Readerly Freedom from the Nascent Novel to Digital Fiction: Confronting Fielding's Joseph Andrews and Burne's "24 Hours with Someone You Know"

Critical Writing
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Journal volume and issue: 
28 (1)
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Abstract (in English): 

This essay compares two novel forms that are separated by more than 250 years: Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews, published in 1742, and Philippa Burne's hypertext fiction "24 Hours with Someone You Know," copyrighted in 1996. Using narratological, pragmatic, and cognitive tools and theories, the confrontation of the two distant texts aims to highlight that while "the ethics of the telling" is congruent with the "ethics of the told" in both stories (), the texts differ in the pragmatic positioning of their audiences and the freedom that they seem to grant readers, thereby emphasizing the evolution of the author-reader relationship across centuries and media. The article shows to what extent digital fiction can be said to invite the active participation of the reader via the computer mouse/cursor. Meanwhile it exposes a paradox: although Joseph Andrews is a highly author-controlled narrative, guiding the reader's ethical interpretation of what is told, it seems to leave more "space" for the actual reader, while Burne's participatory framework, conveyed through a second-person pronoun that blurs the line between implied and actual audience, requires some "forced participation" () via the "virtual performatives" that hyperlinks represent. Finally, the specificity of "you" digital fiction as opposed to its print counterpart is theorized in two contrasted models of audience.

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Jill Walker Rettberg