Analysing Works of Proto-Hyperfiction

“Analysing Works of Proto-Hyperfiction”

The creator of the web Tim Berners-Lee outlines what hypertexts are in this definition: “Hypertext was ‘nonsequential’ text, in which a reader was not constrained to read in any particular order, but could follow links and delve into the original document from a short quotation” (Berners-Lee, pp.5, 6).[1] A webpage containing hyperlinks constitutes a hypertext, and hypertexts were combined with fiction writing to produce hyperfiction.

What characterises hyperfiction are its non-linearity, interactivity, interconnectivity, multi-perspectivism, and fragmentariness. Also there is synchronicity, a result of branching narratives. It was my decision to write a work of hyperfiction that utilised all these elements as part of my dissertation, which led to researching the history of hyperfiction. What was learnt is that the narrative techniques and features commonly associated with hyperfiction have actually been appearing in print for quite some time.

An early novel to exhibit the narrative techniques seen in hyperfiction – making it a work of proto-hyperfiction – is Ulysses by James Joyce, those techniques being synchronicity, fragmentation, multiple perspectives, and interconnectivity. The section of Ulysses that displays these characteristics best is chapter ten, “Wandering Rocks”. This is set at the midway point of the novel, and is significant for its broad sweep and panoramic view of Dublin city from between 3-4pm. Rather than following just one narrative strand or a character’s viewpoint for the chapter’s entirety, Joyce skips instead from one character to another, producing the effect of synchronicity.

Time is an important theme in Ulysses, as with many other modernist texts. The modernists grappled with the difficulty in representing time as it is truly experienced, and in a temporal medium like reading that is not made easy: “Time is one of the preoccupations of major modernist authors… resulting in sometimes intricate narrative structures… They also indicate the tension between the human systemization of time and the way it is experience in the mind” (Van Hulle, p.141).[2]

The presence of time is felt from the very start of “Wandering Rocks”. From there the narrative jumps between different characters’ actions at roughly the same time, although separated by vast distances. The theme of synchronicity in this chapter is established by its inclusion in the Linati schema for this section: “the impression of intricate interconnection is primarily reinforced by the episode’s most important stylistic figure of simultaneity, which is listed in the Linati notes as ‘synchronism’” (Brown, p.64).[3]

How the synchronicity in “Wandering Rocks” is achieved is by moving between the nineteen sections corresponding to the different characters scattered throughout the city. In addition there are also interpolations – short jumps to a new character – that then immediately return to the original character: “More pointed ‘synchronisms’ still are the much-discussed thirty-one or thirty-three ‘interpolations’ that occur in fifteen out of the nineteen sub-sections and which radically condition the reading experience of the episode” (ibid, p.65).

These interpolations also serve to show how closely connected these separate individuals are, often passing extremely close by one another, though everyone is unaware of this except the reader. This gives the impression of the vast inter-connectedness of the city, and the idea that the chapter, and by extension Ulysses, is larger than its constituent parts, which is true also of hyperfiction.

The reader enjoys a very privileged position, able to look down on the citizens of the chapter in a style that has been described as God-like. In this way, and through interpolations, it is possible for the reader to be in multiple places at once, a kind of omnipresence: “the extraordinary nature of their synchronicity, can deliver an experience which… brings the reader closer to an intimation of totality that requires a God-like… point of view’” (ibid, p.66).

To emphasise the complicated network of connections in this chapter, Carlo Linati in his schema gives as the symbol for “Wandering Rocks” the “Labyrinth”. Richard Brown detects the theme of labyrinth/interconnections, which are central to hyperfiction as well: “literature was never so much like a crossword puzzle as it is here, and the figure of the puzzle or labyrinth was never so wholeheartedly embraced as a literary device” (ibid, p.65).

The narrative chunks that make up the chapter could be classed as “lexias”. These are fragments or blocks of text seen in hyperfiction, but which first appeared in the works of modernists like Gertrude Stein, Eliot and Joyce: “These ‘lexias’ or fragments of text reflect the emphasis on perspectivism and fragmentariness that characterizes numerous twentieth-century and contemporary works of literature” (Van Hulle, p.138). The fragmentariness of this chapter makes use of these lexias, helping to promote a sense of multi-perspectivism.

