April 19, 2004

Galatea as Feminine Electronic Narrative

Thesis: Electronic narrative, such as interactive fiction and hypertext, is still an emerging art form. However, unlike other literature, IF and hypertext starts out nonlinear or multilinear, a more feminine narrative. This application of a feminine narrative, especially in Emily Short’s Galatea, deconstructs the male gaze, giving electronic narrative the possibility of transforming literature into an art with a more gender-neutral aesthetic.

Electronic narrative: Narrative changes when it encounters technology. According to Brenda Laurel, stories are content and storytelling is relationship. Janet Murray calls for a new interactive narrative that will transcend the formula and limitations of past experiments, while Marie-Laure Ryan suggest that people have been promoting computers as storytellers, making them a metaphor for pen and paper, or subjecting them to myths like the Holodeck. Essentially, no suitable technological narrative exists, and everyone is waiting around for something to happen with hypertext or interactive fiction that will transform the genre.

Interactive fiction and hypertext: Hypertext appears to be a type of interactive fiction, but generally interactive fiction refers to story games, either digital or text based. Both fictions can either be linear, nonlinear, or multilinear. Hypertext seems to be more nonlinear than multilinear, as it has branches of stories. Text-based interactive fiction are traditionally linear puzzle games, but players often have to take a nonlinear route to follow the “linear” story. Other IF attempts to be multilinear, like Galatea.

Multilinearity and the feminine narrative: Hypertext author, Shelley Jackson suggests that the circular narrative that is so easily adaptable to computers can produce better feminine writing than print publication (feminine, as in a style, not a gender assumption). Jackson describes feminine narrative as “amorphous, indirect, impure, diffuse, multiple, evasive.” The same could be said for interactive fiction, and frankly, Short’s character of Galatea.

Aesthetic of the male gaze: Within the feminine narrative of Short’s Galatea comes the implicit suggestion of the male gaze. Pygmailion authored Galatea, and created her as art. All forms of art, be it advertising, movies or digital media have been part of a system dominated by males, who have been looking at art with masculine eyes, causing women to look at the world with the same aesthetic. Galatea’s interactions with visitors, and even the gender that the player-character assumes suggests that she is also victim of the male gaze.

Posted by Julie Young at April 19, 2004 01:46 PM
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