The more things change, the more they stay the same. That line can apply to countless types of situations, but in this case I’m applying in a rather personal sense. I’m talking of course, about my absolutely triumphant return to studying electronic literature.
Back in 2014, I decided to take Intro To E-Lit (not much of an intro anymore I suppose) during an absolutely stacked semester.
I took 15 credits instead of 12, the insanity. Despite this, there was a certain respite that the class had provided that I couldn’t really put my finger on at the time; I entered each week with a sense of excitement, not dread. I now know however, the main reason behind this feeling.
A lot has happened since my first venture into E-Lit back in 2014, in technology, in literature, and even in myself as a person. And the very concept of electronic literature, the storytelling, the narrative, and the visuals, has sat on an interesting, almost neutral plane the entire time, not quite taking advantage of the new enhancements that technology has offered, but rather placing an emphasis on design and style to compose most E-Lit works Focusing on the role of navigation in electronic literature can lead to valuable discussions not only about individual works but also about electronic literature in general and its relationship to traditional literary studies, says Jessica Pressman on Navigating Electronic Literature. And with a quote like that, I think a good part of E-Lit can be framed into a mode of discussion, one with examples that can be learned from.
Take Michael Joyce and Twelve Blue, the E-Lit reading this week. If I had read it in the previous class then I had forgot my experience with it, and this has allowed me to explore it again with fresh eyes. It’s a labyrinth of exposition and dialogue, monologues and introspection. It could mean a whole lot as much as it means nothing, and it seems to favor the latter.
Twelve blue isn’t anything. Think of lilacs when they’re gone, the story urges me to do when I decide to seek advice on reading it. There are passing links within the text on the right as well, but these, once followed, go away. Never has advice been so cryptic as it was informative.
The difficulty of identifying the “text” in electronic literature is made even more apparent in interactive works that engage the reader as a character navigating through the narrative, Pressman wrote in her article, and I think Twelve Blue is a quick example of just how true that can be. If there’s a story here that I’m supposed to absorb, it’s lost on me. But for what I can take at face value, the text that is presented in the non-linear format, it’s quite engaging, with the links to the new page being a key line in the text, or the borderline nonsensical text at the end of one of the “routes” that encourage you to check out another one.
Twelve Blue may not have been as coherent as I remembered it, but it did remind me of the importance in the navigation of E-Lit, not everything is going to be straightforward and if it is, it’s closer to a proper e-book.
It also reminded me of just what I hope to get out of yet another semester of studying E-Lit; to better understand the composition of it and in doing so, bring a new appreciation of the collaboration of my two favorite forms of media together. I felt slightly rushed when I took this class back in 2014, but now I feel as if I can take my time with this, even if it’s just a little more than before. Being back feels good.