Welcome to Pine Point

Following up from our group presentations the past couple week, we’re going to close the semester by reading Welcome to Pine Point.

Please consider one or more of the following questions in your blog posts this week.

-How does this piece of electronic literature recreate a sense of place?  What are the building blocks of place in this work?

-How is Pine Point similar to a traditional documentary-style film?  How different?

-How does Pine Point consider the viability of niche interests in an online world?

-How does Pine Point record the transformation of the act of memorializing between the 1970s and the present?

-Is the inclusion of traditional objects as a memorial of place in conflict with a memorial of place enabled by digital representation?




Week 14 – Group Presentations 3, 4, & 5

Hi Class,
Here are the readings related to the group presentations this week.  See everyone on Thursday.
1. Group 3 will be presenting the video game, The Stanley Parable.  It is available for $3 on the Steam store.   To play, download, install, and start the free Steam software from the website, create an account, search for the game, and download it.  Although I encourage everyone who can to do this, you do have the option of exploring the game at no cost through this video, which showcases all the potential endings of the game.  You can see a list of all the possible endings and at what times they appear in the video by clicking on the description.
2. Group 4 will be presenting Redshift & Portalmental by Micha Cárdenas.
3. Group 5 will be presenting on the digital poem Ask Me for the Moon by John David Zuen.




Week 12 – Group Presentations 1 &2 – “Prosthesis”and “Arcoiris Paranoico”

This week we’ll be continuing our discussion of The Circle.  We’ll also hear our first two student-led presentations on digital literature of their choice.


  • Dave Eggers, The Circle, pp. 309-497
  • Listen to the collection of audio poems (6) by Ian Hatcher under the working title “Prosthesis
  • Go to the Jose Aburto site and find the link to the poem “Arcoiris Paranoico” in the word cloud you find there.

The Jose Aburto poem is in Spanish, so the group is providing the following translation of the poem to assist you with your analysis.

Arcoiris Paranoico

“Paranoid Rainbow”

I tried to cover the Spring with a finger

And I smiled idiotically

Not being able to remember the usual

Because the time had come

To rebuild, to revive, to go back to

That is to say, the time to look around

And not to recognize as one’s own

To realize that one doesn’t know

Whose house this is

Nor the children that run calling and laughing

Nor the woman who suddenly wakes up

With the sun by her side

I tried to close the window

But it was late, or rather

It was still too early


Choose one poem from the reading selection and provide an analysis of it for your blog post this week.  Remember to follow the blog post guidelines about developing an argument and use the close reading 2.0 guide for reading electronic literature that was included in your group presentation packet.




Week 11- Literature, Social Media and Privacy – The Circle, cont.

Blog Prompt

For your blog post this week, pick one of the following quotes from the novel.  Develop an argument to explain its context in the novel and the relevance it has with one or more of the issues mentioned in last week’s blog post:

4.  ‘”It’s not that I’m not social.  I’m social enough.  But the tools you guys create actually manufacture unnaturally extreme social needs.  No one needs the level of contact you’re purveying.  It improves nothing.  It’s not nourishing.  It’s like snack food…endless empty calories, but the digital-social equivalent” (134).

5.   “The total number of stats she was tracking was only 41.  There was her aggregate customer service score, which was 97.  There was her last score, which was 99.  There was the average of her pod, which was at 96.  There was the number of queries handled that day thus far, 221, and the number of queries handled by that time yesterday, 219…” (194).

6. ‘”Meanwhile,” Stenton said, “there’s another area of public life where we want and expect transparency, and that’s democracy.  We’re lucky to have been born and raised in a democracy, but one that is always undergoing improvements”‘ (207).

