English 738T, Spring 2015
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Re-working Patchwork Girl

Posted by Sara Lyons on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 at 1:04 pm - (0 Comments)

I’m interested in what Denis and Kyle discuss in their posts, as far as our class project on Frankenstein and PWG. So, I would like to propose that we produce a product like PWG that re-tells Frankenstein and PWG specifically in terms of the creator/created dynamic. I’m very interested in how creation seems to be at the center of these two products, and how the content of each reflects a literal creation in the forming of the very thing reflecting the act of creation (the texts). If we do it this way, we can address the problems of access in regard to PWG, especially given Jackson’s apparent want for freedom of her creation. Not only will this promote the point of our project (in my opinion) but it will also reflect the “problem” of controlling or “caging” a creation/creature once it has been released into the world. Furthermore, I would like to include the “quilt” aspect within our project. In both of the texts the creations are made from a number of different sources, as are the texts themselves – Jackson’s quote about many authors and ghost writing comes into play here.

Overall I would like to produce a text that reflects and complicates the notion of the creator and the creation when it comes to the act of creation itself (How many people are involved? What were the literal and figurative influences?) and the role of control the creator has versus the control over the creation.

Author as Creator – Possible PG Idea

Posted by Denis Dodson on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 at 12:18 am - (0 Comments)

“I had made her, writing deep into the night by candlelight, until the tiny black letters blurred into stitches and I began to feel that I was sewing a great quilt, as the old women in town do night after night, looking dolefully out their windows from time to time toward the light in my own window and imagining my sins while their thighs tremble under the heavy body of the quilt heaped across their laps, and their strokes grow quicker than machinery and tight enough to score deep creases in the cloth. I have looked with reciprocal coolness their way, not wondering what stories joined the fragments in their workbaskets”

I may have chosen the worst possible day to get sick.  Hopefully this post won’t be too-terribly useless, as I missed the PG class.  However, I am VERY curious about the writing aspects of both PG and Frankenstein.  PG seems to be absolutely dripping with images of writing and creating, but in a very strange, and perhaps more obvious, way compared to Frankenstein.  In both cases, the concept of writing as creation (Walton, for example) seem to be incredibly important.  Particularly in the above quotation, the concept of writing, and “thighs tremble” (perhaps a nod to childbirth?) hints to creation through authorship.  I am not entirely sure what to make of it as of yet, but I believe there is a lot to be made from the authors, as creators of works focusing primarily on creation, in conversation.  Because of this, professor Fraistat’s offering of “an as yet to be articulated “Reference” section that would provide a bibliography for the various citations used in the text as well as including other relevant sources” could be very useful, perhaps, in examining what can be read from the citations present from both a literary and authoritative standpoint as the pieces work in conversation with one another.

Frankenstein: Walton and the Human Prosthetic

Posted by Denis Dodson on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 at 11:37 pm - (4 Comments)

While many of us probably have different variations on the work of Frankenstein, I became very interested in the cover of my Longman Cultural Edition, which I realized in class is the second edition, and promptly purchased the kindle first edition.  However, the cover featured the painting The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli.  The painting depicts a woman, sleeping sprawled across her bed, with a demon sitting on her chest with a ghostly horse peering through her bed curtains.  This eerie scene is commonly stated to be a possible influence on the death of Elizabeth at the hands of the creature in Frankenstein.  While interesting, I am more focused on the modern interpretation of the painting as depicting sleep paralysis – a form of nightmare in which the victim is awake, but immobile.  This concept of paralysis, at least in my opinion, is continually represented throughout Frankenstein as a whole, but most notably referenced through the desire for human emotion, going as far as building prosthetics of communication in the form of living and nonliving creations.

