“Electronic Literature as Comparative Literature”: Where Cultural and Media Convergences Meet

In May 2014, I gave a short talk (scroll down for audio) at the annual meeting of the Canadian Comparative Literature Association in which I discussed the conceptual and disciplinary parameters of the literary vis-à-vis emerging notions of comparative textual analysis. “The work of comparative literary study,” I argue, “inherently involves diffusion through limits–the surveying of how definitive borders between and among texts, languages, cultures, disciplines, and theories are breached. And though we all study a form of literature or textuality, the pervasion now includes that of media and modes” (Fan 2014).

Rather than point to the demise of Comparative Literature as a discipline, the breaching of boundaries has fostered new theories and methodologies for comparative analysis–including the study of comparative textual media, spearheaded by Katherine Hayles and Jessica Pressman, and explored in their 2013 collection, Comparative Textual Media: Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era.

As the state of Comparative Literature continues to be negotiated, Pressman (@jesspress on Twitter) shows how a comparative media framework contributes to our current and developing comprehensions of comparative textual analysis:


In this piece published by the American Comparative Literature Association, Pressman inquires into the place of electronic literature in/as comparative literature, identifying a form and style of contemporary literature that necessitates comparative reading and thinking.

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