Skip to main content


Electronic Literature

Scott Rettberg

ISBN: 978-1-509-51681-0 December 2018 Polity 240 Pages



Electronic Literature considers new forms and genres of writing that exploit the capabilities of computers and networks – literature that would not be possible without the contemporary digital context.

In this book, Rettberg places the most significant genres of electronic literature in historical, technological, and cultural contexts. These include combinatory poetics, hypertext fiction, interactive fiction (and other game-based digital literary work), kinetic and interactive poetry, and networked writing based on our collective experience of the Internet. He argues that electronic literature demands to be read both through the lens of experimental literary practices dating back to the early twentieth century and through the specificities of the technology and software used to produce the work.

Considering electronic literature as a subject in totality, this book provides a vital introduction to a dynamic field that both reacts to avant-garde literary and art traditions and generates new forms of narrative and poetic work particular to the twenty-first century. It is essential reading for students and researchers in disciplines including literary studies, media and communications, art, and creative writing.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1: Genres of Electronic Literature
  • Chapter 2: Combinatory Poetics
  • Chapter 3: Hypertext Fiction
  • Chapter 4: Interactive Fiction and Other Gamelike Forms
  • Chapter 5: Kinetic and Interactive Poetry
  • Chapter 6: Network Writing
  • Chapter 7: Divergent Streams
  • References
  • Index

Electronic Literature demonstrates rare common sense and an encyclopedic knowledge of works, theory, contexts, and criticism. This is a significant and important book by the field’s founder that will be the definitive work on electronic literature now and for many years to come.”
N. Katherine Hayles, Duke University

“Scott Rettberg provides an excellent history of digital storytelling and poetry – and points to the future. Electronic Literature is a clear map of creative writing’s conjunction with computing, a vital region of today’s culture.”
Nick Montfort, author of The Truelist 

“Rarely do a historian and his subject match so perfectly as Rettberg and the early days of electronic literature. This authoritative account of the origins of electronic literature covers all the genre’s forms, as well as the people and institutions who helped found the field. A unique and remarkable book.”
Robert Coover, novelist and Professor Emeritus of Literary Arts at Brown University