The work seems to be obsessed with the concept of communication, and the desire to sympathize with another human being.  Walton seems to exemplify this in his second letter, by stating:

“But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy and the absence of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil.  I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy…I shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor medium for the communication of feeling.  I desire the company of a man who could sympathize with me…” (8)

By stating that he isn’t able to “satisfy” “the absence of the object”, Walton seems to be stating that he is missing a part of himself by the lack of communication and connection.  He goes on throughout his other letters to describe how miserable he has become at the absence of simply a friend.  In this way, it can be  read that the absence of human contact is debilitating for Walton – not necessarily painful, but a form of depressing stasis or paralysis.  This is interesting, however, because Walton is saying these things in the form of written letters, an example of communication, to his sister.  Walton confronts this contradiction, however, by stating, “I shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor medium for the communication of feeling”, which would lead the reader to believe that Walton doesn’t necessarily view writing as an incredibly viable form of emotional connectivity.  However, upon first meeting professor Frankenstein, Walton’s immediate response, rather than simply listening to the man, is to write down his story, seemingly verbatim.  In this way, I would argue that, because Walton’s first response is to write a story, it is a reflection of Walton’s desire for human contact.  Because Walton fills his “absence of the object” through this piece of writing, the writing is a reflection of, as well as the cure for, the desire for human contact.  If the reader infers that the work of Frankenstein is Walton’s personal cure for an “absence”, the work becomes an emotional prosthetic for Walden’s personal missing, or “absent”, piece of himself.  So I am therefore interested – in a work dedicated and obsessed with the concept of creation and prosthetic, what does it mean that the work itself, Walton’s writing, is a form of emotional prosthetic in itself?

Patchwork Girl Project: Post-Gender

Posted by Collin Lam on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 at 2:37 pm - (0 Comments)

As we know from reading Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, it involves a strong feminist reading and re-writing of Shelley’s Frankenstein; one that endeavors to animate the “marginalia” between Shelley’s words. This “marginalia” is the female monster, both the one not created by Shelley and the one written by Jackson. But, it is also the female monster that Jackson believed resided within Shelley herself. The young, marginalized female writer in a world of male writing. What if we were to try and construct this project around a non-gendered “subject” or monster. In our age of burgeoning transgender/pan-sexual/a-sexual/neutral-gender rights, the demarcation of male and female is becoming an antiquated and constricting identity distinction. Could we try to create our project out of a posthumanist, yes, but also post-gender position? Perhaps something akin to Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body, but in hypertext form? Since many of the people who consider themselves outside the confines of the female/male distinction still don’t possess much, or sometimes any, political representation, I think we could consider them to be our contemporary “marginalia”; those that are marginalized outside the primary conversation of identity politics.

Reading Frankenstein, I was intrigued at Victor’s “choosing” of body parts and wondered if he chose particular pelvises or penises for the most “beautiful” male genitalia. We simply assume while reading that he has attached male genitalia (there is a tongue-cheek moment there of male bonding), since the creature is considered male. But, what if he chose neither male nor female genitalia? What if we ventured by the same choice, not to choose one over the other? I’m not exactly sure how this would play out by “pirating” Jackson’s/Shelley’s work into our own, but I do like the fact that “pirating” concerns itself with skirting just outside the periphery of the law; a place that those who do not fall within the male/female distinction exist as well (political law and social “law” or normativity). The formal structuring of the project could embody the same premise as Jackson’s. And as Kayla suggested in her earlier post, there would be a multitude of voices, and their identity would not be founded on the physical or material manifestation (or telling) of gendered parts but on the identification of their distinct voices in contrast to a representation of “law” (either political or even Eastgate).

Ideas for a Patchwork Girl Hypertext Project

Posted by Kayla Harr on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 at 2:38 am - (0 Comments)

One section I would be interested in incorporating into our project is one that allows us to reflect critically on Patchwork Girl by putting its text in conversation with Frankenstein and perhaps other texts. I’m envisioning lexia that integrate the texts and additionally include our own reflections, a mode of meditating or dreaming about the texts (like a bit of a mix between the phrenology and crazy quilt in the original, perhaps — though I don’t presently have access to the hypertext to compare). I’m not sure if this would make sense as part of a graveyard or journal section, or somewhere else, but I am particularly interested in this form of commenting on and exploring the possibilities of the text. I also think that either in this potential section or elsewhere it is important that we somehow acknowledge the multiplicity of authorship in our text. Just as Jackson imagines a body in which multiple voices are active, we are creating a body of text that brings together several perspectives, critical interests, and authorial and editorial voices. Our text will be a literalization of a creature that has been stitched together out of multiple parts and sources.

