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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Inventions of the Text Seminar Series

Inventions of the Text complements our Research Seminar series. Inventions is organised by a team of postgraduate researchers, and combines papers by academics from Durham and beyond with presentations by PhD students. Seminars run roughly every couple of weeks during term time, with around eight or nine events a year. After each seminar, attendees are welcome to socialise with the speaker(s) over dinner. They are generally for University staff and students, although sometimes open to the public.

Forthcoming Inventions of the Text Seminars

Literature, Cinema, Videogame: Intermedial Influence and Literary Modernism

16th June 2016, 17:30 to 18:45, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Dr Alistair Brown

An Inventions of the Text seminar.

As critics such as Andrew Shail have demonstrated, early cinema exerted a “significant unconscious influence” (Shail, 2012) on modernist literary aesthetics. From specific techniques such as montage, to the vision of how to narrate a story without an overt narrator but with a narrating point of view, literary modernists readily incorporated ideas from the new medium deep into their own formal methods.

In the early twenty-first century, contemporary literature resides alongside a similarly radical other medium, that of video games. Yet whereas twentieth-century modernists took cinema across to literature in a deep intermedial exchange, some forty years after the advent of video games even avant-garde writers such as Will Self continue to wonder why video games have yet to make any significant impact on mainstream literature, particularly the novel which would seem naturally positioned to explore the remediatory possibilities of storytelling offered by interactive games.

Certainly, niche hypertext fiction and multiply-navigable novels such as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves have offered a “media-technical” response to interactive narratives, much like modernist magazines such as Blast! adopted visually striking representations of cinematographic methods in print. Yet the intermedial influences of cinema also extended deep into the formal epistemology of narrative, rethinking what storytelling might do even within the otherwise conventionally linear printed book. It is this sort of deeper influence that appears to be lacking in our current cultural ecosphere, in which video games and novels co-exist as popular fictional forms without seemingly intruding on each other’s evolved niche.

This paper will suggest some of the reasons why some new media exert greater intermedial influence upon the literary domain than others.

Contact inventionsofthetext@gmail.com for more information about this event.


Past Inventions of the Text Seminars