irst presented at the 2002 Electronic Literature Organization Conference at
Talking Cure is a collaborative work by Noah Wardrip-Fruin,
with Camille Utterback, Clilly Castiglia, and Nathan Wardrip-Fruin. Central to this interactive
installation are elegant text images, created with three color-coded layers of
text. In this work, the hand written texts created during the Middle Ages to be read orally to the laity, 
become the interaction of psychiatrist and patient and viewer in a contemporary three-dimensional text
dominated environment, and the viewer participates in a history of the "talking cure" in psychoanalysis.
last update October 27, 2012
Detailed on Noah Wardrip-Fruin's website at
Talking Cure is a starting place for a look
at contemporary electronic manuscripts. And there is information about how it was created in
Roberto Simanowski's interview with Noah Wardrip-Fruin
on artificial.dk at
ith their visual impact and their surprisingly beautiful
emphasis on words, medieval manuscripts, are a cogent field of study and inspiration for the
creation of electronic text. With a focus on manuscript-like uses of dense and/or visual text
and on the creation of manuscripts to be read aloud, installed in community settings, or web-situated in online community settings,
an exhibition of selected different approaches is presented in this Authoring Software feature.
Medieval manuscripts are not a source or inspiration for all of the works
presented in this Authoring Software feature. The point is rather that we are in a similar era
of changing ways of reading and writing. In the Middle Ages, the introduction of the written
word into a spoken word culture where literature was heard may have influenced an approach
to the manuscript as "something revealed visually to the understanding through the written word", 
placing the written word in the category of what was known to seen rather than heard: visual art.
In another era of changing approaches to reading and writing, the introduction of computer screen
as parchment has returned the written word to a more visual context. Thus there are works of new media
literature, art, and games that incorporate elements of medieval manuscripts, innovatively bringing an
earlier age's emphasis on the visual presentation of words into the present.
"...until the new age and science of composition
had been in existence some little time we could hardly expect to find that the contemporary writers
possessed a vocabulary of agreed technical terms by which they could explain exactly what they were
discussing," Dom Anselm Hughes writes to introduce his chapter on "The Birth of Polyphony" in Early
Medieval Music up to 1300, Volume II of the New Oxford History of Music. 
Whether or not one agrees with his assessment of the theorists of the times, today we are in a
similar era of developing vocabularies to describe works that continue to be created in new ways.
Thus Hughes' suggestion to look at the works themselves is relevant.
Chris Funkhouser - MIDIPoetry Songs
Chris Funkhouser performing with MIDIPoet at Grant Recital Hall,
Brown University, June 4, 2010, photo: Amy Hufnagel
Software: Eugenio Tisselli's MIDIPoet
n a series of works reminiscent of traveling with manuscripts to be read aloud to communities in
the Middle Ages, using vast databases of related words and phrases, new media poet Chris Funkhouser composes
sound and projection "songs" in different ways and performs them Internationally. Last year, at the
Electronic Literature Organization conference at Brown, he performed a MIDIPoetry song -- created
using as software Mexican/Spanish poet Eugenio Tisselli's MIDIPoet, which enables real-time
composition and performance of interactive visual poetry.
"I learned about Tisselli's program in 2008, when he and I participated in a literary arts festival at
Brown University," Funkhouser writes on Authoring Software. "Tisselli used MIDIPoet to propel a
digital poetry performance (featuring graphics, text, and gesture) with a mobile phone -- an approach
to presentation he also used at E-Poetry 2009 in Barcelona. Having known about MIDI-based art
since the mid-90s, when friends of mine studying with George Lewis at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's
iEar program were coordinating sound and video through MIDI, I was intrigued that a digital poet had
engineered such a tool. I used MIDI once before, when an audio engineer who produced some recordings of
mine at Multimedia University programmed a keyboard to collect samples of my voice reading lines, and
I made a sound poem with them (see
Tisselli's arrangement at Interrupt, which allowed for the integration of textual components,
planted a seed in my mind, a potential direction to
explore at a future date."
for more information.
