Deena Larsen

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Deena Larsen (born 1964) is a new media, hypertext author. She is best known for creating structural patterns in hypermedia literature. Larsen has been working with electronic literature since the 1980s and is considered one of the pioneer artists in the field.[1] Her work has been published in online journals such as the Iowa Review Web, Cauldron and Net, frAme, inFLECT, and Blue Moon Review. Since May 2007, the Deena Larsen Collection of early electronic literature has been housed at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities.[2]


Deena Larsen received her BA in English/Philosophy from the University of Northern Colorado in 1986. Her undergraduate thesis, "Nansense Ya Snorsted: A logical look at nonsense" received the university's 1986 Best Thesis Award. After spending time in San Francisco and Japan, she returned to Colorado and earned her MA in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1991. She currently works at the Bureau of Reclamation, where she developed and wrote the Decision Process Guidebook: How to Succeed in Government.

She has led many writers workshops (online, at conferences, and at universities) to encourage exploration into the possibilities of hypertext. She also hosted the Electronic Literature Organization chats from 2000-2005[3] and taught at Red Rocks Community College, Lakewood, Colorado.

Deena Larsen has MHE, and tells her story. See [1].


Deena Larsen's first work, Marble Springs, Eastgate Systems, 1993[4] was one of the first interactive hypertext poetry collections. The work explored the lives of women in a Colorado mountain town between 1853 and 1935 in the tradition of The Spoon River Anthology and Winesburg Ohio. Written in Hypercard, Marble Springs presaged web navigational structures and icons. It provides margins for notes, biographical notations, and blank "pages" for readers to add their own characters into the town.

Her second work, Samplers, Eastgate Systems, 1997,[5] is a series of short stories done in Storyspace, and showcased the unique capabilities of Storyspace. For example, Storyspace allows links to have names, and Larsen used this capability to comment on, and undercut, the story.[6]

Her many subsequent works focus on and exemplify different aspects of potential narrative and navigational structures in hypermedia. Regarding Larsen's work, scholar Jessica Laccetti observed that, "In Larsen’s case, as in [Caitlin] Fisher’s [These Waves of Girls], a default path is built into the narrative, suggesting both chronological sequence and plot development. While 'scholars and analysts' can travel more flexible paths through the stories, first time readers are advised to follow thematic or character links."[7]

A list of her works includes:[8]

