MLA 2016, January, 7-10, 2016.
Deadline to submit abstracts: March 15.

Élika Ortega, Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities, University of Kansas

The place of the reader in electronic literature has conventionally been taken as a “writerly” one, where participation, involvement, interaction, activation, co-creation, etc. are but some of the activities required to read a work. Although this is true to a certain extent, forms of reader interaction are (in)scripted into a writer’s intended creative composition. Explorations into how “writers of electronic literature design, control, cast, or otherwise shape their readers’ experience and interaction” (Leonardo Flores) have recently started to take place. The documentation of readers’ experience of early electronic literature is also the focus of the large scale project Pathfinders directed by Dene Grigar and Stuart Moulthrop.

Further, examining what a reader does with a work of electronic literature becomes even more complex if we add into the mix the ways in which readers engage the media devices used in e-lit works. Following Lisa Gitelman’s notion of media, in e-lit works media will carry with it a series of associated protocols and communication practices. An example of the potential of e-lit works to transform our conventional relationship to media has been suggested by Lori Emerson, as creative strategies in digital literature counter the increasing invisibility of interfaces. Associated media practices and protocols, even when they might be adjacent to the composition of e-lit works, will not only shape readers’ expectations and inform their experience of said works but also, crucially, have an effect on the readers’ experience of the work’s material media. Experimental uses of media in e-lit works impact our conventional uses of media devices and often reframe them in and out of a larger media ecology.

This session invites proposals that incorporate a comparative media approach to explore ways in which particular works of electronic literature mediate the physical engagement of the reader with media materials, devices, and interfaces; how readers enact and experience (as argued by Raley) works of e-lit through the challenges it might pose to the protocols and communication practices associated to their medium; and how works that have been edited in different material formats are read and experienced distinctly.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  •       Different editions or versions of e-lit works (storage medium)\
  •       Engagement and affordances of mobile and desktop versions\
  •       Print and digital versions\
  •       Multi-device works
    -       Emulation\
  •       Reinventions of reading in e-lit works\
  •       Media specific or layered reading\
  •       The conjunction of machine and human reading

250 word abstracts are welcome until 15 March 2015.
Please email: elikaortega [at]