More information about Eugenio Tisselli's MidiPoet is available at
Maurice Benayoun, Jean-Pierre Balpe, and Jean-Baptiste Barrière,
Labylogue, a tribute to Jorge Luis Borges' The Library of Babel, was a simulated
three-dimensional large-scale visual poetry performance. In art spaces and museums in three different
French speaking cities -- Brussels, Lyon, and Dakar -- Labylogue developed eight main themes
that invited visitors to meet in the labyrinth and, as they conversed, immerse themselves
in the accompanying text on the walls.
Maurice Benayoun: Labylogue
sound: Jean-Baptiste Barrière
text generation: Jean-Pierre Balpe
textual labyrinth that converts sound to text image in
a conversational environment, the seminal computer-mediated installation
Labylogue is a simulated three-dimensional electronic manuscript
that uses conversation between participants in different locations to create
a literature of community discourse.
The project describes itself in this way:
"A mi-chemin entre le livre et la Bibliothèque de Babel de Borgès, les murs se tapissent
de phrases générées en temps réel, qui sont autant d'interprétations du
dialogue en cours. A son tour le texte fait l'objet d'une interprétation
orale qui anime l'espace du labyrinthe tel un choeur de synthèse qui vagabonde
sur les rives de la langue en action."
which can be roughly translated as:
"Halfway between the book and the Borges' Library of Babel, the walls are lined
with phrases generated in real time, which are many performances of a continuing dialogue.
The text then becomes the subject of an oral performance that -- like a synthesized chorus,
vagabonding on the banks of the language in action -- animates the labyrinth space."
More information, an image, and credits are available at
Gottfried Haider - Hidden in Plain Sight
Detail from Hidden in Plain Sight
ottfried Haider's Hidden in Plain Sight is a continually changing, elegant game that creates
a code-based literary environment.
"I made the work by modifying the
source code to allow for
replacing all the game's textures in real time. Apart from this, there is also a script
running outside the game environment which continuously compiles first the compiler and then
the Quake III source code. The (textual) output of this process is immediately turned
into a texture and displayed in-game," Hader notes to describe the creation of this work.
When the compilation of the game is finished, that iteration of the game
is ended, and a newly created iteration begins.
Gottfried Haider: Hidden in Plain Sight - detail
In an era in which literate code and software as art have become a
part of the both the dialogue and the creation of new media art,
this game reveals its code in a lush, negotiable environment.
hile innovative installational electronic manuscript environments, such also as
Screen, (Noah Wardrip-Fruin and others)
are created with authoring tools, such as
since the creation of hypertextual
works of literature in what Robert Coover called the "Golden Age" of hyperfiction --
writers and poets have continued to use text to lead to text in innovative hypertextual ways.
There are new works being written in
Storyspace, including the work of
Steve Ersinghaus and of
Susan M. Gibb.
And there are poets who use HTML, DHTML, CSS and other basic web tools and applications
to effectively weave works of literature into the very fabric of the World Wide Web.
Additionally, the potential for individual voices and nonprofit organizations-- such
Jacalyn Lopez Garcia's
The James Luna Project, and
Free to Dance
-- to represent their communities with new media narrative
is an important aspect of the vital contribution of electronic narrative to contemporary civilization.
Thus, the web itself is an immense library of documents
on which civilization continues to be recorded.
Judy Malloy: From Ireland with Letters: Prologue
detail from the Prologue to From Ireland with Letters
n an electronic manuscript, parallel narratives can be created, and the reader can
control how two or more parallel narratives are seen, or can chose to let the narratives merge and
diverge at the will of the computer. The Prologue to From Ireland with Letters
allows for both approaches, providing an exploratory reader experience of separate yet related narratives.
Made with DHTML, the work is a hybrid of a dynamic electronic manuscript and a
work of polyphonic text. The parallel narratives it discloses are the true stories, told by fictional narrators,
of a young Irish man who came to America as a captive of Oliver Cromwell's Army
and was sold without his permission as an indentured servant in the Massachusetts Bay Colony
and his descendent, the artist Hiram Powers, who created a sculpture that was instrumental
in the fight against slavery in America.