Week 10 -Literature, Social Media and Privacy – The Circle

We’ve covered a lot of ground already in this course and much of it is relevant for our reading of Dave Egger’s The Circle.  Here we encounter a shift from the fairly festive, performative possibilities of social media technologies with Midsummer Night’s Dreaming to a more critical approach in Eggers that is interested in helping us understand the potential social, economic, and political ramifications of their widespread use.  Some of the broader issues considered already are:

  • the loss of a meaningful distinction between public and private
  • the economic value of aggregated personal data
  • biopolitical issues arising from the tracking of medical information
  • the possibility that targeted advertisements and personalized search engine results could lead to a phenomenon called the filter bubble that reinforces existing perspectives and ideological frames rather than encouraging pluralistic civic discourse and debate
  • the complex political and economic uses of concepts like transparency, and much more.

Released in 2013, The Circle has already gained increased relevance with the European Union’s Court of Justice decision in May of 2014 regarding the so-called “Right to be Forgotten”, which sided against Google and on the side of an individual who sought to remove from search engines personal information that he argued was no longer relevant.  The decision will neither bring an end to legal battles or answer numerous policy questions regarding this right but it has spurred numerous newspaper and magazine articles, several of which find Egger’s novel The Circle worthy of mention in this context.

In addition, the novel again allows us to  ask questions regarding the effects of an increased emphasis on hyper attention over deep attention that we first read about in Katherine Hayles’s essay, as well as those issues raised in Langdon Winner’s essay “Mythinformation” regarding the unclear relationship between digital technologies and political emancipation.  Thinking those two essays together, now, we might even ask the question: does a world in which hyper attention is all-pervasive allow for sufficient critical thought about economic and political issues?  Can it develop citizens with the necessary skills in deep attention that are required to think through these fundamental but increasingly complex issues?

Blog Prompt

For your blog post this week, pick one of the following quotes from the novel.  Develop an argument to explain its context in the novel and the relevance it has with one or more of the issues above:

1. “All of it felt like something from another time, a rightfully forgotten time, and made Mae feel she was not only wasting her life but that this entire company was wasting life, wasting human potential and holding back the turning of the globe.  The cubicle at that place, her cubicle, was the distillation of it all.  The low walls around her, meant to facilitate her complete concentration on the work at hand, were lined with burlap, as if any other material might distract her, might allude to more exotic ways of spending her days” (11).

2. “And those who wanted or needed to track the movements of consumers online had found their Valhalla: the actual buying habits of actual people were now eminently mappable and measurable, and the marketing to those actual people could be done with surgical precision.  Most TruYou users, most internet users who simply wanted simplicity, efficiency, a clean and streamlined experience, were thrilled with the result.  No longer did they have to memorize twelve identities and passwords; no longer did they have to tolerate the madness and rage of the anonymous hordes; no longer did they have to put up with buckshot marketing that guessed, at best, within a mile of their desires.  Now the messages they did get were focused and accurate and, most of time, even welcome” (22-23).

3.  “She often did this when she was far from any shore–she just sat still, feeling the vast volume of the ocean beneath her.  There were leopard sharks in this part of the bay, and bat rays, and jellyfish, and the occasional harbor porpoise, but she could see none of them.  They were hidden in the dark water, in their black parallel world, and knowing they were there, but not knowing where, or really anything else, felt, at that moment, strangely right…and they would watch each other, and she would wonder if the seal knew, as she did, how good this was, how lucky they were to have all this to themselves” (83).

Christopher Marlowe Officially Credited (by Oxford University Press) As Co-Author Of 3 Shakespeare Plays

Here is an interesting article out this week on the role computational analysis is performing in making judgments about the authorship of Shakespeare’s play.  Oxford University Press is playing to publish its new edition of Shakespeare with a credit to Christopher Marlowe as a co-author in some of Shakespeare’s early history plays.   Very relevant for this week’s secondary reading.  Take a look!



Week 9 – Digital Shakespeare – Midsummer Night’s Dreaming and Globe-al Shakespeare

Watching: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe, 2016

For additional context about the performance above, read this review on the production, or search online for others.

