Hypertext Fiction is Possible.

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Furthermore, Aristotle concludes, "a well-constructed Plot, therefore, cannot either begin or end at any point one likes; beginning and end in it must be of the forms just described. Again: to be beautiful, a living creature, and every whole made up of parts, must not only present a certain order in its arrangement of parts, but also be of a certain definite magnitude" (1462).
Hypertext and the Aristotelian Conception of Plot

Within "Is Hypertext Fiction Possible?" by George P. Landow, this page about Hypertext, Aristotle, and plot can be found. Because Aristotle says that a plot must have a beginning, middle, and end that are all well-formed, what happens to hypertext? Most hypertexts do not have a definitive beginning, middle, or end. Do they not have a plot?

I believe that they do. Hypertext is not written in the same way that published books and poetry are. It is allowable, normal, acceptable for a reader to start anywhere within the text and finish anywhere. Unlike in a book, one reader's concept of the plot within the hypertext may be completely different from the plot found by another reader.

Hypertext is interesting because of it's ability to be a completely different experience for every reader. It can even be a different experience for the same reader. The same path does not have to be chosen everytime. It is new, exciting, different... and definitely possible.

Hypertext therefore calls into question qualities associated with all these other concepts.

  • fixed sequence
  • definite beginning and ending
  • a story's "certain definite magnitude" and
  • the conception of unity or wholeness

Hypertext and the Aristotelian Conception of Plot 

The article brings up the point that hypertext calls certain qualities of plot "into question." I examined these qualities within the context of the hypertext I spent the most time with.

I examined a creative hypertext called Stir Fry Texts which is talked about more in depth in my blog I, You, We Stir Fry! The authors of the different Stir Fry Texts defy all of what Aristotle says while still creating effective hypertext that is also fiction.

There is no fixed sequence. By rolling the mouse over the text, anything can happen. The words do not change in a certain order. A slight movement of the mouse can change a word, a phrase. Moving the mouse over everything can change almost everything within the paragraph. Changes can happen in any order possible. While there is no specific order for the text to be experienced, a fixed sequence still occurs for the reader. One page is text is viewed, changes are made with the mouse, and then a whole new page can be viewed. The reader still experiences text within an order, just not a predetermined one. 

There may be a definite beginning to Stir Fry Texts, but there is certainly no definite ending. The reader is provided with a place to start reading but after anything can happen within the text. The reader is free to stop at any point without feeling like he or she is missing any of the story. But isn't that the definite end for the reader? When the reader decided that he or she is done with the story, they walk away. And it's finished. 

There is no "certain definite magnitude." It seems that the story can be as big or as small as the reader wishes. The reader could spend hours with this hypertext, just as one could spend hours with a book. The reader could also choose to be done with the hypertext after just a minute or two, all the time it takes to read some poems. 

The concept of unity or wholeness is left up to the reader. The text can be seen as a whole story or not.

Despite the hypertext's ability to live up to what Aristotle says constitutes a good piece of fiction with a solid plot, the readers can still walk away from Stir Fry Texts with the sense that a story happened. They can feel connected with the characters and also feel that something was resolved within the 'story' being told on screen. I did.

After all this investigation on hypertexts themselves and reading about hypertext, I have a new respect for this writing form. The first creative hypertext I read was The Heist by Walter Sorrells. My reaction to the piece was not altogether pleasant. I was confused by the constant jumping around from one section to another within the writing. After exploring many other hypertexts, which include different forms of hypertext besides pure writing, I found different sites that I really enjoyed. While not all hold to Aristotle's conventions of what constitutes good plot, I found that some of them could still hold the form of a story. Others, such as Stud Poetry, were not similar to a story.

In the end, I really do not think that hypertext can be compared to books because it is an entirely different way of storytelling. I believe it holds true, though, that it is a form of storytelling, no matter what Aristotle said thousands of years ago.

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