The title of this work as a whole is taken from Saint Patrick's Confession where the words are
"from Ireland with innumerable letters". Having escaped from slavery in Ireland,
Saint Patrick had a vision of a man from Ireland asking him -- with many letters -- to return to Erin.
Using the potential of the World Wide Web to host epic narrative of community
-- in this case Irish American --
the Prologue unfolds in a series of central lexias, while alongside the lexias,
an interface of phrases moves in a visual/musical dance, allowing access to the story at many points
and disclosing the relationship between the stories that will form the core of the work."
- Judy Malloy
To read the Prologue to From Ireland with Letters, visit
Cynthia-Beth Rubin and Bob Gluck:
Layered Histories: The Wandering Bible of Marseilles
Cynthia-Beth Rubin: visuals, narrative
Bob Gluck: music, programming
Layered Histories: The Wandering Bible of Marseilles
installation, Jewish Museum in Prague
Photo by Dana Cabanova from the collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague Photo Archive
Created in Toledo in about 1260, an illuminated Hebrew Bible was taken out of Spain in 1492
during the Expulsion of Jews from Spain.
On their website describing the installation, The Jewish Museum in Prague notes that "It traveled
to the Ottoman town of Safed in Northern Galilee, where it was amongst religious mystics
seeking the means to repair the ills of the world (Tikkun ha-Olam). It subsequently
disappeared until around 1894, when, mysteriously, three volumes of the Bible were discovered in the
collection of the Bibliotheque Municipale of Marseilles."
In their computer-mediated interactive installation, Layered Histories: The Wandering Bible
of Marseilles Cynthia-Beth Rubin and Bob Gluck involve the viewer
in the known narrative of the Bible and in its unknown travels as imagined by the artists.
As active participants in the narrative, viewers explore an electronic illuminated manuscript.
And in the process, not only the user/viewer but also other viewers in the gallery participate in
To create the work, Bob Gluck did the interactive programming in
Max/MSP/Jitter, and he also
composed the music.
Cynthia-Beth Rubin created the visuals and narrative. She describes the
process in this way: "I made complicated layered images in
Photoshop, and then animated
them in "Morph" by Gryphon Software. (no longer available, but I am still animating stills using
other morphing software) I also used
After Effects -- both to plan the changes for the morphs,
and then to colorize and crop." She adds that although the animations are six seconds long in real time,
"every viewer experience is different every time."
Cynthia-Beth Rubin: visuals, narrative
Bob Gluck: music, programming
Layered Histories: The Wandering Bible of Marseilles
installation, Jewish Museum in Prague
Photo by Dana Cabanova, from the collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague Photo Archive
More information is available on the website of the
Jewish Museum in Prague
Cynthia-Beth Rubin's website
British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts
edieval manuscripts documented in online resources and databases
are useful not only to medieval scholars but also to writers and artists who are interested
in how text was used visually in the Middle Ages. For instance, the comprehensive
Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts
can be searched by keyword. Searches return images of the manuscipt pages
as well as bibliographic information.
A search for "glossing" reveals, among other things,
orace's Odes (French) with decorated initials and handwritten glosses.
A search for "music" reveals, among other things, an example of Medieval multimedia:
avid with his harp and prayer
from the beginning of a Dutch Gradual.
And a search for "calendars" produces, among many others
n English calendar page with illuminated initials
n English wheel chart with moving parts
n Austrian astronomical table
Scottish Calendar page for January
Other manuscript resources on the World Wide Web include:
uranic manuscripts - collected by Prof. B. Wheeler
luminated Islamic Manuscript - Yale University Library
hinese Text Initiative - University of Virginia Library
a scholarly yet evocative look at early Chinese poetry manuscripts
he Book of Kells: The pages of history- Washington-Centerville Public Library Documentary
n this dazzling new culture, a book was not an isolated object on a dusty shelf:
book truly spoke to book, and writer to scribe, and scribe to reader, from one generation to
the next. These books were, as we would say in today's jargon, open, interfacing, and intertextual
-- glorious literary smorgasbords in which the scribe often tried to include a bit of everything,
from every era, language, and style known to him," Thomas Cahill writes of the medieval culture. 
