So What's Happened Since 1992?

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

[Not in print version. © the Johns Hopkins University Press 1995.]

When Bruno Bassi asked me to contribute a preface or afterword to his 1993 Italian translation, my first reaction was to ask, What has happened to my work with hypertext since the appearance of this volume? To begin with, the Johns Hopkins University Press has since published two related works -- Hypertext in Hypertext, the electronic version of this book (1993) and Hyper/Text/Theory (1994), a companion volume of essays. If I were to write this book now, I would have to take into account the demise of Intermedia and my subsequent use of other less complete instantiations of hypertext, including the one in which you are now reading this lexia. When the revised, much-amplified second edition of this work appears under the title Hypertext 2.0, it will contain a much more wide-ranging discussion of these newly available sytems.

This new version will also add sections discussing the relation of hypertext to other literary and critical theory, including Umberto Eco's conception of the open text and the ideas of the rhizome and nomadic writing presented by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.

Hypertext 2.0 will not only add a new chapter on reconfiguring writing but also update its discussions of hypertext in education and narrative. Looking over the fourth and fifth chapters, I find nothing with which I would now disagree, but I have learned new and exciting things about the power of this technology that I would like to emphasize. In particular, my interest in educational hypertext has continued to shift from read-only informational hypertext to those forms created by one or more students. This axis of development has led to undergraduate and post-graduate students creating hypertext webs for my courses at Brown university on hypertext and literary theory that answer in often unexpected and brilliant ways my proposal that hypertext offers a rare laboratory in which to test the ideas of poststructuralist theory.

As part of courses in hypertext and critical theory, I developed electronic versions of this volume in Intermedia, DynaText, Storyspace, and html. Even this translation of Hypertext into the rather primitive form of hypertext found in the World Wide Web radically reconfigured the original in several ways. First of all, the relationships between the printed main text and notes changed as both took the form of hypertext lexias, and, second, with the addition of both full text searching capacities and multiple overviews, students read the electronic version differently from the print one.

An even more important change derives from the fact that, again as one might expect, my students read Hypertext as wreaders -- as active, even aggressive readers who can and do add links, comments, and their own sub-webs to the larger web into which the print has version has transformed itself. The classroom version my students student contains five hundred of their interventions, criticizing, expanding, and commenting upon the text, often in ways that take it in very different directions than I had intended. In addition to translating the print text into electronic form to which my student wreaders contributed, I added other material in several stages. I included some fifty brief crtiical introductions to literary theory by Linda H. Peterson, Professor of English at Yale University. Later I added more detailed entries on individual theories and theorists from this publisher's Guide to Literary Theory and Critism, edited by Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth. These new lexias, which constitute a sub-web of their own, serve to insert other voices, not always in agreement with mine, into the expanded text.

In a similar vein, at one of my students promptings I have added to the classroom web another clump of lexias, these borrowed from Italo Calvino'sIf on a winters night a traveler. His discussions of the reader, satires on critical theory, and playful ruminations upon narrative all appear linked to my text, usually implicitly supporting my points but occasionally, as with his satires of contemporary critical theory, casting a wry light upon it.

Many of these materials appear in Hypertext in Hypertext, which also adds reviews and parodies of critical theory as well. Perhaps the best way to sum up what has happened since Hypertext first appeared would be to say that changes in technology, my use of this work in courses, and my students' work all have demonstrated that hypertext does indeed serve as a laboratory for literary and critical theory.


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