Austen Online- Alena Munro

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Jane Austen novels are some of the easiest print text to find in an online form. While searching for Austen’s novels online, an interesting form of Sense and Sensibility was presented on http://www.gutenberg.org. The first interesting aspect of the website is that the “author” of the website gives the reader their first “choice,” so to speak. The reader can keep the text to themselves, copy the text, and re-use the text as much as they please. Another interesting aspect of the Gutenberg website is the ability for the text to be changed, or updated. The “author” lets the user know that the text was first uploaded to the site in 2008, but the last update was in February of 2015; the ability to update the online text can give the reader a form of anxiety that a print text would not give. A print text is usually deemed as gospel because of its physical nature; a print text can be compared to a text that is written in stone, unchangeable. However, the [updated] online version of Sense and Sensibility can make readers questions whether they have the full text or if the text is exactly like the original print copy.

Like most online chapter books, the Gutenberg site provides hyperlinks for each chapter; the hyperlinks give the reader the choice to jump around from chapter to chapter as they please. Seeing the novel in the online form does shape the content of the piece. As discussed in class, when reading online the user is often prone to skimming through the test. Moreover, with the addition of the hyperlinks makes skimming through the text’s entirety easier.By the end of the novel the author of the website shares that ANYTHING can be done with public domain E-books, as well as the books can be used for ANY purpose.

Pank, a Born Online Literary Magazine- Danielle Imperatore

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Pank is an online magazine that requires no subscription or information from its readers described on its website, Prank is a “nonprofit literary arts collective” to show new innovative poets and writers.  The magazine has been publishing online monthly with multiple pieces of work since 2006 and will have its last issue in the spring of 2016.  Anyone can submit work with the publishing company choosing a variety of work every month.  The website also has something called “invasions” which includes videos or collaborations with other websites or organizations which gives readers the option to look at different forms of writing and collaborative or solo work including videos.  They also have a blog which has reviews of previous entries.  This born online literary fiction relates to our discussions pertaining to electronic literature.  Although this online magazine isn’t network fiction where all different pieces can connect to one big piece of work, a reader does have the option to choose the works.  Each monthly edition is shown on the homepage with the beginning of each piece seen.  Readers are given a sneak peek as to what they could possibly choose to read or start to look at.  The magazine strives to choose fictional pieces or prose and poetry.  Personally I read this magazine occasionally because it allows me to choose what I want to read and offers a variety of work.  I get to see the work of new and adventurous writers that Pank chooses to publish online.  I think the best part is that as a nonprofit online magazine, it offers different opportunities to both submit work, collaborate with other writers, and also read interesting works of fiction.  I found this online magazine back in high school when I had to submit different pieces of work to online publishers.  I was really interested that Pank branched out and did more than just publish fictional poems and prose.

 

Check it out!  http://pankmagazine.com/

Online Platforms Add Depth In More Ways Than One- Danielle Starvaggi

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Read Print is an online platform that provides online versions of various texts organized by author. The way that the website is structured is that a reader can select which stave they would like to read and choose which layout they would like to read in (webpage or book layout). I focused my attention on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In 1843, Dickens wrote one of his more famous works about Ebenezer Scrooge, who goes on a journey of self-discovery and humility as he travels with the help of Christmas spirits through the past, present, and future. This text has been reinterpreted time and again for stage performances, movies, and printed works, alike.

The print to online text adaptation that this site provides takes the experience one would typically have with this classic story and allows readers to become more engaged with it. There are places for viewers to add comments, to rate the story, to add cover art ideas, to share it on social media, and to look at popular quotes from the story. In addition, there is a provided biography and overview of Dickens’ works that can be accessed at the start page. By the text being in this online platform, it alters the way readers even first get introduced to the story. This makes it so a reader has more information and outside input going into the story than they would otherwise, which can alter their interpretations and experience with the text.

Additionally, I feel having A Christmas Carol in a malleable, interactive online environment frames the story in a way that opens up a new level of meaning. A large portion of the story centers on the idea that people’s actions and freedom to make choices determine their fate. The big lesson learned by Scrooge is that he can choose to be miserly and bitter his whole life, or he can give and open himself up to engaging with those around him. It is interesting to have a story with that sort of lesson behind it presented on a platform that allows readers to do just that: take the story into their own hands. Readers can choose to start at whichever stave they would like or whether they want to read about others’ takes on the text first. The experience is up to the reader. This level of significance can only be given by having the story told online, because the printed version would not allow that same level of autonomy for the reader.

Fan Fiction as Digital Literature-Erika Panzarino

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This short story, “Loud”, (http://archiveofourown.org/works/4623426/chapters/10539903),  a transformative work found on archiveofourown.org provides an exemplary sample of fanfiction and it’s place in online literature. The work focuses on two main characters, Jack and David, from the live-action film Newsies.

