A new form of literature? Blog 3

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After reading "Is Hypertext Fiction Possible?," by George P. Landow, I have mixed feelings concerning this subject. Although it seems that Landlow criticizes hypertext fiction as not following traditional fiction form, this is not always true. Furthermore, in more than just one way, hypertext fiction can be more engaging than regular printed text. Hypertext allows for more leeway in including graphics, images, and color that traditional novels and/or short stories can never allow.  Thus, hypertext fiction is possible--in some cases.

 Landlow utilizes Aristotle's Poetics to support his thesis. Aristotle assesses in chapter seven that fiction requires a beginning, middle, and end point. However, this is where hypertext becomes a problem. Not all online writing follows this form, although some do. For example, one could very easily argue that Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China has a beginning, middle, and end. However, the story seems to lack a lot of content, but the pictures and graphics make up for that lack of details. Even something as ineffective as Star Wars, one letter at a time still fits  Aristotle's form. Unfortunately, not all online fiction works fits Aristotle's assessment as well as Pullinger's Inanimate Alice. Dawn has no ending. The poem just repeats itself over and over and over again. Strings faces an even worse issues, as it really doesn't have a clear beginning or end. The interactive hypertext simply has sections, which are titled by their content. Take Haha for example: it contains a string of hahahaha's which simulate the idea that laughter is contagious.

If we analyze Inanimate Alice more in depth, we will be able to acknowledge that author Pullinger successfully starts her work (My name is Alice) and wraps it up (the mother and daughter find Dad). In between these two events, Pullinger finds her characters' surroundings as support for her theory that even children of the 21st century are becoming hooked on technology; a recent study proves that even non-Americans are becoming increasingly dependent on our mobile devices. Just like Alice, today's adolescents "are among the most technologically savvy, with more of them having bought items using their mobile, watched video on their handset or having sent pictures or video straight to the internet from their phone." Landlow even argues that online writing allows readers "widely separated in time and space" to view the same writing. The hypertext will last forever.

Landlow might argue that "text woven of codes" will never have the same finality and unity that is almost always evident in printed text, but he does not acknowledge that some printed works of literature leave their endings open--this allows the readers to make up their own conclusions, which in some cases, might be more preferable than the author's intended ending. Inanimate Alice concludes with Alice wondering why her mother agreed to go out to dinner when they all know full well that there are no restaurants in the surrounding 500 kilometers.

"Linking changes the experience of text and authorship by rendering the borders of all text permeable..." Sometimes, this works out rather well, such as in The Body. In this such work, the author's ability to connect her hypertext works to her advantage. She can mirror the body's connectivity with her own hypertext links. The nose links to the eyes. A section about skin connects with shins because they are tanning. Perhaps not all works of hypertext fiction will work as effectively as this one; nevertheless, The Body proves that such open boarders can actually enhance hypertext fiction rather than hinder it.

Unfortunately, not every aspect of hypertext fiction actually works. Although Pullinger used graphics and images to her advantage, sometimes too much imagery can pull away from the text itself and cause the reader to miss the entire point. On one page of Pullinger's selection, Alice explains that her mother paints while Alice draws. To enhance this text, Pullinger includes some watercolor paint splatters. Regrettably, this is not as effective as Pullinger probably hoped it would be. If the reader lingers on the page for too long, the paint splatters in an area where text will appear on the next page. This forces the reader to strain his eyes to read the next line which reads, "We do my schoolwork" or something along those lines. Like I said, the paint splatter made it difficult for me to read.

Hypertext fiction is possible, despite Aristotle's out-of-date analysis of just what "poesis" is. In today's day and age, hypertext fiction will enhance some literature, and could quite possibly enrich the reading experience. Readers rarely find such graphic creativity in a novel, unless they are reading a children's book. Even then, illustrations are usually more limited. Landlow presents a well-directed argument that Hypertext fiction is technically in the eye of the beholder. Hypertext really depends upon preference. Some people would rather read a book from their laps--others might enjoy the luxury of sitting with a laptop on their lap instead of a book. The choice is up to us.


Christina Celona said:

I was sort of annoyed that the pretty much all of the solid evidence that the writer of the article gave against hypertext was Aristotle's ideas, which can be disproven by the very existence of hypertext fiction (such as the examples you provided).

I would have liked to see some better arguments against hypertext from that writer, because he almost came off as a strawman.

Jessie said:

I agree. I kinda felt like the writer of the article was contradicting himself. He'd give all these examples of why hypertext can't work, but then say how it can. I dunno. Maybe I just don't like agreeing with people or something, but he definately needs to add more research to the article to back up his statement.
Also, I thought his own hypertext was not-so-amazing. It's almost as if he was trying to USE hypertext to prove that hypertext fiction is impossible...

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