e-Lit Resource
Electronic Literature: Where Is It?

In 2007, N. Katherine Hayles’ “Electronic Literature: What Is It?” was published by the Electronic Literature Organization. The essay is essentially the first systematic attempt at categorizing and classifying the still nascent field of electronic literature, useful for teachers, practitioners, theorists, and students. In a somewhat covert nod to Hayles’ essay, Dene Grigar’s “Electronic Literature: Where Is It?” appeared on the Electronic Book Review in 2008. Grigar’s essay is primarily concerned with the relationship between digital media and the Humanities. Grigar observes that many readers of ebr may have been “seduced into electronic literature by the narrative of video games,” but asks “where in academe is electronic literature promoted?”

Grigar’s essay is mostly in response to an essay published in the Guardian by French writer Andrew Gallix, titled “Is e-literature just one big anti-climax?” (Consequently, this highlights the networked capabilities of the web, elit, and ebr, as an outbound link to Gallix’s essay is included in the body of Grigar’s essay.) Essentially, Grigar aims to identify and disprove “four major misperceptions regarding elit stemming from Gallix’s article.” Grigar summarizes these misperceptions of elit as follows:

  • reading patterns differ between print-based literature and elit.
  • elit is no longer literary.
  • elit is produced by artists or supported by academics at a lower rate than in previous periods.
  • elit’s existence can only be discerned through its presence in popular culture.

Ultimately, Grigar concludes that elit “is not dead, nor is it dying.” Grigar does state, though, that “English as an academic field that has for years developed future reading audiences for literature is struggling while enrollment in digital media programs is surging.” What is most essential, then, is not the question of whether or not elit is a field on the verge of extinction, but how can elit be better promoted in classrooms and on the literary scene, “so that it can foster and bolster literary sensibilities and literacies of future generations.”

Grigar’s title resurfaces in the Electronic Literature Organization’s call for papers in anticipation of the upcoming conference in 2012, a testament to the importance of what Grigar is attempting to elucidate in her essay.