Revisiting Aarseth’s seminal Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, I’m struck by the aptness of the this passage, reassessing what a literary text constitutes in light of emerging forms):
The field of literary study is in a state of permanent civil war with regard to what constitutes its valid objects. What right have we to export this war to foreign continents? Even if important insights can be gained from the study of extraliterary phenomena with the instruments of literary theory (cautiously used), it does not follow that these phenomena are literature and should be judged with literary criteria or that the field of literature should be expanded to include them. In my view, there is nothing to be gained from this sort of theoretical imperialism, but much to lose: discussions of the “literariness” of this or that verbal medium are ever in danger of deteriorating into a battle of apologetic claims and chauvinistic counterclaims. When much energy is spent on showing that P is a perfectly deserving type of Q, the more fundamental question of what P is will often be neglected. These nonproductive (and nonacademic) campaigns in favor of marginal media or aesthetic forms of expression are pathetic signs of a larger problem, however: they illustrate only too well the partial and conservative state of the human sciences, in which nothing can be studied that is not already within a field; in which the type rather than the individual qualities of an object determines its value as an accepted member of some canon or other.