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Hardcover | Out of Print | 144 pp. | 5.5 x 7.5 in | 56 b&w illus. | November 2002 | ISBN: 9780262083119
Paperback | $27.95 Trade | £22.95 | 144 pp. | 5.5 x 7.5 in | 56 b&w illus. | November 2002 | ISBN: 9780262582155
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Writing Machines


Tracing a journey from the 1950s through the 1990s, N. Katherine Hayles uses the autobiographical persona of Kaye to explore how literature has transformed itself from inscriptions rendered as the flat durable marks of print to the dynamic images of CRT screens, from verbal texts to the diverse sensory modalities of multimedia works, from books to technotexts.

Weaving together Kaye’s pseudo-autobiographical narrative with a theorization of contemporary literature in media-specific terms, Hayles examines the ways in which literary texts in every genre and period mutate as they are reconceived and rewritten for electronic formats. As electronic documents become more pervasive, print appears not as the sea in which we swim, transparent because we are so accustomed to its conventions, but rather as a medium with its own assumptions, specificities, and inscription practices. Hayles explores works that focus on the very inscription technologies that produce them, examining three writing machines in depth: Talan Memmott’s groundbreaking electronic work Lexia to Perplexia, Mark Z. Danielewski’s cult postprint novel House of Leaves, and Tom Phillips’s artist’s book A Humument. Hayles concludes by speculating on how technotexts affect the development of contemporary subjectivity.

Writing Machines is the second volume in the Mediawork Pamphlets series.

About the Author

N. Katherine Hayles is Professor of English and Design/Media Arts at the University of California at Los Angeles.


“Hayles's book is one of the most exciting examples of technological anti-determinism I have ever read.”—Jan Baetens , Image [&] Narrative
“N. Katherine Hayle's Writing Machines is a beautiful little book.”—Davin Heckman,
“Without a doubt, Writing Machines is an important book...”—Dene Grigar, Leonardo Digital Reviews


Kate Hayles reads with real attention and attention to the real, attending to electronic literature and hybrid verbal/visual forms with an eye to the materiality and mediality at their heart.
Michael Joyce, Vassar College
“Katherine Hayles’ Writing Machines is a major addition to the scholarship on hypertext and, in general, on the relation of technology to literature. As this volume so clearly demonstrates, Hayles is a subtle reader of texts, a knowledgeable critic of new technology, and a fine theorist of culture. The combination here results in an outstanding piece of writing. I am certain readers of Writing Machines will place it near the top of their list of books on hypertext.”
Mark Poster, University of California, Irvine
“In the age of the immaterial, Writing Machines compellingly argues that all forms of literature are inescapably material. Through Burdick's melding of graphic evidence and Hayles' weaving of critical and biographical perspectives, Writing Machines deftly embodies its subject while disrupting our expectations about academic publishing.”
Andrew Blauvelt, Design Director, Walker Art Center


Winner of the 2003 Susanne K. Langer Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Symbolic Form presented by the Media Ecology Association (MEA)