This article was linked in the second post in Fish’s blog series (By the way, does Fish ever really say anything in any of those essays? I feel like he’s just getting paid to sit in his easy chair while he delivers self-satisfied prophesies of the end times). Anyway, I must thank Fish for linking Robert Coover’s “The End of Books” because it’s fascinating. Written in 1992, the essay implies, in its dramatic title and elsewhere, that books are ending because linear, authored narrative is becoming less useful to everyone and also because “hey, computers!” And of course, I mean OF COURSE, twenty years later hypertext fiction still hasn’t replaced the regular kind of fiction (whatever that is) because the regular kind of fiction is much easier for people to deal with. So print texts have simply become digitized.
But Coover’s article is also interesting because it’s pedagogical. He discusses how the hypertext form assists students in considering, dismantling, and undermining narrative structure. It facilitates a kind of experimental, collaborative authorship and also facilitates collaborative learning, which is theoretically the kind of learning upon which the academy is built. It seems like scholarship could benefit from a similar dismantling. What do we do when we do scholarship? We try to think of new ways to think about things. What do we do when we talk about something like intertextuality? We think about texts in a way that is boundless and nonlinear…like hypertext. Is writing a traditional academic paper in MLA style really the best vehicle for delivering ideas like intertextuality?
Twine is a free program that allows for quick, easy creation of hypertext documents. It seems like most people who use it are using it to write fiction/text games. On a similar note, Bee is a piece of interactive fiction by Emily Short about a young girl who is training for a spelling bee.