This hypertext multimedia work by the late master remixer Randy Adams is an homage to the World Wide Web. Adams describes his impetus “to create a hypertext[url] Web art work that pays homage to the World Wide Web and, on the other hand, pokes some fun at it” and “to utilize and interpret, exclusively, text and images found on the web.” To achieve this he embarked upon a constraint-based writing described in detail within the project, but best read after experiencing the work.
One should not allow the tone of “Frequently Asked Questions about ‘Hypertext'” mislead us into thinking that it is just a parody. The opening poem “Hypertext,” composed of seemingly random words arranged in three tercets, acquires meaning through the explanatory notes that are hidden in the different hyperlinks. And each of those hyperlinks might offer new insights, that become wilder and wilder as the reader picks up new meanings and explanations in the context provided by the hypertexts. The words, naturally, are not random. They are a series of permutations and anagrams of the word “hypertext.”
The Jew’s Daughter patterns itself upon a journey, moving between cityscapes of ports and trains, to internal monologues that outline mythical landscapes more closely aligned with nature. Positioning itself as a postmodern text that draws strongly on modernist roots, the novel plays not only with its self-reflexive embodiment – wherein the changing elements often attribute the same saying to multiple characters, shifting between first and second person, destabilizing the narrative and leading the reader to repeat the narrator’s question of “Whose horrible voices are these?” – but also evokes its own historicity and contemporaneity through multiple literary allusions.
For example, the novel’s fragmentary nature, its use of shifting narrators who are both male and female (who speak in both first and second person) while relying on a primarily male narrator, its constant moving landscape, the intercutting of a bar scene, as well as its play with popular tunes suggests a deliberate evocation of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Yet, at the same time, the primary male narrator appears rather Prufrockian, hesitant and unsure in his relationship with Eva and longing for more; the text’s abruptly centered lines on the page of prose describe a woman in a pearly white dress that might be Eva and her distance from the narrator. The Jew’s Daughter returns repeatedly to the image of the city and dogs, the singing that seems unrelated to the narrator himself and occurs mostly around him. In yet another parallel, the primary narrator’s return home, his alienated and crumbling relationship with his partner, Eva, his status as an Irish-Jew, all suggests an homage to James Joyce’s Ulysses. The possibility of this homage is further strengthened by Morrissey’s choice to name the novel ‘The Jew’s Daughter’, after an anti-Semitic folk song from the United Kingdom that is quoted in part in Joyce’s book. That is, Morrissey’s text opens itself to multiple possibilities and multiple interpretations – its play with stylistic and narrative conventions emphasizes the need for a plurality in terms of its reading encounter, as well as in any attempt at meaning making.
The novel states, “When the sacred builds itself, it dismantles us and then it is up to us to reassemble the things that linger in its wake, the brine and feathers that it scattered when it left… This is because its wholeness is our own. The broken sum of its parts is a great agonist. What are we without our histories? The work exhausts itself against us, and in our impotence we become great.” The Jew’s Daughter thus opens onto not simply discussion of the work as lived experience within our own shared histories, but also the work as a literary and philosophical construct. Given the text’s homage to Ulysses and Joyce’s as well as the text’s own suggestion of a link to Homer’s Odyssey – the questioning of the horrible voices, the repeated singing, the references to sea-journeys and ports, the decoration of the house with small black ram’s horns and oriental anchors, his return to Eva and the troubles that await him – it’s perhaps worth reading The Jew’s Daughter alongside Maurice Blanchot’s essay ‘Encountering the Imaginary’ which is itself based on Ulysses’ encounter with the Sirens.
In the essay, Blanchot suggests that the narrative is like a siren that beckons the reader towards meaning, that the entire event is a movement towards the distance of its conclusion. However, this promise is never revealed for the ‘truth’ of the siren’s song remains a secret never to be revealed – sailors are unable to survive the encounter, or else can only complete their course by blocking their ears to its song. The narrator’s choice to suggest that the work should exhaust itself against us without reaction would almost appear to repeat the Ulysses encounter with the siren – lashed to the mast and unable to give in, yet willing to encounter the experience – allowing the work to maintain its mystery and learning no truth but that of his singular journey. At the conclusion of The Jew’s Daughter, the text refuses simple meaning-making. For all that the reader is brought full circle in their journey alongside the narrator, the novel retains its complexity and plurality of voices – historical, literary, and fictional.
