ARCHIVE & INNOVATE. The 4th International Conference & Festival of the Electronic Literature Organization

Two overarching themes :

We are concerned with archive – although not primarily, in the context of this particular gathering, with preservation. (Preservation has been the focus of ELO attention in other contexts and fora.) Here and now we ask: what are the electronic literary, digital poetic works that are worth putting into any institutional archive, and why? What archives exist and how do we use them? What has been done to build the new archive and where is it?

We will also be asking our host institution to address these questions. Brown University’s Literary Arts Program offers the only ‘terminal’ – teaching-qualified – degree in Electronic Literature, a creative writing MFA. Where is its current archive and where will it be in five or ten years time? Thanks to Robert Coover, Andries van Dam, George Landow, momentarily Ted Nelson, and others, Brown was the pioneering institution at the center of a hypertextual, metafictional perfect storm. Where is the archive? Brown’s Library is now building an innovative, flexible Digital Repository at the university level. We will be asking the institution to rediscover our archive in this repository and aim to provide – by the time of our gathering – accessible openings into what will be a rich resource for both scholarship and poesis: for writing and its futures.

We have not renounced the obligation to produce literary innovation that is specific to our media. Why do we innovate? Why must we innovate? Do we, indeed, innovate? What has happened to those forms in our media that were, once – and not long ago – new? Was it the requirement to innovate that caused us to disregard these forms and stifle their brief lives? Are we right to disregard them thus? If so, what will be the ultimate effect of innovation? Other than to ensure: the ever-swifter onslaught of breaking media, reducing today’s novelties to this evening’s broken media? The mutually assured – by readers and writers – obsolescence of digital literary practices?

It seems clear, in today’s media culture, that we must be, we are, driven to innovate. How can we inflect this drive and make it critically, aesthetically productive? Make it generative of significant culture practice – of writing – that will, even if paradoxically, persist and continue to demand our attention and affection.

one celebration :
Festschrift Coover
Robert Coover has been a major champion of literature in new media since the typewriter began to pass. He has done more than any other significant literary figure to promote the field, all but single-handedly adding a ‘genre’ to ‘creative writing’ in the world of institutionally-recognized and professed literary arts. It’s time to address, honor, and celebrate Coover’s contribution and its potential and potentially problematic legacy.