The American Hypertext Novel, and Whatever Became of It?

Critical Writing
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The chapter provides a brief history of experiments in the hypertext novel in America during the 1990s. The 1990 Eastgate publication of Michael Joyce’s Afternoon, A Story earned hypertext fiction a place within institutionalised literary culture. Robert Coover’s 1992 essay "The End of Books" announced hypertext fiction as a challenge to traditional conceptions such as narrative linearity, the sense of closure, and the “desire for coherence.” While some theorists, such as George Landow, praised hypertext for instantiating poststructuralist theory, others such as Sven Birkerts, in The Gutenberg Elegies, regarded it with strong concern. The publication of more hypertext fictions such as Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden (1991) and Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl (1995) resulted in a small, dedicated interest community. However, no paradigm-shifting rise in interest took place. The independent publication of hypertext novels on the World Wide Web such as Robert Arellano’s Sunshine 69 (1996), Mark Amerika’s Grammatron (1997), and William Gillespie, Frank Marquardt, Scott Rettberg, and Dirk Stratton’s The Unknown (1998) briefly revitalised the networked fictional form before it was eclipsed in the first decade of the 21st century by a range of other digital narrative forms.

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Scott Rettberg