Note: Follow this link to read the first entry on this work.
Featured in The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1.
The Jew’s Daughter (2000) suggests a postmodern interpretation of T. S. Eliot’s famous assertion in ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ – a melding of the timeless and the temporal in order for the poet, or, as in this case, the writer, to observe tradition and his own contemporaneity. Judd Morrissey’s take on the hypertext novel suggests this observation of a “historical sense [which] involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order” (Eliot, para 3). The novel echoes this in its own way, stating, “Past things emerge discretely to sanctify a new system. Like fragments once written, they seek the wholeness of a new arrangement. They are ours, they want to be realized by us and to make us real, to make their wholeness ours – to claim us and be claimed by us. Things seek realization in new configurations.” Morrissey’s work thus locates itself to an extent within Eliot’s modernist framework of tradition and the role of the writer, while using hypertext’s digital landscape to self-reflexively indicate the fragmentary nature of literature and lived experience.
Shelley Jackson’s My Body – A Wunderkammer is a 1997 hypertext that allows the reader to explore a fragmented recounting of the narrator’s relation to their own body, and to the memoirs and accounts produced by the nature of this embodiment, whether textual, linguistic, social or physical. The text opens onto the image of a female body that is subdivided into sections of the body and the reader simply has to click on the relevant section that interests them to read an anecdote involving that section of the narrator’s body, which then includes further links to other anecdotes or body parts which are often only tangentially related to earlier sections.
This augmented reality (AR) work tells the story of three generations of women through a series of short poetic videos organized spatially on a table top installation. In the version documented in the video, the work used a printed out marker system and a webcam connected to a computer to move from one marker to another. As the camera is able to identify the markers, the software replaces them with a short video with a voice recording of Fisher reading a poetic text. Beautifully produced, the videos visually engage the theme of memory by focusing on old photographs, photo albums and family heirlooms, and reinforcing this aurally through vignettes that breathe life into these objects.
This elegant hypertext poem consists of 28 links arranged on an excerpt from a book on bone biology. The links are barely distinguishable from the rest of the text, yet lead to poetic language that forms a distinctive contrast to the scientific text in the paragraph. The relation between the two texts isn’t simply tonal counterpoints: they are deeply interconnected, metaphorically and especially thematically. One key to understanding these relations is in the first link, which leads to the image below:
This diagram maps a relationship, showing alternatives paths a couple can take when faced with the kind of situation described in the scientific text. See where the paths lead and you’ll note recurring elements, most of which are not positive for the health of the relationship.
This hypertext poem takes a simple concept and makes it a tour de force. Each word is a link to an image, not of any image, but of photographs which use blurred motion and other effects to convey a sense of speed and evoke the speaker’s tone. The title suggests that either the speaker is in need of catharsis, or the poem itself is the cathartic artistic expression.
This hypertext poem is open by design, with a long history of inviting participation from others. When it was first published in 1993 in HyperCard format by Eastgate systems (referred to in earlier entries as Marble Springs 1.0) it offered readers the ability to contribute their own writing to the work via annotations, as described in the publisher’s site.
Marble Springs joins reading and writing as it invites each reader to rewrite and extend the work. Open or “constructive hypertexts” have long been considered one of the great promises of hypertext fiction and of the colonization of cyberspace, yet actually creating an open hypertext, one in which others can write and will wish to write, poses both technical and artistic challenges which Larsen has met head-on.
This hypertext epic about the lives of the inhabitants of Marble Springs, a fictional gold rush town in Colorado is an ambitious project 25 years in the making. For the past two entries, I have focused on issues of publication, obsolescence, documentation, and representation of her creative vision. This entry will examine a character’s page / lexia / node— Mandy Turner’s—analyzing its design, poetic language, and link structures.