Typewriter looking mysterious

Hybridity and Form in Generative Literature: A #GenLit Discussion

 Published on September 25, 2014 /  Written by and /  “Mystery Writers” by Nana B. Agyei; CC BY 2.0 /  1

“Each novelist, each novel must invent its own form.” ~ Alain Robbe Grillet

The Generative Literature Project is now underway on seven campuses, as a murder mystery unfolds in the hallowed halls and on the carefully manicured quadrangles of Theopolis College. What has emerged from the project thus far is part mystery novel, part role-playing game, and part social media performance. In their work over the course of the semester the faculty and student participants will of necessity confront, and perhaps reconsider and adapt the conventions we use to distinguish one genre or one kind of narrative from another. Like most digital hybrids, the Generative Literature Project resists traditional classification schema that have evolved to describe and identify the artifacts of print culture. At the same time, though, because it is “both . . . and . . .” as well as “neither . . . nor . . .” the project depends to an extent on reference to or iteration of such schema to make itself known to its audience as narrative.

From Sunday, September 28th, through Tuesday, September 30th, participants in the Generative Literature Project will take to Twitter using the #GenLit hashtag. Over the course of an extended — at times synchronous and at times asynchronous — conversation, they will provide a window on their process and progress, and engage the broader community following the project in a discussion of how their distributive, collaborative, digital composition both uses and breaks with formal, aesthetic, and generic conventions.

For this first Twitter chat associated with the project, we are throwing the doors wide and casting our nets as broadly as possible. Followers of the hashtag might see and be invited to participate in class discussions of students and faculty participating in the project, exchanges between the fictional characters, or a pedagogical Q & A.

On Tuesday, September 30, at 3:00 pm EDT, Hybrid Pedagogy and Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing will host a synchronous chat focused more particularly on theoretical questions about genre and form. If you are interested in participating in this conversation, we invite you to reflect on the following questions to get the conversation started:

  • How are mystery conventions changed by, or how do they interact with the online medium?

  • How do constraints or rules–either express or implied, self- or externally-imposed–encourage narrative creativity?

  • What aspects of genre or convention seem to transcend particular media?

  • What, if any, is the relationship between “readability” (for narrative) and “playability” (for games)?

  • Considering the tight structure that mystery usually takes, will disconnections between authors contributing to the project enhance or detract from the mystery?

  • If a fictional work is not confined to one author or one space, is it still a novel?  Do we need a new term?  Is this a new form, reworked; or a completely new form?

If you are interested in following the work of the Generative Literature Project, please pay close attention and add your thoughts to the #GenLit (and #Theopolis) hashtags from 1:00 pm EDT on Sunday, September 28th through 7 pm EDT on Tuesday, September 29th.

For those of you who can, please join us for a synchronous discussion on the #GenLit hashtag on Tuesday, September 30, at 3:00 pm EDT. If you are unable to join the conversation this week, we will be conducting two more #GenLit Twitter chats in October and November. If you have suggestions for future topics, feel free to add them to the comments on this entry or tweet them to @TheopolisColleg or @drkassorla.

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