Alt Lit

Alt Lit. n.(Jargon) Prose, poetry, or mixed media inspired by the internet and primarily distributed through self promotion through social media outlets or online publishing houses.

Etymology: Clipping from “Alternative Literature”. Stylized “Alt Lit” or “alt-lit”. Alternative (Latin alternare, “interchange”). Literate (Latin literatura,“learning, a writing, grammar”). The term was created in reference to a community of popular internet writers in 2011. Credit is given to social media accounts created in 2011 called “Alt Lit Gossip” for the creation and popularization of the term.

Sociolectal information: The term “Alt Lit” is primarily used by small groups of literary enthusiasts or writers, often young people, throughout campus and in the online sphere. It is somewhat exclusionary in the sense that not many people in the general public are familiar with this trend in poetry and prose, or do not know what it is called if they happen to come across it. The alt lit community has not garnered much acceptance in traditional literary spheres, and it is often referred to in a negative connotation.

Survival predictions: I do not believe this term will be successful, in the literary community or in the general public. Although the word itself is catchy and simple, for the most part it is not useful. In relevant literary communities, the term will only thrive given the continuation of interest in making and reading alt-lit. The alt-lit community itself has also suffered from sexual assault allegations towards some of their more successful editors and writers, causing many to distance themselves from the community, for alt-lit websites to shut down, and for some to shy away from the word itself. Considering recent backlash to alt-lit, the continuance of its relevancy and usefulness is uncertain.

Lexopinions: Although I like this word and enjoy using it, it is not useful or relevant in most contexts. I do not pretend to know whether or not this trend has merit, but the term itself and the ideas behind it are interesting.

Click to expand the images.

 A poem by Tao Lin, one of the most successful poets in alt-lit.

A poem by Tao Lin, one of the most commercially successful poets who had their start in alt-lit.

Amateur alt-lit written by Keaton Webb

SUMMER IS OVER (2014) Amateur alt-lit written by Keaton Webb


  1. This is a really interesting word and concept–i have seen examples of alt lit before but I didn’t know there was a word for it. I agree that its basis in a new trend means that its survival is contingent on the popularity of the idea. Your definition and video capture the idea really well, but it might also be helpful to see some links or something to some examples of alt lit, just to have a concrete picture of the concept. Overall, very thoughtful definition!

Speak Your Mind