Brian Thomas: The World of an Idea in the Life of Henry David Thoreau
- from If Monks had Macs
The first new media artist to create a comprehensive work based on the idea of
a Monastery library is Brian Thomas whose
If Monks Had Macs, first created with Philip A. Mohr, in 1988 --
before the advent of the World Wide Web --
has recently been reissued by rivertext. "Monks was originally written in HyperCard. The current
version, which works on the Windows as well as the Macintosh platform was written with
Runrev Revolution," Thomas explains. (Note that the "HyperCard descended" Runrev Revolution is now
Brian Thomas, A screen of text and altered text from "The World of an Idea in the Life of Henry David Thoreau",
part of an ebook included in the new version of If Monks had Macs
The new If Monks had Macs CD-ROM includes an ebook with interactive notebook features
that use literary analysis tools to look at the work of Henry David Thoreau. Like much of Thomas' work,
this edition of Thoreau is interesting, complex, detailed, and it provides a gateway to new ways of
exploring literary texts. To find out more, visit
"The World of an Idea in the Life of Henry David Thoreau"
or visit rivertext's
Literary Machines page
To find out more about the ebooks in If Monks Had Macs, including also
JFK Witness, visit
For information on the new version of If Monks Had Macs, visit
Mark Marino, Marginalia in the Library of Babel
ut the narrator has made a discovery. Technology that enables him to make his mark upon
these pages," Mark Marino writes on Authoring Software to introduce his Marginalia in the Library of Babel.
"He has discovered social bookmarking and social annotation, which has allowed him to annotate this
already written world, and then to share these annotations -- opening up the possibility of not just
gaining some power over the infinite (assuming that's possible) and communicating his little
missives to others. He is writing his stories by talking to himself while pacing
the halls of the Internet."
There are two versions of this story that offer much of the same content but
that are essentially different. To follow Mark Marino's adventures in annotating
the World Wide Web,
Marginalia in the Library of Babel
on WRT: Writer Response Theory. This version was created with the social annotation software
and then visit
Marginalia in the Library of Babel on The New River Journal.
Marino notes that
"The reason for the second version is one of the constant tropes of New Media: archiving and preservation.
While I don't know the future of Diigo or even the web pages I annotated (indeed some of them live in
the Internet Archive already, a.k.a the Wayback Machine), I do know that these pages will run on most
browsers for the foreseeable future. To publish this story in New River Journal and to assure that the
notes would be visible, I had to get some help building a standalone annotation system, one that is,
ironically, not social. The pages had to go from living, breathing Web pages to copies."
To find out more about the creation of Marginalia in the Library of Babel, read
Mark Marino's complete statement on Authoring
Nanette Wylde - The Qi Project
User input screen from The Qi Project
ith quiet elegance,
The Qi Project brings the question of humanity
and what means to be human into the realm of electronic manuscripts.
And -- eliciting answers from its readers, displaying the responses --
this interactive installation/webwork is a cogent reminder of who we are in an increasingly
complex and computer-mediated world.
On Authoring Software, Nanette Wylde describes The Qi Project, created with Flash, Final Cut, Perl, and CGI, as "an inquiry into the nature of
humanity and what it means to be human at this moment in time."
"Qi is a Chinese word which literally means 'air' or 'breath,'" the artist explains. "It is considered to
be the circulating life force."
More information is available on Authoring Software at
Regina Pinto, producer: AlphaAlpha
detail from AlphaAlpha
o produce the collaborative
AlphaAlpha, Brazilian artist Regina Pinto
used a variety of graphic art, animation, video, website design, and sound software applications,
including Adobe Premiere Elements 7.0, Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0, Dreamweaver 8.0,
Flash 8.0, Photoshop 7.0 and Sound Forge 9.0. AlphaAlpha includes
365 illuminations of the letter "A" -- plus one more for the leap year -- from
artists & poets from all around the world, including Brazil, USA, Canada, Chile, France,
UK, Argentina, Finland, Croatia, Serbia, Germany, Uruguay, Spain, and Mexico.