Reading: Shakespeare, Sonnet 20

For discussion on the quantitative perspective of literature made possible through modern computing, read Literature in a Digital Age, Chapter 5 (pp. 82-130)

Finally, briefly explore at the following links on A Midsummer Night’s Dreaming:

Video 1

Video 2

Explanation of the project

A Midsummer Night’s Dreaming

This week we’ll continue exploring Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to examine what possibilities the digital age might hold for re-envisioning existing literature, and drama in particular, by way of digital media.  In this case, we’ll be exploring a couple individual performances (that all performances are singular is one of drama’s key differentiations from other forms of literature).  One was brought to fruition through a partnership between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Google.  This endeavor, which was staged over the course of a weekend (midsummer weekend–when else?) in 2013, incorporated a site-specific performance of the play over the course of 3 days with a digital stage where social media content was posted for an online audience (some of whom attended the play in Stratford, England, and some who encountered the performance only through its reporting online)  who also participated by creating their own content to respond to the event.  This event was made possible through the use of what is colloquially known as web 2.0 technologies.  Web 2.0 signals an expansion of the world wide web from static web pages (like those found in Shelley Jackson’s My Body) to spaces where readers not only read but also comment on webpages, not only visit sites but also set up their own accounts to publish material.  All of you who have been publishing on your blog since the beginning of the course have been using web 2.0 technologies.  Web 2.0 also includes crowd-sourced knowledge bases like Wikipedia, social networking sites like Facebook, and Twitter.


One of the key issues that arises in the context of digital media is the question of archiving.  Even as this course was underway this semester, the material I had originally intended for use on the Midsummer Night’s Dreaming site was taken down.  Although some of the content is preserved through websites like www.archive.org, much of the multimedia content is no longer functioning and serves as another point of discussion.
The other performance of the play we will be exploring this week is the 2016 performance at the Globe Theatre in London.  For class discussion on Thursday, please watch the play and consider the alterations the performance makes to Shakespeare’s text, how the performance affects our understanding of the play, how it adapts Shakespeare to a contemporary and global context, and what it’s availability online suggests about the future of dramatic performance.

Week 8 – Reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream

This week’s lecture is posted here and attempts to give you a better historical understanding of Shakespeare’s play and the tension between the text as it would be have been performed on Elizabethan and Jacobean stages, and the text as it appeared in print at the same time. You’ll also get the first glimpse at the tremendous effort that has gone into making Shakespeare’s quartos available in a digital archive.  Finally, I’ll perform a close reading of the text that may help you when reading other passages in the play.
For other resources that will help you deal with the difficulties sometime encountered by modern readers–some of which is due to the historical shift in the English language, others with the particular complexity of Shakespeare’s syntactical and poetic virtuosity–there are additional resources on Shakespeare’s language available at Shakespeare Resource Center

Following Shakespeare’s death in 1616, the dramatic works of Shakespeare were categorized by John Heminges and Henry Condell in the 1623 Folio edition of Shakespeare’s works under the categories ‘Comedies’, ‘Histories’, and ‘Tragedies’.  Although this may strike us as conventional today, this grouping was not considered so at the time.  In the most obvious precedent for such a collection, the 1616 Works of Ben Jonson, the plays were arranged chronologically.

Of the three Folio genres, two – comedy and tragedy – were part of traditions stretching back to classical times, traditions which in England encompassed native elements as well.  The first play we will read this term, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is the first comedy we will have the opportunity to read this semester, so we will need to consider it all the more carefully.  And next week, we will read one of Shakespeare’s history plays, Henry IV Part 1, a genre that had developed much more recently in Shakespeare’s time, and which he helped to shape.

As the critic Susan Snyder asks: “What is implied by the most basic distinction of all, that comedy ends happily and tragedy unhappily?” Since all plots involve threats and dangers, the assumption is that while in tragedies these threats are fulfilled, in comedies they may be evaded.  Some have argued that we ought to characterize the dangers of comedy as small in scale compared to those of tragedy, but Shakespeare’s comic protagonists regularly face alienation, abandonment, and death. What makes the difference is not less serious perils but shifts and stratagems and sheer good luck break the chain of causality that seemed headed for certain catastrophe.

