Scott Rettberg – Electronic Literature


Polity, ISBN-13 978-1509516780, English, 240 pages, 2019, UK

This is a long overdue book, written by one of the founders of the ELO (Electronic Literature Organization), who arranges the flow of electronic literary experiments within their intrinsic qualities and their references to art movements. The ’new reading’, induced by the computed and networked texts, deals with losing the fixity of the printed text, with all the exciting and accidental consequences this suggests. Rettberg uses electronic literature genres to research and discuss the field. This helps to identify shared trajectories while they remain liquid and in constant evolution, in parallel with their technological apparatuses. He focuses on five of these trajectories, developed in the respective chapters, with early works informing the newer, their medial significance, and their potential for future practices. The resulting database of experimental works is seamlessly ‘interconnected’ with their enabling techniques and underpinning theories. The concept of the networked structure is the most resonant in the book, where Rettberg includes also ‘postal’ art, for example, as one of the precursors. The map he is unfolding is a dynamic snapshot of the most important works, through a vast ramification of sub-genres, all resonating with the specific core of this mode of productions. A vital reference book is finally here.