Fifth Avenue

For Roland Barthes, the printed text in a sense kills the author. For once his idea is recorded for posterity, he is rendered expendable. It carries the reader away from the presence of the author. Take the ideas of Alexander Pope for example. Without the written form, many of his ideas would likely have been lost as generations passed, his ideas became reinterpreted, reexplained, and reconfigured. But because of the written text, we are able to access and examine the work in its original form. But this is bad, Derrida would say. For he characterizes this binary opposition between absence and presence as the fundamental flaw in western culture. This kind of move towards a blurring of space and time through an imagined universality in literature, results in a reader who forgets. A reader who says to himself, "Oh well I own this book, so it I guess it isn't essential that remember this fact, or understand this concept because it will always be right here at my fingertips." The reader also becomes reliant on the speaker in the work. His reading becomes a forgetting of sorts, he gets lulled to sleep by recurring and repetitive patterns and language that he himself has no say in, or control over. The end result is the championing of the Oral tradition, of some sort of presence, by western culture because that is all they can truly question or pay attention to with any kind of critical mind. But this is exactly the strong point of the hypertext medium. For the line between character and author and reader becomes obscured. The author is no longer the sole creator and generator of ideas. But shares this process willingly with the reader.

If someone were to ask you what you favorite part of Subway Story is, your answer would differ with respect to your background. You bring your experiences, your beliefs and ideas into the text with you. Your answer probably also differs depending on the way in which you experienced the story. If you followed only one subway line in a linear path, you opinion is going to be different than if you jumped from thread to thread in your reading of the text. In this way you became the author to the way in which you experienced the text. The lines between you and me and the characters become somehow blurred by hypertextuality. There is, a "plurality" given to the text. It has many layers and can be read in an infinite number of ways.

You aren't allowed the breathing space in hypertextuality that the printed text allows you to have. Printed mediums allow you some leeway in your interpretation and reading of the text. This leads to misinterpretations, for the reader, because he is not implicated in the text, is allowed to pick and choose what ever he so pleases. But because the hypertext work branches, and forces you, as the reader, to dictate the direction with which the narrative takes shape, it smothers you, disturbs you in its ability to subvert and redefine precepts that you hold as truths.

The narrator no longer controls the reader, as he does in the linear text. This notion is very unsettling to the reader at first. For he is accustomed to maintaining the voyeuristic relationship to the text that Bakhtin talks about. With this added responsibility the reader is forced to invest more of himself, he is forced in a sense, to read for the gaps, to be critical rather than unconditional in his evaluation of ideas in the text. This is a good thing, and should be applied not only to literary or critical works, but to all forms of print medium. For this is was one of the intentions of this work. To make you realize that you must question everything, to stop accepting the written word as fact. There is the old adage which says that something is made valid because "I have it right here, in BLACK AND WHITE," Just because something is on paper does not mean that it is truth.

Mikhail Bakhtin's notion of multivocality is an idea invoked in hypertext. The multivocal novel is, "constructed not as the whole of a single consciousness, absorbing other consciousnesses as objects into itself, but as a whole formed by the interaction of several consciousnesses, none of which entirely becomes an object for the other (Landow 18)." This idea is very similar to Barthes' lexia, a brief, contiguous fragment of text, or a unit of reading. The medium of hypertext takes out the voyeuristic quality that one gains in reading literature. No longer is he a third eye looking in, able to gain distance from the text, but rather the reader becomes implicated in the text by the sheer necessity for the reader to interact with the hypertext work. Getting many points of view and actually affecting what you were reading inSubway Story inevitably gave you a different opinion than it this were a linear text printed on paper. Many voices, many consciousnesses comprise the narration of this work. Each lexia becomes one of Derrida's bites, a small chunk of the whole that gets absorbed for what it is on its own and in the context of those things around it. Like a bite of food. There is a place carved out for the reader to call his own. Suddenly the reader, through his active participation becomes represented within the work itself. Each reader will read the narrative differently, in a different order, or with a different background. So the hypertext work is univocal, different to everyone, multi-faceted, multi-layered, and multiple in meaning.

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