Critics have had a number of perspectives regarding what is at stake in Shakespearean comedy. Northrop Frye, for instance, believed that comedy is closely linked to archetypal myths.  For Frye, Shakespearean comedy possessed a three part structure that moves from disorder at the beginning, into a “green world” away from culture in the middle (for example, the forest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), returning in the end to the courtly world of culture.  According to Frye, this structure performs a social function, a kind of rebirth through which the social world  becomes reinvigorated, and accommodations are made by the characters who initially serve as obstacles to the hero’s desire.  In Frye’s assertion of the universality of the archetypes he claimed are invoked in the plays, and his assertion the comedy results in the reintegration of social life, he interprets Shakespearean comedy as more or less conservative.

We might ask: is this understanding of Shakespearean comedy as a conservative genre universal in the literary criticism of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries?

For New Historicist critics such as Stephen Greenblatt, Leonard Tennenhouse, and Louis Montrose, this remains a general consensus but new considerations of the material are introduced. New Historicism, which followed the more structural approach of Frye, should be understood as much as a methodology as it is a theory that considers literary texts such as Shakespeare’s plays alongside non-literary historical texts of Shakespeare’s period.  New Historicists are influenced by the French theorist Michel Foucault, whose account of the relationship between power and its subversion suggests that power does not exist solely in the institution of the State. Instead, power of all kinds pervades society at all levels, and language is a key instrument in the enforcement of this form of power, a power in which the subject internalizes (and often enforces) the mechanisms of his or her own subjection.  Given these theoretical conclusions, New Historicist critics generally offer a picture of Shakespeare’s comedies that from one perspective is conservative, and from another contains elements that are subversive of the status quo.

Such New Historicist perspectives helped to revise our understanding of Shakespearean comedy and influenced feminist and gender criticism of the plays, all of which became prominent in Shakespeare criticism in the 1980s and 1990s. No methodology unites those critics, and no consensus of belief in the politics of the plays binds that criticism together: some see the plays as reaffirming gender hierarchies, some as offering profound challenges to those orders.  Whatever its apprehension of the politics of Shakespeare’s comedies, however, feminist criticism has indubitably offered us new ways to think about old texts.

Louis Montrose provides an alternate perspective to Frye’s conception of Shakespearean comedy, as we see in this excerpt from Montrose’s essay on A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

According to the paradigm of Northrop Frye, Shakespearean comedy “normally begins with an anticomic society, a social organization blocking and opposed to the comic drive, which the action of the comedy evades or overcomes. It often takes the form of a harsh or irrational law, like … the law disposing of rebellious daughters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream…. Most of these irrational laws are preoccupied with trying to regulate the sexual drive, and so work counter to the wishes of the hero and heroine, which form the main impetus of the comic action.” Frye’s account of Shakespearean comic action emphasizes intergenerational tension at the expense of those other forms of social and familial tension from which it is only artificially separable; in particular, he radically undervalues the centrality of sexual politics to these plays by unquestioningly identifying the heroines’ interests with those of the heroes. The interaction of characters in the fictive societies of Shakespearean drama-like the interaction of persons in the society of Shakespeare’s England-is structured by the complex interplay among culture-specific categories, not only of age and gender but also of kinship and class. The “drive toward a festive conclusion” (Frye, A Natural Perspective, p. 75) which liberates and unites comic heroes and heroines also subordinates wives to husbands and confers the responsibilities and privileges of manhood upon callow youths.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream


A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the twelfth play Shakespeare provided for his company to act.

Although Shakespeare wrote primarily for the commercial Globe and Blackfriars Theatres, there has been speculation that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written for a special occasion.   Some have argued that it was written to become part of a wedding celebration in a noble household, culminating as it does in the wedding celebration of Theseus and Hippolyta.  Two possible occasions would have been the marriage between Elizabeth Vere and the Earl of Derby on 26 January 1595, and that between Elizabeth Carey and Thomas Berkeley on 19 February 1596.

