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Last week, my fellow columnist Christine Truong wrote eloquently about “the death of the story,” concerned about the role digital media will play in how we write and experience writing. Future works might "have the shelf life of a tweet, the significance of a Facebook post."

A fellow English major, I sympathize with fears that our experience with the story and even language itself is being corrupted by our constant stream of interchangeable info bits. The Internet seems a unique beast, an amorphous creature of ever-changing topics all vying for your attention while providing artists with a distinctly digital foe for quality.

When the novel emerged in the 18th century, it was dismissed as nothing more than a genre for sensationalist fluff hoping to sell copies. However, by the 19th century, the novel found fierce defenders like Jane Austen, who used "Northanger Abbey" to highlight this prejudice, for "no species of composition has been so much derided."

Austen's character, Henry Tilney, drives her point home: "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."

Film underwent similar obstacles, cinema's early days filled with spectacle and novelty, which film historian Tom Gunning dubbed "cinema of attractions."

Although there was a fair amount of shallow flash about early film, there was also the revolutionary potential for a reinterpretation of storytelling. Now the form has developed its own distinctive language thanks to the likes of Eisenstein, Kurosawa, the French New Wave and New Hollywood, who have provided artists with new means to filter their stories.

History is telling us the stories we value, with all their complexity and impact, cannot be killed by mere change.

If anything, innovations, from the novel to cinema to digital media, manage to enrich our interaction with and comprehension of stories — providing more options, not fewer.

Meme-spreading bloggers are our version of 18th century fluff novelists or early film's gimmicky experimenters. We can someday recount a similar evolution regarding the early age of digital story-telling if we act now.

Rather than lament a potential loss, artists should strive to pursue creative depth in a way that also engages new mediums. Digital consumption need not prompt narrative reduction.

Electronic media and complex storytelling need not be mutually exclusive. The line in the sand — with dedicated long-form artists and their narrative complexity on one side, and Internet-enabled consumption of those artists on the other will only solidify if we let it.

I can point to a number of things I've read on the Internet that changed my life: scholars I've encountered, writers who have influenced me, creative works that have moved me. These are all moments that epitomize the powerful force Internet resources and resourceful writers can become when combined in a symbiotic, cooperative relationship.

Platforms change, but the primal fascination drawing us to stories about human experiences does not. Nor does the driving force of inspiration that empowered Milton, Austen, Kurosawa, and the next great storyteller — who is looking at the Internet right now and seeing new life rather than death — change.

I wouldn't be the writer I am without 19th British literature or pioneering Internet artists. I sincerely hope future writers can say something similar.

Reach the columnist at or follow her at @EMDrown

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