HYPERTEXT POETRY AND FICTION

Hypertext poetry and hypertext fiction are new genres of literature that use the computer screen as medium, rather than the printed page. The literary works rely on the qualities unique to a digital environment, such as linked World Wide Web pages or effects such as sound and movement.

Hypertext Poetry

Hypertext "poetry" can consist of words, although not necessarily organized into lines and stanzas, as well as, sounds, visual images, movement or other special effects. Although the poem may dazzling with sounds, perhaps of a lawnmower, while the words "mowing," "stop," "Sunday," and "morning" float across your computer screen in pseudo-three dimensional letters, one will have be hard pressed to identify the use of any formal poetics.

There are an infinite number of new and unusual effects that can be superimposed on text to create a hypertext poem, but below are some examples of types of "clickable" poems.

Definition:

Each word, phrase or line is linked to another page that defines or expands on the idea represented by the text of the poem.

Example: http://www.geocities.com/sarezale/frame2k.html

Movement:

The text of the poem moves as if it is hinged on a wheel while piano music plays in the background.

Example: http://home.ptd.net/~clkpoet/ohanf/oh.html

Make Your Own:

The text of the line of poetry is determined by when the reader clicks the "stop" button on his or her browser. The flashing words stop to create a line.

Example: http://www.experimedia.vic.gov.au/~komninos/excorp.html

For more information and more examples of hypertext poetry:

http://www.hphoward.demon.co.uk/poetry/hypelink.htm

http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/

 

Hypertext Fiction

For those who were children in the early 1990’s the principle behind hypertext fiction will not seem new. Instead, it will serve as a reminder of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" book series. Hypertext fiction is a collective effort between reader and writer, where the writer provides interlaced web pages of text and the reader decides what order to read the pages. In some hypertext works, readers can even add their own work to the fiction and change the plot.

Some examples of hypertext fiction:

A hypertext fiction piece entitle "24 Hours":

http://www.glasswings.com.au/GlassWings/modern/24hours/

A murder mystery where the reader determines dialogue and, in turn, the action:

http://nowtv.com/mystery/

Critics of Hypertext Literature:

Many critics in literary circles see hypertext fiction and poetry as a "humorless digital postmodern joke" (Lillington 1) that assaults readers with floating neon fonts and crude literary strategies, if any literary skill is present at all. They view hypertext as a threat to the overall integrity of literature because most anyone, without any training or editing, can post hypertext "poetry" or "fiction," even if their work does not include any traditional conventions. Proponents of hypertext literature argue that online texts are an original art form, which combines cinematic technique with live performance qualities, and is not designed to be viewed in the same light as printed literature (Lillington 1).

Hypertext has been a predictable mate for postmodern theorists, who believe in uncertainty and that texts are open to endless, shifting readings. The nature of hypertext embodies uncertainty by turning its back on traditional uses of point of view, voice and a sense of closure (Lillington 2). The postmodernists have been successful in establishing a connection between the new genre of hypertext and the accepted school of postmodern literary thought. An authoritative mark of their success was the recent inclusion of a J. Yellowlees Douglas’s hypertext work in the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Fiction, a standard text in American literary courses (Lillington 2).

 

Sources:

Kopowski, Gene. "Cyberscribes Turn Storytelling into ‘Hypertext’ Storysharing." Insight on the News 13 (1997): 36

Lillington, Karlin. "Breaking the Bounds of the Page." World Press Review 45 (1998): 46-47.