June 30, 2010
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The new entry in the ELO’s “Electronic Literature Directory” for Shelley Jackson’s “My Body & a Wunderkammer” has a curious beginning:

While Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl (1995) must be purchased on CD and downloaded onto one’s computer before one can read it, her shorter hypertext narrative, “My Body & a Wunderkammer” (1997), is freely available online, both on the ELO’s Collection of Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1, and the ALTX Online Network.

So, the most important thing to say about this work is that you don’t need to read Patchwork Girl? Strange. (Personally, I’m not so sure that My Body & Wunderkammer is a narrative at all. What happens? And I believe the entry gets the title wrong. The Web site gives the title as “my body — a Wunderkammer." I believe the ampersand is meant to serve at the author’s chop. Embedding the ampersand in the title suggests the the body and the wunderkammer are two different things, while I think the work itself argues that the narrator’s body is a cabinet of curiosities. Maybe I’m wrong. In any case, Jackson does have a prominent ampersand tattoo and did compose a short story in tattoos, one word per volunteer.)

The directory currently appears to list 159 works. Some hypertexts that aren’t listed include Greco’s Cyborg, Kolb’s Socrates in the Labyrinth and “Twin Media: Hypertext Under Pressure”, Falco’s Dream with Demons and “Charmin’ Cleary”, Mary-kim Arnold’s “Lust” and “kokura”, Michael Joyce’s Twilight, a symphony and “Twelve Blue” and “WOE”, Brian Thomas’s If Monks Had Macs, Richard Holeton’s Figurski at Findhorn on Acid, William Gibson’s Agrippa: The Book of the Dead, Adrienne Eisen’s Six Sex Scenes, Carolyn Guyer’s Quibbling and “Izme Pass” (with Martha Petry), Judy Malloy’s Uncle Roger and its name was Penelope and Forward Anywhere (with Cathy Marshall), Rick Pryll’s Lies, Nitin Sawhney’s HyperCafe, Deena Larsen’s Samplers, Jean-Pierre Balpe’s oeuvre, Loss Glazier’s oeuvre, and George P. Landow’s Victorian Web.

At least I don't think they’re there: I searched on "These Waves of Girls", which is in the directory, and the search tool can’t find it.

That’s 25 additional hypertexts, just off the top of my head. That’s about 15% of the size of the entire directory. You can play too; I bet many of you you can come up with twenty or thirty additional missing titles off the cuff.

The directory also has a listing of “Works of criticism, collections, and general resources on electronic literature.” I’m not sure it’s actually fleshed out yet. Some missing monographs include the well—known volumes of Landow, Joyce, Douglas, Ensslin, Bell, Gaggi, Ciccorico, Bolter, Lanham, Johnson-Eilola Funkhauser, and Ryan. There’s a paper in Hypertext 2010 on “Criticism” with 90-odd references; someone might mine that.

The Electronic Literature Directory was made possible by a $47,870 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

It’s a nice start. I think everyone familiar with the wiki literature knows how important it is to populate a new wiki with stubs, and filling out the bibliographic information – if nothing else – for the obvious works would have been a logical start. I seldom found the old directory terribly useful, but could it not have been mined for stubs? How about taking some books off the shelf and looking stuff up?

The creators place a lot of faith in tags and folksonomy for this application, of which I am skeptical. What literary categories would have been created, for example, in an open folksonomy in 1930’s Germany? We’ve already seen how seemingly-progressive celebrations of Women In Hypertext from the 1990’s have already become a bit embarrassing; folksonomic literary criticism seems bound to enshrine all sorts of categories and classes at which we’ll soon cringe.

But every compendium needs to start somewhere.