Karyn Raz (English 112, 1996)

Among the most striking of the "patches" that compose Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl, one that most clearly embodies the disembodied nature of hypertext, is the segment entitled "crazy quilt." Much the way Dr. Frankenstein created his monster by putting together the body parts of different people, much the way Mary Shelley herself created the immortal "creature" that is her book by putting together various elements of her experience, imagination, and literary knowledge (Frankenstein is also known as the "Modern Day Prometheus" ), Jackson puts together thirty different "patches," or lexias, to form one "crazy quilt."

One could say that "Patchwork Girl" is a "meta-hypertext," a hypertext that, in many ways, is about hypertext. Each patch in Jackson's quilt is composed of various other patches, various other texts, from theoretical to fictional, from pop cultural to hearsay, sewn together to form either a sentence or paragraph. One lexia, entitled "seam'd," uses a sentence from the "Getting Started with Storyspace" hypertext manual, published in 1990, a sentence from the novel by Frank L. Baum entitled "The Patchwork Girl of Oz," first published in 1913, and two sentences from the theoretical text, "Body Criticism: Imagining the Unseen in Enlightenment are and Medicine," published in 1991, to form one paragraph that reads relatively smoothly. The lexia can be read either as a one-font paragraph in which the change in texts in unmarked, or as a three-font paragraph, in which each new text is marked by a different font, and the source of each text is revealed. The emphasis here is not on trying to form a "seamless" text, but rather, on the seams themselves:

You may emphasize the presence of text links by using a special style, color or typeface. Or, if you prefer, you can leave needles sticking in the wounds-- in the manner of tailors-- with thread wrapped around them. Being seam'd with scars was both a fact of eighteenth century life and a metaphor for dissonant interferences ruining any finely adjusted composition. 'The charm you need is a needle and thread,' said the Shaggy Man.

Both the Patchwork Girl in Baum's novel and Jackson's "Patchwork Girl" are composed of distinct patches, or texts, sewn to one another to form a rough whole, a living creature, so to speak. Stiches, or links connect one patch to another, one text to another. Jackson seems particularly interested in examining the points of union between texts, such that "being seam'd with scars" becomes a fact not only of eighteenth century life but of hypertext writing, and indeed of any sort of creative process. (Perhaps scars are an appropriate signifier of postmodernity, a time in which no one text is deemed more important than another, in which everything references something else.) Scars are not only mentioned in this lexia, but are the organizing factor of an entire segment in the "journal" segment of "Patchwork Girl." Jackson quotes Shelley (or is this Shelley Jackson speaking?):

Her scars lay like living things between us, inscribing themselves in my skin. I thought I too was rent and sewn, that I was both multiply estranged and gathered together in a dynamic union. What divided her, divided me.

The parallels between the monster and the work itself are distinct. Both the monster and the hypertext are "rent and sewn," both are "multiply estranged and gathered together in a dynamic union." The "me" here can refer to Mary Shelley, to Shelley Jackson, or to the work itself, with its divides and unions. Scars are the markers of those actively contrived unions. Describing a seam in the monster's flank, Mary/Shelley writes,

It was tough and knobbled, yet slick. And it was hot, not the cold I anticipated without knowing it. Indeed, it was hotter than the stretches of smooth skin it divided. . .

In hypertext, the links, the seams between the texts are what give the texts significance. They are "hotter" than the stretches of smooth skin which they divide.