There is no evidence to connect the play with either ceremony, and while aristocratic weddings were sometimes enhanced by formal entertainments, these usually took the form of a masque, and the first play known to have been provided specifically for such an occasion was Samuel Daniel’s pastoral Hymen’s Triumph (1614), written about twenty years later, when courtly entertainments had become much more elaborate.

Metamorphosis in the play

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play about metamorphosis.  Bottom the Weaver’s transformation in the play is perhaps its central image, but this theme extends to the fairies and the lovers within the play, as well as to a host of earlier tales and legends of men turned into monsters. From Circe in Homer’s Odyssey and Ovid’s Metamorphoses (also the main source for the story of Pyramus and Thisbe that Shakespeare’s mechanicals comically stage), and her power ‘most monstrous shapes to frame’ to classic stories of men turned into asses, as in the legend of the King Midas, whose ears were changes into ass’s ears when he refused to accept the general verdict that Apollo had beaten Pan in a musical contest. Bottom’s story is also rooted in The Golden Ass, in which Apuleius convinces his mistress to steal a box of ointment and anoint him with it, expecting that he will be changed into a bird, only to find that he is completely transformed into an ass and, what is worse, treated as one by other asses and horses, and by the thieves who take him and use him as a beast of burden.

Bottom is an embodiment of earthy humanity who remains splendidly himself whatever happens to him or around him, and a character with whom an audience can readily engage; at the same time his transformation into an ass fits him as one who is, in the scale of human folly, a natural, ingrained fool. His experience remains at the most prosaic level, and his dream, ‘ past the wit of man to say what dream it was’ (4.1.201), leaves him groping for words; he has no poetry in which to articulate his vision, only garbled phrases from the first sentence of 1 Corinthians 2.9-10. In the Bishops’ Bible the text runs: ‘The eye of man hath not seene, and the eare hath not heard, neither have entred into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit; for the spirit searcheth all things, yea the deepe things of God.’ This does not mean that Bottom has some access or ‘means’ to grace, but suggests rather that the heaven revealed to Bottom corresponds to the limits of his imagination, and he is as impervious to the ‘ deepe things of God ‘ as he is to Titania’s attractions. He never becomes aware that he has been transformed into an ass, and if this lack of awareness marks a kind of innocence which is appealing, it also defines his limitations.


Setting in the play

Athens, in tradition a city of wisdom and order, contrasts with the woods to which the lovers flee as a place of disorder and licence. There the setting becomes a ‘stage projection of the inner condition of the lovers’, who experience a kind of fall and redemption, a passage from earthly, sensual love to rational love figured in marriage.  This opposition is notably imaged in the ass-head placed on Bottom, the ass symbolising sensuality and stupidity, the carnal as opposed to the spiritual. If some critics have gone too far in identifying Oberon with reason and Titania with passion, they nevertheless illustrate how the play is rooted in traditions of neo-Platonic imagery and thought.

The play begins, however, from the tyranny of reason as embodied in the law that would sentence Hermia to death or perpetual chastity for disobeying her father. The lovers flee from Athens, the city as symbol of civilisation, to the woods outside, symbolic of the wilderness, only to find they have escaped one form of tyranny to encounter another, in themselves. ‘ Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind ‘ ( 1.1.234), and the characters ‘see’ a setting that reflects their state. For the lovers, the woods turn into a wild place, where savage beasts may be found (2.1.228), where Helena, in her unhappiness, comes to think ‘I am as ugly as a bear / For beasts that meet me run away for fear’ (2.2.100-1), and where Hermia dreams of being eaten by a serpent (2.2.155). What they see as savage reflects the increasing savagery of their own passions, as love and friendship turn to hatred. Demetrius ‘wood within this wood ‘ – that is, mad (wood) in a place appropriate for madness – talks already at 2.1.190 of killing Lysander, and he hates Helena (2.1.211) for following him. When Puck anoints the eyes of the wrong man, Lysander, his love for Hermia also turns to hatred as he pursues Helena : poor Hermia is now rejected, ‘Of all be hated, but the most of me!’ (2.2.148). Oberon’s intervention at 3.2.102, transforming Demetrius into the lover of Helena instead of Hermia, exacerbates the quarrels: Helena thinks all have ganged up on her, Hermia believes Helena, a ‘ thief of love ‘ (3.2.283), has stolen Lysander from her, and Lysander now quarrels with Demetrius over Helena.

