The University of Creative Hypertext

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My initial hope was that, though the writing did not make sense immediately, the University of Yellow Wallpaper would eventually make sense once everything was read, like in a traditional novel.  Not only did it not make sense in the end, but I have a nagging feeling that there was no ending at all.  It is intended for the reader, I feel, to click on interesting links until he or she gains an understanding of the style and tone, not of the individual events that create that style and tone.  Indeed, though I was amazed by the amount of links that I had clicked on, I understood very little of the 'plot', though it is nonlinear, so it would not have a plot based on cause and effect.  What it lacks in that area, it makes up for in the creation of a style that illustrates confusion, and some excellent metaphors thrown in.  Overall, I liked the writing style.  I do not know if I could write something so abstract (and I'm using that term loosely) by C.E. White deserves credit for being risky and attempting something new.

The University of Yellow Paper uses contradictions to create a sense of confusion that is normal to all web users: "this is the place you begin...but...the first lexia is the place to begin."  This conundrum is experienced by all web users, as Kilian describes, we can never be sure if users are arriving at the home page, but this site exploits our lack of knowledge; notice that the URL contains the phrase "dont_start_here."  Ellipses [...] add to such confusion by never giving away the previous sentences connection to the page currently being read; there is no understanding of whether the current page is intended to follow the chosen link, another unfound link, another unknown page or set of pages, all, some, or neither.

The author also uses this confusion to describe philosophical confusion.  The narrator describes "existential "nothingness"," "possible annihilation," and "I might not exist."  Further on, frustration is encountered when the narrator is unable to express thoughts;  "I know something...which will drive you mad if you do not express it..."  The narrator is asking the questions of the universe and existence, but finds herself unable to grasp it in terms she can understand.  It is allegorically the internet.  When she is asking about existence and "death will arrive at any moment," we are meant to take that as the fact that things may or may not last on the internet; the website here today may not be here tomorrow.  When she attempts to "express" her thoughts, we are using a search engine to fight through the voluminous amounts of information available.  In the end though, nothing can be satisfactorily understood.  We pass highlighted links, indicating the places we were at before, circling around to the places we've been to before in search of something that we do not know we are looking for, and consequentially can never find.  The weight of the questions crushers the questioner, and we are left with little bits of circular thought.  I picked up some of these ideas from Daniella's comment that I read before writing this.

Obviously, the work has me confused, but I think that I finally arrived at a plausible theory for this piece's purpose through its words.

Now to discover another's purpose through words.

4 Comments

Christina Celona said:

Though I was very envious of the writer's skill with words, I felt the entire University was a bit of a failed experiment. I do not like these hypertext circles. The endless loops of disconnected quotes and random memories don't give me any incentive to want to understand or even read more.

I'm sure it all meant something very special to the writer, but as a reader I felt like I'd just walked in on someone talking in her sleep.

Jed Fetterman said:

I did not get this piece one bit, but I still liked the style. I was annoyed at first, when I was confused, but when I understood that one of the themes was confusion, in the reader as well as in the narrator, I started to like it. The language is so vivid that, whether I understand it or not, it sounds good anyway.

Anne Williams said:

Jed
I noted the comment you made on my blog for this story and I have to say that the differece between you and I when we read this was probably what we focused on. I think I was looking for a story line as well but kind of threw out the fact that it was another hypertext link story. I feel as though you focused more on the style of these hypertext stories. I am not a big fan either and trust me I was confused. But rather than waste a lot of time trying to navigate my way around each page and try to link ideas together, I clicked on the words that stood out to me the most and took notes on the information; other wise I would not have been able to remember anything. It also helped that I had knowledge of a similar story to go off of.

Jed Fetterman said:

The thing was, I was not looking to find a story. As I was reading through it, I kept thinking to myself that the only thing we can know for certain is that we are meant to be confused and question the sanity of everything. I probably should have written about that, but I did not think that I had enough information to go off of.

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