Coover talks about digital media movement

Kelly Writers House fellow discusses new tech in literature

The Daily Pennsylvanian
February 25th, 2009

Media Credit: Ori Pleban/DP Senior Photographer
Novelist Robert Coover is interviewed as this year's first Kelly WritersHouse Fellow, which brings three authors to campus each spring.

Is Twitter a way to stay in contact with your buddies or a manifestation of the human poetic narrative?

This question and others came up for discussion as Kelly Writers House Fellow Robert Coover concluded his two-day introduction to the Penn community with an interview yesterday at KWH. Coover also gave a reading last night in the Arts Cafe.

Coover is an avant-garde novelist, critic and playwright whose work deals with metafiction, hypertext fiction and creative use of new media. His works include The Public Burning, A Child Again and The Adventures of Lucky Pierre (Director's Cut), from which Coover read excerpts yesterday to an assembled audience of local writers, professors and Penn students.

Coover also discussed the digital media movement, which seeks to explore the use of new technologies, such as video games, the Internet and text messaging, to create literature. One of his most famous creations is the "Cave," a room in which images and text are projected onto three walls and the floor, allowing the reader to be physically surrounded by the work.

College senior Vince Levy, a former 34th Street editor, got the chance to experience the "Cave" earlier this semester as part of the Kelly Writers House Fellows seminar.

He described how interacting with the text on the walls and floor created a dynamic experience. "I was very startled when something flew through me," he said. "I braced myself because the effects looked so real."

Coover is the 29th Writers House Fellow. Fellows are chosen by faculty director Al Filreis with an eye to giving students a chance to interact with talented but underexposed writers, Filreis said.

"To me, the opposite of what we do is [Social Planning and Events Committee] Connaissance or SPEC having the giant person speak in front of 2,000 people in one auditorium," Filreis said. "What we do here is personal interaction."

College sophomore Lily Avnet said she enjoys Coover's writing and his views on new media. "I am very impressed by any author who acknowledges that it's all changing," she said.

So, is Twitter art? Coover confessed that he felt unable to say.

He explained that he can't comprehend the future of aesthetics because he still retains traditional ways of thinking, and the future belongs to those who grew up in the digital world.

"So they would be defining what was beautiful and what was informative by way of their computerized experience, not by way of our book reading," he said.