Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Katherine Nash

Second Advisor

Les Harrison


Since its development, critics of electronic literature have touted all that is “new” about the field, commenting on how these works make revolutionary use of non-linear structure, hyperlinks, and user interaction. Scholars of digital narrative have most often focused their critiques within the paradigms of either the text-centric structuralist model of narrativity or post-structuralist models that implicate the text as fundamentally fluid and dependent upon its reader for meaning. But neither of these approaches can account completely for the unique modes in which digital narratives prompt readerly progression, yet still exist as independent creative artifacts marked by purposive design. I argue that, in both practice and theory, we must approach digital-born narratives as belonging to a third, hybrid paradigm. In contrast to standard critical approaches, I interrogate the presumed “newness” of digital narratives to reveal many aspects of these works that hearken to print predecessors and thus confirm classical narratological theories of structure and authorship. Simultaneously, though, I demonstrate that narrative theory must be revised and expanded to account for some of the innovative techniques inherent to digital-born narrative. Across media formats, theories of narrative beginnings, endings, and authorship contribute to understanding of readerly progress and comprehension. My analysis of Leishman’s electronically animated work Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw shows how digital narratives extend theories of narrative beginnings, confirming theoretical suitability of existing rules of notice, expectations for mouseover actions, and the role of institutional and authorial antetexts. My close study of Jackson’s hypertext my body: a Wunderkammer likewise informs scholarship on narrative endings, as my body does not provide a neatly linear plot, and thus does not cleanly correspond to theories of endings that revolve around conceptions of instabilities or tensions. Yet I argue that there is still compelling reason to read for narrative closure, and thus narrative coherence, within this and other digital works. Finally, my inquiry into Pullinger and Joseph’s collaboratively written Flight Paths: A Networked Novel firmly justifies the theory of implied authorship in both print and digital environments and confirms the suitability of this construct to a range of texts.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2012

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