Recent essays

Why a Humanist Ethics of Datafication Can't Survive a Posthuman World


A post-humanist critique of Rockwell and Berendt’s all too Humanist essay, in the vein of Donna Haraway’s “Keeping with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Cthulucene” (2016) and Patricia MacCormack’s “Posthuman Ethics” (2012).

Riposte to Jan Baetens, Photo Narratives and Digital Archives, or The Film Photo Novel Lost and Found


In response to Baetans’s essay on the Film Photo Novel, David Roh sees an occasion for moving digital literary studies beyond the archive toward a a living repository of  anarchistic, ongoing communitarian activity with a “resurgent cultural impact.”

Creating New Constraints: Toward a Theory of Writing as Digital Translation


In response to Mencia, Pold, and Portela, Belgian poet and scholar Jan Baetans suggests that we might view the field of trans-medial literature as an offshoot of translation studies (and not the reverse). In any case, whether we approach e-lit from a medial or linguistic standpoint, scholars do well to observe a “merger of translation and adaptation studies.”

Photo Narratives and Digital Archives; or: The Film Photo Novel Lost and Found


A first draft of this essay has been presented at the 2017 ELO Conference at Porto, in a panel organized by the “Nar-Trans” group of the University of Granada (other speakers: Domingo Sánchez-Mesa and Nieves Rosendo; panel chair: Rui Torres).

Electronic Literature Translation: Translation as Process, Experience and Mediation


“[T]ranslation is merely a preliminary way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages to each other.” (Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator” [1921])

Vibrant Wreckage: Salvation and New Materialism in Moby-Dick and Ambient Parking Lot


Instead of simply reviewing Vibrant Matter by Jane Bennett (Duke 2010), author Dale Enggass applies Bennett’s “Political Ecology of Things” to longstanding (and not yet resolved) themes of salvation, materialism and transcendence in Melville’s Moby-Dick and Pamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot.

Decollage of an Iconic Image


Even as the first biography of Kathy Acker appears, we have word of a newly assembled Acker archive in Cologne, under the curatorship of Daniel Schulz. The gist of which, could be to re-orient Acker’s personal relationships to “the politics inherent in Acker’s life.”

Author and Auto-censorship


Max Nestelieiev responds to Joseph McElroy’s recent ebr essay Forms of Censorship; Censorship As Form, exploring how Soviet control enforced onto writers a self-censorship for which their work paid the price.

Of Myth and Madness: A Postmodern Fable


Ralph Clare reviews After Kathy Acker: A Literary Biography by Chris Kraus.  


Self-Aware Self-Censorship As Form

A dedicated, elaborated thought stream from an author who, like McElroy, has read and thought about  the presence of censorship (as theme and experience) in novels by Ross Gibson, Shariar Mandinipour,J. .M. Coetzee, W. G. Sebald, Mark Z Danielewski, Italo Calvino, and Fernando Pessoa. Author David Thomas Henry Wright explores the (loss of) authority of the literary novel in a time of “networked glut” while at the same time seeking trans-national, trans-historical, photographic, multi-medial and inter-generational “alliances”  that might redress contemporary censorship and “deeply shape (or erode) contemporary literature.” 

Beyond Ecological Crisis: Niklas Luhmann’s Theory of Social Systems


Bergthaller’s essay originally appeared in the collection, Ecological Thought in Germany. It is reprinted here, with permissions from Lexington Books, as part of an ebr gathering-in-process on Natural Media (to be released in the summer of 2018).

What is Queer Game Studies?

Addressing a lacuna in games studies, Jason Lajoie makes a case for why a queer games studies is needed, and he shows how these two areas of study are united in Bonnie Ruberg’s and Adrienne Shaw’s collection.

Review of Making Literature Now by Amy Hungerford


Berry, who with ebr editor Joseph Tabbi initiated the Fictions Present thread (circa 2006), finds few intersections of that project with Hungerford’s celebrated Making Literature Now, not least because Hungerford shows little interest in the question of how her titular concept, when applied to commercial and cultural productions, indie and alt endeavors, “manages to mean what those trying to make literature are trying to make.” 


The Role of Imagination in Narrative Indie Games


What binds literature, electronic literature and games is “the shaping and networking of the imagination.” Drawing on the ideas of Damasio, Walton and Sartre, Gordon Calleja looks at the synthesizing role of the imagination in narrative indie games.

Postcinematic Writing


Adrian Miles (09/19/1960 — 02/05/2018) was an early theorist, practioner and teacher of cinematic hypertext and networked, “writerly” video. In memory of his innovative research in these fields, ebr presents this short dialogue between Adrian and founding ebr publisher Mark Amerika. The text is republished from META/DATA: A Digital Poetics, by Mark Amerika, with permission from The MIT Press.   


Forms of Censorship; Censorship As Form

Beginning as a talk delivered at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine May 17, 2017, now edited and amplified for publication in the electronic book review and the 2018 collection of ebr essays forthcoming from Bloomsbury Press.

