In her book, Electronic Literature, N. Katherine Hayles works towards addressing the challenges and the potential electronic based writing brings to critical understanding. While the genres of electronic literature that Hayles addresses, particularly those who are named for the software by which they are produced, might have a relatively limited application as technology changes; it is possible that more concrete terms may begin to form around the general trends that Hayles identifies. The challenges that electronic literate poses to the concept of narrative and the possibility that is provides to engage in radical experiments of spatiality and temporality are evidently areas that Hayles believe to be vital to the exploration of electronic literature as a critically vigorous genre.

The concepts of dynamic hierarchies and fluid analogies are important to take from this book and according to Hayles, vital to understanding electronic literature. The computer systems, as they grow more complex, are responsible for creating multiple sites of contact between digital compositions and critical interpretations through mutual determining interactions. These influencing relations are heightened by increasingly ubiquitous computing, which are brought forth through the composition of electronic literature.

Hayles’ positioning as neither body nor machine, but rather the intertwining of these two elements for the creation of another subjectivity (88) is one of the strongest appeals of the book. It is from this positioning that Hayles is able to make her strongest claims about the reflexivity of media as electronic literature is influenced by and in turn influences the more traditional media from which it was derived. Her resistance to seeing body and technology as opponents leads her to point in which she critiques Mark B. N. Hanson, who built his arguments largely on Hayles’ previous How We Became Posthuman, and suggests that in trying to prove the vital role of the body has dismissed its potential for transformation through mechanical means.

Hayles’ prediction at the beginning of her final chapter, that “digital literature will be as significant component of the twenty-first century cannon” (159) is by no means a small claim as Hayles herself seems to suggest. The fact that almost all literature spends most of its life as a digital file is perhaps an important fact of production, but the consumptive efforts of readers, even critically minded academic ones, have been largely limited to paper in bindings. Even if the medium is largely digital the output is what has the focus. With the increased access to digital book readers, popular, even commercially successful digital literature may not be far off. While Electronic Literature is a good book today; one that is of great interest to media studies scholars, I do predict that this book will be of importance to nearly all scholars of literature in the not to distant future. New texts are composed with increasing digital finesse and old texts are being remixed into electronic media formats.

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