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Cybertext Killed the Hypertext Star

the hypertext murder case “Hypertext is dead – ” declared Markku Eskelinen at Digital Arts and Culture ’99 in Atlanta. “Cybertext killed it.” No doubt, interesting hypertext poetry and fiction remains to be written, but – if we consider hypertext as a category that defines a special, valid space for authorship and criticism of computerized works of writing – Eskelinen is clearly right. The hypertext corpus has been produced; if it is to be resurrected, it will only be as part of a patchwork that includes other types of literary machines. One viable category today, perhaps the most interesting one […]

Shopping for Truth

Adrien Gargett on Pierre Missac’s unification of empirical biography and textual production, and the development of a “criticism of indirection” too often missing from Benjamin studies. Dartford, England: Like tourists in a world class museum, visitors swapped souvenir photos and packed marble halls in Europe’s largest shopping centre. Bluewater, a complex of 320 shops and restaurants on the outskirts of London, is the most prominent in a series of regional mega-malls to open in Britain, where an increasingly mobile population has warmed to this most American of commercial concepts. Built in a former chalk quarry 15 miles east of London, […]

Image + Narrative

ebr6/7 image + narrative winter 97/98 and summer 98 Welcome a two-part issue on narrative theory and the image. [the original interface, ebr2.0, can be accessed here – ed.] In this double issue we hope to explore through literature a transition already evident in the culture at large, where technology has enabled narratives of all types to undergo transformation by the image. Increasingly, our ways of telling stories, of creating meaning, are weighted away from a sole reliance on words. It’s not just that literary works and criticism have started to incorporate imagery as decoration or visual accompaniment. Writing itself […]

Duchamp Through Shop Windows

The question of shop windows To undergo the interrogation of shop windows The exigency of the shop window The shop window proof of the existence of the outside world When one undergoes the examination of the outside world, one also pronounces one’s own sentence. In fact, one’s choice is “round trip.” From the demands of the shop windows, from the inevitable response to shop windows, my choice is determined. No obstinacy, ad absurdum, of hiding the coition through a glass pane with one or many objects of the glass window. The penalty consists in cutting the pane and in feeling […]

Talking Back to the Owners of the World

Steffen Hantke on Tom LeClair’s and Richard Powers’s novelistic imaginations of terror. Since the end of the Cold War, American fiction has aided in the cultural and political effort to reorient the public imagination, making sense of this brave new world and its concomitant order. It is a significant ideological gesture to think of the present geopolitical situation as “post-Cold War” – constant repetition of the term reinforces a view that is perhaps not as clear cut as it first appears. The label itself establishes a cultural dominant, a watershed moment or turning point that could very well be considered […]

Making the Rounds

Elizabeth Jane Wall Hinds follows the narrative line of Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon as it bifurcates and spreads over the globe and across two centuries. When Vineland appeared in 1990, critics and reviewers immediately recorded their dissatisfaction with the novel they assumed was the follow-up to the wondrous Gravity’s Rainbow, the “project” Thomas Pynchon had been secretly (what else?) working on all those seventeen years in between. Vineland was just another novel – trademark Pynchon ideas, for sure, with its movie-dimensional characters, episodic plot that nevertheless hints at paranoiac connectedness, flaring out here and there with a rock-n-roll sensibility in […]

Dali Clocks: Time Dimensions of Hypermedia

Salvador Dali’s clocks aren’t wrong or stopped or broken. Their active faces slide like pancake batter over edges of a bureau, bend and hang across branches. Adapted to the shape of every object they meet, these clocks announce that there is no standard time in Dalí’s universe – nor, as Dali knew – in Einstein’s. In fact, Dali’s clocks are not clocks at all, if we mean bookkeepers that measure unvarying flow. But then the human heart is not that kind of clock either; rather, it is a fractal tempo tracker that runs concurrently to the beat of several highly […]

Unfolding Laramée

Eve Andrée Laramée addresses the hot topic of technology without digitizing, streaming, or projecting imagery – that is, without using “new” technology in her MIT installation, A Permutational Unfolding (1999). So startling to see a contemporary installation unplugged, especially at a site associated with technological expertise, one can hardly believe there’s not a MIDI trigger hidden somewhere. The artist transforms the List Visual Arts gallery by painting, furnishing, and upholstering the room in the style of an early 19th century, Empire period parlor which she fills with artifacts of that period. One also finds anachronistic elements such as woven copper […]

What Lies Beneath?

Daniel Clowes stands without a doubt as one of the most significant American cartoonists to emerge from the alternative comics ghetto in the past two decades. Graduating from early science-fiction and genre material like Lloyd Llewellyn to the more all-encompassing world of his pictorial potpourri Eightball (all published by the Seattle-based comics publisher Fantagraphics Books, Clowes has demonstrated a knack for narrative sophistication and character development – not to mention a keen and often devastating wit. These traits have garnered his work critical acclaim and some amount of commercial success, including the recent feature motion-picture version of his graphic novel […]

A Migration Between Media

Frequently in True North, Strickland makes reference – and hypertext may be, even in poetry, primarily a medium and method of annotation – to Muriel Rukeyser’s 1942 biography of Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-1903). From this source comes the narration of an incident, of a sort to help posterity recognize a man “of whom,” says Rukeyser, “so few stories have been told” (224): Gibbs spoke only once in a Faculty Meeting, during protracted, tiring debate on elective courses: should there be – more English, more Classics? More? Or less. They were astonished to see him rise, after thirty-two years, though familiar […]

