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Hypertext and Literary Study Essays

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Hypertext and Literary Study


Hypertextual fiction (hyperfiction) and other hypertext applications are making their way into the literature courses where, Professor Larry Friedlander says, “learning has basically meant the study of texts,” in the form of the “printed word” (257). And these newer works, inseparable from their contemporary technologies, offer the possibility of a very different type of literary study than the one most English majors experience in traditional literature courses. Print and book technology perpetuate and validate linear experience, thought, and narratives, which buttresses a hierarchical educational structure that shapes the roles of writers, readers, teachers, and students. Challenging our trust in the order and logic of linear narratives, linear cause-and-effect thought processes, the authority of the individual author, and our common dependence on the stability of the printed text, hyperfiction requires the interaction of the reader to decide the story, incorporates multimedia elements, and promotes associative thought processes. Whereas the print tradition supports the power of the author over the text, the text over the reader, and the teacher over the student—as the interlocutor to the domain of literary discourse and study—hypertext fiction empowers student interpretations, even requires them, distributing authority among the author, reader, teacher, and student.

To understand how print technology precipitates specific social consequences for the structure of literary study, we must consider the print tradition as part of a culture in which ideological and political choices have been made that effect learning and thinking. In other words, we must situate print in its social context, ...


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...rt Moulthrop’s Hypertext Novel Victory Garden.” Contemporary Literature 41, No. 4 (Winter 2000): 642-60.

Shakespeare, William. “Sonnets.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1, 6 ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1993.

Slatin, John. “Reading Hypertext: Order and Coherence in a New Medium.” Hypermedia and Literary Studies. Edited by George P. Landow and Paul Delaney. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1994.

Swiss, Thomas. “Electronic Literature: Discourses, Communities, Traditions.” Memory Bytes: History, Technology, and Digital Culture. Edited by Lauren Rabinovitz and Abraham Geil. Durham: Duke UP, 2004.

Vielstimmig, Myka. “Petals on a Wet Black Bough: Textuality, Collaboration, and the New Essay.” Passions, Pedagogies, and the 21st Century Technologies. Edited by Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe. Logan: Utah State UP, 1999.


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