Who Stole the Soul?

M. Caleb Neelon

I'm not even going to try and attempt to define soul. I will, however, tell you all that I have tried to see the soul through a computer and have failed to do so.

As pieces of brain food, Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl and My Body have a lot to offer. Her use of hypertext both serves her narrative (if that's the right word for hypertext) and serves as a message in itself about the body and the identity. Both works are multiplicitous in terms of literary theory and are great fodder for discussion. But that isn't what I'm really interested in.

Most of the great canonical works of literature operate on two levels. The first is the theoretical, the level of brain food. Jackson's pieces fulfill this, and in the classroom these pieces lead to interesting discussions. However, many people read and write literature because it is a means of communication of the soul. Like a lot of slightly wayward youth, I read Catcher in the Rye when I was around thirteen and it rocked my little boat. Looking over that same text now, I don't find it nearly as theoretically interesting as I find it soulful and from the heart. My question becomes: is such a communication possible via a computer screen?

What struck me about Shelley Jackson's work was that if they were printed as books they would better communicate that soulful element. At the same time they would become less theoretically interesting, as the medium is part of the message here. I personally have a hard time relating to the soulful content of anything through a computer. Perhaps future generations will have an easier time with this, but for now hypertexts only function for me on the level of brain food, and that's a loss. I'm hoping that soon somebody can step up and prove me wrong on that.

Discussion of Patchwork Girl Patchwork Girl Overview Screen for Website Body and Self