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Alternative Literature

Alternative Literature

Have you ever read an online publication such as poetry, a novel, prose, an essay, or even a blog? If yes, then you've read Alternative Literature, or "Alt Lit". Alternative Literature is a term coined in 2011 on social media platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr, but Alternative Literature appeared as early as the 90s. Alt Lit falls into the Contemporary Literature category.

Contemporary Literature refers to literature, such as prose and poetry, that was published after the year 1945. It includes literary movements from Post-Modernism up to Alternative Literature.

Alternative Literature, Woman Typing Laptop, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Alternative Literature relies on the internet.

Over the last decade, the popularity of Alternative Literature has increased in popularity alongside the growth of social media. Alternative Literature is a fairly new concept, so the definition of alternative literature is still being created. However, this does not mean the impact and importance of Alternative Literature on current literary culture cannot be looked at!

The Definition of Alternative Literature

Alternative Literature is a term that refers to a literary scene that is exclusively online and includes a series of platforms such as blogs, magazines, social media, newspapers, self-publications, and pop culture. Alternative literature is hard to define as the forms in which it appears varies greatly depending on format, platform, and the author's writing style.

"Alt Lit Gossip," which was launched on Twitter and Tumblr by Frank Hinton in 2011, helped popularize Alternative Literature as a literary movement. "Alt Lit Gossip" was a place where people could upload blogs, poetry, prose, essays, and even internet memes to be shared with a circle of like-minded literary enthusiasts. "Alt Lt Gossip" was also a series of tweets. Before the term "Alt Lit," publications appearing online were categorized into many genres including New Sincerity and Autofiction. In 2014, with Alt Lit uniting various online publications, an anthology was published titled, 40 Likely to Die Before 40: An Introduction to Alt Lit (2014) by Tao Lin et al.

However, due to its diversity in style, Alternative Literature has opened the doors for authors to experiment and create unique literary works. Authors often don't follow literary conventions or believe in a set literary standard. Another key aspect of Alternative Literature is its wide audience, the interconnectedness between authors, and the ability to share an author's literary work with authors and readers all over the world through the internet.

Types of Alternative Literature

Alternative Literature houses a wide range of online publications in various structures, which means there are many types of Alternative Literature. Alternative Literature can come in the form of short stories, novels, poems, essays, and even image macros. The one thing that unites all of them is their online presence and reliance on the internet for publication and promotion of their work.

An image macro is a form of digital media in which a piece of art or a picture is overlaid with some form of text that relates to the image. An example of image macros is an internet meme of GIF!

Alternative Literature, Monday Cat Meme, StudySmarterFig. 2 - This is an example of an Image Macro known as an Internet Meme.

It is common to find many self-published forms of Alternative Literature. However, it is also common to find works of Alternative Literature on the internet that have not been published, and are directly shared by the author on social media sites.

Alternative Literature, Ebook, StudySmarterFig. 3 - E-books are a type of Alternative Literature.

There is one major publication house called the Muumuu House (est. 2008) that helps authors publish their work online and provides a great view into the types of Alternative Literature available.

Muumuu House was established in 2008 by the prominent Alternative Literature author, Tao Lin. Tao Lin (1983-Present) was born in Alexandria, Virginia, and graduated with a B.A. in journalism from New York University. He has written ten books and two e-books. He began Muumuu house as a way to support authors in their online publications and to help promote and spread their work to wider audiences.

Alternative Literature also contains many types of themes, tones, and genres but often includes topics found in Existentialism and Absurdism, explores mental health conditions such as depression, focuses on minimalist observations on life, and uses moody tones.There have been two main categories in which authors of Alternative Literature have been categorized: New Sincerity and Autofiction.

New Sincerity

New Sincerity is a literary, musical, and philosophical trend that seeks to break away from post-modernist concepts like irony. It became popular in the 1990s, and with the growth of Alternative Literature, it became a widespread category many Alt Lit authors aligned themselves with. Within the literary sphere, New Sincerity is characterized by a motivation to examine the authenticity and different ways of expressing the self in the 21st century. The basis of New Sincerity is to create a sincere perception of life that can sometimes be funny, sometimes hard, and sometimes ridiculous.

