My Potty: Reading Shelley Jackson next to three elderly gentlemen in the Sci-Li

Ian Jones

Reading Shirley Jackson's My Body has indeed been a hypertextual experience, as some members of the class have fetishized and some have disliked. Since each and every reader in the class has had a different experience digesting this story, following their own links and meandering over the carcass (link to My Body) touching those body parts as they saw fit, I find it hard to comment on anything other than the basic principles which have already been discussed (the structure of the links, the writing, a critiquing of the use of visual and text elements). So perhaps I should just share my experience as a reader...

So it was mid-afternoon, a beautiful day, and I was spending it in the Sci-Li basement- trying to finish my Cyberspace, Virtual Reality and Critical Theory reading. It was pretty packed... Brown students searching the abstracts for papers to paraphrase, and a group of aged men (post-professor emeritis stage) consulting Josiah next to me. Calling up My Body on my laptop, I began to read and write my paper. All went well...arm, skin, butt, until I got to the vagina... the old men next to me got distracted..."pee... vagina... Joyce..." The next thing I knew, I was fleeing from the scandalous looks of the old men into the bathroom, my laptop in hand. I slipped on the wet tiles, and before I time to say Beaudrillard three times fast... my laptop flew into the toilet. When I had retrieved the device and turned it on. I noticed that the words on the screen had changed. My potty had rewritten Jackson. It was then I knew I was going to write this essay...

Reading about Jackson's vagina rewriting classical literature, I guess I was struck by Jackson's use of the body to rewrite her projected identity and memory. By using her body as an autobiographical mechanism, Jackson forces her body into the electronic realm, forces us to consider how our own identities are truly interlaced with our physical realities. This is particularly striking given the non-corporial forms of relating and getting to know other people in other digital forums... such as MOOs (like our class' experience with Jesse's which was truly disorienting and disembodied- just picture George P. Landow as a talking statue or the fact that several students were online as several different identities at once) As Jesse (link to) states better than I:

The coming of the computer age has brought about something more exciting than free porn, and more useful than the ability to order a pizza to your door without ever having to pick up the phone. It has brought into reach the ability for communication on a scale far grander than any public square or even any newspaper could ever offer. Never before has there every been the opportunity for individuals to step out of their physical surroundings and into a situation where traditional stereotypes have no meaning and where the words that are spoken mean everything.

In integrating her body in such a complete way into our understanding of her, Jackson enables not only her personality, but also her physicality to come through the text. To me, this meant most of my time reading was not spent reading myself into her autobiography (which is what I usually do with autobiographical sketches- compare and contrast, try to identify and relate to the author), but rather reading myself into my own body. Thus my computer, instead of being (as is conventionally the case) adevice that furthers the separation of mind and body, of physical space and virtual/mental space, rather serves to reinforce my body's presence and importance in my living experience.

Discussion of Patchwork
Girl Patchwork Girl Overview Screen
for Website Body and Self