Presiding: Alexandra Saum-Pascual, Univ. of California, Berkeley
1. “Print Alternatives: Hybrid Spanish Writing Today,” Alexandra Saum-Pascual
2. “Digital Technology and New Forms of Literature from a Hispanic Perspective,” Sergi Rivero-Navarro, Harvard Univ.
3. “Interstory: Three Narratives in Media Convergence,” Elika Ortega Guzman, Univ. of Western Ontario
4. “Technological Expropriation in Latin American Poetry: A Historical Perspective,” Marcos Wasem, Bard Coll.
The goal of this special session is to provide a forum in which to trace and discuss emergent digital literature in the Hispanic world. Although digital texts and other new media objects have received increasing attention from the fields of English literature and Media Studies since the popularization of Digital Humanities in the mid 1990s, research about their Spanish counterparts still needs much developing. Hoping to offer a broad range of examples, the four 15 minute-long papers in this session will cover innovative digital and hybrid work by diverse artists (poets, novelists, designers) emerging in Spain and Latin America over the last decade whose experimental digital production allows us to situate them at a new vanguard.
Alexandra Saum-Pascual begins the session by delineating a theoretical framework from which to look at these new literary objects, hoping to sketch a new trend in literature that she defines as “post-web.” By post-web she means a type of experimental literature informed by the authors’ computer practices, which share particular web aesthetics and database organization that challenge more traditional reading and writing experiences. Hybrid/post-web literature does not necessarily need to be supported online, it can be read in more traditional printed platforms, although it generally moves to the digital environment expanding the textual platform to a global network. She contextualizes these hybrid poetics within Spanish culture, centering her analysis on the work of the “Mutante” writers –Agustín Fernández Mallo, Jordi Carrión, Javier Fernández and Vicente Luis Mora–, elaborating on their formative sensibility towards new technologies, and their Spanish upbringing. Born circa 1970, and thus children of the Spanish transition to democracy following the death of dictator Franco, this group of authors bears critical significance in contemporary Spanish letters.
Sergi Rivero moves the discussion across the waters providing a set of transatlantic examples of new media texts produced by Latin American as well as Spanish artists whose work is defined by the creators’ relation to global connectivity and access to information. Analyzing specific cases of hyperlink narratives from Colombia (“Gabriela infinita”) and Spain (“La hora chunga”), as well as to visually animated poetry (Ana María Uribe’s Anipoemas, Argentina), Rivero outlines a set of aesthetic particularities of digital “writing” in Spanish, expanding on their hybridity, and resulting from the artist’s creative process which now takes place on the virtual space. Reflecting on the changing ways in which artists work and access information from the Web, Rivero moves on to describe examples of collective writing such as “La voz en llamas” where authorship becomes a field of shared practice determined by the user’s digital literacy and knowledge of Spanish (nationality of the participants is irrelevant and undisclosed). All these examples, Rivero claims, highlight new ways in which the “digital medium” becomes an intrinsic way of telling (and hence, modifying) the content of new “literature” in the Hispanic world.
Elika Ortega takes up the discussion on evolving products and creative processes, and focuses on current ways of composition/distribution, detailing how media convergence has widened and diversified the production of narratives. The result of this media convergence is a myriad of works all participating in what she calls “interstory”: a type of narrative that has been fragmented by different platforms (blogs, e-books, print books, magazines, e-magazines, video, etc.). The use of different media does not imply a repetition of content, but establishes a dynamic of iteration and complementation, which builds a global narrative. Ortega expands on Rivero’s and Saum-Pascual’s sample of works, offering a new set of transatlantic narratives written in Spanish: Hernán Caciari’s Orsai (Spain-Argentina), Rafael Fernandez’s Mi Cabeza Soy Yo (Spain), and Juan Sánchez’s Balada/Track (Colombia-Canada). She builds on Rivero’s definition of collaborative creative processes by analyzing the particular relation between the projects’ content and the crowd-funded publications from which they originate, exposing a peculiar self-referential, even meta-fictional emergent narrative dealing with its own process of production, distribution and reception, which take place through blogs and social media. Aside from the fundamental persuasive advertising power these entail, interstories also literalize issues of narrative interactivity and immersion calling for a stronger reader engagement and community formation within today’s writing in Spanish.
Marcos Wasem wraps up the discussion offering a broad historical framework from which to read these new media objects within canonical Media Theory. On the one hand, Wasem proposes that poetry has always been a practical frontier for language experimentation, in which the changes in communication technology have been incorporated into its experimental practice –from phonographic recordings and photography, to current Internet communication. He focuses on particular work by Uruguayan writers Roberto de las Carreras and Luis Bravo, to exemplify the Latin American case of the 20th Century. On the other hand, Wasem brings back Marshall McLuhan’s Gutenberg Galaxy to explain how the appearance of the printed “book” in the Middle Ages contributed to move from feudal to capitalist society, believing that similar changes in the technologies of cultural distribution can signal to today’s evolving exchange system. Looking at the use of the linotype during the Modernista period, the photocopy machine use by the Brazilian Marginalistas or the Internet in today’s collective blogs series “Elective Affinities” (in all of its Latin American and U.S. manifestations), Wasem builds on Elika Ortega’s distribution enterprise, and highlights how technical developments allow for a quest not only for novel expressive forms, but also for economic alternatives of distribution and exchange.
All four panelists of the “Digital Vanguards in Spanish Literature” session offer a broad picture of today’s production of hybrid and digital literature in the Hispanic world. Their talks engage in larger cultural projects, hoping to open up several avenues of interpretation of these new media texts in Spanish as well they aim to pose a series of broader interrelated questions about how artists, and subjects in general, confront today’s changing technological and social realities.