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What qualifies as electronic literature?


From e-books to computer games, literature has a very broad definition, and  best defined in Katherine Hayles’ “Electronic Literature: What is it?’ There has been a learning curve and e-literature is being re-evaluated. In early days it was “A block of text on a computer’. This eventually progressed into programmable hypertext. Some of the first hypertexts were written in Storyspace, a hypertext program created by Michael Joyce, Jay David Bolter, and John B. Smith and then licensed to Mark Bernstein of Eastgate Systems, who has improved, extended, and maintained it.(Katherine Hayles)

Eventually as the web developed, more programs became available to make e-lit books and the creativeness took hold with interactive novellas such as “Pry‘ which combines moving pictures, braille, text, and sound. Some consider this literature because it tells a story and makes the reader think about deeper meanings which is a key point in literature. The debate of electronic literature as actual literature has used this ebook as an example of it being real literature.

There are many reviews that debate this such as the LA Weekly Review of Books. This is where the definition of literature comes into question because some consider “Gone Home’ literature, which is a computer game where you move about a house to uncover a mystery. As you go through you find journals that tell a story and spark deeper thinking about subjects such as parenting methods. These deeper meanings are an attribute to literature, but as a video game there is a lot of discussion.

The definition of literature is anything that is written work as defined by the dictionary, but when it is electronic this can be interpreted different ways. Some consider literature anything that inspires deeper thought, while others define it as only written work, whether digital or print. The definition is definitely up for discussion as technology changes the way literature is viewed.

Notable people and works

There are a number of notable authors, critics, and works associated with electronic literature. Michael Joyce’s Afternoon, a story is known as the first hypertext fiction, although this has been disputed,[11] and Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden is another notable work of electronic literature.

Other particularly interesting and noteworthy pieces of digital literature are Nightingale’s Playground by Andy Campbell and Judi Alston. This interactive fiction is a link between the original concept of text based interactive fiction and gaming as we now it now. Also in the subject of gaming, Gone Home is a work used in many english classes as a tie between digital literature and gaming. This work tells a story and uses the gaming type of play to portray a significant conflict in society. This is why it is called literature even though they are technically games.

Furthermore Shelley Jackon’s ‘Patchwork Girl’ is described as “an electronic fiction that manages to be at once highly original and intensely parasitic on its print predecessors. Based off ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ by Mary Shelley, it gives the story a feminine twist with both the protagonist and frankentein’s monster now being female. Throughout the hypertext, Jackson weaves together fragments of nodes in resemblance to the stitching together of frankenstein’s monster’s limbs.

Another notable work is Pry, A Novella which is a cutting edge Iphone app that tells a story with interactive modules such as braille, audio, pictures, videos, and interacting with the app by pinching, “pry’ing, and swiping.

Many works could be considered digital because they insight a deeper meaning, but Arthur Crystal defines digital literature in Harpers Magazine best, saying that literature in definition is changing due to technology.


The reason I made the choice of writing the history of digital literature in a linear fashion is because it gives the reader a timeline of when digital literature happened in accordance to technology. I wrote about digital literature’s history because my audience might not know when digital literature really came around and how long it has been used. It will give perspective into when technology became relevant to literature, and maybe the audience will remember what kind of technology they were using at that time. I also wrote about the history of digital literature because it was something that had mostly facts. I like this because everybody has their own opinion on what digital literature is and for a wikipedia page that needs mostly facts, history seemed the most practical.



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