convergences essays on art and literature ..

Paz, Octavio, “A Literature of Convergences,” in Convergences: Essays on Art and Literature, San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, and London: Bloomsbury, 1987

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Both essays are major contributions to the study of electronic/new media literature — useful, I believe, to those readers new to digital literature as well as those writers, critics and teachers who have helped develop or actively follow and critique the development of literature in a born-digital mode. While both Hayles and Tabbi agree on many points (and cover some of the same territory), there are also some interesting differences between the essays.

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In their introduction, editors Sidney Buckland and Myriam Chimènes highlight several themes that run through the various essays, including the notions of ambiguity, masks and concealment, and the "myth of facility" (pp. 5-6). Preeminent, however, is the theme of artistic interchange: "Both literature and painting served Poulenc not merely as a source of comparison but also as a source of inspiration. Constant in his life was this fertile interchange with the other arts, enabling him to assert with conviction: 'Musicians teach me technique. It is writers and artists who provide me with ideas'" (p. 4). The content and organization of the book reflect this creative philosophy.

art convergences essay literature
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The essays in this section thus talk about the shifting paradigms of Comparative Literature as a discipline, one that tries to incorporate the literary, cultural and political aspects. Ramakrishnan is seen to agree with the model of Comparative Literature proposed by Gayatri Spivak which demands a shift from the global, which tends to homogenise the planetary, a system that truly liberates the disciplines by offering visions of alterity. One may say that the introductory essay written by Ramakrishnan is truly a condensed form of his vision of Comparative Literature, not unlike the structure of the book itself; Interdisciplinary is a tapestry woven out of the various threads and opinions of comparatists and literary scholars, of past and present.

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This essay surveys the development and current state of electronic literature, from the popularity of hypertext fiction in the 1980's to the present, focusing primarily on hypertext fiction, network fiction, interactive fiction, locative narratives, installation pieces, "codework," generative art and the Flash poem. It also discusses the central critical issues raised by electronic literature, pointing out that there is significant overlap with the print tradition. At the same time, the essay argues that the practices, texts, procedures, and processual nature of electronic literature require new critical models and new ways of playing and interpreting the works. A final section discusses the Preservation, Archiving and Dissemination (PAD) initiative of the Electronic Literature Organization, including the Electronic Literature Collection Volume I and the two white papers that are companion pieces to this essay, "Acid Free Bits" and "Born Again Bits." Intended audiences include scholars, administrators, librarians, and funding administrators, respectively, who are new to electronic literature and for whom it is hoped this essay will serve as a useful introduction. Because this essay is the first systematicattempt to survey and summarize the fast-changing field of electronic literature, artists, designers, writers, critics, and other stakeholders may find it useful as an overview, with emphasis on recent creative and critical works.

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The first section of the book consists of two essays written by Ramakrishnan and Harish Trivedi. In the first essay entitled “Comparative Literature: Changing Paradigms,” Ramakrishnan foregrounds the Eurocentric nature of the discipline and its failure to accommodate sufficient works from African and Asian literary traditions so as to present a holistic study of literature. He expresses the view that the discipline must be reinvented to address the inequality of power relations in the world. Ramakrishnan recommends an understanding of this process of othering. The popular theme of European literature has mostly been the development of the individual rather than the intricate workings of society but in this essay Ramakrishnan argues that imagination cannot be conceived in individual terms alone; one must understand the shared world of ideas which affects our thinking at every point. Therefore he suggests that Comparative Literature needs to move away from an individual-centred view of the text towards a community-centred view of literature in order to remedy the crisis that the discipline is facing at present. Comparative Literature has endeavoured to encourage most of the anthologies to include token representations from non-European cultures. Ramakrishnan explains that this becomes highly misleading because there are no guidelines available to deal with the issues specific to those cultures. He cites Sisir Kumar Das’s lecture during the CLAI conference in 2011 to explain the dialectic between power and literary representation in order to bring out this power relation with respect to Indian Literature. The hegemony in Indian society based on caste, religion and gender is one such issue that will be reproduced in literary representation if one only replicates a ‘brahminic’ view of Indian Literature. As one moves from the general category of World Literature to literature specific to a culture or community, this problem regarding representation of power relations arises.