You should post your position papers to your weblog by the due date. There are eight opportunities to turn in position papers on the course schedule. Each of you should turn in six of them. I'll post prompts here for each assignment, but you may take a position on some other aspect of each text assigned if you wish. In the past I've called these "reading journals" but I think that "position paper" more precisely describes what I'm expecting from you in these brief (approximately 600 word) assignments. Each post your write should take a position on specific question and argue for it. You don't need to spend a lot of time on a general introduction, or on a lot of summary. Establish your position quickly and support it with analysis or discussion of evidence from the text concerned.
Position papers are graded Check Minus, Check, or Check Plus. Your grade is determined by converting this scale to a numerical scale. If you have primarily Check Plus grades and a few Checks, your grade will be an A. If you have primarily Checks and several Check Plus grades, your grade will be a B. If you have primarily Checks, your grade will be a C. If you have primarily Check Minuses, your grade will be a D. I will also briefly comment on your position papers via email.
Position Paper #1
In "Proposal for a Universal Publishing System and Archive," Ted Nelson proposed a hypertext system which might have some advantages over the contemporary Internet, such as a persistent archive, access to multiple versions of documents, backwards links and "trails" such as those conceptualized by Vannevar Bush, but which would have been based on propietary technology. Do you think that Nelson's proposed system, Xandadu, would have been more useful than the contemporary Internet? Discuss positve and negative aspect of the system Nelson conceptualized.
Positon Paper #2
Terry Harpold's "Conclusions," Jill Walker's "Piecing Together and Pulling Apart: Finding the Story in afternoon" and Raine Koskimaa's "Reading Victory Garden"
each offer an analysis of a Storyspace hypertext or hypertexts. Each critic utilizes both traditional methodologies of close reading and strategies of reading that are specific to the new media. Each furthermore discusses ways in which the hypertexts are "inexhaustible." Respond to one of these three essays, paying particluar attention to the alternative reading strategies the critic applies to the text. In the absence of a discussion of a text that is clearly framed by linear chronology, what aspects of the hypertext does the author consider. Can the examination of narrative structures such as links, repetition, and intertextual referentiality offer a satisfying interpretation of a text that does not offer easy avenues for its interpretation as a totality?
Position Paper #3
Although it was produced during the Romantic period, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein shares at least one trait with many works of contemporary fiction (and hypertext fiction) in that it is an "intertextual" work that borrows from a variety of other works of literature, both in borrowing quotations from other texts and in referring to them in the novel. It could, in fact, be argued that the identity of Frankenstein's monster is shaped by the texts that he reads. Do you agree that the monster can be understood as a collection of and/or application of the ideas he encounters in the texts that he reads? Discuss the relationship between the texts Frankenstein reads, his reception by humanity, and the mayhem he unleashes in response.
Position Paper #4
In what sense can Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl be understood as a feminist reappropriation or retelling of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein? Were there any ways in which Mary Shelley's novel can be considered dissatisfying in terms of the role that its women characters play? Do you think that Shelley Jackson was trying to fill in some gaps left by the original novel and, if so, do you think she was successful in doing so?
Position Paper #5
In Chapter 6 of Hypertext 2.0, George Landow quotes Jay David Bolter who writes that "In place of a closed and unitary structure, they [writers] must learn to conceive of their text as a structure of possible structures. The writer must practice a kind of second-order writing, creating coherent lines for the reader to discover without closing off the possibilities prematurely or arbitrarily." Using Patchwork Girl, Victory Garden, and Afternoon as examples, discuss the kind of choices that writers can make in creating this type of "structure of possible structures." How does this notion of structure conflict with the Aristotelean idea of plot Landow describes earlier in the chapter. Is one kind of narrative structure superior to or "more natural" than the other?
Position Paper #6
In "Flickering Connectivities in Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis," N. Katherine Hayles asserts that "five hundred years of print have made the conventions of the book transparent to us," and that "literary criticism and theory are shot through with unrecognized assumptions specific to print." What are some of those unrecognized assumptions, and is Hayles' proposed remedy of media specific analysis a good remedy for them? Is there any potential loss in shifting from traditional methods of literary analysis to media specific analysis?
Position Paper #7
In each of the three works we've encountered by Shelley Jackson; Patchwork Girl, "My Body," and The Doll Games, she has utilized links and hypertext structures in a different way, though it could be argued that many of her thematic concerns (for instance, the importance of the body in shaping identity) were consistent in each of the three works. Did you find the narrative strategies in any one of the three works more effective than in the others? How did the linking techniques and structure affect the way you read each work?
Position Paper #8
Mildrorad Pavic writes of The Dictionary of the Khazars that the reader "can arrange [the dictionary] in an infintie number of ways, like a Rubik cube . . . Hence, each reader will put together the book for himself, as in a game of dominoes or cards, and, as with a mirror, get as much out of this dictionary as he puts into it, for, as is written on one of the pages of the lexicon, you cannot get more out of the truth than what you put into it." In what ways was the process of reading The Dictionary of the Khazars like or unlike the process of reading the electronic hypertexts we have read in class? How did the role of the reader in each case differ from the role of the reader in other print fictions? Do you think the novel offers any lessons for writers of hypertext fiction?
Through these informal presentations, we will experience some hypertext
literature on the Web beyond the works that we're reading together
as a class. Each of you will select one of the Web hypertexts from
the list of suggested readings and present it to the class.
The presentations should be 10-15 minutes long. Some of the approaches
you could take to presenting the work:
1) Show the work.
2) Describe how the work was structured by the author(s): how are
hypertext links, spatial metaphors, modes of navigation utilized
in the particular piece?
3) Describe the technical aspects of the work: does the work rely
on simple HTML? Does it utilize flash, plugins, imagery, etc.?
4) Describe the content of the work: if it is a narrative, what
story or stories is it attempting to tell? Does the technical structure
help or impede the telling of the story or poem? Would the work
function differently if it were published in print?
5) Describe any "other literacies" the work draws on
-- does it involve theory, science, drama, art, performance?
6) Assess the work -- did you like it? Why or why not? What do
wish the author(s) had done differently? What surprised you about