The Electronic Labyrinth


Like the Archbishop of Paris who when he walked with a mistress in his gardens had three men with rakes following to erase their footprints, we are obliged to dissolve into silence a sentence scarcely formed.
Georges Bataille

In "The Shadow of an Informand," Moulthrop quotes Joyce's definition of a contour: "A virtual representation of the reader's experience of the hypertext as it unfolds in time" (8). Later Moulthrop expands this idea further:

The contour is real but virtual, like the "virtual machine" created by a time sharing system; it exists only in actu as an articulation of the reader's interaction with the text. It corresponds in a rough way with what theorists of conventional reading call the "virtual work", a discursive construct arising out of the intersection of the reader's experience (or "repertoire") and the semantic content of the text (Iser 1978). (8)

The non-hypertextural work is seductive in the clarity of its contours. It offers the illusion of objectivity; of showing each reader the same formal arrangement of syntax. (I can advise you to purchase a copy of Beautiful Losers safe in the knowledge that your copy will have the same linear ordering of words, chapters, and sections as my copy.) Hypertext, however, shows that the linear text is but one of many possible contours.

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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