January 14, 2004

More Close Readings

by Michael Mateas · , 12:35 am

The book Close Reading New Media: Analyzing Electronic Literature, edited by Jan Van Looy and Jan Baetens, offers close readings of work by Mark Amerika, Darren Aronofsky, M.D. Coverley, Raymond Federman, Shelley Jackson, Rick Pryll, Geoff Ryman and Stephanie Strickland. The editors contrast their aims with hypertext theory of the 80s and 90s that saw hypertextuality as a literal realization of poststructuralist thought. Instead of abstract theorizing, their book seeks to identify interesting points and problematics through detailed, concrete engagement with specific works.

9 Responses to “More Close Readings”


  1. Matt K. Says:

    Looks like a trend!

    http://wordcircuits.com/comment/umd/

  2. michael Says:

    Ah, thanks for the reminder, Matt. I should have linked GTxA’s ealier mention of the close readings that came out of your class but spaced it. In fact, I’ll change the title of this post to More Close Readings.

  3. Matt K. Says:

    Thanks, Michael–also, as people prepare spring syllabi, this might be a good time to mention/reiterate: we’d like to see the E-Lit Up Close project grow, so if anyone’s having their (graduate) students work in this vein–”close readings” of individual works of e-lit/art–please consider contacting us (myself or Rob Kendall) for inclusion on the WordCircuits site.

  4. nick Says:

    I’m scooped. I was going to post about this, as the director of special collections here at Penn just forwarded the email about this to me … the book looks great, but I did to laugh at the claim in the email that “Close Reading New Media is the first publication to apply the method of close analysis to new media.” Not only are there Web publications, like the one cited above, there are also other recent books that certainly seem to me to offer close readings, including Kate Hayles’s Writing Machines. We all like to be first, I know … regardless, this looks like a great anthology.

  5. Jan Van Looy & Jan Baetens Says:

    One word missing…

    Unfortunately indeed, the number of characters on a blurb or web announcement is easily reduced. What we meant in our email was not that we are the first people to close read electronic literature, but that we are the first to dedicate an entire volume to this. Thus, it should have been: “Close Reading New Media is the first publication to apply the method of close analysis to new media _exclusively_”.

    We are aware of the existence of former hyperfiction close readings in book-form, such as Silvio Gaggi’s _Decentering the subject_ (reviewed by Jan Van Looy in “Electronic Book Review”: http://www.electronicbookreview.com/v3/servlet/ebr?command=view_essay&essay_id=vanlooyce) or Katherine Hayles’s _Writing Machines_ (reviewed by Jan Baetens in _Image (&) narrative_: http://www.imageandnarrative.be/mediumtheory/janbaetens.htm). However, these works only contain sections or chapters on close reading hyperfiction.

    Our self-promotion did not aim to repudiate the work by others. The introduction to our book, accessible via the collection’s web page (http://www.culturelestudies.be/closereadingnewmedia/) attempts to pay tribute to all those who served as an example for our work.

    Jan Van Looy

    Jan Baetens

  6. nick Says:

    That makes sense, and is an important and correct claim – it does seem that close reading has been framed within other projects in the past, and it is good to see that it is now being presented without excuse.

    (By the way, my laugh at reading “the first…” was not a laugh of derision, but because Twisty Little Passages is billed as “the first book-length consideration” of interactive fiction, and one really would have to add caveats to that claim, too, since there are whole books from the 1980s about programming interactive fiction in BASIC, but they aren’t considerations of IF in the same way that I mean. I was thinking it funny that what we are doing is often both new, and should be declared to be new, yet also builds on previous work in many ways.)

    Several of the specific readings, and the project of the volume as a whole, both look great. I’ve requested that our library purchase the book. Thanks for your efforts in putting the book together.

  7. Barry Atkins Says:

    Just in case anyone else is interested (I think the original GTA post referenced Matteo Bittanti’s Ludologica series), my More than a game: the computer game as fictional form (Manchester and NY: Manchester UP, 2003) was made up of four close readings, with Tomb Raider, Half-Life, Close Combat and SimCity getting a chapter apiece between an introduction and a conclusion. Really, there is little else there but close reading. Mind you, the blurb to the book also makes a claim that ‘This is the first academic work to’ that makes me cringe. The chapter breakdown and blurb can be found at http://www.btinternet.com/~barry.atkins3/

  8. van Helsing Says:

    To extract a socio-linguistic rule, it seems that all new books on “new media” etc. has to make the blurb claim that it is “the first book on…” There is no reason to expect this trend to disappear. Just watch the coming blurbs.

    Just for the record, Loftus & Loftus’ 1983 book is the first study of video games. Buckles’ 1985 dissertation is “the first book-length consideration” and close reading of interactive fiction. Peter Bogh Andersen’s Computer Semiotics (1990) is the first systematic theory of new media.

  9. miscellany is the largest category Says:
    Scattered Thoughts
    Such is my mindset right now. Close Reading New Media: Analyzing Electronic Literature edited by Jan VAN LOOY and Jan BAETENS [via GTA] Also, a reminder: the Games Research Bibliography Database, with over 500 entries and an invitation for submissions….

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