The structure of Ulysses at least initially is relatively conventional, following the character of Stephen for the first two chapters, and Bloom for the second. What relationship exists between them isn’t revealed until much later, nor do they encounter each other until quite far into the book as well. However the reader instinctively knows that both characters are destined to meet. But in “Wandering Rocks” both characters are side-lined, instead giving the chapter over to the nineteen supporting characters. This serves as a more representative or accurate reflection of city life, before an artificial, ordering narrative is imposed on it. What this narrative fragmentariness does is decentre the chapter, as Richard Brown points out: “one of the central features of the episode is the decentering of both Stephen and Bloom (who have hitherto been clearly enough the central protagonists of their respective episodes) in favour of a radically expanded multi-perspectival approach” (Brown, p.58).

On the subject of multi-perspectivism, J. Hillis Miller remarks how the medium of the novel is uniquely suited to showing the (dis)connections between characters’ minds: “The novel is especially fitted to investigate not so much the depths of individual minds as the nuances of relationships between mind and mind” (Miller, p.177).[4] How multi-perspectivism is employed in “Wandering Rocks” is with a large event such as the Viceregal Cavalcade that is witnessed by multiple characters, binding and connecting them together. The Viceroy is traveling across the city for a fundraiser, which forms the nineteenth, final section of “Wandering Rocks”, referred to as the Coda because of how it ties the earlier sections together. As it passes through the city different characters view the cavalcade in quick succession, and Joyce contrasts the diverging reactions to the spectacle, revealing the different characters’ sympathies and allegiances.

As this essay has shown, “Wandering Rocks” displays narrative techniques like non-linearity, synchronicity and fragmentariness that are seen today in hyperfiction. This is not limited to just “Wandering Rocks” but in fact all of Ulysses: “Ulysses manifests all the key qualities that very quickly became tropes in hypertext fiction… discontinuous, non-sequential, non-linear, reflective, encyclopaedic, cross-referential, etc” (Barnett et al, p.295).[5] Other critics have noticed how some of the aims of Joyce’s novel, like its interconnectivity, prefigure the internet and hypertexts in several ways: “Joyce predates (though, as we often see, also predicts) the Internet and the World Wide Web” (Brown, p.64).

The final scene in “Wandering Rocks” is very cinematic. Virginia Woolf in fact detected the effect cinema had on Joyce: “Woolf was one of the first critics to recognize the cinematic techniques of Ulysses. She observes that the narrative is ‘possibly like a cinema that shows you very slowly, how a hare does jump; all pictures were a little made up before’ (Modern Novels)” (Henke, p.40).[6]

Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway can also be said to borrow narrative features from the cinema, as Elaine Showalter notes: “Woolf makes use of such devices as montage, close-ups, flashbacks, tracking shots, and rapid cuts in constructing a three-dimensional story” (Showalter, p.xxi).[7] The features noted as being cinematic, such as multi-perspectivism and synchronicity, feature heavily in Mrs Dalloway as well. However unlike Ulysses, which chops and changes styles to suit each section, Mrs Dalloway holds a consistent style throughout.

How multi-perspectivism is conveyed in Mrs Dalloway is similar to Ulysses, the use of fragments or lexias from many different characters’ views. Like Ulysses, reading these lexias one after the other promotes the sense of an event’s synchronicity. Ann Banfield relates the development of this technique in Mrs Dalloway back to Joyce, and also Proust: “Woolf’s formulation suggests the design [of multiple perspectives] take a temporal order. Here she may have benefited from the two models of Proust and Joyce, both of whom she was reading while writing Mrs Dalloway. The novel borrows Ulysses’s unity of time and place” (Banfield, p.890).[8]

One key scene in Mrs Dalloway that achieves a similar fragmentariness and synchronicity to “Wandering Rocks” also involves a vehicle, though an automobile instead of a horse-drawn cart. The report of a car backfiring on Bond Street registers with many of the characters, the differences in their reactions speaking to their diverse and varied internal lives. Like with “Wandering Rocks” the perspectives are not limited to those characters who are somehow central or necessarily even appear in the novel ever again: “The event is registered by many minds, not only the major characters but ones created for the nonce by a proper name” (ibid, p.891). Showalter writes that “In the opening pages of the novel, an elegant closed motor car going up Bond Street provides a visual object upon which many people project their fantasies, allowing Woolf to pan from mind to mind with great economy and directness, and to capture the chaos in an image” (Showalter, p.xxiii).