The upshot brings violence and the threat of death, as Hermia seeks to scratch out Helena’s eyes, while Lysander and Demetrius go off, swords drawn it seems, to fight to the death (3.2.338). The lovers are wholly involved in all this, and the process we witness of love turning to hate and cruelty is real enough. As Barber put it, they ‘are unreservedly in the passionate protestations which they rhyme at each other as they change partners’.

Yet another element of discord is shown in the quarrel between Oberon and Titania, which also has its ‘ real ‘ effect in the transformation of the seasons and confusion in nature:

The spring, the summer,

The childing autumn, angry winter change

Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world

By their increase now knows not which is which. (2.1.111-14)

The passions generated by these quarrels are all part of the felt experience of the play for an audience. The stylistic control is exercised through the verse structure, the patterning of the action, and through the aesthetic distancing of the lovers’ quarrels into, as it were, a play within the play; this ensures the promise of a genial outcome.


For Oberon and Puck, who supervise the lovers, and take care that in the end no harm is done, the woods are a different sort of place. Titania accuses Oberon of stealing away from ‘Fairyland’ in pursuit of amorous adventures, or more directly, from India (2.1.65, 69).

The experiences of the lovers, their changes and illusions, have a deeper meaning in so far as their release from the restraints of the court and control of the law leads to the working out of sensual and violent impulses and a measure of self-discovery.

It would not do to press such an argument too far in relation to characters as slightly drawn as Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius; but for them, as for Titania, the return to daylight, to reason, leads to a joyful acceptance or renewal of the bonds of love, and so their experiences in the wood are ‘admirable’, to be wondered at, for the effect they have.

Some critics have argued that the play upholds the importance of dreams or fantasy, and demonstrates that reason impoverishes the imagination.  Other critics have suggested instead that it exposes the absurdities of the imagination and gives approval to the voice of reason.

Oberon and Titania in any case belong to ‘Fairyland’ (2.1.65), which is everywhere and nowhere, and are no more Indian than they are Athenian or English. If Oberon’s practical joke on Titania can be related to patriarchal oppression and control of women in the sixteenth century, the fleeing of the lovers to the forest may be seen as an escape from the restrictions of society and tyranny of parents into a green world where Hermia and Helena, Lysander and Demetrius are freed to express themselves, quarrel, make up, and choose their mates, with a little help from Puck’s magic. At the same time, from the opening lines the play allows the possibility of contrary interpretations, according to the way Hippolyta behaves in response to the speech of Theseus:

Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword,

And won thy love doing thee injuries;

But I will wed thee in another key,

With pomp, with triumph, and with revelling. (1.1.16-19)

Hippolyta says nothing, and remains silent until she leaves the stage, possibly at this point (there is no stage direction) or possibly later when all but Lysander and Hermia depart at line 127. In some productions Hippolyta has avoided Theseus and made her exit alone, as if feeling her ‘injuries’ and rejecting male dominance, while in others she willingly bonds to Theseus. Hippolyta’s silence can be used to suggest harmony or to ‘deepen a split between her and Theseus’.  Whatever choice is made at this point may affect the way the rest of the play is treated, and permits a feminist reading that would emphasise overbearing males and female resistance to male authority. Egeus could then be played as tyrannical monster rather than a tetchy father misguidedly trying to do his best for his daughter Hermia.

