continue towards a vector-model of hypertext narrative

Aristotle's Poetics: some affirmations and critiques

Ingrid Hoofd, National University of Singapore

The Greek philosopher Aristotle described in his 'Poetics' a set of rules to describe an 'ideal narrative'. These broadly consist of the following:

In my opinion, there are three points to start with at which Aristotle's conceptualisation of an 'ideal narrative' cannot be applied to reading hypertext in our postmodern era:

  1. Aristotle had a very 'biological' idea of the connection between the narrative and the reader: as if the events in a narrative where somehow materially injected in certain parts of the brain or nerve system of the spectator/listener. The reader is thus regarded as some biological 'constant', which is an allusion that no longer holds in our era where readers are highly differentiated on axes like age, gender, ethnicity and geographical location.
  2. Similarly, Aristotle regarded the context or intertext of a narrative as mostly 'constant'. His concepts are very situated in the specific historical and geographical space of Greece some 2000 years ago.
  3. Therefore, his idea of 'mimesis' as a truthful reflection of 'reality' therefore also cannot hold since today it would make more sense to talk of 'multiple realities' for different readers. The reader activity and background therefore becomes much more important in thinking about what happens when hypertext narratives are 'read'.

We would therefore need to transform these notions into a set of rules that are more applicable to our age, and thus regard the reader(s) of hypertext, as well as the intertextual/contextual surroundings of a docuverse as all being variable texts (see figure 1).

It would thus from the outset be better to talk about 'mimeses' instead of mimesis. Furthermore, the idea of a rigid begin, middle and end in hypertext will not hold, because the strength of hypertext lies exactly in the emphasis on multiple readers who will plunge in where they want to. This does not mean that there is no begin, middle and end in a docuverse though; as The "Reconfiguring Narrative" in Hypertext 2.0 poses, "Linearity .. then becomes a quality of the individual reader's experience.." (p.184), these attributes will be assigned by the docuverse's reader(s) and will thus be variable, but still there.

figure 1

continue towards a vector-model of hypertext narrative

Cyberspace Web Hypertext