To effect simultaneity, Woolf’s narrative mirrors the dispersion of sound, like the way car backfiring ripples through the onlookers: “The car had gone, but it had left a slight ripple which flowed through glove shops and hat shops and tailors’ shops on both sides of Bond Street” (Woolf, p.19).[9] Also, at regular intervals the sound of the bell from Big Ben reverberates through the narrative, producing a similar synchronous effect: “the strokes of Big Ben as a motif in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway do not merely emphasize the importance of time in this novel… They also indicate the tension between the human systemization of time and the way it is experience in the mind” (Van Hulle, p.141).

Hillis Miller also finds the use of lexias or short narrative fragments to convey simultaneity and multi-perspectivism. In order to move seamlessly between dispersed characters through London: “[The] sequential structure is made of the juxtaposition of longer or shorter blocks of narrative in which the narrator dwells first within Clarissa’s mind, then within Septimus Smith’s, then Rezia Smith’s, then Peter’s, then Rezia’s again, and so on” (Miller, p.179). Banfield observes how Woolf refers in her notes to the effect that getting inside her multiple characters’ points of view has on the narrative: “That multiplication of point of view would also explode each character, scattering the “shower of ideas” that “The Mark on the Wall” had spoken of, like the shot that scattered the rooks, a favourite metaphor” (Banfield, p.890). It is easy to see that the “shot” in question could stand for the car backfiring on Bond Street, Big Ben, and other examples throughout the novel.

Time weighs on Woolf as it does many of the modernists. Synchronicity is represented as well as could be in print, given the ordered way books are experienced, and the use of multiple perspectives and a fragmented narrative are effective in achieving this. Another way that Woolf engages with time is through memories. Similar to in “Wandering Rocks”, interpolations or jumps to a character’s distant past takes place in Mrs Dalloway. Through these interpolations the relationships between Clarissa, Sally Seton and Peter Walsh of 20+ years ago are revealed. This fact is not new or interesting of itself, but how these memories are framed is, because they occur during the present free-indirect narration of the individual characters, and appear to take place out of the normal sequence of events.

These tangents act as hyperlinks, whisking the reader away from the present time and sequence of events, to the past, where time is ordered differently. Crucially, when thoughts do return to the present they don’t disturb the contemporary time within Mrs Dalloway. Dirk Van Hulle agrees, writing however about another book, William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury: “Since a human being’s thoughts are constantly interspersed with memories, his experience of time cannot be accurately conveyed by means of a chronological account of events” (Van Hulle, p.141). But both novels are alike in how they treat time in the past and present: “This sense of the relentless flow of time, and of the longing for the past, is like that of Quentin’s section of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Like Septimus and Clarissa, Quentin is dominated by the past and tempted towards suicide” (Harper, p.131).[10]

The William Faulkner novels The Sound and the Fury [TSATF] and As I Lay Dying [AILD] are two of the best examples of proto-hyperfiction. Both feature a non-linear, fragmented narrative, both use multiple perspectives and both are heavily inter-connected. The representation of time in TSADF is extremely interesting, because the four sections occur out of sequence. Cleanth Brooks helps to make sense of the confusing, non-chronological order: “we move from Holy Saturday, 1928, back to June 1910, then on to Good Friday, 1928, and end with Easter Sunday, 1928” (Brooks, p.44).[11] This chronological disorder continues into the first section, narrated by Benjy, the mentally-disabled Compson brother.

