Fever dreams

I’ve been sick this week, which means endless cups of tea and hours spent moaning on the sofa (I live alone, I can do these things).  It also means lots of rest which, in my ensickened state means fever dreams.  I’m not sure if fever dreams work the same for everyone, but for me what happens is I drift off to sleep with a tiny bit of an idea in my head – in this case it was about a long distance walk I’m training for – and my brain puts a pin in that one idea and spirals all new ideas from that one.  So last night my dreams were structural, about endurance and exhaustion, about hydration and pain.  Each new moment spun off into another related thought until my dream was a giant, binding web with this one original thought in the center.  It’s a beautiful and intriguing process, or at least it would be if I wasn’t so tired from the spinning my brain was doing.  Sometimes you just want to do the dreamless sleep thing, you know?

At this point you must be asking yourself what on earth any of this has to do with hypertext and literature.  Well I’ll tell you.  During my dreams last night there was a moment where I drifted into lit territory, where I was thinking about this class and what I needed to do before I came to class again and my own frustration with these bits of digital weirdness being labeled “literature”.  And the fever dream laughed at my attempt to draw a box around what literature is or isn’t and it spun a thread that linked Charles Dickens indelibly to the app with the birds and in my altered, feverish state it all finally made sense.  This electronic literature exists sometimes outside story, outside theme, outside logical, straightforward meaning.  It’s a shadow of traditional lit, not in the sense that it is a lesser form, but that it only retains some of traditional lit’s characteristics and everything else is made up of new.  And that’s what I think unsettles me about it, its unpredictability.  Because literature for me has always been a safe thing, any newness presented within old familiar structures like a book or a page or a paragraph, and e-lit has no such boundaries.

Or maybe I just need to get some more sleep.


5 thoughts on “Fever dreams

  1. I hope you are feeling better! Although your dreams seemed random and otherworldly when they were happening, I think you have a great point. Elit is “a shadow of traditional lit, not in the sense that it is a lesser form, but that it only retains some of traditional lit’s characteristics and everything else is made up of new.” But, maybe not exactly a shadow, but a reflection? Or it’s favorite baby cousin? Just a thought. Get better and hope to see you tonight! I can’t make it to Meg’s Maps talk, but I’ll be in class. (Seems strange to drive all that way just for a 1 1/2 hour class.)

  2. This is really great (although I’m sorry you have been so ill)! It’s amazing what we can gleam from our unconscious sometimes. I totally agree with you about the frightening unknowns of electronic literature. It gives me a fair amount of anxiety at times. But I like what you said about it being a shadow of literture. It is not less than but it is not necessarily more than literature either. I believe that electronic literature has the capacity to enlighten and off the potential darkness of the digital world. But I also believe it can never replace the book and the power literature has in its traditional form. We will survive the digital age!

    Again wonderful post and I hope you feel better soon!

  3. I really think you’ve had a wonderful epiphany here…and fever dreams will do that, won’t they? I’ve been having a rough time with the idea of e-literature and the notion that it might be trying to run over and ultimately destroy classic lit, but I really don’t think it will. I can truly see e-lit as just another genre of literature, kind of like there are so many genre’s of music, but different things evolve without stamping out the older styles. E-lit can sit side by side with our classic books in our collections, and I believe that they can certainly play nice with each other.

  4. Really love this idea about why/how electronic literature unsettles you. It unsettles me too, but I think that’s also what I find fascinating about it. For example, I am really in awe of works that are basically unreadable. Reading, as a practice, can be so static — happening (for many of us) almost by instinct, or based purely on conventions. I like works that force me to rethink what reading is — that force me to rethink literary conventions.

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