Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media

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Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001 - Literary Criticism - 416 pages
4 Reviews

Is there a significant difference in attitude between immersion in a game and immersion in a movie or novel? What are the new possibilities for representation offered by the emerging technology of virtual reality? As Marie-Laure Ryan demonstrates in Narrative as Virtual Reality, the questions raised by new, interactive technologies have their precursors and echoes in pre-electronic literary and artistic traditions. Formerly a culture of immersive ideals—getting lost in a good book, for example—we are becoming, Ryan claims, a culture more concerned with interactivity. Approaching the idea of virtual reality as a metaphor for total art, Narrative as Virtual Reality applies the concepts of immersion and interactivity to develop a phenomenology of reading.

Ryan's analysis encompasses both traditional literary narratives and the new textual genres made possible by the electronic revolution of the past few years, such as hypertext, interactive movies and drama, digital installation art, and computer role-playing games. Interspersed among the book's chapters are several "interludes" that focus exclusively on either key literary texts that foreshadow what we now call "virtual reality," including those of Baudelaire, Huysmans, Ignatius de Loyola, Calvino, and science-fiction author Neal Stephenson, or recent efforts to produce interactive art forms, like the hypertext "novel" Twelve Blue, by Michael Joyce, and I'm Your Man, an interactive movie. As Ryan considers the fate of traditional narrative patterns in digital culture, she revisits one of the central issues in modern literary theory—the opposition between a presumably passive reading that is taken over by the world a text represents and an active, deconstructive reading that imaginatively participates in the text's creation.

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Review: Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media

User Review  - Matthew Smart - Goodreads

I came across this book by accident in the library and after reading the first chapter I ordered a copy for myself. It is the best book on the topic of immersive writing I have come across in months ... Read full review

Review: Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media

User Review  - Nelson Zagalo - Goodreads

Profound humanistic applied reflection on the uses of VR to communicate stories. Read full review

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About the author (2001)

Marie-Laure Ryan is an independent scholar and former software consultant. A Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, she is the author of Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative Theory and the editor of Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory and the forthcoming Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling.

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