Like many fan works, the piece centers on a “ship”, short for relationship, between Jack and David. This piece firstly extends the canon, setting it after the newsboy strike and well further into the timeline. The expansion comes in the development of the boys relationship from friendship to romance. Additionally, the author chooses to write David as a person with autism. These two major additions to the established canon of the original film transform the pre-existing givens about the characters.

What makes this transformation crucial is that the readers seeing out this type of work are warping the canon to be more of “what they want.” This specific piece follows the incredibly common pattern of creating a male-male love interest. Across any media following, there are always fans who create and latch onto different queer ships, using canon moments as evidence supporting their theories. In many cases, a heterosexual ship can and does become canon. But it is only in recent years that we have begun to see any queer representation in mainstream media, and thus fanworks are the only place for the representation to appear. Film viewers wanted to see Jack and David together, so they turned online to place where that would be possible. Because acceptance towards the LGBTQ community has only recently begun to appear in our media, digital literature was the only place to find media that viewers found identifiable, and thus they become readers.

This same idea holds true for presenting David as autistic. People with disabilities are another largely underrepresented demographic in mainstream media, and even when portrayed are often put into narrow, “tolerable” levels of disability. Presenting a non-verbal, panick-stricken David being comforted by his boyfriend is not likely to be found in any mainstream media so far, and it would be optimistic to say such a scene would appear in the near future.

In short, fanfiction is digital literature. Fans seeking a fulfilling, relatable story are more likely to turn to non-traditional storytelling, because the mainstream media simply has not caught up to the desires of the consumers they hope to reach.

Perspectives on Ergodic Literature- Adriana Sutich

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The article entitled Perspectives of Ergodic Literature deals with the issue of what the actual differences are between ergodic and non-ergodic literature, as well as where these two forms of expression overlap.  It is clear from this reading that there is no clear-cut answer to this question, nor to the question of what effect this seemingly new form of  literature has had on society.  However, through the introduction of the ideas of unicursal vs. multicursal structure, this article draws attention to the fact that these sort of literary labyrinths have existed for many years, and will continue to expand and develop just as they have been doing up until now.

The article defines ergodic as a form of literature in which “nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text”, meaning that the reader has to actively engage with the work to be able to make decisions and judgment calls.  In other words, ergodic literature requires an active participant, as opposed to nonergodic literature in which the only effort , or work, that the reader has to put in is turning the page.  Often, these ergodic works of literature are structured as a multicursal labyrinth, where the reader has many different pathways, or options, to choose from.  Some will lead you in the desired direction, and some will not; there is no structured beginning, middle, and end like with traditional literature.  However, the article brought up the interesting point that people can’t blame technology and the digital culture for making this happen.  The multicursal labyrinth was always present in literature, and is even found in the most traditional of works.  For example, every time someone reads the footnotes or goes to the list of terms in the back of Jane Eyre, they are making an active decision to veer off from the linear path of the narrative.  Another example that was brought up in class was a book of poems, because you don’t have to read it in order.  Before reading this article, I never thought of it that way.  I held the common misconception that printed novels and the classic canon of literary works were completely unrelated to the kind of literature we would be studying in this course.  However, I now am aware these two forms of literature do have some overlap.  The difference is not in the content and quality of the works, but the medium in which they are presented and the way in which you are expected to interact with them.

I also took particular interest in the section discussing the seemingly “democratic” nature of the internet and the relationship between “user” and “reader”.  For many people, one of the  most attractive qualities of the internet and the age of digital literature is that everyone gets to have a voice, even people with unpopular opinions.  While this is true to an extent, the article draws attention to the reality of the situation, which is that the distinction between “author” and “reader” still exists.  The lines may be blurred a little bit, but there is still a hierarchy in which some people are in control of others.  Take any digital text that includes hyperlinks, for example.  While it is true that the reader is free to choose if they want to click on them, there is an author who actively controlled where to place the hyperlinks, and therefore controlled the information that the reader had access too.  The same situation exists for any website that allows people to discuss their opinions in a comment section.  Here, there is always a curator who can decide if they want to delete any comments that they don’t like, or even block people from their website. This leads to the question of who decides who the authors are?  What is the criteria that decides which people are allowed to be in positions of power and which are not?  Furthermore, what is stopping the people who should not be in positions of power from rising above others?

