The Electronic Labyrinth


Michael Joyce's WOE is one of the hypertexts distributed with Writing on the Edge 2.2. In contrast to his earlier work, Afternoon, A Story, which depends upon the interplay of characters in the manner of the traditional realist novel, WOE contains notes, references, and digressions with various typographic experiments about varied subject matter. The following both describes how Joyce perceives the writing environment and provides an example of syntactic experimentation:

life.} Requiring more than a single screen of course. This, I believe, the first time in two such fictions I've done so, breaking through the scrolling barrier as it were, and for what? In the hope that this mishmash of gossip and intention somehow captures that much interest. The flash of shifting screens versus the refocusing of the page shift (or the scrolling! do you see? there's the print analogue, the continuity is that one must refocus.)

WOE is written in Storyspace which offers, as Joyce mentions, scrolling rather than paging capabilities. The work also includes parenthetical references to other hypertext critics and authors. For example, Stuart Moulthrop, Jane Yellowees Douglas, and John McDaid, all make appearances in this text:

(the underpinnings that Jane and Stuart have read in the past, kept opaque in final afternoon)
(McDaid in the sleeper compartment of the Twentieth Century Limited en route home from Chicago and the TINAC gathering at the CCCC's, discovers that the lens of the camcorder projects wonderfully in the dark tube and so spends the night hours along Lake Erie's shores watching his first video actualities of his cubisme we think to have worked: eerie Barthesian shadows along Michigan Avenue in the darkness, mirrored in the glass bus shelters, the dark waters of the river; laughter and fervidness, "discreet versus continuous text.")

The screen "relic" is taken directly from Afternoon and includes one of the most poetic passages in that work:

I have in mind a non-sentient, transitory creature, nothing more than memory embodied, yet infinitely sadder than handwriting, photograph or the preserved sound of another's voice.

In short, if Afternoon is a story, WOE reads like as a collection of excerpts from Joyce's notebook. He makes deliberate references to incomplete work, "I will come back later to fill in this title and the previous screen's sentence. When I do I will be an actor in history." The work also includes two graphic images.

A postmodernist bricolage, WOE raises the question of textual univocity and obscures the boundary between the author's preparation notes and the author's final work.

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