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And you don't know how to look because you don't know the names." De Lillo's words orient us in the direction of the language-driven, social work that Tabbi argues for in his vision of a semantic literary web. Katherine Hayles opens the aperture more widely and the angle differs slightly as well.

Her electronic literature "primer" is a wide-ranging essay that takes the pulse of the e-literature field at this particular moment, reminding us that "literature" has always been a contested category.

Moreover, if any Thomas, Richard or Harold could find his way into print, would not writing itself be compromised and become commonplace scribbling?

And how would the spread of cheap printed materials affect the culture of the Word, bringing scribbling into every hut and hovel whose occupants had hitherto relied on priests to interpret writing for them?

The definition is also slightly tautological, in that it assumes pre-existing knowledge of what constitutes an "important literary aspect." Although tautology is usually regarded by definition writers with all the gusto evoked by rat poison, in this case the tautology seems appropriate, for electronic literature arrives on the scene after five hundred years of print literature (and, of course, even longer manuscript and oral traditions).

Readers come to digital work with expectations formed by print, including extensive and deep tacit knowledge of letter forms, print conventions, and print literary modes.

At the same time, because electronic literature is normally created and performed within a context of networked and programmable media, it is also informed by the powerhouses of contemporary culture, particularly computer games, films, animations, digital arts, graphic design, and electronic visual culture.Both essays are major contributions to the study of electronic/new media literature — useful, I believe, to those readers new to digital literature as well as those writers, critics and teachers who have helped develop or actively follow and critique the development of literature in a born-digital mode.While both Hayles and Tabbi agree on many points (and cover some of the same territory), there are also some interesting differences between the essays. Katherine Hayles is largely concerned with defining a field, Joseph Tabbi is concerned more with defining the possibility and conditions of literature's persistence in digital environments.Because this essay is the first systematic attempt to survey and summarize the fast-changing field of electronic literature, artists, designers, writers, critics, and other stakeholders may find it useful as an overview, with emphasis on recent creative and critical works.Thom Swiss, Professor, University of Minnesota The quote Joseph Tabbi employs from Don De Lillo for the epigraph to his essay is a helpful one: "You didn't see the thing because you didn't know how to look.