MATLIT-RIT Summer School
The MATLIT-RIT Summer School is the outcome of a partnership between the PhD Programme in Materialities of Literature at the University of Coimbra and the Department of English at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The first Summer School took place in July 2017 (3-9). The second Summer School was held in June 2019 (3-9). The course is taught by students from the PhD Programme in Materialities of Literature (under the coordination of the Programme Director, Prof. Manuel Portela). It is addressed to BA students from the Rochester Institute of Technology (under the coordination of Profs. Trent Hergenrader and Robert Glick). The course is structured into four modules, one for each day, covering different perspectives on the intersections between literature and digital mediation. It is designed as an introduction to the research topics of the Coimbra PhD Programme in ways that are useful for the scholarly and creative practices of RIT students. The Summer School ends with a field trip to visit significant cultural and natural heritage sites of the Centre of Portugal.
Module 1: ReCodex (Ana Sabino and Rui Silva)
Module 2: Ex Machina 1 (Ana Albuquerque e Aguilar)
Module 3: Ex Machina 2 (Mariana Chinellato)
Module 4: Vox Media (Tiago Schwäbl)
Note: In 2017, the MATLIT-RIT Summer School was taught by Sandra Bettencourt (ReCodex), Diogo Marques (Ex Machina 1), Ana Marques Silva (Ex Machina 2) and Nuno Miguel Neves (Vox Media).
The course follows a theoretical-practical methodology. Each module is divided into two sessions of 2h30 (10h00-12h30 and 14h00-16h30). The morning session of each module (10h00-12h30) consists of (1) a moment of theoretical exposition, (2) supported by the analysis of creative works that explore verbal and media materialities for literary and artistic expression, and (3) followed by a moment of open discussion with the students. In the final moment of the first session (30 min.), a group assignment is proposed (for groups of two or three students) based on materials provided during the session or available online. The afternoon session of each module is dedicated to the development of the practical assignment proposed in the morning session, drawing on the concepts and theories discussed and on the works and materials provided. This assignment is concluded in the first part of the workshop (1h30) and presented by each group in the second part (1h00).
MODULE 1: RECODEX
Ana Sabino e Rui Silva
The Reinvention of Reading (Hatherly, 1975):
1. Image as the origin of writing;
2. A historical overview of early visual poems;
3. Ana Hatherly’s work as an artist/writer;
4. Further arguments for reading as a creative act;
5. Reading and writing in a post-digital era.
Portuguese artist, writer and researcher Ana Hatherly starts The Reinvention of Reading by stating that “[não] should not forget that alphabetic writing is relatively recent and that, long before it, communication through images was already in establishment. Thus, if we want to study the origin of poetry as the writing of a text, we can never dissociate it from its pictorial aspect.” We will follow her lead and analyze some examples of image-poems, through a survey of visual-texts that precede the Greek calligrams and go on until twentieth-century experimental poetry and contemporary born-digital literature. Concrete poets started by just using the word as a unit of composition, but soon removed that restraint and began working with the sound of speech, the image of writing, the graphic display of elements on the page, and the format itself—therefore broadening the limits of what is the experience of reading. In this context, reading becomes a productive gesture, which enacts both the senses and a sense, producing possible meanings for the text-image. This is also the point of Johanna Drucker in some of her work, when she emphasizes the text as a performative set of cues that gives rise to a probabilistic reading, rather than being a self-sufficient entity in itself. Our purpose is to be able to elaborate a scenario for a post-digital perspective on The Reinvention of Reading that follows Florian Cramer’s Post-digital writing, hence working in an environment that goes back and forth through digital and analog media. This will lead to the creation of visual texts by the students.
We will proceed with the questioning of what is writing and what is reading, in a hands-on battle with meaning, by exploring the limits of graphical conventions, asemic writing, and the use of alternative alphabets or other visual/verbal elements of the student’s choice.
References and Works
Cramer, Florian (2012). “Post-digital writing”. Electronic Book Review. URL: http://electronicbookreview.com/thread/electropoetics/postal
Drucker, Johanna (2009). “Entity to Event: From Literal, Mechanistic Materiality to Probabilistic Materiality”. Parallax, 15.4: 7-17. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13534640903208834
Bouchardon, Serge (2013-2015). Separations. URL: http://i-trace.fr/separation/index.php
Hatherly, Ana (1975). “Breve Ensaio Crítico.” A reinvenção da leitura. Lisboa: Futura. Translated as “Short Essay” in Rui Torres and Sandy Baldwin, eds. PO.EX: Essays from Portugal on Cybertliterature and Intermedia. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia Press, 2014. [PDF provided] The original Portuguese version of the book (introductory essay + 19 visual texts) is available at PO.EX: https://po-ex.net/taxonomia/materialidades/planograficas/ana-hatherly-reinvencao-da-leitura-19-textos-visuais/.
