Electronic Literature as Paratextual Construction

  • Friedrich W. Block Stiftung Brueckner-Kuehner


The following discussion aims to reflect on how electronic literature and affiliated or related fields describe themselves paratextually. I will argue that the social construction of ‘electronic literature’ is dominated by its systemic self-description. The paratextual construction basically works with the ascription of the genre name ‘electronic literature’ and discursive descriptions or reflections to phenomena of artistic practice and has been institutionalized in no small part by the Electronic Literature Organization. The argument is developed by observing paratextual practices in founding narratives, archives and collections related to the ELO. This perspective is contextualized by looking at self-descriptions in the pre-history of e-lit within the artistic program of poietic experimentation.


paratext, systemic self-description, experimental poetry, institutionalization, poetological signals

  • Abstract viewed = 67 times
  • PDF viewed = 58 times
  • HTML viewed = 27 times


Download data is not yet available.


A.L.A.M.O. (1984). “PRELUDE.” ALAMO, action poétique 95. 3.

BAILEY, Richard (1973). “Preface.” Computer Poems. Ed. Richard Bailey. Drummond Island, MI: Po-togannissing Press. n.p.

BLOCK, Friedrich W. (2010). “How to Construct the Genre of Digital Poetry. A User Manual.” Beyond the Screen: Transformations of Literary Structures, Interfaces and Genres. Eds. Jörgen Schäfer and Peter Gendolla. Bielefeld: Transcript. 391–402.

BLOCK, Friedrich W. (2000). “Vorwort: p0es1s – international digital poetry.” p0es1s – Internationale digitale Poesie / International Digital Poetry. Ed. F. W. Block. Kassel: Jenior. n.p.

BLOCK, Friedrich W. (2015). p0es1s. Rückblick auf die digitale Poesie. Graz, Klagenfurt: Ritter.

BOLTER, Jay David (1985). “The Idea of Literature in the Electronic Medium.” Computers in the Liberal Arts 39: 23–34.

DESROCHERS, Nadine and Daniel Apollon, eds. (2014). Examining Paratextual Theory and its Applications in Digital Culture. Hershey: Information Science Reference.

EMERSON, Lori (2011). “on ‘e-literature’ as a field.” 9 June 2018. https://loriemerson.net/2011/10/12/on-e-literature-as-a-field/

GARNIER, Pierre (1964). “Position I du Movement International.” Les Lettres 8(32). Quoted from: Garnier, Pierre (1968). Spatialisme et poésie concrète. Paris: Éditions Gallimard.

GENETTE, Gérard (1997). Paratexts. Thresholds of interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

HAYLES, N. Katherine (2007). “Electronic Literature: What is it?.” 9 June 2018. http://eliterature.org/pad/elp.html.

KAC, Eduardo (1996). “Introduction.” Visible Language 30(2): 98–101.

LAIRE, ed. (1989). alire. révue animée d´écrits de source électronique 1.

LUHMANN, Niklas (2000). Art as a Social System. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

LUHMANN, Niklas (1995). Social Systems. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

MELO E CASTRO, Ernesto M. (2014 [1965]). “Experimental Poetry”. PO.EX. Essays from Portugal on Cyberliterature & Intermedia by Pedro Barbosa, Ana Hatherly, and E.M. de Melo e Castro. Eds. Rui Torres and Sandy Baldwin. Morgantown: Center for Literary Computing. 71–76. https://www.po-ex.net/pdfs/meloecastro_ch7.pdf

REICHARDT, Jasia (1968). “Introduction.” Cybernetic Serendipity – the computer and the arts. Ed. Jasia Reichardt. London, New York: Studio International. 5.

RETTBERG, Jill Walker (2012). “Electronic Literature Seen from a Distance. The Beginnings of a Field.” Dichtung Digital 41. 9 June 2018. http://www.dichtung-digital.de/journal/archiv/?postID=278

RETTBERG, Scott (2012). “Developing an Identity for the Field of Electronic Literature. Reflections on the Electronic Literature Organization Archives.” Dichtung Digital 41. 9 June 2018. http://www.dichtung-digital.org/2012/41/rettberg.htm

ROUX, Jean-Luis (1964). “no title.” Jean A. Baudot, La machine à écrire, mise en marche et programmé par Jean A. Baudot. Montréal: Les Éditions du Jour. 83–88.

TABBI, Joseph (n.d.). “Manifesto.” 9 June 2018. http://cellproject.net/manifesto

TORRES, Rui, and Manuel Portela (2013). “Géneros da Poesia Experimental Portuguesa.” 9 June 2018. http://po-ex.net/generos

VAN DIJK, Yra (2014). “The Margins of Bookishness: Paratexts in Digital Literature.” Examining Paratex tual Theory and its Applications in Digital Culture. Eds. Nadine Desrochers and Daniel Apollon. Her-shey: Information Science Reference. 24–45.
How to Cite
BLOCK, Friedrich W.. Electronic Literature as Paratextual Construction. MATLIT: Materialities of Literature, [S.l.], v. 6, n. 1, p. 11-26, aug. 2018. ISSN 2182-8830. Available at: <https://impactum-journals.uc.pt/matlit/article/view/5244>. Date accessed: 23 mar. 2019.
Secção Temática | Thematic Section