues that as video games and other popular culture digital media forms mainstream into the academy, so too will Electronic Literature. Students inculcated from birth by digital media will ultimately be the final arbiters of its popularity and growth. The call to action found at the end of the essay has given rise to this Electronic Literature exhibit at the MLA 2012 Convention.

Dene Grigar's Scholarship of Electronic Literature

Net Art & Documentation of Multimedia Performance Works

"The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project". 24 works of micro-fiction published on Twitter. August 21, 2009.

"Things of Day and Dream." With Jeannette Altman. Performance at Clark College, on September 27, 2008. Archived at:

"Rhapsody Room." With Jeannette Altman. Performance on September 27, 2008.

When Ghosts Will Die. With Steve Gibson. Performances on September 10, 2005 and April 9, 2005. Archived at:

"Fallow Field: A Story in Two Parts." The Iowa Web Review. September 2004. Translated into Spanish by Eilene Powell. Reviewed August 2012 by Leonardo Flores.

"The Jungfrau Tapes: A Conversation with Diana Slattery about The Glide Project." Iowa Web Review. September 2004.

Articles & Book Chapters

Why Curating? A Curatorial Statement about Electronic Literature and Works on Desktop." Rhizomes (24) 2012.

"Reflecting on 'Fallow Field': An Artist's Paper." Authoring Software. Summer 2012.

"On the Art of Producing a Phenomenally Short Fiction Collection over the Net Using Twitter: 'The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project.'" Authoring Software. January 2011.

"Hyperlinking in 3D Multimedia Performances." Beyond the Screen: Transformations of Literary Structures, Interfaces and Genres. Ed. Jörgen Schäfer and Peter Gendolla. Bielefeld, Germany: Transaction Publishers, March 2010.

"Visionary Landscapes: Literature on the Edge of Time and Space." Hyperrhiz. 2009.

"Electronic Literature: Where Is It?" Electronic Book Review (ebr). January 2009.

"The Present [Future] of Electronic Literature." Transdisciplinary Digital Art: Sound, Vision and the New Screen. Ed. Randy Adams, Steve Gibson and Stefan Muller. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag Publications. CCIS (Communications in Computer and Communication Science Series). 2008.

"Motion Tracking Technology, Telepresence, and Collaboration." With Steve Gibson. Hyperrhiz 03, Summer 2007.

"The Role of Sound in Electronic Literature." frAme. trAce Online Writing Center. Spring 2006.

"The Potential of Electronic Textuality." Engineering Nature. Ed. Roy Ascott. Plymouth: Intellect Press, 2005.

"Ephemeral Writing." With Steve Gibson. Copenhagen, DE: Digital Arts and Culture, 2005.

"The Challenges of Hybrid Forms of Writing." Computers and Composition 22 (2005) : 375-393.

"Off the Printed Page: Background and Theory about Electronic Literature." Ciberart-Bilbao. Ed. Géraldine de Ponthière. CD-ROM. 2004.

"Report on Ted Nelson's Keynote Address at Incubation 2004." Computers and Composition 21.4 (2004) : 485-87.

"Breath by Breath: An Interview with Kate Pullinger about 'The Breathing Wall.'" Computers and Composition 21.4 (2004) : 475-83. "Electronic Literature: Its Types and Some Examples." Redes Sensorias: Arte, Ciência e Tecnologia. (Sensual Media: Art, Cinema, and Technology). Ed. Katia Valeria Maciel Toledo. Rio de Janeiro: Contra Capa, 2003. 77-86.

"A Report from the Electronic Edge . . . Border and Interface." State of the Arts. Ed. Scott Rettberg. LA: Electronic Literature Organization, 2003. 63-69.

"Mutability, Medium and Character." Spec. issue of Computers and the Humanities. Ed. Ray Siemens (2002) : 359-378.

"MOOtextuality." Ed. Sean Williams. Spec. issue of Texts Technology: The Journal of Computer Text Processing (2002) : 163-179.

"A Dialog on the Reality of Writing in Virtual Environments." New Worlds, New Words: Exploring Pathways for Writing about and in Electronic Environments. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2001. 21-73.


"Review of Grafik Dynamo." By Kate Armstrong and Michael Tippett, with essay by Joseph Tabbi. Leonardo Reviews. June 2011.

"Review of Ex-Foliations: Reading Machines and the Upgrade Path." By Terry Harpold. Leonardo Reviews. December 2009. Reprinted in Leonardo Reviews Quarterly 1.01. June 1010.

"Review of Media Poetry: An International Anthology. By Eduardo Kac." Consciousness, Literature and the Arts. Vol. 9 Number 2, August 2008.

"Review of 'The Future of Electronic Literature.'" Leonardo Digital Reviews. June 2007.

"Review of Close Reading New Media," by Jan Van Looy and Jan Baetens. Leonardo Digital Reviews. July 2004. Reprinted in Leonardo: Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology 38.3 (2005).

"Review of Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction," by Nick Montfort. Leonardo Digital Reviews. June 2004. Reprinted in Leonardo: Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology 38.2 (2005).

"Review of Writing Machines," by N. Katherine Hayles. Leonardo Digital Reviews. March 2003.

Curatorial Work

Forthcoming: "Literary Artists of the United Kingdom" (Working title). Illuminations, the gallery for the School of English, Media, and Theatre Studies at the National University of Ireland. Maynooth, Ireland; March 2014.

Forthcoming: "New Literary Experiences for the Digital Humanities" (Working title). The 2013 Digital Humanities Summer Institute. Victoria, Canada; June 6, 2013. The show moves for a month-long showing at G++ gallery following this event, also located in Victoria, Canada.

Forthcoming: "The Library of Congress Electronic Literature Showcase." With Kathi Inman Berens. Washington D.C.; April 3-5, 2013.

"Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New 'Born Digital' Literature" at the MLA 2013 Convention. With Kathi Inman Berens. Boston, MA; January 2013.

"Electrifying Literature". The 2012 Electronic Literature Organization 2012 Conference. With Sandy Baldwin. Morgantown, WV; June 2012.

"Electronic Literature". The 2012 Modern Language Association Conference. With Lori Emerson and Kathi Inman Berens. Seattle, WA; January 2012.

"mediartZ: Art as Experiential, Art as Participatory, Art as Electronic." North Bank Artists Gallery, October 2-31, 2009. Vancouver, WA.

"Visionary Landscapes: The Electronic Literature Organization Media Art Show." North Bank Artists Gallery, Clark College, and Washington State University Vancouver. May 29-June 1, 2008. Vancouver, WA.

"Wild Nature and the Digital Life." With Sue Thomas. Leonardo Electronic Almanac. November 2006 Volume 16, Issue 08. ISSN NO : 1071 - 4391.

"Project X + The Planetary Collegium Media Art Show." April 2005. Dallas, TX.

Kathi Inman Berens' Scholarship of Electronic Literature


"Mobile and Geolocative E-Lit: Private and Public Literatures." Rhizomes (24) 2012.

Blog Posts

"12 Strange, Blue Rains: Touch Evocations in Elit." Self-published, "Kathi Inman Berens, New Media Curious." 17 Nov. 2011.

Curatorial Work

Forthcoming: "The Library of Congress Electronic Literature Showcase." With Dene Grigar. Washington D.C.; April 3-5, 2013.

"Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New 'Born Digital' Literature" at the MLA 2013 Convention. With Dene Grigar. Boston, MA; January 2013.

"Electronic Literature". The 2012 Modern Language Association Conference. With Dene Grigar and Lori Emerson. Seattle, WA; January 2012.