Architecture as a Narrative Medium

Dorothy wants to leave Oz, the land of spectacle, so she chants “There’s no place like home,” three times to awake in familiar grey Kansas. That’s a far cry from Vienna and Paris, but in Beatriz Colomina’s Privacy and Publicity, these European cities provide the backdrop for a discussion of home. Focusing primarily on the houses and interiors designed by Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier, Colomina argues that architecture, far from being immune to the influence of mass culture as traditional architectural thinking has it, was influenced by mass media such as advertising and photography. As Colomina writes: The building […]


There are blow jobs and then there are blow jobs. The volumes at hand deal with both figurative and literal examples of the genre. And they manage to range over, as well as map, the landscape of what is loosely called print journalism in book form. They reveal not just hidden agendas, but the transformation journalism has undergone at the end of the twentieth century. One might first note the obvious: they are all written by men. There are books written by women inspired by Bill Clinton’s life and loves (Gennifer Flowers, Dolly Kyle Browning), but these are, in the […]

The Medial Turn

Following such foundational studies as Robert Nadeau’s Readings from the New Book on Nature (1981), N. Katherine Hayles’s The Cosmic Web (1984), David Porush’s The Soft Machine (1985), and Tom LeClair’s The Art of Excess (1989), Strehle and Johnston continue to work with a remarkably stable canon whose authors have “turned to modern science and technology for alternative concepts of narrative necessity and thematic organization” (Johnston 64). In the distributed network of alternatives that these mainstream studies have created, Pynchon occupies the shifting center, Barth and Coover persist in the academic margins, Gaddis and McElroy stand in perennial need of […]

Media, Genealogy, History

Remediation is an important book. Its co-authors, Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, seem self-conscious of this from the outset. The book’s subtitle, for example, suggests their intent to contend for the mantle of Marshall McLuhan, who all but invented media studies with Understanding Media (1964), published twenty years prior to the mass-market release of the Apple Macintosh and thirty years prior to the popular advent of the World Wide Web. There has also, I think, been advance anticipation for Remediation among the still relatively small coterie of scholars engaged in serious cultural studies of computing and information technology. Bolter […]

Harry Mathews’s Al Gore Rhythms: A Re-viewing of Tlooth, Cigarettes, and The Journalist

Reviewing Harry Mathews is an onerous task, for the review is a taxonomical genre, and Mathews defies classification. Perhaps it is best not to assess his writing but to process it. One could leaf through it using one of his own devices, such as “Mathews’s Algorithm” – a literary machine he invented which recombines given elements according to a simple, elegant procedure. Indeed, Mathews’s texts – which include Oulipian exercises, poetry, translations, reviews, short fictions, memoir, and novels – read as if generated by an algorithm with a few bugs still in it. Mathews has characterized his singular prose style […]
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Alire: A Relentless Literary Investigation

1999 will mark the 10th anniversary of the web-based literary journal Alire. The journal – created in January 1989 by the Parisian group L.A.I.R.E. (Lecture, Art, Innovation, Recherche, Écriture), which included Philippe Bootz, Frédéric Develay, Jean-Marie Dutey, Claude Maillard, and Tibor Papp – is known as the oldest multimedia journal in Europe, and certainly one of the oldest in the West. Before the arrival of CD-ROMs, before the Internet explosion, the journal was already publishing poetry written for and intended to be read through computers. The tenth anniversary will be an occasion to return to several of the pathways located […]

Poetry in the Electronic Environment

Stephanie Strickland on the translation of poetry from print to screen. Talk given at Hamline University, St. Paul, MN, April 10, 1997 I want to start by evoking some of the many times that poetry is not a “book” of poetry: for instance, Prospero’s Books, a film, itself a version of Shakespeare’s theater poem, “The Tempest”; poetry videos, poetry spots on the radio; and many kinds of live performance, from slams to sonic poetry. We have also, today, for the first time, hypertext. Poems, and collections of poems, can be composed as, or into, hypertext, using the many specific capabilities […]

When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes: Voice, Vision, and the Prosthetic Subject in Dancer in the Dark

Sound is not voice. The desire for it to be so, however, seems to lie at the heart of much compelling art, music, and film. How we feel about this desire – that to be human at all is to thoroughly take that desire for granted or, conversely, that to live in post-Enlightenment (much less postmodern) culture is to see that desire as romantic in the worst possible sense – is a question visited upon audiences with the most uncanny and disconcerting force in Lars von Trier’s film Dancer in the Dark. When the film was first released in May […]
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Un Policier sur la Police: The Gritty Reality Behind the Fonts You Read

on the ghost in the machine: the font as spiritual medium in CD-ROM poetry design “No one up here pays attention to reviews. We don’t care about reviews. Frankly reviews are mostly for people who still read. Like most of the written word, it is going the way of the dinosaurs. Most people get their information from the cinema and electronic media. I don’t know any actors or people in show business who have any serious interest in what is written about our world.” – Bruce Willis Up to now, setting type on a computer has followed a logic of […]
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Wiring John Cage: Silence as a Global Sound System

Is there a music to media ecology? John Cage argues: “Music as I conceive it is ecological. You could go further and say that it IS ecology” (Birds 229). The radical nature of this claim still demands to be understood. The challenges of Cage’s long trajectory across various media signal his stance toward a complex exteriority, an eco-musicology he calls “the impossibility of language” (113). Cage is a thinker of complexity, that is, of the materiality of systems, of the “working” aggregates he names music. His work is not adequately summarized by too-quick dismissals as a neotranscendentalism or Romanticism (as […]
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