  • Datafeeds, Visionary Landscapes (2008). This work compares the same event in three sensory universes—one for the blind, our 'normal world,' and one where everyone can hear heart beats. These comparisons provide insights into how our senses influence our social behavior.
  • Shandean Ambles, Drunken boat (Fall 2004). This work uses the structure of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy to relate a tale of writing in Shandy Hall. The flash symbols mirror Sterne's theories on structural relationships within narrative.
  • I'm Simply Saying, InFLECT (2004). This work uses a simple poem interface with ‘links’ to other moving texts to signify that nothing can be simply said in hypertext/electronic literature.
  • Cut to the Flesh and Going through the Signs with Jody Zellen for page space (Feb 2004). These works were done in a collaboration that required setting a structure for another artist to write in and writing in a structure that another artist set up.
  • The Princess Murderer with geniwate at the Iowa Review Web (July 2003). This work is in a game framework that explores the reader's interaction with the text. As the reader reads more nodes, more of the "princesses" are born or die. It evokes the Stanley Milgram shock experiments on a lighter note—will you continue reading if your characters are dying?
  • Tree Woman, in Epimone (2003). This work uses a montage of photos to evoke memories.
  • Firefly, Poems that Go (2002).[9] This work builds on the concept of Queneau's Hundred Thousand Billion Poems. Each of the stanzas has 6 lines, each with 5 possibilities. The stanzas are connected so that any possible reading will result in a coherent story.
  • Peace Roses, in The Muse Apprentice Guild (2002). This work explores poetry in relationship to background images and sounds.
  • Dreams of Cobras, in Tattoo Highway (2002). This work uses the body of a snake to express the structure of the story.
  • Intruder, in New River (2001). This work uses a hummingbird's nest to warn off intruders—but the only way to uncover the story is to intrude.
  • Carving in Possibilities, frAme 6 (2001).[10] This work allows readers to ‘carve’ David (Michelangelo)'s face as they mouse over musings on the infinite possibilities of that story and sculpture. Stephanie Strickland says of this work: "Deep, focused attention is what print readers are trained to have, but attention itself is being reshaped, becoming a mix of deep and hyper, or focused and mobilized. E-lit, like Deena Larsen’s “Carving in Possibilities,” requires, shapes, and comments on just this type of new attention." [11]
  • E:Electron with Geoffrey Gatza at the Blue Moon Review (2001). This work uses the Periodic table of elements as the structure for a love story. As the story progresses, another ‘electron’ of memory is added to the lives of the ‘elements.’
  • The Pines at Walden Pond, in Cauldron and Net, Volume III (2001). This work uses Trellix to explore a visit to Walden's Pond. The tree branches represent trails of thought.
  • Children's Time, in Snakeskin (2001). This is one of a series of ‘kanji-ku's’ that examine a concept using the structure of the Chinese character classification#Pictograms Chinese pictograms. This is based on the character for ‘child.’
  • Sea Whispers, an accessible version is in Currents (2001). A kanji-ku based on the character for ‘sea.’
  • In the Sun, Project Hope (2001). A kanji-ku based on the character for ‘sun.’
  • Disappearing Rain, 2000. A novel that uses a complex series of kanji-kus for water and rain as its main navigational interface. The novel explores the mystery of Anna who has disappeared from her college dorm room—leaving only an open internet connection behind her. "Larsen inscribes English words into Japanese kanji ideograms, thus creating a hybrid writing that visually conveys the differences and convergences between ancient calligraphy and contemporary electronic media."[12] Because the titles of each section form part of a kanji-ku, the poem forms a structure for navigating through a story.[13]
  • Bubbles, in Electronic Poetry Center (2000). A kanji-ku based on the character for ‘bubbles.’
  • Ghost Moons, part of Akenatondocks published CD (2000). A kanji-ku based on the character for ‘moon.’
  • Power Moves, in Cauldron and Net (2000). A kanji-ku based on the character for ‘power.’
  • Breathing at the Galaxy's Edges, in Planet Magazine (1999). A kanji-ku based on the character for ‘galaxy.’
  • Mountain Rumbles, in New River (1999). A kanji-ku based on the character for ‘mountain.’
  • The Language of the Void, in Riding the Meridian (1999). A kanji-ku based on the character for ‘word.’
  • Spiritual Comfort, in PIF (1999). A kanji-ku based on the character for ‘ghost.’
  • Dream Merging, in Aileron (1999). A kanji-ku based on the character for ‘dream.’
  • Sand Loves, in Eastgate's Reading Room (1999). A kanji-ku based on the character for ‘sand.’ In Media Communities, Barbara Ganley and Héctor J. Vila observe that "In Deena Larsen's Sand Loves, a 'micro-hypertext with eight nodes', we see a story where words 'change and coalesce.'"[14]
  • Ferris Wheels, in the Iowa Review Web (1999). A marriage proposal consideration based on a ferris wheel ride, told in the position of the cars on the ferris wheel.
  • Stained Word Windows, in Word Circuits Gallery (1999).[15] A precursor to the kanji-kus, this piece explores opposition in a geometric design.

Her textbook, Fundamentals, details the basic rhetorical moves possible in Hypermedia.[16]


  1. ^ See the Deena Larsen Collection and Currents in Electronic Literacy 5 (Fall 2001) Archived 2009-07-24 at the Wayback Machine. .
  2. ^ See the Deena Larsen Collection at MITH.
  3. ^ See Electronic Literature Organization chats.
  4. ^ See Marble Springs.
  5. ^ See Samplers.
  6. ^ See Mark Bernstein's Storyspace 1 article.
  7. ^ Laccetti, Jessica. “Where to Begin? Multiple Narrative Paths in Web Fiction.” Narrative Beginnings: Theories and Practices. Ed. Brian Richardson. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008. 182.
  8. ^ You may also view a list of her works here.
  9. ^ See Firefly.
  10. ^ See Carving in Possibilities.
  11. ^ Strickland, Stephanie. “Born Digital.” Poetry (February 13, 2009).
  12. ^ Hayles, N. Katherine. "Bodies of Texts, Bodies of Subjects: Metaphoric Networks in New Media." Memory Bytes: History, Technology, and Digital Literature. Eds. Lauren Rabinowitz and Abraham Geil. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004. 258. Also see Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 2008. 17.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Ganley, Barbara and Héctor J. Vila. “Digital Stories in the Liberal Arts Environment: Educational Media Communities at the Margins.” Media Communities. Eds. Brigitte Hipfl and Theo Hug. New York: Waxmann Verlag GmbH, 2006. 323.
  15. ^ See Word Circuits Gallery Contributors.
  16. ^ See Fundamentals.

Further reading[edit]

Bolter, Jay David. Writing space: computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Funkhouser, Chris. Prehistoric digital poetry: an archaeology of forms, 1959-1995. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2007.

Müller-Zettelmann, Eva and Margarete Rubik, eds. Theory into poetry: new approaches to the lyric. Kenilworth, NY: Rodopi, 2005.

Smith, Hazel. The writing experiment: strategies for innovative creative writing. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2005.

External links[edit]