Digital Archive of Portuguese Experimental Literature

[Rui Torres]

The potential of the use of computers in the humanities has been widely examined (Ref.25), and literary studies is no exception (Ref.26). The stimulating aspects of hypertext must be articulated with the challenges it poses to the traditional roles of students, teachers, and theorists of literature. There are creative, as well as institutional and intellectual effects, which force scholars to understand these new and powerful methods for editing and organizing texts (Ref.14).

The study of hypertext and its impact on the scholarly archive, which is increasingly published in electronic formats, demonstrates a paradigm shift: from the archive as a classified collection of texts to the archive as a network of texts (Ref.13). On the other hand, the complexity of cybertexts, which are articulated in a new range of features previously unexpected, such as mobility, temporality, multiplicity, and interactivity (Ref.21), entail new literacies, a new theoretical vocabulary, and a new critical stance.Digital media further open up space for a recognition of the importance of the materiality of multimedia writing to writing itself. Ryan hence recognizes an awareness of the medium as being affected by its material support (Ref.23), noticing that the development of electronic textualities has “led to a rediscovery and critical investigation of print and the Codex book.” (Ref.23)

In this light, the historical importance of innovative poetry (concrete, visual, etc.), which recognized, avant-la-lettre, the importance of the aesthetic function of language (Ref.05; Ref.22) is also relevant to literary studies. There is a noteworthy solidarity between experimental poetry and the possibilities that the computer offers. However, one must acknowledge that many of the operations that the machine provides can be found in previous poetical practices: from collages and automatic writing to permutations and the dream of a synaesthesical and multi-sensitive total poetry (Ref.22; Ref.06).Even though the role of experimental literature of the second part of the twentieth century is nowadays easily recognized as crucial for the understanding of digital strategies for new literacies (Ref.13; Ref.23; Ref.25; Ref.26), most of the pioneering works that established current genres of digital literature are not often available on the Internet and are generally difficult to access (Ref.09; Ref.30). On the other hand, the first experiments done with older programming languages were created with software that is no longer available, in such a way that it is already possible to call them “prehistoric” (Ref.08).The goal of the present project is precisely to contribute towards the preservation, classification and presentation of these works, as well as to provide a reflexive and a pedagogical perspective. For methodological purposes, we will divide our chosen corpus into two sets of textualities: Visual and Sound Poetry; and Cybernetic Literature.

Visuality and material expressiveness in Experimental Literature

The use of expressive techniques and topographic constellations was generalized after the appearance of concrete and visual poetry, in the 1950s (Ref.28). The importance of concrete and experimental poetry to the development of new poetic practices, namely those based on electronic media (electronic or digital poetry), leads scholars to find systemic affiliations of experimental poetics to digital media (Ref.04; Ref.20).According to Lennon, “poets and visual artists working from a tradition of typographic experimentation that reaches back to futurism and Dada, and includes twentieth-century visual and Concrete poetry, are using networked writing spaces to create and distribute a new electronic visual poetry.” (Ref.15, p.64).

This shift of concrete poetry from analog to digital media is also observed by Simanowski (Ref.24), who states that “[w]ithin the digital realm concrete poetry gains two more levels of expression”, as “time and interaction” become additional ways of expression. In a similar manner, Portela (Ref.19) explicitly mentions an “intrinsic connection between concrete poetics as a theory of the medium (i.e., of language, of written language and of poetical forms) and digital poetics as a theory of poetry for the digital medium”, and Glazier (Ref.10) is also keen in recognizing the urgency to address “the lines of continuity between innovative practice in print and digital media.” (Ref.10) Resolving that “digital poetries are not print poetry merely repositioned in the new medium” (Ref.10), the author agrees that “[i]f one considers the visual work of any number of innovative writers, the connection between materiality and the conditional dynamics of writing begins to become tangible.” (Ref.10)

Cybernetic literature and the coordinates of combination and generativity

Cyberliterature, also called generative or virtual literature, designates those literary texts whose construction is based on computing procedures: combinatory, multimedia or interactive (Ref 03). Cyberliterature promotes experimentation and play, working in the path of historical avant-gardes and within the space opened by the universal experimentalism of writing, image and sound (Ref.29). Therefore, besides text generated by engines and programming algorithms, it is important to evaluate the consequences that digital and multimedia technologies have in the context of poetry, prose or theater (Ref.16; Ref.18).

Experimental poetry may be regarded as a contribution to “overcome an eventual exhaustion of codes, reactivating them in order to create new mechanisms to produce meaning, not yet depleted by their use.” (Ref.22) But the compositional methods and techniques that experimental poems use, namely “atomization or pulverization of the verbal material, juxtaposition, agglutination, redistribution, cutout” (Ref.22) also suggest that poetry is in tune with the prevailing media of the time. Poetry assists us not only in dealing with old and new media, but also in clarifying the way we write and read texts in general.

