N. Katherine Hayles on Electronic Literature

N. Katherine Hayles is a professor of literature at Duke University, specializing in electronic literature. This interview is two years old, but Hayles provides some great context for changes in our current understanding of Literature with a capital “L”. In a word, she’s in favor of keeping it capitalized. I think. And did you know that ELO no longer means “Electric Light Orchestra”? You do now.

The interview is conducted by Stacy Cochran for his show, The Artist’s Craft. My favorite comment: “In addition to words, which remain important for most literary works, you could have animation, you could have kinetic effects, you could have something like a flash implementation …” I gave up at that point. On copying out the quotation, that is. Not the rest of the show.

In a prior career, Hayles worked as a chemist for Xerox and helped developed toner for copy machines. She wrote an excellent article on Navokov’s Ada. And she’s from St. Louis, or Missouri, at any rate. So she knows what she’s talking about, and you should watch this program.


  1. Jonathan Webb says

    This promises to be excellent. I’ll watch when I have some time.

    You might like Helperin’s book on copyrite (even though you are boycotting his fiction).

    Thanks Quin. You’re the reason we get more hits than Drudge.

  2. Wait, what? ELO doesn’t mean Electric Light Orchestra? I’m too disgusted to even click the link, I’m going to listen to the Xanadu soundtrack instead.

  3. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    GOOD post, Mr Finnegan. I’d never heard of Professor Hayles or the ELO (this ELO, anyway), so thanks for the introduction. It was timely.

    Mr Lickona suggested in last week’s 140-plus-comment mega-thread that (if I read him right) the best opportunities for Catholic art may lie in works that mix genres — e.g., Daniel Mitsui’s fusion of medieval illumination and newspaper cartooning (and, more recently, Japanese woodblock prints).

    In this interview, Mr Cochran drops the phrase ‘cybernetic evolutionary malaise’.

    Walker Percy meets William Gibson? That might actually be worth reading — or even writing.

    • Tagged With: The Bastard Sons of Genre Cash

      • Or maybe: The Bastard Funds of Genre Mash

        • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

          1) Bastardization = ‘Hybrid Vigor’. Glory be to God for dappled things!

          2) ‘The Bastard Sons of Johny Cash’ might be a good band name, if Cash’s estate would tolerate it.

          3) Didn’t any of the papers/panels for the Percy conference touch on ‘cybernetic malaise’, or something like it? Those might serve as helpful notes toward the creation of Percian cyberpunk.

          • Hey, that was us! I can’t speak to cyberpunk, though. However:


            • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

              This medieval contraption deserves the steampunk (or water-wheel-punk?) treatment. It almost sounds like something the Albertian Order of Leibowitz would re-invent:


              ‘Around 1275, Llull designed a method […] of combining religious and philosophical attributes selected from a number of lists. […] It was intended as a debating tool for winning Muslims to the Christian faith through logic and reason. Through his detailed analytical efforts, Llull built an in-depth theological reference by which a reader could enter in an argument or question about the Christian faith. The reader would then turn to the appropriate index and page to find the correct answer.

              ‘Llull also invented numerous ‘machines’ for the purpose. One method is now called the Lullian Circle, each of which consisted of two or more paper discs inscribed with alphabetical letters or symbols that referred to lists of attributes. The discs could be rotated individually to generate a large number of combinations of ideas. A number of terms, or symbols relating to those terms, were laid around the full circumference of the circle. They were then repeated on an inner circle which could be rotated. These combinations were said to show all possible truth about the subject of the circle. Llull based this on the notion that there were a limited number of basic, undeniable truths in all fields of knowledge, and that we could understand everything about these fields of knowledge by studying combinations of these elemental truths. […] Leibniz gave Llull’s idea the name “ars combinatoria”, by which it is now often known.’

            • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

              Will any Korrektor or Korrektrix be posting his/her presentation in some form (abstracts, abridgements, or whole-hog; text, audio, or video)?

              No pressure, seriously. Everything you all have posted about the trip has been a treat. I stand ready to dash my hopes for more and to move on, but would welcome a sign whether or not to do so.

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