Suzanne Oskam | Future Literature: Reading Skills in the Age of Digital Media

Suzanne Oskam | Future Literature: Reading Skills in the Age of Digital Media | University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Humanities, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) | Prof. dr. E.J. van Alphen; Prof. Dr. E. Rutten | March 2020 – February 2022 (estimate) | s.e.oskam[at]uva.nl

In response to the feared decline in the value and quality of reading skills – and, following from this, concerns about the future of literature – under the influence of digital media, this project considers the question how reading skills change on the basis of interrelations between literature and new (digital) media.

A theoretical debate between three thinkers on the future of literature in the age of new media shows dissent regarding whether literature’s narrative and new media’s database forms can productively coexist. This project investigates several case studies which carry elements of both forms in order to come to a deeper understanding of how hybridizations between narrative and database affect and challenge reading skills.

Following the postmodernist move away from the Author, in this project, the dimension of the reader takes primacy. Firstly, without the reader, literature would have no reason to exist. This awards the reader a crucial role in deciding the future of literature. Secondly, the developments in literature on the basis of digital media are perhaps most noticeable in how reading skills have changed in the last few decades.

How the role of literature evolves in a constantly changing, increasingly complex technological world points to a changing consciousness in our contemporary globalized, postmodern society. This project indicates that literature does not disappear but takes on a different form which interacts with new media principles through the repurposing of old forms, transmedial cross-fertilization, and experimentation with new forms. As such, readers will need to re-learn how to read by challenging the boundaries of what literature is and can be.