Digital Literature is Here to Stay: A Conversation with Prof. Leonardo Flores

We live in an era in which technology can’t be ignored. It has taken over our workplace, homes and generation. It has also taken over a big part on the way we communicate and study. So can you imagine yourself reading a poem that moves and changes, from being read from right to left to being read upside down? Three volumes of the Electronic Literature Collection and I ♥︎ E-Poetry offer that and much more.

Dr. Flores was introduced to electronic literature during his first semester of doctoral studies at the University of Maryland, in a course taught by Prof. Neil Fraistat. “And that’s when I discovered how my interests in literature, film, comics and programing came together in e-lit. And I was hooked!”

Years later, after writing his dissertation on the e-poetic work of Canadian poet Jim Andrews, Dr. Flores was preparing to travel to Norway with a Fulbright scholarship, to teach and research e-literature. “I had spent years focused on my dissertation– a single author study– and felt I needed to read more in the field. So I decided to do a blog in which I read and wrote about an e-poem every day. And I did it for 500 days in a row!” Flores explained. And so, I ♥︎ E-Poetry was born.

Pretty quickly this blog started to develop a global audience and made him famous in the field. “I had become an authority in the field. I had read widely and I ♥︎ E-Poetry was both evidence of that and a way to share my insights.” As a result, Dr. Leonardo Flores directed and co-edited the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 3 (ELC3), which was published in February 2016. This collection offers “the best works that capture the spirit of the field of electronic literature.”

elc3

One of his goals with I ♥︎ E-Poetry was to reach both academic and non-specialist audiences. “I’m an English Professor but a lot of my work is being used around the world and with this grant I’m going to be able to expand its audience even further.” By recently winning a Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades grant he can achieve his dream of translating I ♥︎ E-Poetry into Spanish, and also offer 16 talks around schools in western Puerto Rico. His recently launched column in 80 Grados will further his goal to bring e-literature to a wider audience.

All of these new projects are part of his endeavors to teach people about the creative and narrative power of electronic literature as well as its practical use and application in schools, its pedagogical purpose being something he feels is paramount in an society with increasingly higher use of digital forms of expressions and interactions. Dr Flores wants to prepare Puerto Rico, especially its future generations, to thrive in a digital economy and a job market that increasingly requires digital literacy skills. “Puerto Rico needs to know about this. Our kids are raised to believe language and serious learning is only in books and digital media is mostly for play and fun. Electronic literature creates a bridge between the book generation and the digital generation. And it shows us the expressive potential of language in digital media.”

For more details, see Dr. Flores’ TedxUPRM talk about how e-literature helps develop digital literacy.

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