Benjy is non-verbal, so the level of articulation that he’s granted is not strictly realistic or mimetic, similar to the character of Darl Bundren in AILD who is also not compos mentis, eventually going insane. Owing to his disability, Benjy’s experience of time is non-linear, inter-connected and fragmentary. Particular sounds and smells cause his narration to leave their immediate surroundings and move to other periods in the last 30 years, all narrated in the present tense, as if he were experiencing events afresh. Noel Polk compares this to the memories interpolating the minds of Mrs Dalloway’s: “Benjy’s ‘narration’ is almost completely visual, cinematic, and what rolls through his mind is not “memory,” although it is convenient to call it that in this essay, but rather more nearly different reels, perhaps, from a movie of his life” (Polk, p.145).[12] These separate narrative blocks, set in different times, resemble the lexias in use in Joyce and Woolf: “The Reader is challenged to follow the associative leaps in [Benjy’s] mind and assembles a story by means of the scattered fragments of remembrances” (Van Hulle, p.141).

The initial reaction to reading Benjy’s section is likely total confusion, but Cleanth Brooks believes this was Faulkner’s plan: “Faulkner evidently wanted his reader to participate in Benjy’s experience of time and reality which means that the reader participates in Benjy’s confusion” (Brooks, p.45). Reading through the chapter, details begin to accrete, such as the chronology indicated by the changing names of Benjy’s.

It is not difficult to see how Faulkner intended this novel as a kind of hyper-text, necessary to be reread. Further, he originally intended to have the different fragments or lexias in the past printed in different colours to help distinguish them, before settling on using italics instead: “Before the notion of printing in different color inks had been broached, Faulkner had already made use of the switch of typefaces in his manuscript to signal to the reader a shift in the time level” (ibid, pp.46, 47).

The different-coloured ink would have made it much easier for readers to organise and understand the different chronologies in Benjy’s section, enabling them to quickly refer back (or forward) to a like-coloured section. This would allow reading those sections out of sequence, in a non-linear, interactive way. This plan for incorporating coloured ink is interesting chiefly because there is a hypertext version of TSATF where the different colours are actually restored [see Figure 1]. Dirk Van Hulle confirms that the TSATF hypertext tool would encourage those readers of Faulkner encountering any difficulty: “To analyse such an intricate narrative structure, hypertext can be a helpful tool, as the hypertext edition of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury illustrates” (Van Hulle, p.141).


Figure 1: TSATF hypertext with text in blue, green & red

While TSATF makes leaps to different stages in the past, AILD’s plot is more time-restrictive, following the Bundren family over the course of several days. AILD is narrated over 59 sections by fifteen characters, providing a multi-perspectival view of the Bundrens from both inside and out. Each section is headed by the narrator’s name, otherwise there would be nop clear-cut way of telling which character’s thoughts are being inhabited.

AILD actually proved the most useful in the writing of my own hyperfiction, influencing my decision to include the names of the narrator, fragmented structure and multiple perspectives. From this writing position, what I found very interesting about AIDL, was the sustained, mimetic narrative style of the sections.

For such a renowned literary stylist as Faulkner to only allow himself three articulate characters to work with – Darl and Addie Bundren, and Peabody, the doctor – is very restrictive, and could threaten to make the narrative unreadable. The narrators that remain are simple, repetitive, and quite inexpressive, though a possible exception would be Vardaman, eight years old, who narrates in a very powerful, abstract and impressionistic style: “One of [the characters] has the poetry of madness; one of them, the poetry of the child. But the others are almost inarticulate” (ibid, p.94). However the sustained mimesis of the narrators’ voices (except for Darl and Addie, either mad or dead) develops the multi-perspectivism in Faulkner’s novel.

Interestingly, while the cinema may have inspired the writers mentioned so far (Faulkner penning Hollywood screenplays in the 1930s), none are conventionally filmable. The actor James Franco, ignoring this, resolved to adapt both TSATF and AILD for the screen. Whether they were successful or not isn’t this essay’s brief, but Franco used the technique of split-screen in AILD to portray the contrasting and overlapping narrations of the various different characters.

A scene where this occurs is when the cart carrying Addie Bundren washes away. Interestingly there are subtle changes between the first narrator’s interpretation of events, and the second: “Pick up! Pick up, goddamn your thick-nosed soul to hell, pick up!” (“Cash”, Faulkner, p.76);[13] “Pick up!” He says. “Pick up, goddamn your thick nosed soul!” (“Darl”, ibid, p.77). What this manages, as well as creating simultaneous, parallel fragments, is to decentre the novel even further by suggesting that the primary narrator Darl (given fifteen out of the 59 sections) may be an unreliable narrator.

