Andres Luco, English 111, 1999

Is the story intriguing you? Have you gathered any conclusions? What could we say about this piece in evaluating its form and content together? Consider once again how Simon Birnbaum uses his writing. He records the present, his presence in time. But at almost the very instant he finishes a note, he completely loses memory of writing them. Then he refuses to believe in them. He crosses them out, crumples them up, or denies ever even conceiving of them. Why? In returning to Derrida for an explanation, we must heed his take on writing as substitution:

"This process of substitution. . . functions as a pure play of traces. . . [it] operates within the order of the pure signifier which no reality, no absolutely external reference. . . can come to limit, bound, or control; this substitution. . . can go on infinitely in the element of the linguistic permutation of substitutes, of substitutes of substitutes. . . (Dissemination, 89)."

Fundamentally, Derrida denies any objective connection between writing and reality. All writing is merely the latest manifestation of an endless chain of substitutes extending back for an indefinite amount of time. Accordingly, Simon finds himself presented with an array of substitutes for his past, but Derrida might say that the only difference between Simon and you or I is that he doesn't accept them as substitutes for what they represent. Simon has much trouble relating these imprints to their objects. Derrida contends that the assumed "objects" of substitution are really only substitutes themselves. For instance, writing is a substitute for the object speech, but speech (or language, as it were) can be considered as yet another substitute for internal thought, and so on.

In making a theoretical stretch you might say that since it is impossible to connect any form of substitutes to their objects, it is just as impossible to connect any word to its definite object. And because a sentence or a story is really an assemblage of substitutes, or simulacra, it is itself a simulacrum and therefore cannot be connected to an absolute object. What does this mean? Well, if we collapse the assumption that the object of a story is how the author had intended the reader to understand it, there is a definite result: the author becomes neutralized. Interpretation can expand and diffuse across the plane of meaning. The reader is free to negotiate the story in whatever way she may choose. This is not to say that people can or should run rampant with their interpretations; I believe a better point to make is that reading ceases to be an "objective" science and turns into a purely subjective, social, and historical practice.

You might say that Hypertext puts us at a crossroads in the history of reading. People are getting more and more aware that "legitimacy" in literary interpretation is a socially construed quality. Different communities will tend to invoke different interpretations of the same text, and even the interpretations made by a single community might change faces through the years. Perhaps it is time for us to be honest with ourselves, then. Perhaps we should loosen efforts at trying to bind down the meaning affored in texts; rather, we should let our interpretations proliferate, and make way for richer critical creativity by multiplying the opportunities for association. This will definitely require a new approach to reading--but first, we must strive for a new form of writing.

In light of our discussion, allow me to first apologize for creating those three "paths" found in the overview. It should not suggest that these were the only ways in which one could apprehend the story. Consider them suggestions--but don't stop there. Feel free to take your mouse and construct more pathways through the text, thereby reordering, and in a sense, rewriting it. Let's try to do justice to this "galaxy of signifers".

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