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Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature [Paperback]

Espen J. Aarseth
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 6, 1997 0801855799 978-0801855795

Can computer games be great literature? Do the rapidly evolving and culturally expanding genres of digital literature mean that the narrative mode of discourse—novels, films, television series—is losing its dominant position in our culture? Is it necessary to define a new aesthetics of cyborg textuality?

In Cybertext, Espen Aarseth explores the aesthetics and textual dynamics of digital literature and its diverse genres, including hypertext fiction, computer games, computer-generated poetry and prose, and collaborative Internet texts such as MUDs. Instead of insisting on the uniqueness and newness of electronic writing and interactive fiction, however, Aarseth situates these literary forms within the tradition of "ergodic" literature—a term borrowed from physics to describe open, dynamic texts such as the I Ching or Apollinaire's calligrams, with which the reader must perform specific actions to generate a literary sequence.

Constructing a theoretical model that describes how new electronic forms build on this tradition, Aarseth bridges the widely assumed divide between paper texts and electronic texts. He then uses the perspective of ergodic aesthetics to reexamine literary theories of narrative, semiotics, and rhetoric and to explore the implications of applying these theories to materials for which they were not intended.


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Editorial Reviews

Review

A book that critics and researchers in the field cannot easily ignore.

(Svenska Dagbladet)

In many respects, this is the book I and many others have been waiting for. I have not seen any work so comprehensive in its synthesis of previous commentary. Aarseth's brilliant observations remind me of McLuhan's 'probes'—highly condensed, provocative statements meant to generate controversy and insight. This is clearly the best study of electronic texts I have yet read.

(Stuart Moulthrop, University of Baltimore, author of Victory Garden)

Book Description

From computer games to hypertext fiction, Aarseth explores the aesthetics and textual dynamics of digital literature

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (August 6, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801855799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801855795
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #775,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE book on interactive narrative studies July 21, 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Aristotle is alive and he is norwegian! Finally here is the lost book of Poetics. If you are one of the rare race of people that like to think about videogames rather than play with them, you will love this book. Maybe many scholars won't pay Aarseth much attention, but time will speak by itself. This is the most intelligent, visionary and interesting book available about interactive fiction/narrative/drama/or-whatever-name-you-like.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating subject April 29, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The word `ergodic' is very familiar in mathematics and physics, where in the former it designates measure-preserving transformations and in the latter an equivalence between time and space averages. To see the term appear in literary analysis is therefore interesting, and instigates curiosity as to its role there. The author of this book is the first one to refer to `ergodic literature' and he therefore gives the reader insight into the subject that perhaps cannot be obtained anywhere else. As a whole the book is very interesting, even though at times it might appear that the author is skating to close to the `deconstructive' school of literary criticism.

When one reads a book in the "normal" way one stares at the cover, reads the title, opens the book, and then begins reading at the first page and continues reading until the book is finished. The content of the book usually does not require the reader to perform any particular actions other the mere act of turning the pages and reading. But in the Internet age it is clear that texts or books (i.e. "hypertext") can require that the reader become more "active". For example, the reader may have to click on hyperlinks, input words or information to the story or text, or even interact with story by using user interfaces so that the story can take on a different path or even have a different ending.

To require the `reader' to become actively involved is the key strategy of ergodic literature. As the author states, a `nontrivial' effort is required by the reader to get through an ergodic text. This is to be contrasted with a nonergodic literature where no such effort is needed. In ergodic literature, something else must be occurring outside the confines of the thought processes of the reader.
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7 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just get it January 15, 2000
Format:Paperback
... what else is necessary to say. This book will spur so many thoughts and ideas that you will be reading it for ever after. It is a must for any serious hypertext/cybertext scholar.
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