11.0337 hypertext

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Tue, 14 Oct 1997 22:33:27 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 337.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Mon, 13 Oct 1997 10:06:01 -0500 (CDT)
From: BRUNI <jbrun@eagle.cc.ukans.edu>
Subject: Re: 11.0332 gleanings

On Fri, 10 Oct 1997, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

> (2) Karlin Lillington, "Now read on, or back, or sideways, or anywhere", on
> hypertext fiction, featuring (of course) Michael Joyce's "afternoon, a
> story". The occasion is the decision of the Norton Anthology of Postmodern
> American Fiction to include hypertext narratives. "If you look at Mailer,
> Pynchon, Burroughs," declares Andrew Levy, one of the editors, "you see that
> they were fascinated by the technology and communications media of their
> time as well. But you also see that they were trying -- in the 50s and 60s
> -- to break the bounds of the printed page and the models of linear
> narrative implied by the printed page."
While I am pleased at Norton's decision to include "afternoon, a story"
in their latest pomo anthology, I too am suspicious of the claims being
forwarded here. Hypertext is multilinear, not nonlinear; for hypertext
cannot break the limits of linear geometry: that which constructs the
links. And, the idea of some sort of authorial evolution--from Pynchon to
Michael Joyce--is teleological in the extreme.

But, hypertext needs to be experienced in order for people to be able to
decide for themselves what are, and what are not, dubious claims. So, the
increased availablity of hypertext, made possible by publishers such as
Norton, should further a better understanding of this electronic medium
for text.

The decision of Norton might also encourage departments to take an active
interest in hypertext, for both teaching courses and granting
promotions/tenure. It took me, for example, a full year of searching
around until I could get "afternoon" for my students to view. And few, if
any, departments consider work in designing/writing hypertext as grounds
for promotion and/or tenure. Without such widespread support and
encouragement, how then can we expect academics to make serious
contributions to hypertext for studies in the humanities?

John Bruni
English Department
University of Kansas

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