Navigation as Reading

Last class was another great conversation.  As I think back to what we covered together, there really is so much to consider when thinking about the act of reading in our lives.  This quote from Jessica Pressman’s early article entitled “Navigating Electronic Literature” was in a way a touchstone for our overall conversation – an idea we continually came back to as we reflected together on how the act of reading might be changing:  “Electronic Literature demonstrates how navigation is not only a central characteristic of the digital literary work and its aesthetic, but also a primary source of its signification.”  Where is the source of meaning produced when we read?  How is the role of the reader changing?  Can a reader also be a part-author of text?  How so?
The class discussion was rich and also honest.  I am impressed with you all – a group of students who are willing to share your earnest impression of novel ideas and new experiences.  I think it was instructive to read Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue in tandem with the Pressman’s article as a way to build an early foundation for our journey into the world of electronic literature.  Your collaborative class notes are rich with insight and thoughtful – chuck full of smart observations and ideas.

“12 BLUE ISN’T ANYTHING, THINK OF LILACS WHEN THEY ARE GONE.”

everything can be read, every surface, every silence, every breath, every vacancy, every eddy, every current, every body, every absence, every darkness, every light……

Some ideas to consider from our discussion last Wednesday:

Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue = a reading experience; a conceptual exploration.

  • Themes/Motifs: reading & flowing; water- upstream/downstream, stillness & turbulence, being submerged, fluid and changing; memory; color; nature/seasons; traces; generations (young vs. more mature); history; perception (looking); multiple paths/multiple meanings; “skyways” (routes, infrastructure, mobility); self-referencial elements
  • Character, plot and relationships: there are relationship “networks” but there was definitely some confusion – some readers knew some characters, other readers knew others, some of our knowledge of the text overlapped, some did not, etc.
  • Reading strategies:   Some click on threads or the hyperlinks within the text randomly, some readers decide to stick consistently by a certain thread color, while others might discover the titles for each of the lexia tabs and use this as an attempt to “frame” possible meanings.  Some readers think about the number 12 as a clue to a reading strategy, while some attempt  basic “note taking” and/or “mapping” in an attempt to discern patterns or meanings.
  • Many expressed frustration, and many felt a sense of exploration and discovery emerge after some more time spent with the text.  Some expressed that the piece was “writerly” but the story was never compelling because there was no cohesion.  We speculated on the effect of a lack of any discernible pathway to reading.   A lack of any identifiable closure was certainly unsettling to most.
  • Assessment: 12 Blue reminds us all of the active role of the reader in creation – we are “navigators” beyond just readers;   We all shared an awareness of an underlying structure that cannot/couldn’t be apprehended, but was determined by the code of the work. (This is the central illusion – that readers have agency through navigation, but still, the world is a closed design determined by the underlying code).
  • I think the idea of an illusion will be a key word for us to consider throughout our exploration of elit.  With Twelve Blue, we struggled to apprehend an ending (lack of closure was deemed truly unsatisfying), but perhaps there is beauty in the fragments.

Some critical/review articles

These articles give you an idea of how critics/scholars write about a text like 12 Blue:

Some follow up planning issues:

  • All of you have selected a date for your presentation.   A few of you still need to tell me what text you will present.
  • The first presentation for your E-lit Reviews will start next week – thanks to Stephanie & Kelli for  volunteering to kick this part of class off.
  • All of you should be syndicated into the course website by now, under the Student Blogs tab of this site.  Please remember that your blog post for each week must be published BEFORE CLASS by each Tuesday morning.
  • Also, a reminder to tweet your blog posts to the class hashtag #elitclass each week, and any other #elit reflections generate in or from class that you think are worthy of public notice.

For next week:

 1.  Please read the Bots” section of Electronic Literature Collection (Volume 3) and check out some of the boys features in the mini-collection.  Stephanie will present some bots and generate a discussion for us about generative literature and bots.

2.  Please read “Reconstructing Mayakovsky” by Illya Szilak.  Kelli will present a “walkthrough” of the piece, share some context and background, and generate a discussion for us to participate in.

3.  Your second blog post:  Please write on one of the two selections made by Stephanie & Kelli.  What are some of the significant textual elements?  How did you choose to navigate these texts?  What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  What overall effect do these texts create?  What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text? What is literary about the text?

Thanks for a great start to the semester #eitclass….

See you next week!

Dr. Zamora