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In comparison to other academic fields, the study of literature poses particular challenges for Open and Distance Learning (ODL) Programs. An ill-structured domain, literary studies involve the simultaneous interaction of different and often complex conceptual structures that need to be readjusted according to the specific text studied, even within the same genre and period ("Cognitive Flexibility, Constructivism, and Hypertext: Random Access Instruction for Advanced Knowledge Acquisition in Ill-Structured Domains"). Moreover, the development of literary theory in recent decades has placed interpretation at the centre of literary studies, hence making the teaching of literature more of an initiation to an “art” or apprenticeship, rather than the transmission of a set of codified data. In this context, the study of literature presents major challenges for ODL methodology, since neglecting analytical and interpretative aspects in literary instruction may at worst result in undermining academic quality or, at best, signal a return to an encyclopedic approach to literature now become dated.

Facing this challenge, ODL Literature Programs are constantly engaged in methodological research and experiment with new forms of printed, electronic and audiovisual material. The development of new technologies and their increasing use in literary studies, particularly in the forms of Hypertext and Hypermedia, open new possibilities for Open and Distance Learning as well. The real potential of such advances is also signaled by major literary theorists, such as Jerome J. McGann, J. Hillis Miller, Michael Riffaterre, Marie-Laure Ryan, Paul Virilio, N. Katherine Hayles and others, whose work has increasingly focused onto new developments in literary studies in the light of new technologies.