David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) is closely associated with the movement of New Sincerity. Wallace's most famous novel is Infinite Jest (1996) contains many elements of New Sincerity including hysterical realism.

Hysterical Realism, a term created by James Wood in 2000, is the contrast between absurd, elaborate, and contradictory prose to real-life events.

Wallace's work often looks at life through a lens that provides an honest, sincere outlook, which sees hardships, moments of humor, and simply how absurd life can become.

Autofiction

Autofiction is a fictionalized autobiography. In this combined narrative form, an author depicts key events in their life through a third-person point of view and modifies or exaggerates certain aspects of their life such as names and places. Autofiction allows an author to see their lives through an outside perspective, thereby gaining much-needed clarity and introspection.

Examples of Autofiction can be found in the works of authors such as Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski. Jack Kerouac's novels On the Road (1957) and Big Sur (1962) both contain people and events from Kerouac's life, but certain plot points have been modified or exaggerated. He also included many people from his life in his novels simply under different names, and he would highlight a specific characteristic of their personality. Bukowski did something similar in his novels, such as Women (1978), which contains the protagonist Henry Chinaski. Henry Chinaski was based on Bukowski himself.

Examples of Alternative Literature

There are many examples of Alternative Literature. Due to its online nature, new literary pieces under the categorization of Alternative Literature appear every hour on the internet. Many key authors have shaped Alternative Literature such as Tao Lin and Steve Roggenbuck. Let's take a closer look at some examples of Alternative Literature.

"i'm tired" from This emotion was a little e-book (2006) by Tao Lin

"i'm tired" is a poem by Tao Lin in an e-book titled This emotion was a little e-book and found in the online publication titled Bear Parade raaaar.

i'm tired

i'm going to eat lettuce

it's stupid to make sense

i don't want to make sense anymore

just let me type something stupid and be good," (Lines 1-5)

This poem by Tao Lin expresses existentialist and absurdist trains of thought.

Existentialism is a philosophical theory that every individual has the agency, the freedom, and the responsibility of creating meaning in their lives.

Absurdism is a philosophical theory that states that everything in the world lacks meaning and there is no absolute truth.

In a stream of consciousness, the speaker has a heavy tone of defeat. Phrases such as "i'm tired" (line 1) and "i don't want to make sense anymore" (line 3) evoke a sense that the speaker has no energy left to try to create something of his life. In Line 5 he even remarks he just wishes he could write something, and it would be good enough.In modern society, many define their life purpose and find meaning in their lives through their jobs. In this poem, the speaker takes responsibility for his place in life but also sees no meaning in anything. This poem is a prime example of the general tone of many Alternative Literature pieces.

"I'VE LOST TRACK OF MY FRIENDS" (2022) by Rachel B. Glaser

"I'VE LOST TRACK OF MY FRIENDS" by Rachel B. Glaser was published on Muumuu house in 2022. In this poem, Glaser, in a stream of consciousness and with a lack of capitalization and punctuation, laments the fact that her friends are different than they used to be. With the growth of the internet and social media, the speaker and her friends have become disconnected from each other's reality.

we play phone tag for a yearflinging emojis at each otherwhen we meet up we remember completely different thingswe can't get back to that place where we needed no one elsetheir kids are like who is that?" (Lines 14-18)

In the last few lines of the poem, the speaker realizes that she has seen her friends as a series of pictures, posts, and text messages over the years rather than in real life. When the speaker and her friends do meet in real life, they barely know each other anymore. The poem is a statement on the danger of the internet and how easy it is to have the wrong perception of someone based on what they post online.

The Importance of Alternative Literature

Alternative Literature is seen as an important development in the future of literature. Where once physical publications were the only way to sell, promote, and read literature, the internet has provided a new platform where authors can self-publish, promote, and share their work. It also makes literature more accessible to a wider audience of readers.

Alternative Literature, Social Media, StudySmarterFig. 4 - Social media is an important aspect of Alternative Literature.

Alternative Literature is seen as the next step advancing alongside the importance of the internet in our daily lives. It also expresses the reality many feel in their lives in modern-day society, such as existential dread. Therefore, the importance of Alternative Literature lies in its widespread accessibility and widespread promotion of literature online.

