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. From Flash poetry to augmented reality, interactive fiction to hypertext, games to Netprov, electronic literature encompasses a wide variety of efforts to employ new media to create literary art. E-Lit is one of our central programming missions within DH@SDSU. We have a successful track record of impactful E-Lit programming at SDSU.

Each year we run a student competition in electronic literature: student winners earn a cash prize and showcase their work at the annual DH Showcase in May.

To support student experimentation in digital poetics, DH@SDSU regularly offers tools workshops in free, accessible digital storytelling programs (including Twine and Scalar); these workshops are often taught by students and former students who have mastered the tools and produced E-lit within them, and often won the SDSU E-lit competition themselves. We further support the development of digital storytelling by regularly offering workshops specifically geared towards making E-Lit, often taught by Professor Mark Marino (USC), an award-winning writer and scholar of E-Lit. In the audio realm of digital storytelling, Dr. Pam Lach regularly provides lessons and support for podcasting. We are always experimenting with programming to support creative expression in new media because we understand E-Lit to be central to DH.

We also work with community partners to teach E-Lit and critical digital literacy. In 2018 we partnered with arc, a California-based organization that runs after school and experiential education programs, to create an after-school electronic literature program for local high school students, led by our own SDSU graduate students. Read about the program on our blog.

In Spring 2022, we are piloting a new program to strengthen experimentation in Electronic Literature on campus and within the larger local community led by Brent Ameneyro, current MFA student in Poetry, in the role of our first-ever DH E-lit Programs Assistant. Read more about the program on our blog.

Electronic Literature Competition Winners:

2022 Winner: Brent Ameneyro, “Luck
Graduate MFA in Creative Writing with Poetry emphasis (English Department)
"Luck" is a digital poem in the form of a GIF that explores the issues and challenges related to the pandemic and the US and Mexico border.

The jurors say:

“Luck is a poignant and provocative reflection on the real lives divided by US-Mexico border politics. It combines concrete poetry with the aesthetic of fast-flashing e-lit in an animated gif, an underutilized staple of digital culture.”

"Luck felt dynamic and large while also feeling straightforward and spare. The form and the content seemed to need each other. The writer held an emotional distance that was chilling and magnified the irony.”

“I’m really drawn to the way the animation and graphics support the imagery of the poem while adding and additional layer that evokes emotion; from the borderline growing thicker as the piece progresses to the word “police” filling the screen edge to edge, overwhelming the visual space right after the previous screen warns “the police were everywhere.” In addition, I find the use of the .gif format to deliver the poem an innovative strategy that allows the piece a longevity beyond what many other formats for electronic literature would.”


Abigail Hora, Not to Me
Graduate MFA in Creative Writing with Fiction emphasis (English Department)
"Not to Me" to a Twine-based exploration in verse of coming face-to-face with a racially mixed experience; this project makes use of branching paths to accomplish this and continue to the piece's cyclical conclusion. Navigating the world of being a biracial daughter of a Pilipina immigrant mother and a Dutch-American father, this piece hopes to provide insight into growing up between worlds and coming to terms with not needing to pick just one.

The jurors say:

“I appreciated the mediative quality of the piece, on both the language and visual levels. And I found the cyclical nature of some of the panels, the returning to a previous passage after having followed a specific thread not only satisfying, but an effective way to use Twine’s branching nature to expand on poetic devices--whereas in a written piece the poet might repeat a line, image, or stanzaic structure, to evoke a meditation on that specific element, here those devices are realized through Twine’s inherent functionality.”

“With powerful poetic fragments, Not to Me takes on the struggle of identity in a novel use of Twine, not merely to tell a story but to create a digital poetry performance, using word arrangement and color and most importantly links in a very striking manner that draws out the emotions of the piece.”

“I find the subject matter compelling and specific accounts, particularly those that offer smaller details, such as the mother defending the daughter who has been accused of bullying, the person in the store whose face changes when she sees the non-white mother and biracial daughter. I thought that the writer captured this betweenness of growing up in a biracial home.”

Bilal Mohamed, “Lost Inside: A Digital Inquiry
SDSU BA Alum, ’21, Major in Comparative Literature
"Lost Inside: A Digital Inquiry" is a COVID-era digital journal inspired by a work of digital literature by J.R Carpenter's "Entre Ville" that assumes depths of hypertext, intimate entries, and personal and visual perspectives that highlight a state of stasis due to the quietude and uncertainty of the outer world. The purpose of this work is to create an intimate space for rumination on the experience of life under quarantine and a pandemic. While it does not necessarily comment on politics and the status of the pandemic, except slightly, it mainly highlights the states/stages, metaphysically and emotionally speaking, which we as individuals tend to undergo due to the circumstances COVID has provided us.

The jurors say:

“Lost Inside is a widely varied collection of digital reflections of digital life during the time of COVID. However, rather than focusing on the global, the piece turns to personal experience, drawn out of words, images, and audio recordings in a novel way.”

“An ambitious use of the digital. I was most drawn to the images, the pictures, the backgrounds, the audio components (voice messages, song, etc.), the flash of single words that form questions, the flash of emotions. I also liked how Lost Inside captured this extended period of time during quarantine, the isolation, asking questions: What if I just don't do what I'm supposed to do? YES.”


Previous Competition Winners:

2019 First Place: Jared Zeiders, "Ofermod V.2.2.6" 
2019 Honorable Mention: Brenda Taulbee, "Sensational Silence: Against Erasure"  

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"