Quoting Frederic W. Goudy's The Alphabet and Elements of Lettering,
Pinto explains that "The concept of this netbook is the proper "history of writing, which is,
in a way, the history of the human race, since in it are bound up, severally and together,
the development of thought, of expression, of art, of intercommunication, and of mechanical invention." 
For more information, visit her
statement about AlphaAlpha on Authoring Software.
n The Decorated Letter, J.J.G. Alexander writes about the letters in The Book of Kells
in this way:
"The letter shapes stand out from the confused mass of pattern by their purple or orange
outline. The repeated circles which are like enameled escutcheons from hanging bowls, seem to revolve
before our eyes. The L shaped panel at the bottom right corner also serves as a stabilizing frame,
preventing the rioting patterns from exploding out of the page." 
Jim Andrews - The Pen
detail from The Pen
anadian-based digital poet Jim Andrews used Adobe Director to create The Pen.
The work is difficult to convey in a still image because it relies on the constant
motion of letters to make a restless, dense, brilliantly colored series of animated letters
that suggest their meaning with a continually shifting visual impact.
It can be seen in motion at
(shockwave plugin is required to view the interactive version)
With a constant of the letters T I M E, the work is a series of short digital
poems with titles such as "Time", "Don't just sit there", "Meant to be", "an unfinished poem",
"Pen is as pen would", "all the live long day", "poesy machine",
"& what you make of it".
1. the conjunction of oral literature and reading in the Middle Ages was set forth in a series of panels
Reading The Middle Ages, an International Graduate Student Conference
hosted by the UC Berkeley Program in Medieval Studies on March 25, 2011.
Several papers were of particular interest in the context of this Authoring Software feature:
Hélène Haug, (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium)
"Private or Public Reading? The View of Contemporary Historians", a paper that used textual analysis to
reveal what the writers themselves said about their work and in the process presented cogent
evidence that in the Middle Ages many written texts were meant to be read aloud;
Amelia Garcia, (Simon Fraser University, Department of English)
"United Through Time: The Oral Connection of Vernacular Texts in Arundel 292", in which she
looked at how written bestiaries -- that used the lives of animals to teach
the living of human lives -- were carried into communities and read aloud.
Other works of interest in the context of Authoring Software,
were Deirdre Jackson's (British Library, Department of Manuscripts) work on the "Cantigas de Santa Maria",
which include music as well as visuals and text and Matthew Sergei's
(UC Berkeley, Department of English) talk on interactive readership in
"The Chance of the Dice". In this work, created by a medieval poet, fictional/semi-fictional
texts were written and numbered and then produced by a throw of the dice.
As each player received a text, their character was defined, and in the whole process,
a kind of story was generated.
2. J.J.G. Alexander, The Decorated Letter. New York: George Braziller, 1978. p. 7
Alexander also points out the ambiguity of legible/illegible in medieval manuscripts,
observing a scribe's training in regularity while at the same time noting that
"On the other hand, ambiguity and variation are vital elements in many forms of medieval decoration.
Thus, from the start the decorated letter was an illogical combination of opposed
requirements in legibility, and also in so far as it might render the expected form of the letter
unrecognizable by distorting or altering it." p.8
3.Dom Anselm Hughes, Early Medieval Music up to 1300, New Oxford History of Music, Vol II.
London: Oxford University Press, 1954. p. 270
4.Robert Coover, "Literary Hypertext: The Passing of the Golden Age",
Keynote Address, Digital Arts and Culture, Atlanta, Georgia, October 29, 1999.
FEED Magazine, 2000
5. Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization, the Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic
Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. NY: Nan A. Talese/Anchor Books, 1995. p. 163
6. Frederic W. Goudy, The Alphabet and Elements of Lettering,
Chapter 1: "The Beginnings of the Alphabet"
7. J.J.G. Alexander, Op. cit., p. 42
8. Michael Joyce, Of Two Minds, Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics,
Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 1995. pp. 23-24
For complete information and
links to the Authoring Software,
used by the writers and artists in
this feature, visit
the Authoring Software Tools Page.