Alternative literature

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Alternative Literature (often stylized as Alt Lit or Alt-Lit) is the term used to describe a particular literature community which publishes and/or draws its motifs from the internet, internet culture, and "a population of people that are connected with one another through their interest in the online publishing world."[1] It includes various forms of prose, poetry, and new media.


The term was first used to refer to this community of writers in Summer of 2011, when Tumblr and Twitter accounts named "Alt Lit Gossip" emerged, created by Cory Stephens (@outmouth).[2] The accounts covered writers from presses and publications such as Muumuu House, Pop Serial, and HTMLgiant in a style akin to celebrity gossip sources like TMZ.[2] After a few months the original accounts were deleted, and then they were revived by Frank Hinton in fall of 2011, at which point they began to pick up popularity.[1]

Shared Traits Across Alt Lit[edit]

Certain traits characterize Alt Lit writing: self-publication and self-promotion and the maintenance of an internet presence on social media networks.[3]

Josh Soilker noted that alt-lit is "in blog posts, videos, gchats and Facebook status updates. In PDFs and folded papers..."[4] and that the principal players in the movement were Tao Lin, Noah Cicero and Stephen Tully Dierks. [5]

ALT-Lit writers share Gmail chat logs, image macros, screenshots, and tweets which are then self-published as poetry books and/or novels.[6]

Writing for the New Yorker, Kenneth Goldsmith characterized Alt Lit writing as "marked by direct speech, expressions of aching desire, and wide-eyed sincerity."[6] He also noted that Alt Lit is "usually written in the Internet vernacular of lowercase letters, inverted punctuation, abundant typos, and bad grammar."[6]

Authors and Works[edit]

Literary Magazines and Blogs[edit]

Some central online and print Alt Lit magazines have been Illuminati Girl Gang, New Wave Vomit, Pop Serial, Shabby Doll House, Have U Seen My Whale, The Mall, Keep This Bag Away From Children, Everyday Genius, Metazen, Housefire, UP Literature, Parlor, Sadcore Dadwave, Be About It Zine, Red Lightbulbs, and Unsure if i will allow my beard to grow for much longer.[2][7]

Some blogs central to delivering Alt Lit news and creative works have been Alt Lit Gossip, I Am Alt Lit, Internet Poetry, HTMLGiant, Beach Sloth, Allthemacchs, Heartcloud, FRXTL, Cutty Spot, and Alt Lit Press.[2][7]

Presses and Books[edit]

Some presses known for publishing Alt Lit writing in print are Muumuu House, Civil Coping Mechanisms, Sorry House, Habitat, Boost House, Lazy Fascist, Nap, Scrambler Books, Publishing Genius, and Plain Wrap Press.[7]

Two anthologies have been published that claim to cover Alt Lit writing: The Yolo Pages (2014, Boost House)[8] and 40 Likely To Die Before 40: An Introduction to Alt Lit (2014, Civil Coping Mechanisms).[7]

More than 150 books, e-books, and zines of Alt Lit writing, mostly self-published, have been catalogued on the Tumblr blog Alt Lit Library.[2][7][9] Located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Mellow Pages Library offers a wide selection of Alt Lit titles and hosts numerous Alt Lit readings and book releases.[7]


Some central Alt Lit authors have been Ian Hilzerman, Sarah Jean Alexander, Jacob M. Appel, Gabby Bess, Megan Boyle, Melissa Broder, Ben Brooks, Marie Calloway, Ana Carrete, Jordan Castro, Heiko Julien, Richard Chiem, Noah Cicero, Elizabeth Ellen, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Roxane Gay, Mira Gonzalez, Tao Lin, Scott McClanahan, Spencer Madsen, Guillaume Morissette, Sam Pink, Steve Roggenbuck, Timothy Willis Sanders, and LK Shaw. [2][6][7][10][11][12][13]

Related Concepts and Movements[edit]

Many writers and critics in and around the Alt Lit community have proposed different labels to be used in conjunction with, or in place of "Alt Lit."

New Sincerity[edit]

Some critics have linked Alt Lit writers with the concept of the New Sincerity,[14] to the point of using the terms interchangeably. Notable Alt Lit writers such as Steve Roggenbuck, Spencer Madsen and Tao Lin have also been grouped under the label "New Sincerity",[15][16] but many alt lit writers reject the influence of David Foster Wallace and prominent mainstream exponents of a "New Sincerity" such as Jonathan Franzen.[1]

The New Sincerity connection entails the use of an array of literary techniques intended to create the impression of "sincere" communication, ranging from autobiography, self-revision and conversational tone to minimal punctuation and sans-serif fonts.[16]

New Modernism[edit]

Due to its temporal proximity, Alt Lit is often grouped with post-modernism and many other literary movements. However, most literary critics cite New Moderism as developing around 1999 alongside the Modernist Studies Association (MSA) and its annual conference.[17]

The problem with grouping alt-lit as a sub-group within New Modernism is that the movement survives only by the presence of the Internet and the social medias outlets the perpetuate the gossip-like atmosphere that pervades the group. There are no annual conferences, no academic classes that teach the medium, and no published anthologies outside of some self-published groupings.[18]

The movement seems to exist and persist only through the addition and publication of new "writers" who are "discovered" through the Internet by older, self-proclaimed "alt-lit" writers and publishers, who then publish the old writers who brought them into the fold. [19]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Spilker, Josh. "Lexicon Devils: What Exactly is Alt Lit? A Conversation With Frank Hinton, Noah Cicero and Stephen Tully Dierks". Vol. I BROOKLYN. 20 June 2012. Web.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Roggenbuck, Steve, E.E. Scott, and Rachel Younghans, eds. "Introduction." The Yolo Pages. Boost House, 2014. Print.
  3. ^ Sharman, Eleanor. "Contemporary Literature’s Nouvelle Vague: Interview with Frank Hinton". The Oxford Student. 26 December 2012. Web.
  4. ^
  5. ^>
  6. ^ a b c d Goldsmith, Kenneth. "If Walt Whitman Vlogged." New Yorker. Web.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Crispin Best. "The dA-Zed guide to Alt Lit." Dazed Digital. Web.
  8. ^ Bridle, James. "Meet the 'alt lit' writers giving literature a boost." The Guardian. 28 June 2014. Web.
  9. ^ Alt Lit Library. Web.
  10. ^ Holloway, Dan. "Looking for a great self-published book? Here's where to find it." The Guardian. 19 November 2012. Web.
  11. ^ Crispin Best. "Read the best Alt Lit on the net." Dazed Digital. Web.
  12. ^ Pierce, Cameron, and Michael Seidlinger, eds. 40 Likely to Die Before 40. Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2014. Print.
  13. ^ Allie Jones, Hip Alt-Lit Editor Quits Public Writing Career After Rape Accusations, Gawker, 30 Sept 2014
  14. ^ Call, Ryan. "Daniel Bailey on 'The New Sincerity'/Alt Lit". HTMLGiant. 29 June 2012. Web.
  15. ^ Jameson, A. D. "What we talk about when we talk about the New Sincerity, Part 1". HTMLGiant. 4 June 2012. Web.
  16. ^ a b Jameson, A. D. "Theory of Prose & better writing (ctd): The New Sincerity, Tao Lin & "differential perceptions"". HTMLGiant. 28 May 2012. Web.
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