Hypertext and bigos: On esthetic categories of modern and post-modern Polish fiction that may help us describe electronic literature in yet another way

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Bigos is one of the trademark meals Poland can offer to the world of culinary traditions. Fried cabbage, slices of sauseges, vegetables, mashrooms, and almost anything a chef has at hand can be put into one pot and eventually become a delicious, warming up dish. Quite similiar technique can be seen in a certain tradition of novel writing that appeared during the Renaissance and Baroque in Poland, then flourished in XX century post-modern Polish fiction, but actually dates back to the Romans. It is called silva rerum ("a forest of things") and stands for a fragmentary, anti-mimetic, open-ended, essayistic kind of writing, which emphasizes its own status as a process rather than a product. As such, silvae rerum and its examples can form an interesting contribution to the field of electronic writing and hypertext theory. With the latter deriving its tools mostly from avant-garde and poststructuralist esthetics, silvae rerum can stand out as an alternative: it represents open-ended act of simultaneous "reading-writing", yet it comes not from the common fields of reference for e-lit scholars.

In my article I'll try to sketch a comparatistic study of Stuart Moulthrop's Hegirascope (and to some extent John McDaids Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse) with novels of Tadeusz Konwicki and some works of Czeslaw Milosz. I'll also try to define to what extend hypertext novel can be a silvic fiction and vice versa. As it will occur the latter possibility is an uneven one. Works of Mi?osz and Konwicki are not at all hypertextual and hardly proto-hypertextual. At the same time however, works of Moulthrop and McDaid are indeed silvic. Why is that? Both silvae and hypertext are heterogenic, open - ended, emphasize a process, both encourage the reader... To understand the key differance between silvic and hypertextual I will examine the phenomena of UNCONECTEDNESS - crucial for th concept of silvae rerum and undesired for the concept of hypertext. However - the common ground between the two can be found and it lies in the realm of reader response.

I hope that even in this short abstract I have shown that employing some "new" esthetic cathegories, grounded in literary traditions not much known in the mainstream e-lit theory, we can see the works we study in a new way. It can help us construct even more tools, more subcategories, (like unconectedness) that can shed a new light on the field of our study.

In my article, I will also try to mention another concept of novel that influenced XXth century fiction in Poland: Stanis?aw Ignacy Witkiewicz's idea of "bottomless sack" novel, similar to the concept of contemporary silvae rerum.

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Eric Dean Rasmussen