Because this essay is the first systematic attempt to survey and summarize the fast-changing field of electronic literature, artists, designers, writers, critics, and other stakeholders may find it useful as an overview, with emphasis on recent creative and critical works.
Thom Swiss, Professor, University of Minnesota The quote Joseph Tabbi employs from Don De Lillo for the epigraph to his essay is a helpful one: "You didn't see the thing because you didn't know how to look.
The definition is also slightly tautological, in that it assumes pre-existing knowledge of what constitutes an "important literary aspect." Although tautology is usually regarded by definition writers with all the gusto evoked by rat poison, in this case the tautology seems appropriate, for electronic literature arrives on the scene after five hundred years of print literature (and, of course, even longer manuscript and oral traditions).
At the same time, because electronic literature is normally created and performed within a context of networked and programmable media, it is also informed by the powerhouses of contemporary culture, particularly computer games, films, animations, digital arts, graphic design, and electronic visual culture.Both essays are major contributions to the study of electronic/new media literature — useful, I believe, to those readers new to digital literature as well as those writers, critics and teachers who have helped develop or actively follow and critique the development of literature in a born-digital mode.While both Hayles and Tabbi agree on many points (and cover some of the same territory), there are also some interesting differences between the essays. Katherine Hayles is largely concerned with defining a field, Joseph Tabbi is concerned more with defining the possibility and conditions of literature's persistence in digital environments.This essay surveys the development and current state of electronic literature, from the popularity of hypertext fiction in the 1980's to the present, focusing primarily on hypertext fiction, network fiction, interactive fiction, locative narratives, installation pieces, "codework," generative art and the Flash poem.It also discusses the central critical issues raised by electronic literature, pointing out that there is significant overlap with the print tradition.