ABSTRACT

Interactivity seems a familiar condition in today’s digital media as we click, speak, and swipe our way through games, phone applications and e-books. These behaviors have encouraged new thinking about the nature of the text (a fixed constellation of signs or one’s meandering path through that constellation? an author-defined artifact or reader-enabled experience?) They have empowered the reader, enabling her to go beyond interpretation and to collaborate in the act of textual construction. They have upset the long-standing borders between text and paratext. But these developments, exciting and challenging as they are, also encourage us to rethink some of our old certainties, to reconsider assumptions about our stable textual past and perhaps find precedent for what today seems so radical and new. As we enter an era of personalized algorithmic textual construction, these precedents are crucial if we seek to put interactivity in context.