Philosophical Labyrinths in Cybertexts

Abstract (in English): 

Not only since Postmodernism have spatial dichotomies such as absence and presence, inside and outside played a major role in defining the human condition and the physical positioning of the subject within the world. With the emergence of phenomena like HTML and the World Wide Web authors and artists have found new tools to explore and express new ideas of the human condition in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Hypertexts or, with Espen J. Aarseth, “cybertexts”, offer new ‘roads’ which need not be taken, hiding places or Dantesque places of beauty. The one is only a step away from the other; in which space the user finds himself depends on the ‘literary machine’ with its narrative strategies. Often compared to labyrinths, these virtual spaces recall an almost archetypal quality of the conditio humana: The choice of exploring life, and of finding enlightenment and defeating the mythical minotaur; yet with one significant difference, as it appears one cannot escape from the labyrinth. Heidegger’s “Dasein” as much as Derrida’s “différance” are key to understanding what this means. At the example of three texts, Michael Joyce’s afternoon, a story, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, this paper will explore how changing narrative strategies give new meaning to space and non-space; both are being considered a philosophical and an aesthetic result of new media techniques and cybertexts in late 20th and early 21st centuries.

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Jill Walker Rettberg