Patchwork Girl Comments

Gidon Felsen (English 112, 1996)

Every part of me is linked to other territories alien to it but equally mine. Shin bone connected to the thigh bone, thigh bone connected to the hip bone: borrowed parts, annexed territories.

Shelley Jackson's creation is in essence a hypertextual being. While none of her body parts originally belonged together, the fact that they are now part of a single body forces us to view them as an organic whole. This beautifully parallels a basic notion of hypertext, which is that any texts can be combined to form a single document simply by linking them. A line in an Agatha Christie novel can be linked to a recipe for Spam soufflé, and the very fact that they are linked makes them a single document. While this obviously opens up many new possibilities for both the author and the reader, it can also be quite disorienting.

"I'd like it better riding a strong steady flow, guaranteeing that if I boarded a Mississippi steamboat at x I would certainly pass through y before disembarking at z."

This is the opinion of those who prefer more traditional notions of writing over the multilinear feature of hypertext. Some prefer to read a document as it "was meant to be read" by the author. They find hypertextual reading to be somewhat "artificial," since they can choose their own paths through the document. But that is exactly why an author chooses to write in hypertext, because he wants to give the reader control over his reading.