electronicliteraturereview

#ELRPROMO: Arabic Electronic Literature: “New Horizons and Global Perspectives”

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The ELR is happy to announce the first international conference of electronic literature dedicated to Arabic electronic literature. The event takes place from 25 – 27 of February 2018 in Dubai and bears the significant name of “New Horizons and Global Perspectives”.

After her first interview for the ELR in which she presented the AEL research group and its projects, Reham Hosny talks here about the topics, the international guests and the meaning of this event.

 

ELR: Reham Hosny, the call for papers for the conference was open to many topics ranging from archiving, to translations, to best practices for creation and history of electronic literature. Will all these topics be discussed at the conference? Where lies the main focus of the presentations?

Reham Hosny: The world literary scene has witnessed an increasingly widespread presence of electronic literature (E-Lit). With notable exceptions, this growing area of literary creation, co-creation, and reception has received little attention in languages other than English and other European languages. Nonetheless, speakers and writers of diverse language communities have been creating interactive online forms of literary works for some time. Indeed, in some of these traditions, there is a rich tradition of interactivity and collaboration that predates but informs the digital era.

While much of the prominent current scholarly and artistic work in e-lit is based in the USA and Europe, e-lit is, in fact, a diverse global practice. In the Arab World, there is a growing network of e-lit scholars, many of whom are also practitioners or are deeply connected to artistic practices. The RIT Dubai, in collaboration with RIT New York, hosts the first international conference on Arabic e-lit under the title “Arabic Electronic Literature: Current Perspectives and New Horizons”. This conference gives artists and scholars the opportunity to look beyond the hegemony of the English language of Anglo-American cultural concerns. Featuring invited presentations from the major artists and scholars in the field, as well as emerging scholarship from researchers in different parts of the world, the conference brings together multiple perspectives to announce this new horizon of electronic literature.

The main goal of this conference is to establish a shared discourse on Arabic e-lit amongst the practitioners of the field all over the world. We intend by this event to provide a high profile public discourse around Arabic E-Lit by bringing Arab and international scholars and artists whose interests transect Arabic, informatics and the arts together.

ELR: How many speakers will participate in the event and from which countries do they come from?

Reham Hosny: Many scholars and artists from all over the world have confirmed their attendance at our conference. There are Arab participants from the UAE, Egypt, KSA, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Tunisia, Algeria, and western participants from the USA, Canada, France, Ireland, Poland, and Italy. A group of prominent scholars and artists are brought together to create an international network on Arabic E-Lit. The conference keynote speakers are Prof. Katherine Hayles, the most leading figure in the field in the West, Prof. Zhour Gourram, a prominent novelist and digital critic in the Arab World, and Mr. Karim Sultan, a distinguished figure in the field of Arts in the UAE.

ELR 3 What was the biggest challenge from the point of view of the organization of the event?

Reham Hosny: Organizing an international conference has been a long and complex process. For two years, the conference organizing committee has done its best to organize this unique event. The president of RIT Dubai, Dr. Yousef  Al-Assaf, and the Organizing Committee leader Dr. Jonathon Penny in collaboration with Dr. James Myers and Dr. Babak Elahi from RIT, New York, are working hard to deal with any challenges we face.

ELR: One of the topics of the conference are intercultural issues. In your opinion how can an innovative and unconventional literary genre as electronic literature evolve in the Arabic culture that is known to be rather conservative and traditionalist?

Reham Hosny: How could we consider the Arabic culture conservative and traditional while visual and concrete poetry appeared for the first time in the Arabic poetry?  In the twelfth century, the Andalusian poet al-Jalyānī al-Andalusī al-Dimashqī was the first poet in the world, to write concrete poetry in his collection of poems al-Tadbīj (Adornment). I conceive visual and concrete poetry by some Andalusian, Mamluk, and Ottoman poets, starting from the twelfth century, as the early spatiotemporal and procedural precursors of e-lit. Additionally, Alf  Layla wa-Layla (The Arabian Nights), one of the most canonical texts in the Arabic cultural heritage, could be considered an early hypertextual precursor of e-lit by employing the technique of embedding stories within stories. The Arabic calligraphy itself is a rich artistic form to the extent that it is used in decoration.

Everything we know about electronic literature needs to be shaken and expanded. Some of the most energetic, critical, and exciting work in e-lit is coming out of the Arab world. Through innovative literary forms and incisive cultural and historical concerns, Arabic e-lit is transforming digital writing and taking it to broader horizons. Through genre-busting and form-expanding approaches, from Facebook novels, video poetry, to radical hyperfiction, Arabic e-lit is giving new expression and new tools to the literary scene.

ELR: There will also be several authors and artists who will present their works. Did you organize an exhibition, too?

Reham Hosny: The schedule includes presentations by researchers, an exhibition of e-lit pieces as well as eight performances. Events will take place at the RIT campus in Dubai, UAE.

The conference will be open to the public. The format is intended to ensure discussion, debate, and learning. The scientific committee considered high quality submissions on the conference topic for inclusion in the program.

Written by ELR

January 26, 2018 at 10:00 am

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