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Christian Bok, Eunoia

I forgot to mention in class that all of Eunoia, and a bunch of other (weirder) stuff by Christian Bok is online:

I recommend some of the sound poetry, like “ubu hubub,” to clean your ears out.

John Cage’s Mesostics

Here’s a good introductory essay on John Cage’s Mesostics, a form of writing that he invented based on chance operation and the use of letters to determine the flow of an algorithm. A mesostic is like an acrostic, except that rather than having the letters appear in the front of a word, they go down the middle (see the mesostic on “James Joyce” that is treated in this article).

Cage was primiarly known as a “musician,” but as the image below shows, he moved around literature and visual art (he’s done chance operated paintings and installations) pretty easily. He’s a really good one to have in the back of your mind as you think of your projects.


This is not a reading assignment, by the way, just something I thought interesting. Perhaps we’ll discuss it down the line.

Picture People

Here’s a project that can get pretty engrossing.

I can see this as a form of “electronic writing” because of its dependence on the web, its flitting between genres in the writing – from poetry to other forms of discourse – and its use of “text/image” in a weird and fascinating way.

Read the introduction to get a sense of what they’re after.

Word Disassociation

This is brilliant and weird, courtesy Adam White:

Project Proposals

I’ve uploaded a few proposals that I’ve written for the Cave that I thought you could use as references. Another good place to research how artists write about their own work is the Rhizome ArtBase (look in the Archives menu item at the top).

BKS Cave Project Proposal1.pdf

Ouija Poems1.pdf

This proposal exercise is a chance for you to work through your ideas, perhaps clarify things to yourself, and a chance to show me how you are thinking about electronic writing and offer suggestions for your project before you get into the creation of it. The sooner you give me a proposal, the sooner I can give you feedback.

Things to think about:

  • text/image/audio, where they are coming from (will you create them or steal them)
  • nature of the interaction, the programming (even if you don’t know how to program these bits)
  • general experience of the user
  • general issues you think this project addresses (don’t need to be too theoretical)
  • other art works or ideas that you see as references or inspirations

Flash Exercise

Some of you are really moving forward with your tutorials and have requested some additional work, and of course some of you already know Flash quite well so don’t need to do the tutorials.

I’ve put together the following exercise for you to do that I think not only gives you some Flash practice but introduces you to concepts I think are important to electronic writing, such as “recombinant” text (text that can be reordered while reading), the use of text/image, navigation, and ways of writing particular for the computer.

You don’t have to do this exercise if you don’t have the time, but I’d love to see some of you try this, even if only in part. Just writing the text and describing the potential piece, even if you don’t create it, is quite a lot.

Here is what I want you to do:

  • Create a “stanza” form (it doesn’t have to be verse, it can be a paragraph or one sentence, etc.) which has a visual element to it. For instance, your stanza could be a single line of exactly 40 spaces in Courier font. Or it could be a sentence in which the first letter of each line is in a much larger typeface. It doesn’t have to be a strict form, just something to give you a soft constraint. Your stanzas could also be anagrams – the photos on this site, for example, were made out of the phrases “Van Helsing” and “Man on Fire,” the last two movies to show at this theater. Other rules, such as rhyme or letter-based constraints (words have to be in alphabetical order), are good. Content-based rules, such as each stanza must contain a historical figure or a type of sport or something, are also interesting.
  • Write at least five verses in this stanza form (again, the “stanza” can be prose). You can write as many as you want, of course, but at least five.
  • Create a navigation system that moves the reader through these stanzas. It can be a simple button, but try to integrate the navigation into the piece. For instance, if the button is an image (or images), make it somehow link thematically or conceptually with the text. Navigation can also be replacing parts of the text with other parts – it doesn’t necessarily have to be like flipping pages in a book, it can be like moving pieces around a board, etc.

That’s it! Audio components are optional, but if you want to give that a shot, feel free. But they should be integrated into the final concept of the piece as well. If you have any questions about this let me know.

