The field of electronic literature and its criticism do not represent a break from the traditions of literature and criticism. Rather, they represent an opportunity to delve more purposefully and deliberately into questions about representation. I chose to focus in the first week on Neruda, which I thought would simplify things. I deliberately chose to avoid some of the writers who are known proto-hypermedia poets, only to discover that poetry in general seems to be hypertextual… and that hypertext is not about choice, but about depth. To state it differently, I could say that hypertext does not exist, but poetry always has and will, as long as we communicate through representation.
Continue reading Week 5: Reflection
I was planning to respond to the assignment for week 4, focusing on the ideas that I had been developing over the last several weeks. I found postings by Lori and Zephyr, and my path, quite appropriately, forked away from what I had intended to write about to something new.
Reading Lori’s entry on Karpinski and Howe’s open.ended, which ties previous discussions about three-dimensionality to the current one about chance, I was reminded of a work which I had forgotten about, but which I want to share: Brooke M. Campbell’s Choose Your Own Sexuality from Rhizomes 8. Campbell’s piece combines poetry, biography, and history under the familiar form of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel to create a queer biography of Emily Dickinson. Campbell’s piece takes seriously the implications of queer scholarship, shedding light on the general import of such work: The author is often just as much what he or she is as what he or she isn’t and that creative works reflect this similar tension. Decision-making is not simply the rational evaluation of two choices, rather they are heavily laden with cultural expectations, social frameworks, habits, law, and deep desires. Though Campbell’s piece uses the familiar framework of binary choices, the fact that Campbell’s piece is based on actual historical events loads the choices up with the questions: “What happened?” and “What do we want to happen?” The effect is not to simply fork the work, but to play in the imaginative spaces between the choices, to speculate about possibility.
Continue reading Week 4: Responding to Lori and Zephyr
After a month in the suburbs of St. Paul, I am happy to be back home in Adrian, Michigan. Instead of getting too texty, I decided to go for a walk and take a picture of rustbelt decomposition. Different from the creative destruction of the suburbs, the sort of industrial decline that characterizes Michigan tends to convey a certain feeling of heaviness, as through cities are just settling back into the ground from whence they sprang.
Continue reading A slow, pervasive, crumbling feeling…
“A labyrinth of symbols,” he corrected. “An invisible labyrinth of time. To me, a barbarous Englishman, has been entrusted the revelation of this diaphanous mystery. After more than a hundred years, the details are irretrievable; but it is not hard to conjecture what happened. Ts’ui Pe must have said once: I am withdrawing to write a book. And another time: I am withdrawing to construct a labyrinth. Every one imagined two works; to no one did it occur that the book and the maze were one and the same thing.
–Borges, Jorge Luis. “The Garden of Forking Paths.” Trans. Donald A. Yates. <http://courses.essex.ac.uk/lt/lt204/forking_paths.htm>
Last week, I provided a fairly straightforward reading of Neruda’s “Ode to Broken Things.” This week, I am torn among proliferating approaches to the question of “context” in relation to the poem. As readers do, I started first with a basic reading of the text (broken pots and clocks and things of that sort). From there, as readers do, I began to interpret, translate, and decode more aggressively. Next, I moved on to the human life process that is implied by the passage of time and the inevitable breaking of things. What began as a lucid description of physical processes became quickly a meditation on physics. And, always anthropocentric, I shifted my reading from physics to metaphysics, once again looking for the human story that the poem is telling. From one text, I managed to generate anywhere from two to four different ideas about the realm in which it operates (objects in the concrete, humans in the concrete, objects in the abstract, humans in the abstract). And, each of these approaches, I suspect is immediately prone to retranslating and further forking.
Continue reading Week 2: Breaking down contexts
[I decided to write an essay this week. Tucked away are a series of “Humiliating Hypermedia Insights.” These are not profound insights by any means. They are obvious to any careful observer. But in the course of having them, I feel humiliated. Things I did not write about in this essay, but wish I did, are twe Greek terms for time: chronos and kairos, whose distinct meanings might help us explore the English language’s limited capacity to deal with one of life’s most profound mysteries.]
I begin this symposium with a certain advantage. I have an inside knowledge of the weekly assignments because I wrote them up myself. So, what I lack in knowledge, talent, and skills, I make up for in prescience. I know the order of things before they unfold—not through intuition or anticipation or precognition—but through the conceptualization of the symposium as a whole. What is for some the beginning of a span of time broken into five week-long periods, each marked with the introduction of a new task, is for me a single, organized event. You get surprises, I struggle with expectations. At least this is how these things are supposed to go in theory. Continue reading Week 1: Things get broken