Landow assesses Hypertext 3.0

George P. Landow’s article regarding hypertext and the new digital frontier in textual analysis is mainly a summary of the points made by author Jacques Derrida and other comrades. Landow begins with the exploration of hypertext as non-linear. The text being read is now de-centralized from any one power, ideology, or cultural norm. It is the reader, Derrida announces, who brings to the hypertext a new and unique centralized form of reading with his or her own interests as the highlighting theme that overcomes the hypertext. Derrida “describes extant hypertext systems in which the active reader in the process of exploring a text, probing it, can call into play dictionaries with morphological analyzers that connect individual words to cognates, derivations, and opposites” (1). This is an action Derrida believes to be a “new economy of reading and writing with electronic virtual, rather than physical, forms” (2). With the decomposition of hypertext, readers have endless amounts of information (citations, signs, languages) at their disposal when reading. It is the decomposition and discontinuity of the traditional linear text that calls for an entirely new genre of text to be born; one in which Landow cites author Thais Morgan: “Intertextuality replaces the evolutionary model of literary history with a structural or synchronic model of literature as a sign system” (5). Before hypertext, these authors argue, varying “psychological, sociological, and historical determinisms” dominated textual analysis and translation (5). Hypertext frees readers from the boundaries of previous modes of communication, and offers up a more connected amount of information than ever before. The hypertext acts as a network model, and Landow describes it as an omnipotent entity that can connect the seen and unseen parts of hypertext with ease; hypertext itself is merely house to this greater entity that functions much in the manner of a human brain. It forms and makes connections at almost every junction in the text itself, thereby offering up infinite interpretations and endless de-centralized arguments regarding the meaning of the text. It is here that Landow notes “some of the first applications of hypertext involved the Bible and its evangelical tradition: in which 17th century Victorian zealots demonstrate (that) any particular person, event, or phenomena acted as a magical window into the complex semiotic of the divine scheme for human salvation” (7). Derrida believes the center of the hypertext “is a function, not a being,” it is a plateau, “a self-vibrating region of intensities whose development avoids any orientation toward a culmination point or external end” (8). The text has no singular, main meaning. Rather, the central meaning (via decentralized functioning) is always changing, growing, and adapting itself to the reader and what he or she may bring to the text. This unseen center point is referred to as the Rhizome, which “has neither a beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows” (9).

written by Shawna Marie Rodgers

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