I also have a couple other random ideas: I think it would be interesting to consider using excised parts of Frankenstein in our text given Patchwork Girl’s emphasis on embracing refuse and that which is unwanted (see the lexia titled “beauty”). Thinking about the Frankenstein manuscript and how it might relate to our project also made me wonder about imagining Victor interacting with Patchwork Girl, or even Percy Shelley editing the hypertext. Based on his editing of Frankenstein, how do we think he might change Patchwork Girl? How might Jackson — or her text, or her creature — respond?

Hinge Narration: Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl

Posted by Collin Lam on Monday, March 2nd, 2015 at 3:04 pm - (1 Comments)

“The hinges, marks of separation and meeting, remain like quotes around a missing presence.” -Heather McHugh “Essay at Saying”

At the beginning of the semester, we discussed the identity of the “Book”. The Romantic ideal that seems to attach itself to a uniformly understood construction of material narrative. We attempted to understand exactly what the “Book” might be and in what forms might it manifest. Is there such thing as the “Book”, or is it merely a placeholder term for an unformed, ever changing notion of how a narrative is presented to us? The digital push in the humanities has been an attempt to dislodge the formerly static idea of the “Book” from its historically material constraints, i.e. paper, bindings, the spine, ink. However, revisiting works such as Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” and its unusual formulation at the time of its publications proffers a more historically complicated notion of the “Book” than we might have first imagined or would entirely attribute to digital humanities alone. Blake’s etching method (relief etching) and its painstaking process of disintegrating away the unprotected metal until only the “illuminated” remained can undoubtedly be hailed as a “hacking” of sorts. His unconventional method of printing bypassed the contemporary method of book printing for both his time and ours.

While book “hacking” has been far more common in today’s print culture, which can be seen often times in the benign form of children’s literature like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, postmodern literature, or, more recently, digital literature (hypertext narratives), the resilient moniker of “Book” still remains. In regard to hypertext fiction like Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, however, the stability of the “Book” begins to slightly waver. Citationally, as I have done in the last sentence (and this one), Patchwork Girl continues to be represented as a book for purposes of academic clarity, but any discussion of its formal structure would hesitate to apply such a seemingly inapplicable term to it. Like her monster, Jackson’s Patchwork Girl is an amalgamation of parts yet still a whole; it is a world(s) (a)part, comprised of disjunctive frames of narrative that are attached to each other formalistically (hypertext), but only by way of interactive, sub-formal access (clicking on the hypertext). It is what I’d like to call hinge narration. Unlike non-narrative hypertext such as Wikipedia pages or social media hyperlinks, which I would deem more a system of hypertextual information than narrative, hinge narration posits its own need for artistic conclusion, but more ephemerally it helps enact a certain form of self-identification that “hinges” on narrative closure. Hinge narration works, like postmodern art, as a way to show how it observes, not necessarily what it observes. Formalistically, and in relation to traditional, material book narratives, Patchwork Girl illuminates the passages (understood as the “quilt” passages of the text and the immaterial connections between them) of artistic narrative. The “map” in the Storyscape of Patchwork Girl literally shows the passages to the narrative passages; it makes obvious what is not obvious in normative narrative construction (the material book). We see the stitches which comprise the body of the text, the “scars” that are shown remind us of those hidden by past bodies. Through creating her “monster”, Jackson unveils the negative space of narrative; the jagged, appositional relations of letters, words, sentences, and ideas that we make within our minds while reading. The “hinges” come to the surface and, furthermore, show us that the narrative door is capable of being closed and open simultaneously. We can take each “quilt” or rectangular frame as an enclosed passage of writing and as a point of departure. Yet, more so, these illuminated “hinges” invoke the memory of narrative as well. It is not enough to simply follow the passages set forth for us but to recognize that Jackson’s hinge narrative recollects the past by embarking on a genealogical endeavor to unearth the dead (Mary Shelley), reanimate it within a new body of textuality, force a return to our own reading past and reading the past itself by quoting other readers, and concluding somewhere/anywhere within the passages of time and its narrative. Indeed, in order for it to perform any act of self-identification or presence (present), it must find its own narrative end/conclusion in the conclusion of the past, but as Faulkner said and Jackson enacts: “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Thus, that closure may come in one, few, or all of those quilted passages or even with the image of the women herself , which we find –

