Electronic Literature

Electronic literature (E-Lit) is born-digital, made on the computer and read on the computer so that its computational processes are part of its poetics. Unlike digitized text, electronic literature transforms and updates traditional literary practices and reading experiences. From hypertext to Interactive Fiction, Flash poetry to augmented-reality, video games to Netprov, electronic literature encompasses a wide spectrum of techno-poetics and creative communities. (Visit the Electronic Literature Organization--a nonprofit organization for writers, scholars, and publishers of born-digital literary arts-- and view the Electronic Literature Collections, Volumes 1-3, to see examples of electronic literature created by artists around the world over the last 25 years).

Electronic literature is a central component of SDSU’s Digital Humanities Initiative. Our annual electronic literature competition seeks to encourage and showcase the best cutting-edge literary creations by SDSU students. We encourage students of all digital skill-sets to experiment in making digital art, and the Digital Humanities Initiative supports such efforts by offering tools workshops, classes in electronic literature, and lectures by leaders in the field. We also pursue community partnerships to teach E-lit and critical digital literacy. Read more about past efforts.

If you are interested in electronic literature but don’t know where to start, contact Dr. Jessica Pressman (Professor of English and Comparative Literature), scholar and teacher of electronic literature.

Due to Covid, our last Electronic Literature Competition was in 2019 -- view the flyer (.pdf) here. But, we plan to have a great competition and DH Showcase in 2022!

2019 SDSU Electronic Literature Competition Winner and Honorable Mention


Jared Zeiders, "Ofermod V.2.2.6" 
MA student in English and Comparative Literature

Description: This audio/visual poetic narrative explores J.R.R. Tolkien’s argument against the “Northern Heroic Spirit” as embodied in Beowulf in the eponymously named poem and Beorhtnoth of “The Battle of Maldon” while calling back to the visual styles of E-lit extraordinaires, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries. The piece uses visual textual elements in order to create images that help to inform the action of the story. The piece requires that sound be turned on, and honestly the louder the better. The piece is not meant to be paused or backed up, but to be played through from start to finish.

The Jurors Say:
“This piece was so fun--I had a smile on my face the entire time. I appreciated the auditory elements, the creative work in blending the two stories of adventure and war, and the visual whimsy of the text. The "walking" sections were probably my favorites. I wasn't ready for the story to be over, which for me is a testament to its compelling (digital) storytelling.”

“Playing with a generative friction between contemporary and historical modes, this piece queries sound, speed, and human vs. digital capabilities in a live reading environment. The font and music choices challenge aesthetic invisibility and audience attention span in ways both flashy and generative”

“This piece offers a creative and well-crafted response to Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industry's Dakota with an adventurous mashup of Beowulf and The Hobbit.  As the piece delivers its homage to Dakota, it creates its own playful kinetic visuals with an aesthetic of concrete poetry.  The mashup of medieval and middle-Earth tales was done with affection and humor. The resultant work layered on top of Art Blakey's drumming presents delightful and complete journey there and back again.”


Brenda Taulbee, "Sensational Silence: Against Erasure"  
MFA student in Poetry, English and Comparative Literature
Description: This project is an index of erasure poems extracted from news stories that represent landmark cases of violence against the LGBTQ+ community. Through intentional, progressive erasure, the piece re-writes the narrative around these infamous cases, while bearing witness to those that the media forgot or glossed over. Part archive (each original article was taken from the New York Times digital archives), part homage, Sensational Silence grapples with violence within and against the LGBTQ+ community.   

The Jurors Say:
“The erasure poems "rising" from the critical text were evocative, haunting, and at times surprising. I admire the outward-facing focus on social justice and the immediacy of a history we would like to think is past. I found the clean visual design of the piece compelling. I did find the site itself a bit challenging to navigate, and I was never sure if I'd seen "the entire" work. I'd encourage the artist to continue working and building out this site!’

“This piece reframes erasure as a literal and violent act perpetrated on nonconforming bodies. Using reportage to reclaim each individual's narrative from very real and horrific circumstances of gender-based violence, the salient features of each case become even more clear, more powerful, more upsetting. As political speech, the practice of literary erasure here gives voice to silenced bodies, while also revealing the invisible control exerted by--and very real limits of--language.

“’Sensational Silence: Against Erasure’ offers a stark juxtaposition of historic scenes of violence, re-read through erasure.  The poignant piece uncovers the subtext of the attempt to erase members of a marginalized community, writing an epitaph for those who have been lost and a memorial for what has been broken. The piece makes a strong use of twine for these juxtapositions.”

Previous SDSU Electronic Literature Competition Winners:

2018 First Place: Adrian Belmes, "Recursion"
2018 Honorable Mentions: Marine Bernard, "NovaCorp" and Katie Chestnut, "Medusa’s Laughter"

2017 First Place: Valorie Ruiz, "Brujerías"
2017 Honorable Mention: Kristin Herr, "Blork the 60-Second Pet!"

2016 First Place: Riley Wilson, "Driving Alone at Night"
2016 Honorable Mention: Mariana Best, "Brave New Readers"