Book Presence in the Digital Age

Book Presence in the Digital Age Conference 2012 flyer

Simon Morris opens Utrecht University conference, May 28-30, 2012.

Organized by Kiene Brillenburg-Würth

Funded by NWO and the Changing Literacies Platform of the Cultures and Identities Research Group at Utrecht University, in cooperation with OSL and Wintertuin, the symposium Book Presence in a Digital Age will take place at Utrecht University, May 28-30, 2012.

This conference is devoted to books and paper as bodies of literature in a digital age. Today, books are no longer dominant cultural media. Yet if books have been increasingly marginalized by screens, pads, and other electronic book-imitators, what is happening to literature as a paper art?

In 1992, Robert Coover still confidently predicted in the New York Review of Books: “…the print medium is a doomed and outdated technology, a mere curiosity of bygone days destined soon to be consigned forever to those dusty unattended museums we now call libraries.” The future of literature would be elsewhere, away from paper, print, and bound covers. Electronic literature would take the lead artistically and wipe out the remains of that bygone technology: the book. Except that it wasn’t – and it didn’t. Why?

Strangely, since the 1990s, when Coover’s turnaround should have taken place, there has been a veritable surge of creative re-imaginings of books as bearers of the literary. From typographic experiments (Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts) to accordeon books (Caron’s Nox), from cut ups (Foer’s Tree of Codes) to collages (Rawle’s Woman’s World), erasures (Rueffle’s A Little White Shadow) to mix-ups (Morris’s The Interpretations of Dreams), p(aper)-literature has gone through anything but a slow, uneventful death. By contrast, it has re-invented itself materially.

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