It is obvious that someone needs to write an article titled “Why Have There Been No Great Electronic Authors?” Or perhaps “Why Is There No Great Electronic Literature?” The article would not attempt to answer the question as journalists tend to expect it to be answered. No, that’s would be like answering the “when did you stop beating your wife” question. Instead, it would closely follow the arguments of Steve Dietz’s “Why Have There Been No Great Net Artists?” which closely follows the logic of Linda Nochlin’s wonderful “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”, the only article I still remember from my two years of studying art history. As Nochlin writes:

The feminist’s first reaction is to swallow the bait, hook, line and sinker, and to attempt to answer the question as it is put: that is, to dig up examples of worthy or insufficiently appreciated women artists throughout history; to rehabilitate rather modest, if interesting and productive careers; to “rediscover” forgotten flower painters or David followers and make out a case for them; to demonstrate that Berthe Morisot was really less dependent upon Manet than one had been led to think-in other words, to engage in the normal activity of the specialist scholar who makes a case for the importance of his very own neglected or minor master. Such attempts, whether undertaken from a feminist point of view, like the ambitious article on women artists which appeared in the 1858 Westminster Review, or more recent scholarly studies on such artists as Angelica Kauffmann and Artemisia Gentileschi, are certainly worth the effort, both in adding to our knowledge of women’s achievement and of art history generally. But they do nothing to question the assumptions lying behind the question “Why have there been no great women artists?” On the contrary, by attempting to answer it, they tacitly reinforce its negative implications.

There’s far more than that, of course. Go read it. And yes, I’d read Dietz’s article before, but had forgotten it. We need reminders.

2 thoughts on “why has there been no great electronic literature

  1. Jill

    [Lars posted a comment to this that I deleted by mistake, in a bout of spam-deletion. He asked what would make outstanding electronic literature outstanding, if there were/is outstanding electronic literature? And he said he’d write more about this in his own blog.]

  2. Lars

    Or, to paraphrase my deleted self: If a piece of electronic literature could be described as “outstanding”, what does it stand out from?

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