July 9, 2007
I spent three days last week in the Netherlands for the Remediating Literature Conference. The University of Utrecht is one of the older universities in Europe, founded in 1630, and has an atmosphere suffused with literary and political history. Among the former faculty of the institution, for instance, is the philosopher Descartes. The conference banquet was held in the same hall that the Treaty of Utrecht, which ended the War of Spanish Succession in 1713, was signed in. This environment, a place where many historical transitions have occurred, provided a great setting in which to contemplate the changes that literature is undergoing in its relationship to other media and art forms in the twenty-first century. Topics addressed during the conference included remediations of literature into film, radio, and theatricality, the future of textual studies in an increasingly digitized world, the relationship between narratives and computer games, and most prominently, the theory and practice of electronic literature and net art. About ninety academics from all over Europe, the United States, and elsewhere participated in the conference. My attention was naturally drawn towards presentations on electronic literature, though there were many other presentations I would have wished to attend if simultaneous presence was a physical possibility. Following are some notes on Marie-Laure Ryan’s and N. Katherine Hayles’s keynotes, and several other talks. I’ll post the notes on Ryan’s and Hayles’s talk separately from my other notes. My congratulations to the organizers on an excellent conference. Not only was the conference content excellent, the food was superb as well, particularly the succulent duck breast served at the conference dinner. And not only was wine served throughout, but (a rarity in academic conferences) it was quite good wine — a lightly oaked chardonnay with hints of vanilla served with the seafood salad, and a flavorful bordeaux with the duck. Props for the attention to culinary detail.