At the beginning

Using Twine | Personal thoughts on PG project

Posted by Kyle Bickoff on Monday, March 2nd, 2015 at 12:58 pm - (0 Comments)

Hi all,

As promised, I’m sending along some information on Twine. Twine is open-source software (so free of cost and freely editable). It also runs inside your web browser, so there’s no need to do any ‘proper’ installs to run the tool (so, it runs in modern browsers including firefox and chrome; also safari and IE—if you call those last two ‘modern’).

Here’s the homepage for Twine. You can download Twine by following the link in the upper-right hand corner: http://twinery.org/

If you are looking for a really easy-to-read walkthrough, try this link: http://www.auntiepixelante.com/twine/

Are you looking for some samples texts and asking yourself, what can Twine really do?? If so, try this link or this one (They both have very nice interfaces—the former is formatted more like a book, while the latter more like a piece of text-based IF).

If you’re still curious for more info (particularly as you turn from ‘Twine Novice’ to ‘Twine Expert’), Twine has a really nice wiki that can answer most questions you’ll encounter, and also explains all of the advanced features that this tool is capable of: http://twinery.org/wiki/


Last class, Neil asked us to post a bit about what we’d like to see done with PG for the class project. Personally, I think something along the lines of a reimagining of the text, perhaps in the piratical sense of “PG 2.0” is ideal to me. That being said, I understand that there are some logistical difficulties that we might run into. I realize that this post is sounding vague, but that’s intentional–we discussed some of the finer details in class. I think that my ideal project has us creating PG 2.0 on Twine, or a similar platform. Then the final version of what we create would be hosted on the web, possibly on a series of mirrored sites and servers spread across the web by an anonymous party. We wouldn’t need to take credit, and credit wouldn’t be “due” to anyone. The idea of reviving and setting Jackson’s PG free seems desirable to me. As we discussed in class, I see Jackson’s PG as caged in by current copyright law, by the constraints of the media (CD-ROM, USB drive, Floppy disk) and barred away behind these constructs.

I’d like to think some day I might stare into the abyss of cyberspace, while sailing through the cyber-glaciers that inhabit this realm, only to catch a glimpse of Victor’s creature, Shelley’s creature, and Jackson’s creature (embodied however they might be) knowing they’re free and wandering the world, driving sledges, trailing off beyond my vision into that abyss that is cyberspace…


PWGProject-A Journal

Posted by Ruth on Monday, March 2nd, 2015 at 12:34 pm - (0 Comments)

One section in Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl that I think we should consider including in our project is a journal. The journal in PWG outlined the creation of the female monster and Mary Shelley’s reaction to her creation’s initial growth. The journal, in general, is a self-reflective form that offers insight into the writer’s motives, emotion, and ideas that might not come out in any other part of the text. Our journal section, like Shelley Jackson’s (written in Mary’s voice) will be an outlet for our collective experience of brainstorming, consolidating, writing, and creating our text. It will reflect not necessarily our process, but our understanding of our what our text undertakes and the issues that undertaking might reveal.

The question, that should be considered when putting together our journal, if we include it, is whose voice we should use. In PWG girl Shelley Jackson uses Mary Shelley’s voice to make us question the idea of authorship of the text as well as to provide the creator’s perspective on the female monster she created. If our aim for the project is to ‘rescue’ Shelley Jackson’s patchwork girl from its current prison of outdated technology whose voice would best serve? Overall, it probably depends on the focus our text takes. Will it be more on the story/plot that we come up with? Or will it be our own experience of ripping Jackson out of her well stitched cell?

