e-Lit Resource
Fundamentals: How to Read and Write Electronic Literature

Deena Larsen describes her Fundamentals website as "Hornbook," "Reader," "Coloring Book," and "Prompter." Readers familiar with Larsen's vast body of creative work will note that these various designations offer a first lesson on a key feature of the hypertext format--the ability to organize information across multiple lines with different effects. Thus, the site can be read as a Hornbook (initiating new readers into electronic literature), a Reader (directing readers to a broad list of works from various authors), a Coloring Book (presenting exercises that teach basic skills for electronic writers), and a Prompter (providing prompts to launch new authors into writing projects of their own). Each section focuses on a particular rhetorical aspect of Electronic Literature beyond words (links, images, sounds, context, contradiction, layout, layering, fonts, constraints, hidden pages, etc.). A typical node is broken down into the following sections: Exploration, Explanation, Exercise, Experiment, and Exchange. This schema transports the reader from learning to doing with a strong emphasis on community and sharing. Though the explicit aim is to teach "Rhetorical Devices for Electronic Literature," many of the exercises can be done with pen and paper, demonstrating a commitment to accessibility and writing in contexts where computers are not necessarily always available or skills may be limited. Furthermore, Larsen demonstrates through her down-to-earth explanations that these techniques are not strictly confined to the realm of Electronic, but that they resonate with many aspects of reading, writing, and thinking. In addition, Larsen includes a teacher's guide, a list of digital tools (including both proprietary and non-proprietary software), and a basic glossary, making it an excellent introduction for curious readers, aspiring hypermedia writers, and teachers at all levels.