The Circuits of Reading the Digital: Some Models


  • Emile Fromet de Rosnay University of Victoria



Digital humanities, Hypertext, Hypermedia, Reading, Mallarmé


In theorizing the digital text, I will take a two-pronged approach: a) what aspects of reading cannot be accounted for by the types of digital textual analysis done so far in the digital humanities, and b) how can technology (be “used” to) account for such possibilities? To answer the second question, we need to stop seeing the computer as a “means” (i.e. we “use” a computer) and to start thinking about the computer itself as a part of the literary process. This is perhaps to blur the distinction between e-literature and media studies on the one hand, and digital humanities on the other. However, it presupposes that technology is not something to be feared (as “tampering” with the text), but that it is rather something intrinsic, to be conceived on its own terms. Indeed, the computer can enhance the literary experience and highlight aspects of the text that were not noticed before, and vice versa, in a sort of feedback circuit, bringing with it hermeneutic questions that hitherto have been only indirect. What might we discover from exploring the symbiotic relationship between the text and the machine and about the minds and bodies that encounter these? Such encounters occur not only through visualization, but through sonorization and through the body. Such hybrid encounters require a broader view of language than that provided by information theory, which has apparently dominated digital literary studies. I will use my own digital humanities project on the visualization of French poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s works ( to explore models of reading the digital.