7 March 2000

Newspoetry Coverage of Ropes Panel Discussion on Electronic Literature with Richard Powers and Sven Birkerts at the University of Cincinnati on February 3rd, 2000

(after Fearing)

       Birkerts Powers LeClair       

Mr. Birkerts, 40-ish,
a critic with a reputation
as a technophobe

Mr. Powers, 40-ish,
a novelist with a reputation
as a technophile

Mr. Powers is discussing
the self

Mr. Birkerts claims he
was discussing
"the social self"

Mr. LeClair, 50-ish,
a critic & novelist,
fond of large books
and geniuses

Mr. Powers writes between
the two extremes
of researcher
and novelist of character

An audience member
discusses Mr. Powers'
fictional character
"Richard Powers"

Mr. Birkerts
has just
taught that novel

He is trying
to think
of a way to say
"with all due respect"

Mr. Birkerts confesses
that he is driven
crazy and bedeviled
by that technique

Mr. Powers says
intelligence is a
series of narrative scripts
and the ability
to choose one:
to be able to tell
the right story
at the right time

Mr. Birkerts reiterates
his previous point

Mr. Powers is
trying to get
Mr. Birkerts
to agree
with him

To return to
the subject of
corporate capitalism

According to a
gentleman in
the audience,
art has lost
what Walter Benjamin
calls "aura"

Now Mr. Birkerts
is establishing
the importance
of physically
turning pages

A woman in the
audience is saying, in
response to
something no one
said about
the novel dying,
that she sees
no signs
that the
novel is


Mr. Powers
claims rightfully
that the novel
has always
been more
by film
than by
anything digital

Mr. Powers
has pointed out
to my great relief
that the great
Victorian novels,
during the period
in which they
were written,
were enjoyed only
by a very, very
privileged few

People living in
Beethoven's time
didn't have access
to Beethoven's

this isn't the
Renaissance, but
access to the art
of the Renaissance
has never been

Mr. Birkerts
has made a
living as an
expert on something
he knows nothing
about and
hates. He's a
dummy, a shadow,
a yes-man for a
smoky room of
ghosts and
old boys: the
canon incarnate

Mr. Powers embraces
understandings of
things: he is not
afraid to learn

Mr. Birkerts is
afraid to learn

Mr. Birkerts
to use

Does he
cling to
or live
in denial
of it?


Newspoetry at Spineless Books