If we focus more on plot what might that plot be? Will we try to mimic Jackson and make her a character, or rather, co-conspirator, in our text? If that is the case the journal might be written from her perspective taking, like she did for Mary Shelley, excerpts from her original text (perhaps about letting her writing free into the world). In this version, the text would take on the form of the female monster and we might write a fictionalized Jackson as we all (her and us) reflect on and try to set free her text. However, we might also write a literal ‘monster’ into our story if we wished to continue the theme. Making up our own new creation might stretch the idea a bit far, but what if we brought back a creature from previous texts? My initial thought was just to bring back Mary’s (and Jackson’s) female creature but what if we brought back both? What if the female and the male monster came to Shelley Jackson to help free her own creation, or to make a new one? The latter might be a little out of our scope, but I think we could make an argument why both creature’s might be concerned about the status of their (somewhat) shared stories and the author(s) who ‘made’ them.

This has taken me far away from where I started. But, a journal section in a story about the return of the male and female monster written by a real and fictionalized Shelly Jackson would not only provide a new narrative, but raise the kinds of questions we might might want to spur within our text. That kind of self-reflexive voice that Jackson tried to capture in Mary Shelley’s journal in PWG. Does a text ‘belong’ to anybody? Does the creation necessarily depend upon or have any duty to its creator(s)? Can the male and female monster collaborate effectively? And, what does our involvement in the story do to inflate the issues of authorship/creation Jackson already included in her text of PWG? Our journal would be our reaction to what we have attempted to do with our text, either told through our voices directly, or through Jackson, as fellow creator. Either way, it would be an important outlet for our own uneasiness as well as our satisfaction with our own ‘monster’.

The Human Touch

Posted by Justin Thompson on Friday, February 27th, 2015 at 12:07 pm - (3 Comments)

When we talk about digital archives and the grand potential of digital media, a part of me cries out in protest. I love books. I love reading books. And I love buying books. There is something about the materiality of books that speaks to me. Two Christmases ago, my family purchased a Kindle for me, expecting that this device would allow me to continue my voracious reading without spending as much money or taking up as much space. Instead, I gave the Kindle to my Mother for Christmas this past year, having finally admitted that I could not abide by its digital demands.
I keep coming back to Walter Benjamin’s essay “Unpacking My Library.” It’s a beautiful work by a true bibliophile. In it, he writes, “Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.” When I hold a printed book, I am reminded of my younger self (if I have read it before) or am tempted to dream about the potential owners and path this item has taken to reach me. I own several books that are more than 100 years old, and I treasure them, less because of their contents (there are easier ways to access Kipling’s The Jungle Book, for instance) but because of the material history involved. How many hands have held this book? How many owners have lent it to friends or relatives? I know this all sounds a bit idealistic, but this is the mindset I had when class began a few weeks ago. A digital archive was a last resort, a place to find information you could not find in your well-worn copy of whatever volume you were investigating.
Now, after having some experience with archives — The William Blake Archive, the archival function of Romantic Circles, and a short exploration of the Shelley-Godwin Archive — my opinion has changed, albeit only slightly. The William Blake archive, in particular, serves one of the more important functions I envision for any digital trove: that of aggregation. As Neil pointed out, it was rare for Blake scholars to be able to view more than one print of Marriage of Heaven and Hell or The Book of Urizen in a lifetime. With this website, they can view nine extant copies of the same page. There are improvements to be made, of course. The aesthetic of the site, for instance, seems ill-suited to honor a man who so thoroughly combined his artistic and poetic abilities. The prints, or at least how we see them on the website, are flattened. The involved process that Blake employed (and invented) created plates with depth and, ultimately, prints with varying textures and thickness. This flatness robs the prints of some of their beauty and seems to simplify them. We are left with JPEGs of scans of books, several steps removed from the “true” article, as I see it. The Shelley-Godwin Archive then is an improvement on this method. By providing the manuscripts (of Mary Shelley, for example) and then matching those with clearer digital transcriptions, allows us to view the “true” article, the piece that most bears the imprint of a human touch. And, perhaps, that is what I most fear losing as we transition into digital archives.

