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Signifying Strategies in Electronic Literature

TALAN MEMMOTT is an acknowledged writer and critic of electronic literature, who has taught at Blekinge Tekniska Högskola for several years. He is also working on a PhD in interaction design at Malmö University, which has now progressed to the 90 percent mark.

Update: Memmott have successfully defended his dissertation. Read the interview “I call myself a research artist” and also read his dissertation Digital rhetoric and poetics: Signifying strategies in electronic literature.

The tentative title of the PhD is Digital Rhetoric and Poetics: Signifying Strategies in Electronic Literature. Abstract appended below. On Friday, May 13, there was a final seminar when Talan’s work was discussed and dissected by Rita Raley from UC Santa Barbara.

The seminar went very well and everything is on track for Talan’s PhD defense in October. More on that later!


By Talan Memmott
This dissertation explores computational and media-based signifying strategies in electronic literature from the point of view of reading, writing, programming and design. I am most interested in presenting the variety of approaches to electronic literature as a practice, and the expanded critical concerns required to address the field.

The focus of the dissertation is primarily on the rhetoric and poetics of heavily mediated, multi-modal digital artifacts that come out of experimental digital literary practice and how such work problematizes reading, writing and literature in general while also presenting potential modes of signification that demand further research and critique.

With the introduction of images, animations, audio, and the procedural into the area of literary practice it is perhaps no longer sufficient to consider electronic literature within the domain of traditional concepts of rhetoric or poetics. Signification in media-rich electronic literary work occurs across semantic and semiological systems, and technological paradigms. As such, it is important that both practitioner and scholar understand how these attributes of digital media operate poetically and rhetorically, how they facilitate and sometimes undermine meaning-making in electronic literature.

My hope with the dissertation is that the complexities and variety of issues around electronic literature are exposed and through this I offer reading strategies and potential avenues for new or alternative critical methods. In its breadth of considerations, this dissertation provides a substantial overview of my research interests and involvement in the field for many years. In addition to this, the dissertation provides something of a chronology of the field from 2000 to 2011, tracing the evolution and emergences of different manifestations of digital rhetoric and poetics.

Further reading
Talan Memmot’s website

Image by nickmontfort.