Who’s Famous and Does E-Lit?

A journalist just asked me if there were any famous authors involved with electronic literature.

I could have dropped a few names, but instead I wrote:

There are, but revolutions in literature do not happen because famous people start using new technologies. They happen because of innovation that comes from young people, new authors, and new readers. Think about important literary movements – how many of them were started when already-famous authors changed their behavior?

Maybe some of you can think of counterexamples in which literary movements were started by already-established literary figures. If so, I’ll stand corrected.

5 Replies to “Who’s Famous and Does E-Lit?”

  1. I’m very much inclined to agree and am reminded of Kuhn’s quotation from Planck: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it” (Sci. Autobio. 33-34, qtd. in Struc. Sci. Rev. 151). Kuhn’s chapters 12 and 13 are maybe useful on that point, though of course his framework has come into question over the years.

  2. I’m not sure about starting literary movements, but surely there have been established authors who started to do new and innovative things later in their career? What about a chap named Melville, who threw away his bright career as an adventure novel writer in order to write a weird book nobody liked? :)

  3. I actually wonder if e-lit is one the few literary movements (if that’s what it is) in which an established author such as Coover was involved at the beginning. Your point stands, of course, as he is the exception not the rule. My point is that the interviewer here has something of a false conception of literary history general and is working under the assumption that Shakespeare, Joyce, or other such figures were big time authors who then transformed a portion of the literary landscape instead or, as you suggest, being relatively unknown before effecting such a transformation.

  4. Along the lines of Melville, wasn’t Chekhov pretty well established (with Ivanov) before he wrote his great innovative theatrical works? His modernist short stories may not have come before he was established as a writer, though.

  5. I’m always charmed by how many e-lit authors began building their digital creatures without knowledge of either each other or the larger field. You might argue some filtering process weakly informed their early explorations. But I’m not.

    And as for famous, I suppose it all depends on famous for what audience?

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