Exploiting kairos in electronic literature: A rhetorical analysis
The purpose of this study is to expand on Wayne Booth's work in The Rhetoric of Fiction regarding methods of directing readers toward understanding in fiction to include the possibilities for persuasion available in electronic mediums. The study theorizes the answers to the following: How are writers in electronic spaces appropriating, expanding, and subverting rhetorical devices honed in print? How has the kairos, or situational context, of electronic spaces been exploited? What new rhetorical devices are being developed in electronic spaces? What does the dialogue between print-based and electronic-based works offer to rhetorical scholars in terms of rhetorical analysis and composition?
The study analyzes the rhetoric of electronic literature, creative works composed for display in digital environments. Analysis focuses on works that remediate classic printed literature to electronic publication. Analysis begins with close reading and develops N. Katherine Hayles's theory of media-specific analysis as well as the Bakhtinian-based concept of dialogism. The works analyzed fit the definition of electronic literature posted on the Electronic Literature website, that is, "works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer." The study analyzes Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl ; George Hartley's "Madlib Frost Poem"; Peter Howard's "Peter's Haiku Generator"; Edward Picot's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"; and Helena Bulaja's Croatian Tales of Long Ago. For contrast, the study analyzes John Barth's "Click," a printed short story that remediates electronic signifiers. Six author interviews expand on data gained through rhetorical analysis.
The study reveals how innovators in electronic mediums appropriate, expand, and subvert rhetorical techniques honed in print-based practices. The study finds that since remediation changes kairos, the act provides an opportunity to understand emerging rhetorical techniques responsive to medium. Authors in electronic literature often wed literary technique to technological possibilities, exploiting the capabilities of the new medium to advance literary and political rhetoric. The study finds that print-based practices linger in electronic publications and that electronic-based practices have become significant to print.