MODULE 2: EX-MACHINA 1
Ana Albuquerque e Aguilar
1. E-lit and the literary canon;
2. Tension, rupture and continuity;
4. “Autoauthor, Autotext, Autoreader”;
5. Children’s and young adult electronic literature.
Born from a long tradition of literary experiment, electronic literature opens “new horizons for the literary” (Hayles, 2008). Digital media allow multimodality, interactivity and immersion (Côrtes Maduro, 2017), offering different languages and platforms to (re)create and to (re)tell stories. However, it is interesting to observe the dialogue between electronic literature and the literary canon, fixed by print media over the last five centuries, a feedback process which produces new potentially canonic works. Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl(1995), a masterpiece of hypertext fiction, inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and L. Frank Baum’s Patchwork Girl, is a good example of this process.
So, in module 2, we will focus on digital works that, through remediation (Bolter and Grusin, 2000) of famous poems, narratives, quotations or characters, create tension with the literary canon an also make the reader rethink it. Particular attention will be given to works created for a younger public, since children’s e-lit is a very prolific field for remediating the classics (iPoe, 2012; Nosy Crow’s Little Red Riding Hood, 2013; 80 Days, 2014; and others).
Students will explore some of the digital works by themselves and, after discussion, will conceptualize a digital work in the same logic of remediating a classic of their own choice.
Hayles, N. Katherine (2008). “Electronic Literature: What is it?” (chapter 1). Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame. 1-42. Text available at: https://eliterature.org/pad/elp.html
Portela, Manuel (2012). “Autoauthor, Autotext, Autoreader: The Poem as Self-assembled database”. Writing Technologies, vol. 4: 43-74. URL: https://www4.ntu.ac.uk/writing_technologies/current_journal/124936.pdf)
Prieto, Lucas Ramada (2015). “Common Places in Children’s E-Lit. A Journey through the Defining Spaces of Electronic Literature”. Mireia Manresa and Neus Real, eds., Digital Literature for Children: Texts, Readers and Educational Practices. Brussels: Peter Lang. 37-53. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3726/978-3-0352-6577-4
Rui Torres, Um Corvo Nunca Mais (2009) – https://telepoesis.net/pessoa/menu.html
Rui Torres, Poems in the Middle of the Road (2009) – https://telepoesis.net/streamflowconditions/
Rui Torres, Cantiga (2012) – http://www.telepoesis.net/cantiga
Serge Bouchardon, Vincent Volckaert and Hervé Zénouda, changeEverything (2011) – http://changertout.fr
Kate Pullinger, Andy Campbell et alii, Inanimate Alice (2005-2018) – https://inanimatealice.com/adventures/
Mark Marino, John Murray and Joellyn Rock, Salt Immortal Sea (2018) – http://www.lucidbard.com/elit/saltimmortalsea/
MODULE 3: EX-MACHINA 2
1. Five elements of Digital Literature: expanding Aarseth’s model;
2. The notion of writing under constraints;
3. Aesthetics of Generative Literature (Howe & Soderman, 2009);
4. The genius vs the engine;
5. The aesthetics of genuine surprise.
Based on Espen Aarseth’s concept of Ergodic Literature, Noah Wardrip-Fruin (2010) suggests an expansion on Aarseth’s models to read and interpret Digital Literature. This expansion proposes five elements inherent to digital work: data, processes, interaction, surface, and context. These elements will guide us through the analysis of the digital works. Another focus of this module is on the three layers of constraints that constitute the material means of production of the literary, discussed by Manuel Portela (2017). In this context, we intend to observe and analyze a series of projects developed with the RiTa toolkit for generative language available for Processing to understand and discuss the aesthetics of Generative Literature, focusing mainly on the questions of authorship and creativity.
After discussing the theoretical aspects through the analysis of the projects, the students will be able to explore RiTa toolkit using the source code for the projects available, using the models available with the toolkit, or producing their own code.
Howe, Daniel and A. Braxton Soderman (2009). “The Aesthetics of Generative Literature: Lessons from a Digital Writing Workshop”. Hyperrhiz, 6. URL: http://hyperrhiz.io/hyperrhiz06/essays/the-aesthetics-of-generative-literature-lessons-from-a-digital-writing-workshop.html
Portela, Manuel (2017). “Writing under Constraint of the Regime of Computation”. Joseph Tabbi, ed. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Electronic Literature, London: Bloomsbury. 179-198.
