The Formal Analysis

Before proceeding, make sure you notice that each phrase in the demonstration links to a new site.

The internet provides an excellent opportunity to try a formal experiment based on the methodology explained throughout the rest of this website. The structure of the web gives us the most immediate experience of intertextuality possible, and allows us to easily tie different--and hopefully surprising--texts together. The experimental paragraph I have provided shows a possible means of presentation connected to the scholastic enterprise I delineate throughout the rest of this project. It represents one possible end of this critical process in action, and needs to be explicated as such.

I have placed this demonstration at the front of the website to give readers an impression of the way I think we accumulate knowledge. If the page is disorienting or disconcerting, that is not a problem, because we can work through these feelings by the approach describe throughout this project. After the initial experience of these ideas, then we can delve into the argument itself, and return here later.

The content of the text just sums up quickly, if somewhat obliquely, the new process and attitude that I propose. The links serve to readily put seemingly disjointed texts together by allowing viewers to visit unanticipated pages. The texts actually tie together in several ways. The links I have created contain very brief comments that someone may have as a first reaction to the text, which are meant to start, rather than end, debate and discussion. The other pages, particularly the hypertexts force a reader to develop and utilize her own first thoughts. By randomly selecting two or more links, texts are juxtaposed that may seem unrelated, but pull together in some ways. For example, clicking on "discover" and "a-destinational" brings up an immediate contrast between the geographic explorations of Lewis and Clark and the existential questing of Oedipa Maas in The Crying of Lot 49. The two texts seem to have no relation. Then we click on "direction" (thinking we need some) and we find Frederick Jackson Turner's landmark essay "The Significance of the Frontier in American History." At this point, we can begin to see the theme of movement develop, and the texts that once appeared unrelated begin to draw together. The myth of westward expansion begins to take a new shape in late Twentieth-Century America, as an American character begins to express this mythological drive in an existential direction. We have some questions to ask. What has been the importance of the frontier in American history? And what happens when we run out of frontier?

The paragraph and its link seek to show that randomly accumulated materials often have a coherency, if we look at what brought them to us (or us to them). Perhaps some subconscious drive has made us grab connected texts (like a drive for a direction or a fear of a-destination). Perhaps an innate religiosity makes us click on words like "grace" and "fate" and we suddenly see new connections between Flannery O'Connor and John Irving. On the other hand, sometimes we just happen to have to apparently unrelated texts. By drawing on our individual contexts and thinking through a triangulation, we can find new sources of knowledge and wisdom in these works.

This formal technique can certainly be problematic. First, it does not actually feature random texts and links--I put them all there after at least a trace of thought. I wanted to show texts that, when haphazardly juxtaposed, actually make sense together. Second, the path can be confusing. Someone not open to experiment may give up on the paragraph. It forces the reader to make connections she may be unwilling or unable to make (especially if she already resists such experimentation). I do not suggest that scholarship begin to always take bizarre and opaque forms. I do suggest, however, that experimenting with presentation can open up new angles of vision, and that the internet provides the ideal place to combine form and content when discussing intertextuality, contingency, and randomness. In this way, a reader can experience the type of path that I argue elsewhere for taking.

After considering the process I have described in the preceding paragraphs, I invite the reader to go back to the paragraph and enter into the fray in a less constructed way. After looking over my entire site, the reader may want to return here to test my theories. I suspect (and hope) that I have overlooked many possible themes that relate these texts, but here are some suggestions to start with: movement/flight, Calvinism, the myth of the individual, and the search for the "real." The paragraph certainly has aspects of a game to it, and I would be remiss in not providing rules, but the rules are somewhat flexible. This project relies on its audiences interactiveness, and what the audience can bring to the experience. Feel free to work through ideas about this project in any way you can (even in resistance to my ideas) and let me know what you come up.* For the foreseeable future, I will be maintaining an archive of responses to this demonstration project. I am looking for general responses to the demonstration, but I am particularly interested in what people can do with the paragraph. The paragraph functions on one level like a connect-the-dots game, but the reader must maker the theoretical or thematic connections. I'm very curious to know what you find while working with this site, and what dots you connect. If you would like to be included in the archive, please send me an email about your responses and discoveries.

*If you are missing the interactive tag on this page, try viewing my site at its other location.

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