September 29, 2011
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Stacey Mason and Lorie Emerson have been discussing Realism and Hypertext. Here’s Mason:

If we limit the scope of “realism” to literature, the search for the objective truth manifested a focus on gritty realistic depictions of life and hardship. Hypertext is perhaps analogous, as it reflects intricacies of connectivity that have become more and more foregrounded in 21st century life. If moderism’s stream of consciousness is a romantic impression of the mind at work, perhaps hypertext’s fragmented and sporadic paths and its dead ends are the reality of the contemporary experience, a gritty representation to overtake that romantic ideal.

It’s a good idea, worth taking for a test drive, but I’m not sure I’m buying. One objections – to which, to be fair, Mason herself nods – is that Realism was always interested in common experience and, especially, in work. Our best hypertexts so far tend to be deeply introspective. They worry about lots of things – guilt, betrayal, the fragmentation of the body, the slipperiness of memory, the innumerable faces in the crowd – but work isn’t prominent and justice is late to the party.

Conversely, the crystalline clarity of the New Yorker story is one thing hypertext has not really proven to skeptics that it can do. I’m confident that hypertext can do it, and I understand why writers have been drawn in other directions, but the demonstration needs to be made. What hypertext writer recalls Hammett or Hemingway, O’Hara or Salinger?

After we’ve taken this model for a spin, how about walking down the street and trying out Expressionism?