Difference, Time and Repetition

[Shakeeb Alireza], English 111, Autumn 1997


When one approaches a work of fiction, it is a commonplace to pay particular attention to its beginning and to its end. In the medium of hypertext, one finds that there may be multiple endings to any stor! y-depending on the particular passages made available to the reader by the writer(s)—but that beginnings continue to exert an irrevocable influence: introductions, preliminary explanations, justifications: in short, only the champagne-shattering ! pre-(s) persist.

To a certain degree, what is at issue here is a conception of time that questions the relentless linearity of its narrative. The question is of the Time of Time—whether an endless infinitude directs the successive layering of Time by other un! known continuums; or, whether it is more perspicacious to consider an end to Time as a final, an ultimate wall, temporality's cul-de-sac.

The hyper-textualization of the past (as logos), renders it immediate: tenaciously present and always within reach. The past is an afterthought to the movements of a present that struggles with the relentlessness of its future. In hypertext, the f! uture (as potential) is the aesthetic [text]ure of the production: allowing only a few singular virtual lines of departure, or links, but an infinite possibility of immersion into interpretive catatonia-again, the endless winter of contemplat! ion.

Michael Joyce's Afternoon starts off with a recollection of this winter. It is a super-saturated metaphor: ice, melancholy, imprisonment—all 'this darkness is air': both inside and outside, what surrounds us, what is within us, indeed, what s! ustains us: an eternal winter: absent—only alive in memory.

'I do not signify one way or another' is an elaboration of his medium of writing, which is hypertextual: an anamnetic philosophy, rather than an emetic phenomenology; an activity which, in effect, relieves itself of judgment; a view of production ! which reifies process to the point where production for production's sake becomes an expressed objective: the aim is the process, and the process is the aim: an altogether hyper-aesthetic conclusion.

This beginning is to be contrasted with another lexia called 'work in progress': Here, Joyce sets forth one of his ideas about closure: 'Closure is, as in any fiction, a suspect quality, although here it is made manifest.' Of course, it is but one! of many closures, but it is one that is most explicit. He goes on to write: 'When the story no longer progresses, or when it cycles, or when you tire of the paths, the experience of reading it ends.' Quite clearly, Joyce does not 'signify one way or ! another': the experience of fiction, or perhaps, more correctly, the responsibility of fiction, is shared both by the reader and the writer.

In the medium of hypertext, the activity of reading changes the texture of what is being read in ways that the 'original' writer could never have foreseen. It is an overt allusion to the Barthian notion of a 'readerly' text. Another highly signifi! cant allusion, that of looping, is a reference to Deleuze's theory of Repetition: 'sometimes what seems a loop, like memory, heads off again in another direction.', which is in itself an allusion to Nietzsche's notion of Eternal Recurrence.

As we can see both beginnings and endings (even provisional endings) retain their theoretical significance in hypertext. We still have closure, but it is a closure that is part of a larger extended family of conclusions.

Afternoon Discussion overview Hypertext Cyberspace Web