"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Monday, 15 September 2008

Intelligent Literature and the e-book

The Independent on Sunday ran a feature yesterday asking whether "intelligent literature" could survive the e-book future. I think the answer turned out to be Yes.

One of the more notable contributions to this Sunday morning symposium was from Sue Thomas, who "teaches the world's only MA in creative writing and new media at the Institute of Creative Technology at De Montfort University".

She explained:

"The aim of my course is to produce 'transliterate' writers – ie, literate across many different kinds of media. When we think 'literacy' we think about print and transliteracy is about shaking off that domination of print which has, in a sense, I think, been a distraction.

"The internet has caused us to rethink what we mean by literacy: the [traditional] idea of literacy implies that before print people were illiterate – but, in fact, people simply were literate in many other things, such as oral and visual culture.

"One of the writers from my course is Alison Norrington, a chick-lit author: she learnt how to take her stories beyond the book on a blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, by making little movies, by sending her heroine into Second Life. Another is Christine Wilkes, who has a filmmaking background and wrote an interactive memoir using design and programming. You don't need to be able to read and write much to tell a story.

"Will books exist in 50 years? Definitely, but they will also be just one of the many ways we experience art. I feel quite cynical about the cloak of preciousness that's been woven around the novel: it's such a recent medium – we've only had it a few hundred years and yet you often hear people say, 'We've always had novels.' No we have not!"

My problem with this is not its argument that we take non-print culture seriously. Of course we should. It is with the language here. Why has the "domination" of print been a "distraction"? Why is one "cynical" about the supposed "cloak of preciousness that's been woven around the novel"? Shouldn't writers and people concerned with the future of "intelligent literature" be able to write clearly and logically and use words with a little more precision?


Sue Thomas said...

Hi Nicholas, thanks for your post,which I picked up via Google Alerts. In fact, the brief article was written up after a long phone conversation with an Indie journalist who then edited it into a different form of words which, whilst keeping the sense for the most part, often uses different phrasing from my own. I know it's hard to do this accurately so I'm not complaining, but I did post some factual corrections here http://travelsinvirtuality.typepad.com/suethomas/2008/09/theres-a-snippe.html


Nicholas Murray said...

I am sorry that you were misquoted and apologies if I therefore sounded too harsh.

Sue Thomas said...

No problem, but one more example of the fact that we can't always believe everything we read in print ;)