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Digital Literature: Theoretical and Aesthetic Reflections
The emergence of a new phenomenon – digital literature – within the field of
literary studies calls for the reorganization and creation of new theoretical and
analytical repertoires. As models of communication change, so do
reception and production processes accompanying these changes. Within these
altered scenarios, the dissertation Digital Literature: Theoretical and Aesthetic
Reflections is a response to the aesthetic and theoretical challenges brought on by
computer-based literature. As a methodological strategy, the dissertation articulates
recent trends in the theory of digital aesthetics – remediation (BOLTER),
eventilization (HAYLES), correlations of performativity, intermediality and
interactivity with meaning-driven analysis (SIMANOWSKI), Medienumbrüche
(GENDOLLA & SCHÄFER) – with theories of production of presence
(GUMBRECHT), autopoietic communicative models (LUHMANN) and closereadings
of digital works. By scripting a dialogue with key theorists from print
literary theory as well as new media theorists and artists in the burgeoning field,
the thesis offers conceptual and theoretical contributions to the formulation of a
poetics of new media.
As it was clear in Text Rain, highly complex digital objects will often demand and benefit from both hermeneutical and non-hermeneutical “readings”. Despite their lexical natures – and the interpretative responses elicited by them – their physical apprehension generates material effects of presence, which are not to be ignored. Borrowing from theorist Andrew Darley’s terminology, Roberto Simanowski speaks of a shift in spectatorship modalities, from readers concerned with conceptual and symbolic attributions to spectators veered towards corporeal stimulation (SIMANOWSKI, 2011). Always a believer in de-paradoxifying attitudes, I will claim the following: (a) In digital installations, the effects of physicality encompass an increasing sense of self-awareness on the interactor’s part, a surrendering to a state of relaxation akin to the focused serenity of waiting for a revelation Gumbrecht ascribes to Gelassenheit (GUMBRECHT, 2004). (b) Profiting from this sensory and cognitive oscillation, mixed reality digital installations subvert hermeneutic order even more drastically than non-digital installations would, for in the latter the matter/immaterial modulation is not manifest. Moreover, (c) I suspect that this increased awareness of corporeality and embodiment has not emerged of its own accord. It is not a spontaneous happenstance, but rather represents a cultural tendency that has gained currency as an aesthetic trend because it fulfills certain pre-cognitive needs not fully addressed by the hermeneutical/metaphysical paradigm. It is no wonder that this reactive sensory/affective technological turn has led several authors and researchers of new media to speak of biometric sensors, cortex-encased protoplasts, cyborg bodies and prototyping platforms, promoting a shift away from visual interfaces to proprioceptive interfaces.
Critical writing referenced