What synchronicity and multi-perspectivism Faulkner achieved on the page, Homer B. Pettey believes was inspired by the Cubist and Futurist art movements: “Faulkner’s fascination with modernist perceptual experimentation is evident in [AILD]’s stylistic debts to Post-Impressionism, Cubism, and Futurism. The novel’s fragmented, multiple narratives recall the fragmented perspectives of Braque and Picasso” (Pettey, p.28).[14]

Jorge Luis Borges represents the missing link between the modernists and post-modernists. However studying his work with a view of hyperfiction is problematic. While the subjects he was concerned with are clearly proto-hyperfiction, such as multiple branching narratives and nonlinearity, this is not reflected in Borges’ style of narration. There are two possible reasons for this: first, that the fantastical nature of his stories were emphasised by the academic, plain tone of narration; second, that he realised it would never be possible to achieve the branching narrative described in “The Garden of Forking Paths”, for example, in text, that the confines of print would never allow it.

This view is supported by Neil Larsen: “Borges who, exhilarated by essentially the same dream of an infinite and labyrinthine narrative, understood its formal impossibility from the standpoint of the reader and chose instead to tell, repeatedly, only the story of this dream” (Larsen, p.61).[15] It would take other writers responding directly to Borges to enact on the page (or computer screen) what his “fictions” set out conceptually. Writing of Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch, Larsen continues: “Cortázar’s great blunder was thus, so to speak, not to have tried to imitate Borges but to have written as though the Borgesian utopia could be consciously enacted” (ibid). I would disagree however that Hopscotch was a “blunder”; it is a successful work, outside of any interest it might hold for writing hyperfiction.

Hopscotch, written by the Argentine author Julio Cortázar in Spanish in 1963, was one of the first novels to boast interactivity. While Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style children’s books were available, this was the first serious work of fiction to give its readers the option of reading however much they like. But the comparison to a children’s book still stands, because as the name suggests, play and children’s games are important (see Ulysses’ “Wandering Rocks” and puzzles/labyrinths).

“Hopscotch” actually describes the shape of the reader’s passage through the novel, not the standard sequential path of pages 1-2-3 etc, but the order set out in the novel’s table of instructions. In this way, the “user” is under no compunction to read everything the novel contains: “The story does not end with the word “acabó” (finished), which concludes the second part [of three]… a “Tablero de dirección” by Cortázar suggests that the reader can easily leave this last part unread, and just read the first two parts as they are presented in the book” (Van Hulle, p.144).

The effect of providing the reader with the decision of how to read – breaking the standard linearity – is that suddenly they are capable of tackling the book whichever way they want. While reading apart from the standard method and the way the author prescribes doesn’t guarantee a full understanding of the novel, it’s still a choice the readers didn’t know existed before now: “the novel invites one to imagine other possible orders, especially on the subsequent readings that are almost inevitable, owing to the novelty that chance brings to bear on what is traditionally called a plot” (Sarlo, p.920).[16]

Van Hulle terms the supplementary sections at the back “mobile lexias”, like in other hyperfiction: “[They] indicate the next lexia by means of a proto-hyperlink prefigures the first forms of hyperfiction and also makes this novel particularly amenable to digital manipulation and translation into hypertext” (Van Hulle, p.145). But Larsen argues that, instead of being truly “ergodic” (with a dynamic, reactive plot), Hopscotch is in fact one straightforward narrative with supplementary fragments that serve quite like footnotes: “For the hopscotch turns out to be really just a conventionally linear experience of reading, broken up by a miscellany of clips and “morelliana” of widely varying interest but never formally anything more than interruptions” (Larsen, pp.60, 61).

