Weblogs are specifically literary

Steve Himmer from Emerson college has an excellent article online called "The Labyrinth Unbound: Weblogs as Literature." In it, he expresses some ideas which I think suggest a theoretical starting point for my thesis. In particular the notions that the weblog is a specifically literary form, and that its collapsing of many of our common assumptions about text (unidirectional communication, monophonic structure, autonomically closed texts, text as static state rather than ongoing process, etc.) makes one specifically aware of what and how one reads. A juicy quote:
Calling a weblog “literary” does not require content that is about literature or even content that aims to be literature. It is not an attempt at categorizing one weblog and its author as more worthwhile in a canonical sense than any other. To the contrary, I propose that every weblog can be considered literary in the sense that it calls attention not only to what we read, but also to the unique way we read it. The weblog is (to paraphrase Colin MacCabe) the performed result of a code of particular techniques, and this paper is an attempt to highlight the primary features of that code. The weblog collapses many of the common assumptions made about texts, as it complicates the distinction between author and audience through the multivocality of both direct commenting, and the reader’s ability to reorder the narrative in myriad ways. Owing to its ongoing creation over an undefined period of time, the weblog becomes a text that constantly expands through the input of both readers and writers. This absence of a discrete, “completed” product makes the weblog as a form resistant to the commoditization either of itself, or of any one particular interpretation.

These features, I argue, characterize the weblog as a distinctive literary and creative mode, something richer and more nuanced than viewing it as simply the outcome of a specific toolset or formal structure allows for. The form’s literariness, then, is not a quality achieved by some weblogs and lacking in others. Nor is it a closely demarcated category “that one must not cross,” serving to include some authors and projects while excluding others in the interest of a cleanly defined genre (Derrida, 1981). This literary nature of the weblog is instead the loose set of shared criteria that allows us to speak of a plurality of “weblogs” in the first place, and equally allows the form to continue expanding.


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