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Print Hypertext

The Non-linear Tradition in Literature

While hypertext technology provides new and rich possibilities for reconceiving the very shape and form of The Book, writers have long registered their resistance to the strictures of closure and the novel. Many texts produced as printed books anticipate the non-sequential narratives of hyperbooks and others offer particularly instructive examples of how the very form of publication can serve as a vehicle of artistic expression.

Print works of interest include:

Sterne’s Tristram Shandy
Robbe-Grillet’s In The Labyrinth
Nabokov’s Pale Fire
Cortázar’s Hopscotch
O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds
Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition
Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies
Pavic’s Dictionary of the Khazars
Pavic’s Landscape Painted With Tea

A wide and various range of hyperbooks has already been produced which greatly extend the boundaries of The Book. From Michael Joyce’s experiments with narrative in the groundbreaking Afternoon, A Story to the mixed-media HyperCard stack of Beyond Cyberpunk!, the short history of the electronic hypertext already augurs for a bright future.

Other electronic works of interest include:

FitzGerald’s Yet Still More
Gess’ Mahasukha Halo
Guyer & Petry’s Izme Pass
Joyce’s WOE
Malloy’s Its Name Was Penelope
Malloy’s Wasting Time
Malloy’s Thirty Minutes in the Late Afternoon
McDaid’s Uncle Buddy’s Phantom Funhouse
Moulthrop’s Dreamtime
Willmot’s Everglade

George Landow – Hypertext 2.0

Jay Bolter – Writing Space (First Edition)

Ilana Snyder – Hypertext: The Electronic Labyrinth

…. … … ……….. … …………… …. ….. ……………… ……. …………………. ……. …………………………. ……….. …………………

Janet Murray – Hamlet on the Holodeck

Hypertext formats are not new as intellectual structures. The Talmud, for instance, is a giant hypertext consisting of biblical text surrounded by commentaries by multiple rabbis. Literary works are hypertextual in their allusions to one another. In the twentieth century the allusiveness has grown so dense that a work like James Joyce’s Ulysses is almost impossible to understand without accompanying pointers to other works, including a map of Dublin. The Dictionary of the Khazars, one of the multiform texts discussed earlier, is a printbased hypertext with entries that point to one another, making possible many coherent reading sequences. Although hypertext is not new as a way of thinking and organizing experience, it is only with the emergence of the computer that hypertext writing has been attempted on a large scale.

Pre-computer ‘literary machines’ from Nick Montfort’s Twisty Little Passages

The literary machines that precede Adventure are not always physical machines. They could be considered as such, from one perspective: any set of procedures can be taken as a description of the action of a physical machine, if one allows the human being who carries out the operations of text manipulation to be considered a mechanical component (Aarseth 1997, 21). The phrase literary machine serves nicely to indicate text-generating machines, physical or conceptual, created for literary purposes. “Literary machines” was used by Theodor Nelson (1981) as the title of one of his books and was employed to refer to a more general sense of “literature” and to advance a concept of hypertext, albeit one much more sophisticated and complex than is seen in the link and node model popularized by the Web. The term is appropriated here to unite two ideas, that of an assembled text as literary and that of the computer as a machine that manipulates symbols. The I Ching is a formal system for generating different literary texts, for instance. It incorporates chance and provides explicit procedures for how to assemble fragments into a final text; it is thus a machine in the sense of the mathematical formulation of the general-purpose computer, the Turing machine (Dewdney 1989; Lewis and Papadimitriou 1981).

Translator Richard Wilhelm (1950) writes that “the Book of ChangesI Ching in Chinese-is unquestionably one of the most important books in the world’s literature” (xxvii); it is this book, and machine, that will serve to begin the short history of literary machines here. The I Ching does not offer a unilinear text; it is actually a literary machine, a set of procedures for generating texts. It may
be the earliest one known. Aarseth (1997) writes that “like the origin of Adventure, the origin of the I Ching … is not easy to establish” (177), although legends and scholarship provide some insight into its very early origins:


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