Instructor Reflection – It Helps to be in on the Joke (8.2)

By Dr. Kristen Lillvis

Jillian Hovatter’s Adobe Spark page uses electronic literature (e-lit) theory to argue that users feel a sense of agency when interacting with the linear pathways of Daniel Merlin Goodbrey’s A Duck Has an Adventure. Hovatter created her Spark page while enrolled in ENG 263: Intro to Digital Literary Studies, during which she analyzed digitized texts, critiqued e-lit, and created a video essay. During the course, students discussed the relationship between print and electronic texts, and Hovatter carried that conversation into her Spark page. Hovatter’s “Agency in A Duck Has an Adventure” makes links between board games, comic books, and Flash games. This comparative project helps those individuals new to e-lit or even just new to Goodbrey’s work better understand how the text functions.

One way Hovatter successfully takes her reader through Goodbrey’s Flash text is by using humor to connect to her readers. Just as Goodbrey embeds Easter eggs throughout A Duck Has an Adventure to engage users, Hovatter includes jokes and comical language in her Spark project to keep her audience entertained (I love her Scott Bakula reference). In addition to making language choices that benefit her readers, Hovatter makes composition moves that result in a dynamic page. As the reader scrolls through her analysis, text and image interact. Just as Hovatter argues with Goodbrey’s piece, the user feels a sense of agency even though the path through the text is set.

In addition to entertaining her audience, Hovatter contributes to e-lit scholarship by considering texts geared—but only perhaps, she argues—toward younger audiences. I look forward to seeing how she continues to lend her voice to this conversation as well as others about e-lit.