Revisting Califia: “Here the Path triverages”

Abstract (in English): 

This paper is not a reappraisal of Califia, as it needs no reappraisal in terms of its value to electronic literature, but a re-reading of what could be termed its hidden critical apparatus. While not wrongly referred to as “hypertext narrative,” this general category obscures a number of crucial structural and theoretical distinctions that suggest Califia rests on, and can offer, a different and powerful critical idiom of its own that has only recently found more theoretical expression as technology has advanced. Roughly contemporary (Luesebrink began Califia in 1995, when Patchwork Girl was published, and published it in 2000) and both on Eastgate, Califia remains in a relatively peripheral position in comparison, and not because Patchwork Girl appeared first. As many articles written about Patchwork will attest, PWG is and was more immediately accessible to the academic community via its attachment to several theoretical narratives around intertextuality, strategies of resistance, and a straightforward use of hypertext as structure and theme (“patching” and linking, e.g. Hayles 2005) that enabled both the extension of those critical narratives and analysis through them. Patchwork often is used to mark a moment in the critical history of electronic literature whereas Califia is not. For example, in Grigar’s and Moulthrop’s Pathfinders (2015), it is Patchwork Girl and not Califia included in the volume. Califia is simply not about those things, except where it offers a range of strategies of resistance, overtly to the loss of memory, and as such, to the subsumation of the feminine self that it resists not by patching/linking, but through the spatial assertion of a topology of artifacts, i.e. of the locative and attributive – and their manifestation is a map. While hypertext qua linking became, if not the dominant mode of creating and understanding electronic literature, what Luesebrink imagined for Califia while working in, essentially, HyperCard (Toolbook) is, as she notes, “a sort of narrative database” ( Resistance and a quest for truth/treasure is connected to both mapping the land and “reading” the map, i.e. a spatial understanding of history and time that until the more widespread use of GIS and other mapping systems as modes of description (Gregory 2014), has remained under-read in Califia. As Koskimaa noted nineteen years ago, “Spatiality has been one of the central topics in discussions about hypertexts, but spatial presentation has been in a very limited use in actual hypertext novels. Works like Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl (1995), and Deena Larsen’s Samplers. Nine Vicious Little Hypertexts (1997) do use the spatial map as a site of signification, but in a very schematic way. The possibilities hinted at in Patchwork Girl … are used in a highly original way in Califia” ( 2000). When one links an “archival system” (Guertin on Califia, 2015) to a topological system of its expression and exploration in three dimensions, Califia’s fruitful difference in theoretical and imaginative approach stand out: examining Califia as both a database and environmental narrative reveals a critical apparatus underdeveloped in the literature so far. Mining Linguistic Content from Vast Audio and Video Archives for

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Vian Rasheed