Taroko Gorge: A Theory of Networked Paratext

Abstract (in English): 

My talk will examine the paratextual play inspired by Nick Montfort's generative poem "Taroko Gorge," which has prompted more than two dozen adaptations and remixes of its source code.
The poem's code is as much an object of fascination for its community of readers as the poem it outputs. What is the "paratext" in this setting? Is it the commented code directed at human readers? The two dozen adaptations? The "Taroko Gorge" meme authored by Talan Memmott? Or might it be the poetic output itself? One could think of the outputted poem as a dazzling book cover-like illustration of main story, the 131-line source code.
In print-based works, source text and paratext exhibit a clearly delineated ontological priority. The text is the main focus and paratexts augment or problematize it. My talk takes up the challenge of identifying the paratext in "Taroko Gorge," which is unstable and dynamic in at least two ways: as procedural code rendering outputs infinitely; and as a social practice among e-literature writers for whom "Taroko" has become a non-exclusive node for the social practice of remix. Of the Taroko adaptations we might ask: at what point does paratext become its own text? When does it stop being a paratext, if at all? My own "Tournedo Gorge" doesn't alter Montfort's code; it riffs on the double-entendre between cooking and executable code. "FirstChild" conjures "Julia Child"; "recipes" find affinity in "procedural" code and "authoring." I copied Nick Montfort's code for his generative poem “Taroko Gorge” and filled the variables with my own words and context. I wrote “Tournedo Gorge” because I wanted to mash the space of
computation with the female, domestic, and tactile.
Literary critical traditions customarily locate "art" as the end product: not the draft but the publication; not paper and ink, but the story those material objects conjure. In my talk I will explore why the "Taroko Gorge" paratext are unstable, and why such instability reveals new ways to conceptualize how poetry and media studies talk to each other.

(Source: Author's Abstract)


Works referenced:

The permanent URL of this page: 
Record posted by: 
Alvaro Seica