Another significant relationship for interpreting the play is that Theseus has taken Hippolyta by force of arms, and the draconian laws of Athens provide the death penalty for a daughter like Hermia who disobeys her father. Oberon and Titania quarrel, causing disorder in the natural world, and the lovers need Puck’s aid to stop them fighting. Transformed into an ass,

Bottom remains himself, still recognisable to his friends Snout and Quince even as he is ‘changed’ and ‘translated’ (3.1.96, 98). He is too preoccupied with eating and sleeping to n otice Titania’s attempts to couple with him, yet there is something disturbing about the hint of bestiality underlying the comedy here. Theseus and his court condescend to Bottom and the mechanicals in the last act, reaffirming their authority and class superiority. A play that is concerned with the ‘course of true love’ and ends with fairies blessing the bridal beds, frequently calls attention to the sexual drives that are so potently imaged in the lovers’ quarrels and Titania doting on Bottom. The society depicted remains patriarchal. These factors all thicken the texture

of the play, and contribute to its complexity, but need to be seen in relation to the comic dream that shapes the action. The play moves from discord to peace and from anger to laughter. Discords are resolved by the end of the fourth act, and the final act is centred on the playlet of Pyramus and Thisbe, which may be the silliest stuff Hippolyta has heard (5.1.204), but remains still perhaps the funniest of all interludes for most theatre audiences. It makes absurd parental authority, the passion of lovers, discord, and death itself, toppling tragedy into farce, and so puts into comic perspective all the quarrels and bitterness of the previous action. After all has been

said about the political and social contexts of the play, its ‘figurations of gender and power’, and its threats of violence, the play remains, deepened but unscathed in its marvellous drive on stage towards a festive conclusion that is enhanced by laughter.

It is, after all, a comedy, and it has been well said that ‘Comedy is a momentary and publicly useful resistance to authority and an escape from its pressures; and its mechanism is a free discharge of repressed psychic energy or resentment through laughter. Its purpose is comparable to the release of the dream.” The title of the play indeed suggests the idea of such release.

Week 7 – White-Face Bromeliads on 20 Hectares, Stir Fry Texts, SlippingGlimpse, Window


Instructions: Allow this page to cycle for a while so you can take in some of the images and variant titles. When you are ready, press “begin”. Once there, read each page slowly, even aloud, watching as each line periodically re-constitutes itself re-generating randomly selected lines with that line’s variant. Eight-line poems have 256 possible versions; nine-line poems have 512 possible versions.

These are the reading notes for Glazier’s poem, which he describes as a “JavaScript investigation of literary variants with a new text generated every ten seconds.”

What is it like to read a poem whose stanzas are randomly re-constituted before you have the opportunity to read them in their entirety? What is the difference between knowledge and experience: in this case, knowledge that the poem’s possibilities are pre-scripted by the relationship between the poet’s lines and the programmer’s algorithm, experience while watching the poem shift before your eyes. Do you see any interesting or significant linkages between variations? Is there anything in the formal structure or textual content of the stanza that holds it together, even as it changes? These are just a couple questions to consider as you read Glazier’s poem today.

As you begin to experiment with Jim Andrews’ site Stir Fry Texts and its collection of texts by various writers, read this short essay by Andrews on the concept of Stir Fry Texts that helps to explain how it is positioned in a literary history which includes William S. Burroughs concept of the cut-up. If you want a short definition of the cut-up, the technique Burroughs was experimenting with in 1950s and 1960s, here is how he describes it in one place:

The method is simple. Here is one way to do it. Take a page. Like this page. Now cut down the middle and cross the middle. You have four sections: 1 2 3 4 … one two three four. Now rearrange the sections placing section four with section one and section two with section three. And you have a new page. Sometimes it says much the same thing. Sometimes something quite different–(cutting up political speeches is an interesting exercise)–in any case you will find that it says something and something quite definite. Take any poet or writer you fancy. Heresay, or poems you have read over many times. The words have lost meaning and life through years of repetition. Now take the poem and type out selected passages. Fill a page with excerpts. Now cut the page. You have a new poem. As many poems as you like. As many Shakespeare Rimbaud poems as you like. Tristan Tzara said: “Poetry for everyone.” And Andre Breton called him a cop and expelled him from the movement. Say it again: “Poetry is for everyone.” Poetry is a place and it is free to all cut up Rimbaud and you are in Rimbaud’s place. Here is a Rimbaud cut up.