Referências Bibliográficas

1. Bairon, S. (2006). Tendências da linguagem científica contemporânea em expressividade digital. In: Cibertextualidades, 1, pp. 53-106.

2. Barbosa, P. (2006). “Aspectos quânticos do Cibertexto”. In: Revista Cibertextualidades, 1, pp. 11-42.

3. Barbosa, P. (1996). A Ciberliteratura. Criação Literária e Computador. Lisboa, Cosmos.

4. Barbosa, P. (1998). "A renovação do experimentalismo literário na Literatura Gerada por Computador". In: Revista da UFP, 2 (1), pp. 181-88.

5. Block, F. W. and Torres. R. (2007). “Poetic Transformations in(to) the Digital”. In: e-poetry 2007.

6. Drucker, J. (2005). "Interactive, Algorithmic, Networked: Aesthetics of New Media Art". In: Chandler, A. and Neumark, N., eds. At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet. MIT Press. pp. 34-59.

7. Drucker, J. (2009). SpecLab. Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

8. Funkhouser, C. T. (2005). "A Vanguard Projected in Motion: Early Kinetic Poetry in Portuguese". In: Sirena: poesia, arte y critica, 2, pp. 152-164.

9. Funkhouser, C. T. (2007). Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms, 1959-1995. University of Alabama Press.

10. Glazier, L. P. (2002). Digital Poetics. The Making of E-Poetries. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P.

11. Gomes da Costa, E. and Simões, E. (2008). "A tradução na Poesia Concreta: algumas reflexões." In Revista da FCHS.

12. Guimarães, F. (2003). Artes Plásticas e Literatura: do Romantismo ao Surrealismo. Porto, Campo das Letras.

13. Hayles, N. K. (2008). Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame.

14. Landow, G. P. (2006). Hypertext 3.0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.

15. Lennon, B. (2000). Screening a Digital Visual Poetics. In: Configurations, 8, pp. 63–85.

16. Mourão, J. A. (2007). “Cruzamento de saberes: Tecnologia e ciberliteratura.” In: Revista de Comunicação e Linguagens, 38, pp. 65-74. Lisboa: Relógio d'Água.

17. Paz Barroso, E. (2008). “A leitura enquanto lugar de escrita em torno do hipertexto”. In: A Locomotiva dos Sonhos: Crítica, cinema e arte contemporânea. Porto: Edições UFP. pp. 111-22.

18. Portela, M. (2003). “Hipertexto como Metalivro”. In: Ciberscópio / Ciberliteratura.

19. Portela, M. (2006). “Concrete and Digital Poetics”. In: Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Special Issue: New Media and Poetics, 14 (5-6), Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

20. Portela, M. (2008). “Flash script poex: A recodificação digital do poema experimental.” In: CD-ROM da PO.EX – Poesia Experimental Portuguesa, cadernos e Catálogos.

21. Reis, P. (2006). “Média digitais: Novos terrenos para a expansão da textualidade”. In: Revista Cibertextualidades, 1, pp. 43-52.

22. Reis, P. (2009). "Portuguese Experimental Poetry – Revisited and Recreated". In: Glaser, S. M., ed. Claus Clüver Festschrift. Rodopi: Amsterdam and Atlanta.

23. Ryan, M.-L., ed. (2001). Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory. Bloomington: Indiana U P.

24. Simanowski, R. (2004). "Concrete Poetry in Digital Media. Its Predecessors, its Presence and its Future". In: Dichtung-digital.

25. Schreibman, S.; Siemens, R. and Unsworth, J. eds. (2004). A Companion to Digital Humanities. Oxford: Blackwell.

26. Schreibman, S. and Siemens, R. eds. (2008). A Companion to Digital Literary Studies. Oxford: Blackwell.

27. Shillingsburg, P. L. (2006). From Gutenberg to Google: Electronic Representations of Literary Texts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

28. Torres, R. (2006). “Poetics and politics of the Portuguese Experimental Poetry”. In: Jordão, P. and Jansen, M., eds. The Value of Literature in and after the seventies: the case of Portugal and Italy. Utrecht: Igitur Publishing & Archiving, pp. 113-126.

29. Torres, R. (2007). “Transposição e variação na poesia gráfica e espacial de Salette Tavares”. In: Aletria – Revista de Estudos de Literatura, 14, pp. 267-284.

30. Van Looy, J. and Baetens, J. (2003). Close Reading New Media: Analyzing Electronic Literature. Leuven: Leuven University Press.