Not Everything Can Be Printed- Danielle Starvaggi

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From Then On Fire by Corinne Goria and Russell Quinn, while formatted as an online newspaper is anything but that. The news genre centers on clear, concise information delivered in an up to date manner, while From Then On Fire seems to take this and transforms it into a piece of literature with an opposite construction. The articles shown throughout the piece are disjointed from one another in all ways except they seem to be around the same place geographically. The particularly interesting part of this piece is its treatment of time and direction. The dates and times given for each article vary greatly. With the newspapers typically being daily editions with an emphasis on documenting event down to the minute, From Then On Fire seems to throw this at readers by being so inconsistent with its time keeping. Also, no matter which of the dozens of links on the first page one clicks, the site immediately directs readers to the same next page. This is done with each stage of the text. There is this inevitability to the out come to the story no matter which avenue one takes, which is emphasized by the fact that there is no going back once a selection has been made, and once the story line is exhausted readers are simply redirected to the starting point once again. There is this sense of per-destination and futility to the actions of the reader, despite being given the options to make individual decision.

There would not be the same sense of finality with a printed text as there is with From Then On Fire. By having it in an online setting, the creator is given the power to make it so that regardless of the readers’ choices the outcome is the same. This in itself is a deviation from a lot of what has already been viewed in class in regards to online literature, which seems to focus in on the ability of the reader to interact and choose the direction of their story on their own. Interestingly with this online text, readers are given the illusion of choice, which make the fact that everything they do has a predetermined outcome a bit more jarring. It is expected with all of the links and additions that the online medium affords readers; that there is some autonomy. Readers are built up to this and then have it taken from them. The last piece of control given would be their ability to undo and redo their decisions, but the way Goria and Quinn contracted their online paper not even this is afforded to readers; thus finalizing the impact of their piece. This speaks to the fact that there are somethings that can only be brought to their fullest possible impact through online mediums.

A Different Shakespeare Than What You Want to Teach -Erika Panzarino

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This week we began with a discussion of a recent New York Times article, “Teaching a Different Shakespeare From the One I Love” by Stephen Greenblatt, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/magazine/teaching-a-different-shakespeare-than-the-one-i-love.html?_r=1. Mr. Greenblatt explains that his students do not wish to devour and master the language of Shakespeare in the same scholastic way that he did, but rather that they experience it more instinctively, more creatively. He writes that “[m]any of [his] students may have less verbal acuity than in years past, but they often possess highly developed visual, musical and performative skills,” or in other words, they way in which Shakespeare wrote his work to be absorbed.

As Professor Geddes explained to us in class, in the 18th century there was scholarly debate, the poets won out, and Shakespeare was deemed literature. In my mind, this mistake has cost us hundreds of years of accessibility and connection to the work. Shakespeare is the world’s most famous playwright, and to negate that prestigious title on the grounds of some ‘stuffy, old, white male academics said so’ is simply no longer acceptable.

We live in an age of conversation. We are all held accountable for what we do or don’t say, especially in the online world. Artists have increasing pressure to create work that not only embodies their own personal views, but also creates an inclusive and “unproblematic” space for their fans to share. The benefits and detriments to these conversations are a post for another time, but the fact remains that for better or worse the conversations are happening. Writing becomes the most narcissistic form of communication, because you have the luxury of making a statement without having to listen to any type of response. Therefore of course academia wants Shakespeare to remain “literature,” because it allows for a quantifiable “right and wrong” way of understanding it.

A live performance is a dialogue. Actors feed off of the tone of the room, the response from the audience, and their fellow performers, creating an ever-evolving interpretation of the work. No show ever runs identically to another performance, there are an infinite amount of variables from vocal inflection to outright staging malfunctions that drastically alter a performance.  You may not catch every rhyme, but you know the emotion the actors are conveying. Reading body language and gesture are inherently human traits, and we rely on this skill as a way to interpret the story we’re being told. An engaged audience responds to the emotions their being shown, whether it be with applause, cheers, or stunned silence. This is an incredibly undervalued way of experiencing storytelling, and one that can in no way be replicated by any other medium.

It does not take courage to speak at somebody, but it takes great skill and strength to speak to them. The reason academics have shunned theatre as a means of storytelling is because it moves. It changes. There is not only one right answer, and without a clear right answer, however can they exclude people from their elite club of “correct interpretation?” The snobbish academic elitism that implies that there is only one way to experience a play, by reading it on the page, is losing ground in favor of more visceral experiences. Greenblatt laments this, saying: “when I ask them to write a 10-page paper analyzing a particular web of metaphors, exploring a complex theme or amassing evidence to support an argument, the results are often wooden; when I ask them to analyze a film clip, perform a scene or make a video, I stand a better chance of receiving something extraordinary.” I argue to you, Mr. Greenblatt, that you have been experiencing Shakespeare all wrong. If you’re entire experience of a play is the written script, you have missed out on ninety percent of what Shakespeare wanted you to learn. You look upon language as your coat of arms, but there are no borders in a digital world. Your students have reached a level of human understanding and interaction that circumvents your iron gates, because they react to Shakespeare in a way that makes his work feel alive.