“My Body – A Wunderkammer” by Shelley Jackson, et al.

My Body 1
“My Body” by Shelley Jackson

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.

As such, the text itself produces the body not only as a repository of these memories or as a source wherein these memories can be accessed, but also displays the body (and accordingly, the text which forms the body) as a site of mystery, of contemplation, and of an excess through its continued tangential links. The narrator’s body as a ‘Wunderkammer’ or a cabinet of curiosities, or a ‘wonder-room’ suggests not simply the intricacy of its intermingling of bodied and linguistic relations, but the body’s (and thus the text’s role) as a site of preservation and display. The body’s transformative capability, alongside its preservation of the manner and context of these transformations forms the basis of the text’s narrative.

My Body draws strongly on Jackson’s earlier project, Patchwork Girl (1995) in its themes. A hypertext that (re)writes a modern, female-centric Frankenstein in disjointed flashes that parallel the construction of the body, the monster’s subjectivity, and the larger narrative, Patchwork Girl combines the interactive nature of the reading (thereby making the reading complicit in ‘building’ the female monster) with the discovery of a subjectivity brought into being by the constitution of a linguistic framework within which participation occurs. Patchwork Girl repeats the awakening of a consciousness through language, and in doing so, continues to draw on Frankenstein’s allusion to the myth of the Golem.

MyBody2In a similar manner, My Body also produces the image of a body that is sub-divided linguistically, and that creates a larger interlinked narrative over a period of time through the reader’s interaction. The body of the text that itself underlies the image of the body as text informs an exploration of sensuality and sexuality; a memoir of discovering this embodied perception that is itself simultaneously interlinked and divisive, collating and reducing one to the individual pieces of a physical and subjective self. And much as Patchwork Girl emphasizes the sowing together of individual pieces and their ability to function as a whole, My Body opens onto the larger social relations that are present by the intermixing of sexuality, embodiment, language, and perceptions, whether external or internal.

Featured in The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1.