Here is something that I did for Eunoia that relates to this exercise. I took the “e” chapter and created a little reader for it. Rolling over the buttons causes each paragraph to fade into the next; clicking on the dot sends the paragraph into fits (you can hit “reset” to bring them back).

Christian Bok’s Eunoia

Here’s a little teaser review to start off from the website MadInkBeard:

Eunoia is probably best served read aloud, the assonance and rhyme are more clearly heard, but it is also interesting visually as text. The repetitive vowels make the page appear strange, abnormal. Chapter O is round while Chapter I is sharp.

As narrative the chapters aren’t all equally interesting. The retelling of the Iliad in Chapter E goes on a little too long, while Chapter O holds no real coherence at all, semantically. These failings are made up for with the inherent interest of the linguistic acrobatics and the sonorous writing. “Eunoia” is a unique work, of a different order than Perec’s similar texts (his “Les Revenentes” and “What a Man”), and a great example of what a constraint can do for linguistic virtuosity, if not necessarily for rich narrative.

In this case, the very difficult constraint perhaps limits a little too much what can be said. Personally I do get more pleasure from a text that is narratively interesting and less constrained (a fine balance).

The creator of this site also has some interesting conceptual stuff on there, such as pictureless comics.

Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter”

Here’s the post where you can leave your comments. I just read this in a book about Coover that I thought could get you started – do you agree with these statement or not?

Thomas E. Kennedy in Robert Coover: a study of the short fiction (pp. 64-67) writes:

[Richard] Anderson finds this story technically fascinating but… lacking in human emotion and thus in literary merit. [However,] “The Babysitter” certainly does deal with human emotion–with fear and delight, with idle desire and raw lust, and with the entire range of tamed yearnings that seethe beneath the narcotized surface of suburban life. The story enacts a flushing out of fear and of fictions (“mythic residue”), a turning of the suburban stone to reveal the teeming fictions of the quotidian.


The reality here is everything, the sum total of it all–that which happens, that which is only imagined, that which is watched, wished for, dreamed, planned, enacted, felt, and thought; a great internal-external spiral, half-real/half-imagined, is certainly not realism, but the reality that realism conceals in the interest of literary convention.

BTW, it seems that I have to approve your first comment, and then after that, you can comment without my approval. So your comment won’t appear immediately this first time, only after I have read it.


I’ll be in my office today from about 2-2:45 if you want to stop by so I can sign your card.
Re: lab. I said that you should email me if you are planning to attend lab. I think, in the future, I will simply ask everyone on Tuesday whether they will be coming, to take away the element of suspense. I strongly suggest you go to lab this Thursday since I can answer any questions about where to save your stuff, etc. A few students have already told me they’ll be there, so you don’t have to write me an email.  It’s from 5-6:20.  If you can’t make it, I can meet you there some other time, or you can ask questions of the lab assistants there.
Lastly, the cheat sheets only have to have things on their that you think you won’t remember. No reason to put things in there that you think will be obvious to you or that you already know.
I didn’t give any examples of Flash work yesterday because I got lazy and my throat was sore. But here are a few things on the web – mostly pretty simple stuff, some silly, some considered major work. Just for poking around if you have time:
The Blonk Organ (using vocal sounds of sound poet Jaap Blonk):
Yong-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (Flash movies in many languages, pick any one – all have sound):
Bembo’s Zoo (animations made entirely out of letters):
The Jew’s Daughter (a highly acclaimed hyperfiction in Flash, sometimes doesn’t run properly but give it time):

Another fun thing (click on the horses’ mouths – this has sound):

Class list

At this point in space and time, the class list is as follows:

Lisa Oliver
Daniel Cannizzaro
Annie Keilman
Adam White
William Durette
Alice Liu
Jason French
Daniel Howe
Elliott Breece
Scott Kolp
Andrew Fox
Raphael Lee
Joshua Spechler

It’s a nice mix of people, I’m really looking forward to working with all of you! There’s still space in the class, so let your friends know in case they’re interested.

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