The Impact of Alternative Literature

The impact of Alternative Literature is profound. It has allowed many writers to find a new platform with which to share their work without the cost of physically publishing a book. This has led to a rise in authors' self-publishing e-books and self-publishing works on their websites. This allows an author to receive higher royalties for their work, to have more control over their work, and to manage the spread of their work, which makes self-publishing an appealing concept to many.

Alternative Literature, Woman Laptop Pencils, StudySmarterFig. 5 - Alternative Literature helps connect authors to their readers.

The internet and social media have allowed authors to promote, share, and interact with their audiences on a personal, daily level, whereas before many never had the chance to speak with the authors of their favorite books. Alternative Literature has opened a new door into the future of literature and in particular literature that is fueled by the internet.

Alternate Literature - Key takeaways

  • Alternative Literature is literature that is published and promoted solely on the internet and social media platforms.
  • Alternative Literature can range in form and type varying from poetry to prose to essays as well as varying in genre.
  • There are two major categorizations for Alternative Literature such as New Sincerity and Autofiction.
  • Key authors in the Alternative Literature movement are Tao Line, Steven Roggenbuck, and many other self-publishing authors.
  • Alternative Literature has had a lot of impact on literature as it allows authors to publish and promote their work to wider audiences as well as provides readers with a wider selection of literature to read from.

References

  1. Fig. 2: MONDAY-Meme (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MONDAY-Meme_Dsc5436.png) image by PantheraLeo1359531 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:PantheraLeo1359531) licensed by CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en)

Frequently Asked Questions about Alternative Literature

Alternative Literature is a term that refers to a literary scene that is exclusively online and includes a series of platforms such as blogs, magazines, social media, newspapers, self-publications, and pop culture. 

Alternative Literature can come in the form of short stories, novels, poems, essays, and even image macros. 

There are many types of Alternative Literature such as poetry, prose, and short stories. They are united by their online presence and reliance on the internet. 

The internet and social media has allowed authors to promote, share, and interact with their audiences on a personal, daily level where beforehand many never had the chance to speak with the authors of their favorite books.

Alternative Literature is important as it has provided a new platform where authors can self-publish, promote, and share their work. It also makes literature more accessible to a wider audience of readers. 

Final Alternative Literature Quiz

Question

What is Alternative Literature?

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Answer

a literary scene that is exclusively online and includes a series of platforms such as blogs, magazines, social media, newspapers, self-publications, and pop culture

Show question

Question

Why is Alternative Literature hard to define?

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Answer

Alternative literature is hard to define as the forms in which it appears varies greatly depending on format, platform, and the author's personal writing style.

Show question

Question

When was the term Alternative Lit/Alt- Lit coined?

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Answer

2011

Show question

Question

What are some key aspects of Alternative Literature?

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Answer

no set literary conventions or standards, unique literary pieces, experimentation, and interconnectedness between authors and audiences

Show question

Question

What are some types of Alternative Literature?

Show answer

Answer

short stories, novels, poems, essays, image macros

Show question

Question

What is an image macro?

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Answer

 a form of digital media in which a piece of art or a picture is overlaid with a some form of text that relates to the image

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Question

What is one major Alt-Lit publication house?

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Answer

Muumuu House

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Question

When was Muumuu house established?

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Answer

2008

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Question

What are the two main categories of Alternative literature?

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Answer

 New Sincerity and Autofiction

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Question

What is New Sincerity?

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Answer

a literary, musical, and philosophical trend that seeks to break away from post-modernist concepts such as irony and focuses on authenticity in the 21st century

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Question

What is Autofiction?

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Answer

a fictionalized autobiography

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Question

What does Autofiction allow an author to do?

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Answer

to see their lives through an outside perspective, thereby gaining much-needed clarity and introspection

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Question

What are a few key authors that have shaped Alternative Literature?

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Answer

 Tao Lin and Steve Roggenbuck

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Question

In the poem "i'm tired" by Tao Lin, what two philosophical theories are present?

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Answer

Existentialism and Absurdism

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Question

What is the importance of Alternative Literature?

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Answer

The importance lies within Alt-Lit's ability to promote and share literary works by authors to wider audiences and other authors

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Question

What is the impact of Alternative Literature?

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Answer

It has allowed authors to promote, share, and interact with their audiences on a personal, daily level where beforehand many never had the chance to speak with the authors of their favorite books.

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