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Foreword


 

Literature in the Digital Age

 

 

Our newest issue takes interest in the way the Digital Age changes our perspective on literature, as well as “the literary text”, altering its classic forms, functions and roles. Will this be the death of literature or only the dawn of a new epoch of reading? And how are we – as literary researchers – to cope with the alterations? The present-day development, at extreme speed, of digital technologies opens the field of literature and literarity to new forms of practice. Just as well, comparative literature and literary theory are bound to rethink their themes, methods and concepts. Not only theoretical disciplines of literature are subjected to this kind of alteration, but also literature itself, since critics, theorists and the reading public warn against “the demise of literature” in the digital age. The closing of the age of Guttenberg has instilled a very visible anxiety regarding the end of poetry, the end on the novel, the end of theoretical thinking in their traditional meaning. As an alternative to this Apocalypse of print, some theorists, critics or artists have already found solutions of “escape”. New forms of literary practice access digital resources and force the boundaries of “literature” to expand to visual, cybernetic, and hyper-textual territories. How will comparative literature and literary theory respond to these new practices? Will the theorists and critics consider “old” theories fulfilled by the “empowerment of the reader” very much in the same way every Messiah fulfils a given prophecy? Will they feel the need to forge new concepts and new methods? Or will they seek entirely different perspectives to which traditional methods can be adjusted? Alternative conceptual and methodological discourses emerge in present-day discourses on literature, springing from totally different points of view. The expansion of literature beyond the paper-written support and the expansion of digital media to the realms of literature engage writers and researchers of the literary field in a rethinking of their own creative identity and of their disciplinary approach.

This volume tries therefore to chart and possibly evaluate the current state of area studies, with special attention to two specific levels of literary research. The first level is that of the recent developments in the disciplinary “upgrading” in the fields of comparative literature, literary theory, literary critics or even media theory. Entirely new challenges present themselves to academic literary disciplines. How does the global expansion of information affect the definitions and concepts of our disciplines? Does network interactivity request a re-appropriation of the writer-work-reader relationships? How are literary disciplines altered by the migration of literature and fiction to media supports? Is there a movement of resistance to these media in literature and how does it function? Researchers of comparative literature give their answers to this kind of problems in the section entitled Upgrading a Discipline. The second level is interested in the latest practices and alternative theories that do not yet belong to the paradigmatic, traditional description of “literary disciplines” or even to the classic concept of “literature”. Does “digital poetry” assume a definition, is there a digital novel and a digital prose? Will poetry, novels, the performative arts or scientific discourse fundamentally change in this age or will they merely adopt new forms to universal, timeless contents? A large number of studies are dedicated to this kind of questions in the second section of the volume, entitled The Digital Galaxy. The last section comprises a series of texts, based on a creative workshop led by Ruxandra Cesereanu using The Arabian Nights as a pretext for prose writing, about the new epic turn in the twenty-first century. Scheherazade and her sisters and storytelling helpers appear as inspiring figures for postmodern narrative. As usual, the volume is completed by a series of Reviews about journals and books that focus on imagination topics.

It is our hope that this collective research will bring together a community of researchers and artists with common interests, catalysing their communication beyond the restrictive limits of this incidental collaboration, with a strong belief in the Protean powers of the literature of all ages.

 

Mihaela Ursa

 
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