“Visit of memories. Only your dance and your voice house. On the suburban air improbable desertions … all harmonic pine for strife. The great skies are open. Candor of vapor and tent spitting blood laugh and drunken penance. Promenade of wine perfume opens slow bottle. The great skies are open. Supreme bugle burning flesh children to mist.”

Cut ups are for everyone. Any body can make cut ups. It is experimental in the sense of being something to do. Right here write now. Not something to talk and argue about. Greek philosophers assumed logically that an object twice as heavy as another object would fall twice as fast. It did not occur to them to push the two objects off the table and see how they fall. Cut the words and see how they fall. Shakespeare Rimbaud live in their words. Cut the word lines and you will hear their voices.

Andrews takes this idea of writer as re-mix artist and offers a platform for performing a kind of web-based cut-up:

If we acknowledge that our ideas are drawn not always from a blank tablet but are instead indebted to the work of those whom we have read and heard and seen, we see that much of what we do, however original, is cut together from the work of others. More generally, the language we use is gotten not from a blank tablet but from what has gone before. So there is a sense in which even this sort of writing is a cut up or cut together.

What’s new in the stir frys is the spastic interactivity they give to the reader/viewer, the way that they insist on hanging together as texts, physically, anyway and, if they are successful as texts, rather than simply as langwidgetical text toys, the range of insights they afford into themselves and the random and the cut up and the Web and into oneself, since the stir frys allow you to make your own texts.

Enjoy experimenting with these texts, and remember to deploy the critical reading skills you’ve been honing throughout the course.

Week 6 – Electronic Literature – Flash Video

Paper #2 has been posted under Assignments

With one HTML hypertext under our belts, we’re going to take a look at some other forms of electronic literature this week. We’ll look at four shorter works.

Some of the literature we’re going to explore this week makes use of Flash Video.  I’ve created a course video for you, here, which will give you a few things to think about when reading these.  I’ve also posted a facsimile of the original 1633 published text of “Easter Wings”, a very short poem by the 17th century poet George Herbert.   I’ve uploaded it to the files section of our ELMS course site.  The course video explains its connection to the works we’re reading this week.


Selecting one of the pieces of electronic literature we read this week, consider in your blog post some of the ways that it works with existing expectations that readers bring from their experience of reading literature in print. How does it undermine those expectations or redefine the possibilities for what literature might be? Consider in particular this quote from the opening of the essay on electronic literature we read by Katherine Hayles, but also feel free to bring in other aspects of what she discusses, along with your own thoughts:

“Readers come to digital work with expectations formed by print, including extensive and deep tacit knowledge of letter forms, print conventions, and print literary modes. Of necessity, electronic literature must build on these expectations even as it modifies and transforms them. At the same time, because electronic literature is normally created and performed within a context of networked and programmable media, it is also informed by the powerhouses of contemporary culture, particularly computer games, films, animations, digital arts, graphic design, and electronic visual culture. In this sense electronic literature is a “hopeful monster” (as geneticists call adaptive mutations) composed of parts taken from diverse traditions that may not always fit neatly together.”

In answering this question, as always, take particular care to locate specific, citable evidence of the claims you are making about the work in question.  Some items you might consider are:

– If this is a kinetic text, how do the text/images move?  What meaning is evoked by the movement?

– Does the movement amplify the text’s meaning or create contradictory or other interpretive possibilities?

– If textual elements are static, why do they seem to be?

– What parameters have been established for the reader/user?

– What is the role of the reader/user in the text?  What agency does the reader/user find in their interaction?

– How is the textual responsiveness / irresponsiveness significant?

– What is the relation between the aural and visual components?

– What do the aural components contribute to the text?

– How is the resulting work shaped by the tools used to create it?