Back to the Book: Analog Literature in the Digital Age 1990-2010


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Title Back to the Book: Analog Literature in the Digital Age 1990-2010
Period 06 / 2011 - 05 / 2016
Status Current
Research number OND1341813
Data Supplier NWO


Since the late 1980s, scholars have claimed that the future of Western literature as an art form would be electronic: innovations in literature would come from the electronic technology of hypertext, replacing paper and books as state-of-the-art bearers of the literary (Moulthrop 1991; Coover 1992, 1993; Landow 1994; Travis 1996). Such claims have been part of a growing tendency in media studies to consider the digital as the integration of all media (Kittler 1997). In line with this tendency, Henry Jenkins has identified media convergence as a key dynamic of the present: different media meeting and merging (Jenkins 2006). However, since the 2000s, claims for the electronic-literary future and media convergence stand in need of being corrected. From the 1990s on, literature has been transformed on paper and in book-form as much as, if not more radically than, it has been innovatively transformed in electronic environments. My project investigates these reinventions, and then investigates if they point to a more complex dynamic of media-interaction in the present: one typified by divergence rather than convergence alone; by material diversity rather than digital unification alone. How has the literary evolved as an analog art alongside the digital, and how does this evolution complicate existing models of media convergence? The question is probed on the basis of three integrated cases regarding the re-materialization of the novel and the book as a hybrid mode, and the subculture of paper-based networks of life-writing in personal zines.

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