Wardrip-Fruin, Noah (2010). “Five Elements of Digital Literature”. Roberto Simanowski, Jörgen Schäfer, Peter Gendolla, eds., Reading Moving Letters: Digital Literature in Research and Teaching, A Handbook, Transcript Verlag, pp. 29-58. Available at: https://courses.edx.org/asset-v1:DavidsonX+D004x+3T2015+type@asset+block@nwf-BC5-FiveElementsOfDigitalLiterature.pdf
Available at: http://rednoise.org/rita/gallery.php
Each student should select one or two works they find particularly interesting. These works were created with the RiTa Toolkit.
Participants should install Processing (available at https://processing.org/) and also install the RiTa Toolkit within the Processing environment.
MODULE 4: VOX MEDIA
1. Voicing, speech, sampling;
2. Writing, recording, reading;
3. Voices in and outside the machines;
4. Language, electricity, code.
This module attempts to place or displace the human voice through different media and organisms — larynx, music instruments and other devices for recording, imitation or retrieval of sound.
In strictu sensu, a resulting sound appears and disappears as a consequence of the articulation of some kind of physical trigger, which configures one amongst other possible connections intra-VoxMedia, that is, between a voice and its sounding media. The perception of its functioning is key not only to understand the projections of sound/voice in places other than the mouth/human body — like engraving or writing — as it is also to the concurrent process of imitation and gradual separation, reproduction, and emulation of voice (and writing) independently from its source. The ways of registering and perpetuating memory and language through sound and writing — the phono-graph — went hand in hand through the centuries; as Shane Butler (2015) put it, writing was and still is the very first repository of sound. For example, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s phonautograph, invented in 1857, was only another way of fixing speech through stenography (cf. Sterne, 2003); Scott’s first vibration of a human voice could only be retrieved in 2008, but it opened way to Edison’s phonograph. More recently, Felipe Cussen (2015) tried to create a sound poetry album and ended up with electronic music.
When the processes no longer require air, but friction or electricity… when different methods are applied for the same result — voice, in this case —, something must have changed — the planes fly, but not like birds… The changing of voice(s’) media, from writing to organ pipes, gramophones, vocoders, text-to-speech or Siri engines affected directly and retroactively the voice itself. Some questions arise as to the station of language outside the human body (cf. Cayley, 2013). In this module, various ways of (de)placing a voice through the 19th and 20th century will be heard, analyzed and discussed, with a final focus of discussion about the use of sound in digital works at the dawn of the 21st century.
We will try to test the absence or presence of the voice through different media. The starting point will be the voice of the participants themselves, who will then search ways for the distortion, uncanniness, recognition and fidelity of language, by means of recording, editing and reproducing the voice through software (Audacity, https://www.audacityteam.org/download/) or mechanical means of voice retrieval.
ADORNO, Theodor W. (1934) 1990. “The Form of the Phonograph Record”. Translated by Thomas Y. Levin. October 55: 56–61. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/778936
CAYLEY, John. 2013. “Reading and Giving Voice and Language”. Performance Research 18 (5): 10–19. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13528165.2013.828929
DOLAR, Mladen. 2006. “Introduction: Che bella voce!” A Voice and Nothing More. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 3-11.
TOMPKINS, Dave. 2011. “Nearly Enough like That Which Gave Them Birth”. How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop, The Machine Speaks. Chicago: Stop Smiling Books. 35-72.
Manuel Portela (coord.)
Professor in the English Section of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Coimbra. Researcher at the Centre for Portuguese Literature at the University of Coimbra. My research addresses writing and reading media and how they impact on literary forms and practices. Ongoing projects deal with digital literature and electronic editing from a literary studies and digital humanities perspective. The most significant results of this research can be seen in the book Scripting Reading Motions: The Codex and the Computer as Self-Reflexive Machines (MIT Press, 2013) and in the LdoD Archive: Collaborative Digital Archive of the Book of Disquiet (CLP, 2017; https://ldod.uc.pt/), edited by Manuel Portela and António Rito Silva. I am the director of the PhD Program in Materialities of Literature at the University of Coimbra, and the current general editor of the journal MATLIT: Materialities of Literature (https://impactum-journals.uc.pt/matlit/index).
Ana Sabino was born in Porto, in 1983. Her academic and professional career was always guided by her calling towards books and the written word, in their multiple facets. She studied Communication Design in the Fine Arts College of Lisbon University. Worked in studio FBA., in Coimbra, where she was responsible, together with creative director João Bicker, for the graphic design of Weltliteratur, an exhibition on literature, held in Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, a work which was worthy of a Red Dot Design Award 2009. Later she had the opportunity, given by a Inov-art grant attributed by Direcção-Geral das Artes, of heading to Brasil to work with Cosac Naify publishing house, in São Paulo: an art and literature publisher specially recognised for the quality of its editions and its graphic projects. She finished her masters in Literary Theory, in Lisbon, with a thesis titled «Literature for the short-sighted – a close look into matters of form in literary theory» (2015), which focuses on the crossing of the visual form of books and literary theory, supervised by professor António M. Feijó. Her PhD thesis is titled “Instruções de leitura: um estudo sobre convenções de apresentação da palavra escrita” [“Reading Instructions: A Study on Conventions for Presentation of the Written Word”].