Also as Brian McHale points out, while reading Hopscotch the way Cortazar outlined does alter the structure of the novel slightly, it doesn’t alter it enough: “Hopscotching” through Cortazar’s text does not in fact alter the order of events in the ‘normal’ sequence, or even the order of chapters, but merely interpolates additional chapters” (McHale, p.193).[17]

What else supports the view above that Hopscotch doesn’t go far enough, is the structure the chapters in the table of instructions take. Admittedly while chapter 73 needs to be read first, the book then adopts this attitude: chapter one, then a random chapter, chapter two, another random chapter, returning to the third chapter, and so on. While this may be the case, the optional section still functions to promote a more rounded and heterogeneous reading experience: “The first [reading approach] is a more or less straightforward account of the essential events… The second is a more heterogeneous collection of materials, closer to the tentative, contradictory notes and drafts of a work in gestation, which will incite the reader capable of accepting the challenge to intervene more actively and help fulfil the book’s latent possibilities” (Irby, pp.68, 69).

Another example of an interactive proto-hypertext achieved in print is Dictionary of the Khazars, written by Milorad Pavić. Published in Serbian first in 1984, and English then in 1988, it takes the very Borgesian concept of a dictionary of a fantastical nation as its central idea, and weaves a novel around it. Like Hopscotch it also includes user instructions on how to navigate its structure: reproduced alphabetically, across three different, colour-coded books are entries about fictional people and practices within the Khazar culture. As the directions for reading the novel advise, “The three books of the dictionary… can be read in any order the reader desires; he may start with the book that falls open as he picks up the dictionary” (Pavić, p.12).[18] In addition, it contains numerous symbols that function like the proto-hyperlinks found in Hopscotch, indicating where more about this entry can be read.

The reader is able to navigate the novel as they wish, picking up and putting down what bits and pieces of the narrative interest them. This makes it extremely interactive and ergodic; moving from beginning to end, it is highly unlikely that a reader will share the same reading pattern as another. The writer Robert Coover, influential in hyperfiction, gives an impression of this open approach to reading Dictionary: “The reader may pursue a topic as with a dictionary, read the book from beginning to end, from left to right or right to left, or even ‘diagonally,’ working ‘in threes’ (Coover, online).[19] Interesting to note as well is that, because the order of the novel is dependent on the alphabet, each new translation produces a totally new structure.

There cannot be said to be one central narrative – unless the history and production of the book itself is that narrative – with the fragmented dictionary entries decentring them. The structure of the novel is fragmentary, the choppy and disconnected entries acting as lexias or blocks of text within the wider proto-hyperfiction. These lexias are interconnected the same way all reference books are, and it’s important to remember that referencing and annotation, as used by academics, inspired Tim Berners-Lee to build the Web and hypertexts in the first place: “The research community had used links between paper documents for ages: tables of contents, indexes, bibliographies and reference sections are hypertext links. On the web however, research ideas in hypertext links can be followed up in seconds, rather than weeks” (Berners-Lee, p.41). Dictionary displays many of the narrative techniques or features associated with hyperfiction, even prompting Tatjana Aleksic to make this comparison: “On the surface, the Dictionary is a prime example of what came to be known as a hypertext, the literary phenomenon arising in the 1980s, even better illustrated by the CD-ROM edition of the novel” (Aleksic, p.86).[20]

Further examples of so-called proto-hyperfiction, like Vladimer Nabakov’s Pale Fire (1962) and Mark K. Danielweski’s House of Leaves (2000), also use academic referencing such as footnotes to decentre the novels, in Pale Fire by situating the narrative within the annotations to a poem, and House of Leaves in ways that will be examined now.

Footnotes operate in a similar way to hyperlinks, disrupting the overriding narrative structure by conveying the reader elsewhere in the text. Footnotes are also effective in producing synchronicity, interrupting the working timeframe with a contingent text to be read simultaneously. This is in tune with parallel texts, such as the scene in Faulkner’s AILD mentioned above. Brian McHale, writing of parallel texts, notes that “[b]y far the most successful split-text formats, however, have been modelled either on the scholarly gloss or the newspaper page. There are, of course, two familiar formats for glossing a text: the text with marginal gloss, the text with footnotes” (McHale, p.190).

