Hyperlinks, animation, interactivity, code play—the topographies of electronic literature and Internet art are broad and rich, and speak to our shifting understanding of what constitutes “literature” in the digital age. “E.LIT / NET.ART: An Extraordinarily Brief Survey of Digital Literature, 1975 – 2015,” introduces and exposes students not only to born-digital literature, but to some of the critical and historical vocabularies that underpin the wide-ranging work of the digital humanities.

A full survey of electronic literature’s forty years of existence would easily fill a semester, let alone a week-long Interterm course. This course will, then, be self-conscious in its brevity, and focus on giving participants a taste of this literary form and encouraging them to use it as a jumping-off-point for their own explorations. Each day will focus on one representative piece of electronic literature, exploring major topics including interactive fiction, hyperlinks, countergaming, and Flash. Participants will also read critical responses to these works and to broader concepts in electronic literature. The overall goal of the course will be to help students develop vocabularies through which to critique and historicize electronic literature, and digital media more generally.

This course is a part of Five College Digital Humanities’ new series of Interterm workshops designed to introduce students to critical concepts in the digital humanities. Participants will complete a short assignment, understood as a prototype for future work, responding to course materials. This might be a paper, a video game, a Twitter bot, a performance installation—or something entirely new.

This course is not for credit, and is open to all Five College students, staff, and faculty. No prior experience required.


This course will meet from January 12th to January 16th, from 1 PM to 3 PM in Smith College’s Hillyer Digital Media Studio (Hillyer 320).

Monday, Jan. 12th :: Introduction to Electronic Literature

Key Text: Agrippa, a book of the dead by William Gibson, 1992. 

Critical Texts:

Tuesday, Jan. 13th :: Hypertext

Key Texts:

Critical Texts:

  • Excerpt from Espen Aarseth. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997. pp. 17-23, 76-92.

Wednesday, Jan. 14th :: Animating word and image / The legacy of Flash

Key Texts:

Critical Texts:

  • Excerpt from Anastasia Salter and John Murray. “New Media Art” in Flash: Building the Interactive Web. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014. pp. 89-112.

Thursday, Jan. 15th :: Interactive fiction / Literature and computer games 

(Guest lecturers Caro Pinto & Shaun Trujillo, Mount Holyoke College LITS)

Key Text: Zork by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling (1977).

Critical Texts:

Friday, Jan. 16th :: Procedurally-generated literature / Presentation of participant projects

Key Texts:

>_student projects