Digital Text and Physical Experience: French Digital Literatures Between Work and Text

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Cronin, Susan Joan 

Digital Text and Physical Experience: French Digital Literatures Between Work and Text Susan Joan Cronin

This thesis takes into consideration the presence of computers and electronic equipment in French literary and multimedia discussions, beginning in the first chapter with the foundation of the Oulipo group in 1960 and taking as a starting point the group's conceptions of the computer in relation to literature. It proceeds in the second chapter to explore the materialities and physical factors that have informed the evolution of ideas related to the composition and reading of digital texts, so as to illuminate some of the differences that may be purported to exist between e-literatures and traditional print works. Drawing on Roland Barthes' 'Between Work and Text,' the chapters gradually progress into an exploration of spatiality in digital and interactive literatures, taking into account the role of exhibitions in accommodating and diffusing these forms in France, notably the 1985 exhibition 'Les Immatériaux,' to whose writing installations the third chapter is dedicated. The first three chapters thus focus on computer assisted reading and writing prior to 1985. The chapters that form the second half of the thesis deal with more recent years, exploring online and mobile application works, reading these as engendering their own distinct physical spaces that extend beyond the 'site' of the work - both the website or display and the tactile materials on which the work is operated - creating in relation to the reading what Roberto Simanowski terms a 'semiotic body'. The fourth chapter takes into consideration the role of the reader's body in Annie Abrahams' 'Séparation' and Xavier Malbreil's 'Livre des Morts'. The fifth chapter explores gesture as a mode of reading and reinscription in the online, interactive works of Serge Bouchardon. Finally, the sixth chapter looks at mobile application narratives, spampoetry and email art, offering ways of reading the new spatialities these forms generate. The work as a whole aims to offer some perspectives for considering digital literatures as capable of creating complex spatial experiences between work and text.

Crowley, Martin
French Literature, Digital Literature, Electronic literature, Oulipo, Comparative literature
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge, Jebb Fund, University of Cambridge, Department of French, University of Cambridge Mark Pigott Invited Researcher Bursary, Bibliothèque nationale de France