In House of Leaves there are footnotes within footnotes, plus different contributors and editors, indicated by the different fonts their additions are printed in. The web of connections through footnotes, endnotes, and appendices, promotes a sense of the interconnectivity of the text: “The reader hopscotches across pages and points of view, layers of footnotes and different fonts” (Pressman, p.107).[21]

The spiralling footnotes, references and editorial additions, grind the central narrative down almost to a halt. A good comparison – cinematic, again – is Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi Inception (2010), where entering successive characters’ dreams slows down the main narrative, though they continue to simultaneously tick over, but at different speeds (a more literary comparison may be memories in Mrs Dalloway). House of Leaves demonstrates further command over time and temporality in text, as opposed to cinema, by adopting some uniquely cinematic techniques.

There is a sequence where a character crawls through an increasingly constrictive space. Reflecting the growing pressure on the character, the words in the text appear to be pushed out over the course of several pages, until just one word remains on the page. Danielewski revealed that instead of needing to fill a page with text, the speed of the reader’s movements through the pages could be manipulated by the number of words on the pages, “[d]rawing an analogy with filmmaking techniques that correlate the intensity of the scene with how much the viewer’s eye has to move across the screen” (Hayles, p.796).[22]

Hayles goes on to argue that the use of space, seen both here and the jostling footnotes found elsewhere, produce the effect of synchronicity: “House of Leaves creates spatially distinct narratives with multiple cross connections, as if multiple voices were speaking simultaneously. Instead of temporal sequence indicated by spatial continuity, House of Leaves uses spatial discontinuity to indicate temporal simultaneity” (ibid, pp.794, 795).

Footnotes and synchronicity are just one of several ways that House of Leaves constitutes a printed hypertext. Similar to Faulkner’s plans for TSATF, whenever “house” appears in House of Leaves, it’s printed in blue, meant to signify an internet hyperlink. The text is also heavily fragmented and multi-perspectival, containing either three or four different and unreliable narrators. The title is significant too, referring both to the printed book itself and the house featured in the narrative. Able to alter its size, in a very gothic turn, the house that is infinitely larger than it appears, represents both the book itself and hypertexts in general, which through their interconnections expand beyond the normal scale of books.

In conclusion, this essay has shown that through the use of different narrative techniques, such as multiple perspective, fragmentation, interactivity, and synchronicity, that many printed novels are capable of achieving the same methods as hyperfiction. As Van Hulle observes: “Hypertext can be seen as an application of what authors such as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, William Faulkner, and Julió Cortázar have suggested on paper with reference to the multiple ways in which we perceive time and space” (Van Hulle, p.145).

[1] Berners-Lee, Tim, Weaving the Web

[2] Van Hulle, Dirk, “Hypertext and Avant-texte in Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Literature”

[3] Brown, Richard, “Time, Space, and the City in “Wandering Rocks”

[4] Miller, J. Hillis, Fiction and Repetition

[5] Barnett, Belinda & Darren Tofts, “Literary and Technical Images of Potentiality in Hypertext”

[6] Henke, Suzette A., “Woolf Reads Joyce”

[7] Showalter, Elaine, “Introduction to Mrs Dalloway

[8] Banfield, Ann, “Mrs Dalloway

[9] Woolf, Virginia, Mrs Dalloway

[10] Harper, Howard, Between Language and Silence: The Novels of Virginia Woolf

[11] Brooks, Cleanth, William Faulkner: First Encounters

[12] Polk, Noel, “Trying Not to Say: A Primer on the Language of The Sound and the Fury

[13] Faulkner, William, As I Lay Dying

[14] Pettey, Homer B., “Perception and the Destruction of Being in As I Lay Dying”

[15] Larsen, Neil, “Cortázar and Postmodernity: New Interpretive Liabilities”

[16] Sarlo, Beatriz, “Hopscotch

[17] McHale, Brian, Postmodernist Fiction

[18] Pavić, Milorad, Dictionary of the Khazars

[19] Coover, Robert, “Dictionary of the Khazers”, The New York Times

[20] Aleksic, Tatjana, “National Definition Through Postmodern Fragmentation: Milorad Pavić’s Dictionary of the Khazars

[21] Pressman, Jessica, “House of Leaves: Reading the Networked Novel”

[22] Hayles, N. Katherine, “Saving the Subject: Remediation in House of Leaves


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s