Hacking the print book

Posted by Manon Soulet on Sunday, February 22nd, 2015 at 12:50 am - (3 Comments)

Jumping from our presentation on the Blake Archive a couple weeks ago, I would like to dedicate this blog post to one particular issue raised by digitizing Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – and, generally speaking, by the process of digital remediation – that is the question of the materiality of the print book and its implications.

What do you lose by getting rid of the book? What does the print book offer that the digital one does not? Does the change of frame affect our reception of Blake’s work? According to Andrew Piper in Dreaming in Books, in the 19th century, “it was precisely the materiality of the book that provided the contours to such imagining, indeed to the imagination itself.” But what about TMHH? Blake himself experimented with the concept of the book by combining textual and visual elements in order to unsettle the reader’s reception; eventually contributing to the redefinition of literature. Blake already complicated the traditional signification of the book. With the development of digital technology, the role of the print book is no longer evident.

 Is literature contained within the print book? According to Piper, it was during the 19th century that this idea started to spread with “the emergence of this nexus between the book and literature”. Yet, the growing popularity of devices like Kindles and e-books seem to disprove it. Indeed, digitizing a book amounts to separating literature and print book by transposing literature onto another platform, another space removed from the physical book. According to Piper, it leads us to “reimagine a literary work as residing not in a single book but as part if an interrelated bibliographic network.” Matthew Kirschenbaum in his article entitled “Bookscapes: Modeling Books in Electronic Space” enriches this discussion by explaining that “books on the screen are not books, they are models of books.” What is literature then? For Katherine N. Hayles in “Print Is Flat, Code Is Deep: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis”, literature is to be met as “the interplay between form and medium.” Following this statement, we may wonder: what does a book do? To answer this question, Kirshenbaum identifies for instance what he calls five affordances of the book: “books are simultaneously sequential and random access”, “books are volumetric objects”, “books are finite”, “books offer a fundamentally comparative space”, and finally “books are writeable”.

As Piper explains about in the 19th century: “Adapting to books… was not something that just happened. It necessitated significant reorganizations of both social and individual identities.” The apparition of a new cultural media affected individual identities. The same can be said today about the development of digital culture. As a result of remediation, literature becomes a social experience, a collective process. It no long constitutes a private, intimate experience, but a public and interconnected one, shared across the WWW.

The same transition – from private to collective – goes for the print book itself. When we read a book online, it seems that the question of possession comes into account. We cannot possess anything online because we, as users, are separated from the object in question. And few people know better than students/lovers of literature that a book constitutes a valuable possession. Yet, considering that possessions sometimes work as a way to complete a person, it seems that when we are online, we are losing that sense of possession, and by extension, that sense of completeness. In this sense, reading a book online may, in a way, amount to losing or at least to dispense with a part of ourselves. Moreover, the remediation from print book to the web implies moving the text from a stable and monolithic structure to one that is ever changing. The digital space thrives on evolution; it guarantees interconnection, universal access, and no virtual limits, which in theory sounds like an ideal accomplishment. Yet, as a fluid form of communication, it also constitutes a space of constant mobility and updating, a tool that escapes control and with which the individual can never keep up and can even potentially lose him/herself.

Could a system based on universal access and inclusion turn out to be alienating? Are books bound to undergo re-edition, re-appropriation, transformation, and maybe eventually, disintegration? It sounds like a dreadful prospect – maybe something to think about…

Hayles, N K. “Print Is Flat, Code Is Deep: the Importance of Media-Specific Analysis.” Music Educators Journal. 90 (2004): 67-90. Print.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. “Bookscapes: Modeling Books in Electronic Space”. Human-Computer Interaction Lab 25th Annual Symposium. May 29, 2008.

Piper, A. “Dreaming in Books: the Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age.” Literature & History. 20.2 (2011): 97. Print.