Afgesloten projecten
Back to the Book: Analog Literature in a Digital Age 01-06-2011 tot 01-06-2016
Algemene projectbeschrijving

Since the late 1980s, scholars have claimed that the future of Western literature as an art form would be electronic: innovations in literature would come from the electronic technology of hypertext, replacing paper and books as state-of-the-art bearers of the literary. Such claims have been part of a growing tendency in media studies to consider the digital as the integration of all media. In line with this tendency, Henry Jenkins has identified media convergence as a key dynamic of the present: different media meeting and merging. However, since the 2000s, claims for the electronic-literary future and media convergence stand in need of being corrected. From the 1990s on, literature has been transformed on paper and in book-form as much as, if not more radically than, it has been innovatively transformed in electronic environments. My project investigates these reinventions, and then investigates if they point to a more complex dynamic of media-interaction in the present: one typified by divergence rather than convergence alone; by material diversity rather than digital unification alone. How has the literary evolved as an analog art alongside the digital, and how does this evolution complicate existing models of media convergence? The question is probed on the basis of three integrated cases regarding the re-materialization of the novel and the book as a hybrid mode, and the subculture of paper-based networks of self-expression in personal zines.

Individuele projectbeschrijving

Palimpsests: Altered Books and Treated Texts as Analog Hypermedia 1990-2010 Description
A. Etchings THE IDEA: Cut the bindings off of books found at a used book store. Find poems in the pages by the process of obliteration. Put pages in the mail and send them all around the world. Lather, rinse, repeat. Altered Books (

Altered Books is a collaborative artistic project: recalling object trouvé and mail art (Welch 1995), it is part of an analog network aesthetics that can be traced to the 1960s, but that has been claimed as a novelty of the digital age (Scholder & Crandall 2001; Pressmann 2006). As a work of obliteration, Altered Books builds specifically on the classic example of Tom Phillips’ A Humument (1970-),the brilliant and ongoing visual re-inscription of W.H. Mallock’s novel A Human Document (1892) (, and on excised word-poems like Ronald Johnson’s Radi os(1977), a reduction of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Thus, Altered Books creatively eradicates texts, (by means of pencil strikethroughs, painted images, graphic design, or pasted images) leaving only a few legible words on a page, which can be read as poetic fragments (cf. “He reached rolled pulled closed refused” – extracted from one paragraph). As a communal activity, the eradicating is interactive, as the members of the network respond to each other’s work. Even where book-altering is performed by a single author-designer (Will Ashford, Karen Hatzigeorgiou), it is still ’collaborative’ in the creative engagement with found print texts.

B. Excavations I begin with an existing book and seal its edges, creating an enclosed vessel…I cut into the surface of the book and dissect through it from the front. I work with knives, tweezers and surgical tools to carve one page at a time, exposing each layer while cutting around ideas and images of interest…Images and ideas are revealed to expose alternate histories and memories. My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators. Brian Dettmer (

Apart from etching, book-altering has evolved as a mode of creative, sculptural excavation in the last two decades, with new and established artists like Brian Dettmer and Douglas Beube leading the field. Using discarded books of knowledge (maps, encyclopaedia’s) (Brian Dettmer) or works of fiction (Jennifer Khoshbin) excavators re-present the book as an object, testing its limits, its known functions, and/or the interpretations attached to it: the selective removal and reworking of book- and page matter allows new ideas to emerge. Research has been performed into the history of altered books as visual artefacts (Drucker & Bernstein 1998, Bright 2005, Wasserman et al 2006, Murphet 2009) and their artistic lineage –My project focuses on etching and excavation as book-altering practices that have flourished among (groups of) professional and amateur artist/author/designers during the last two decades. It develops critical tools to analyze the ways in which such practices: 1. evolve in material contrast to the digitization of print, though they depend on the internet as a network of marketing and display, distribution and communication; 2. explore the potential of paper, print, and book as hybrid material, refashioning the book and the page as Gesamtkunst (newly integrating word & image, word & sculpture, or word & graphic design); 3. display book- and page-works as the visible imprint of an act of reading/scanning, forged as a singular, auratic materiality, yet based on an appropriated source text/book; 4. may thus indicate a recycling of pre-modern manuscript culture (Avrin 1991, Marotti 1995, Chartier 2005) in which texts were freely erased, reused, or enriched (palimpsests), foregrounding reading and writing as intertwined, interactive processes; 5. thus help us to rethink the cultural significance of authorship in an age when copyrights and open access are hotly debated and authorship is becoming increasingly complex.

Central aim
This project aims to make an integrated inventory and analysis of two currents of book-altering (etching and excavating) that have evolved during the last two decades, and account for the ways in which they reshape autography and authorship in the age of media multiplicity. On this basis, and on the basis of the 2 phd-projects, the project offers a synthesis of the (inter)disciplinary transformations of literature and their consequences for academic research.

1e geldstroom NWO - Dutch Research Council
The power of satire: cultural boundaries contested 01-08-2009 tot 01-08-2013
Algemene projectbeschrijving

The power of satire investigates the cultural impact of satire in different countries, different media and different time periods. 

The research project proposes a strategic intervention into the deadlocked scholarly debate on satire. In this debate satire has been mainly considered as an 'artistic', particularly a 'literary' genre per se – which has proved to be an unproductive approach. We consider satire as an intercultural mode of performance that is intermedially charge; A mode with the power to contest cultural boundaries in different communities and in different periods of time, a mode that travels between multiple media and challenges traditional media oppositions. The project concentrates on one fundamental issue: migrating from one medium to another - and, as such, using the creative tensions and interactions between them - how has the cultural impact of satire been framed and conditioned?

2e geldstroom - NWO
Overige projectleden
  • prof. dr. Frans Grijzenhout