On the Fate of Narrative

"the plural text, therefore cannot be a narrative structure, a grammar, or a logic. . . (Barthes, S/Z 6)."

". . . removing a single 'probable or necessary sequence of events' does not do away with all linearity. Linearity, however, then becomes a quality of the individual reader's experience within a single text and his or her experience following a reading path, even if that path curves back upon itself or heads in strange directions (Hypertext 2.0 184)."

Roland Barthes and George P. Landow agree that traditional forms of narrative will have to change so as not to restrict the new textuality. It is hardly possible to believe that the two authors are technically writing about two different things: Barthes is theorizing about the writerly text, and Landow is discussing the fate of Aristotelian narrative structure in relation to hypertext. However both authors understand quite clearly that the function of narrative has to be reconsidered when faced with the plural and reversible qualities of these new textual forms. For meaning to proliferate, and for the reader to negotiate the text freely, narrative has to become extremely malleable and dynamic. At this point the basic similarities between the writerly text and hypertext are strongly evident. Lastly and moreover, it seems that hypertext is the medium that makes it possible to bring the writerly text into being--at least it is far more capable of doing so than, say, the print page.

Cyberspace Web Main screen critical theory