Hypertext performances/hypertext communities
Richard E. Higgason, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, United States
Indiana University of Pennsylvania . Awarded
This study seeks to provide an answer to a question raised by Helen Schwartz in her article, “‘Dominion Everywhere’: Computers as Cultural Artifacts” She asks, “How will readers be able to talk to each other about a text, if the ‘text’ becomes radically indeterminate? How will readers be able to form an interpretive community?” (107). Her question seemed to cut to the crux of a problem that is occurring in hypertext studies whereby we have a number of works of literary hypertext and a growing body of discussion about the medium in general, but very little critical attention to individual works. This study seeks to examine three aspects raised by Schwartz's question. (1) Are hypertexts as radically indeterminate as many advocates have proposed? (2) Do we truly have difficulty discussing works that are radically indeterminate? (3) To what sort of interpretive communities will discussions about hypertext lead?
By building on the research that has been done in hypertext studies and looking closely at actual works of literary hypertext, this study first argues that literary hypertexts are not as radically indeterminate as they have been presented. While the reader is granted some new liberties, the freedoms come at the costs of different sorts of constraints. Second, this study incorporates performance theory to suggest that all works of art present a level of radical indeterminacy. What makes hypertext different is simply that it does not hide its indeterminacy behind an illusion of sameness. Thus, this study argues that it is possible to discuss hypertext and thereby form communities. Yet, by building on the theories of Bill Readings, this study suggests that hypertext communities cannot focus on a horizon of consensus, but instead must look to form upon a horizon of dissensus.
In addition, this study models critical analysis of literary hypertexts by addressing three individual works of hypertext: “I Have Said Nothing,” “Charmin' Cleary,” and “Lust.” In this way this study seeks to initiate similar critical discussions of literary hypertexts. Last, this study provides discussion and analysis of classroom endeavors to discuss hypertext works.
Higgason, R.E. Hypertext performances/hypertext communities. Ph.D. thesis, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
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