Rui Silva is a graphic designer. He graduated from the School of Fine Arts at the University of Porto in 2005, where he unlearned almost everything and cultivated a fascination for everything else. He started the project www.alfaiataria.org with the aim of practicing graphic cut-and-paste all over the world. Since 2007 he has had the pleasure of designing books for publishers such as Antígona, Orfeu Negro and Dafne. He suffers from an obsessive diagrammatic spirit and from a growing pleasure in collaborating with others. He is an avid collector of non-anglophone vinyl records coming from the restricted region between Cancer and Capricorn, which he presents in soirées with his Tropical Phonographic Institute. In 2016 he adhered to the materialities paradigm for a period of four years, indefinitely renewable. His ongoing PhD thesis is titled “A Condição de Ser Livro: a publicação como prática artística e o livro como artefacto” [“The Condition of Being a Book: publication as artistic practice and the book as artefact”].
Ana Albuquerque e Aguilar has a degree and a post-graduation in Classics. She holds a Master’s degree in Classical Studies – Comparative Literature, with a thesis on the poetic works of Portuguese writer Miguel Torga. She studied at the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Lisbon and at the Paris-Sorbonne University. As a secondary school teacher, she has participated in different European projects and programs (Comenius, Grundtvig, and more recently, Erasmus +). She is also a teachers’ trainer; she has been involved in Portuguese language and literature projects, and has several publications, including textbooks of Portuguese. She is currently an FCT doctoral fellow in the Materialities of Literature PhD Program, School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Coimbra. She is also a team member of the research project “Inanimate Alice: Translating Electronic Literature for an Educational Context” (Centre for Portuguese Literature at the University of Coimbra). Among other interests, she focuses on classical languages, Greek culture (Ancient and contemporary), Portuguese literature, teaching, books, and reading. Her ongoing PhD thesis is titled “Educação Literária na Era Digital: O Contributo da Literatura Eletrónica” [“Literary Education in the Digital Era: The Contribution of Electronic Literature”].
Mariana Chinellato holds a degree in Communication (2002), post-graduation in University Teaching (2003) and a degree in Portuguese and English (2009), all by the Catholic University of Santos in Brazil. Part of her degree course in Portuguese and English was taken at the University of Coimbra (2007-2008). She has professional experience in the area of applied linguistics and foreign language teaching, Portuguese as a second language and pedagogical supervision. Academic professional experience in the areas of English and American Literature, Portuguese and Brazilian Literature, Theory of Literature, Poetry and Theater, and Academic Writing. She holds a Master in Architecture and Urbanism from the Institute of Architecture and Urbanism of USP-São Carlos, with the project “City and Literary Form: Urban representations in contemporary Brazilian literature”. Currently, she is a PhD student in the Doctoral Program in Materialities of Literature and her research is focused on Generative Literature and Automatic Text Generation Systems. Her ongoing PhD thesis is titled “Linguagem e Criatividade em Sistemas de Geração Automática de Narrativas” [“Language and Creativity in Systems for Automatic Generation of Narratives”].
Tiago Schwäbl was born in Coimbra (1985) and grew up in Terceira Island in The Azores. He completed 7th Grade in piano at the Conservatório de Música do Porto and graduated in flute at the ESMAE [Escola Superior de Música e Artes do Espetáculo], Porto. He worked in collaboration with the Departments of Percussion and Composition, and was involved in various improvisation concerts and “New Music”, such as the Festival Música Viva (2007, 2010), where works by Duarte Dinis Silva and Nuno Peixoto de Pinho were premiered. He completed a post-graduation in Poetry and Poetics at the University of Coimbra in 2009-2010 – and presented a performance of ‘Os Sons It(n)rantes’ in 2010. He continued his studies at the Freie Universität Berlin as an Erasmus Student and stayed in the city to participate in contemporary music and theatre-dance projects (Compagnie ZwischenWort) working in the areas of sound and movement. He is the author (with the collboration of Nuno Miguel Neves) of a radio show on sound poetry “Hipoglote: Entre a Voz e a Palavra” [Hypoglottis: Between Voice and Word], weekly broadcast by RUC (Coimbra University Radio) since July 2016. His ongoing PhD thesis is titled “shrrshrrsh: Questões de notação na poesia sonora” [“shrrshrrsh: Notation Issues in Sound Poetry”].