Getting Lost in Narrative Virtuality


Repetition, gestural abstraction and depictions of noise; an absence of narrative causation, a multiplicity of micro-narratives and opacity of material communications: The digital narrativity observed and created by Will Luers is equally applicable to the films of Stanley Kubrick or the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch - which implies a longer continuity (and less radical transformation?) than we might have expected. Indeed, Luers argues that “networks and nonlinear systems” might better be understood as “something deep in our brains,” even as narrative may be regarded “as a necessary construct, but not the complete picture of reality.”

Review of Angela Nagle's Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right


Gregor Baszak parses Nagle’s celebrated, and “overdue” reconsideration of the internet, and social media in particular as a battlefield for politics.

Cinema without Reflection by Akira Mizuta Lippit

If it’s true, as Leiya Lee argues, that Akira Mizuta Lippit turns Derridean theory into a system, then it’s a system grounded in ghostly presences (not least Derrida’s own presence in film). 

"We Write to Each Other"


David Jhave Johnston responds to Theadora Walsh’s review of his book Aesthetic Animism: Digital Poetry’s Ontological Implications.

"Bad Disruption"


EBR Associate Editor Lai-Tze FAN responds to Dani Spinosa’s review of llegal Literature: Toward a Disruptive Creativity, by David S. Roh.

Information Wants to Be Free, Or Does It?: The Ethics of Datafication


“More is not necessarily more. Faster is not necessarily better. Big data is not necessarily better.” In the effort to capture and make available data about people, digital humanities scholars must now weigh the decisions of what and what not to share. Geoffrey Rockwell and Bettina Berendt address the new ethical issues around “datafication” in an age of surveillance.

Illegal Literature: Toward a Disruptive Creativity


Dani Spinosa reviews David S. Roh’s Illegal Literature, a book about authorship, copyright, fair use and literary disruptions.


Aesthetic Animism: Digital Poetry's Ontological Implications

A review of Aesthetic Animism, so vulnerably personal, and at the same time so pragmatically organized, that it might just suggest a possible future for scholarly and creative scholarship: a digital practice that (in Jhave’s words) “distends selves towards collectivities that remind it of oblivion.” For the moment, that inevitability is avoided by the book’s receipt of the 2017 N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature.

The Mourning of Work in For a New Critique of Political Economy: Bernard Stiegler, a Hacker Ethic, and Greece’s Debt Crisis


“Even among the Greeks and Romans, the most advanced nations of antiquity, money reaches its full development, which is presupposed in modern bourgeois society, only in the period of disintegration.”- Karl Marx, Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

Text Generation, or Calling Literature into Question


Reflecting on the genealogy and histories of “transgressive textualities” and text generators, Aquilina offers readings of texts by Swift, Dahl, Orwell, and Borges to consider the terms and issues involved in situating text generators as transgressive.

Infiltrating Aesthetics: Videogames, Art, and Distinction


Though scholars of literature and the arts remain skeptical, Strunk explores some of the ways “videogames are making the transition into being objects worthy of artistic attention.”

Review of Stewart O'Nan's West of Sunset


In this review of O’Nan’s West of Sunset, Messenger explores 20th Century American literary history as a kind of contemporary metafictional myth. Using Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald as characters composing the life of a literary icon against the emergence of “Hollywood,” O’Nan’s work is considered a bittersweet meditation on the death of an author and the hope that his work lives on.

The End of Landscape: Holes by Graham Allen


In her discussion of the textual, technical, and figurative characteristics of Graham Allen’s Holes (2017), Karhio “argues that [Allen’s text] is not a landscape poem in the customary sense” and explores the ways in which the digital platforms deployed in the project’s creation and publication contribute to the signifying structures that “challenge the idea of landscape as symbolic representation of the inner world of the speaking subject.”


Towards Buen Vivir


In this review of The Power at the End of the Economy, Lestón delineates the theoretical apparatus of Massumi’s book and its possible implications.

Before Corporate Monoculture


In this review of Henry Turner’s The Corporate Commonwealth, Thomas considers how Turner historicizes the term “corporatization” to explore its wide-ranging definitions and functions in early-modern England.

Un/Official Worlds


In this review of Mark Seltzer’s The Official World, Ulmer reflects on the interdependence of “the official” and “the unofficial” in contemporary constructs of reality. 

A Digital Publishing Model for Publication by Writers (for Writers)


How might literary databases be seen as alternatives to the commodification of academic scholarship in for profit, subscriber platforms?  Scott Rettberg and Joseph Tabbi discuss issues related to instrumentality, the global marketplace, and the digital humanities.

Love Your Corporation

Analyzing the long and complex history of the term corporation, Turner explores the possibility that the term’s roots in the universitas might serve as a basis for a re-translation and re-valuation of the corporate concept and establish a ground, both discursive and practical, for a reassessment of the “political” as a process of imaginative transformation and collective action.