Contents | Introduction | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Conclusion | References


Chapter One
Renaissance Mnemonics, Poststructuralism, and the Rhetoric of Hypertext Composition

by Richard Smyth, Ph.D.

So long as literary studies are situated as they are now, the most one can hope for (at least with respect to aims that are realistic) is that your work will make a difference in the institutional setting that gives it a home.
--Stanley Fish

Towards a Definition of Grammatology

Thus Stanley Fish critiques the New Historicists' desire to enter the political sphere and their expressed concern over their inability to do so in an effective way. Their aims, he argues, are "unrealistic."

Fish's injunction to focus upon one's own institutional setting, to work to make changes within it rather than elsewhere, returns to literary critics a modicum of social power. However limited this power may be within a specific institution, an English professor, Fish suggests, can work to make changes within the institution of literary criticism. The ability to intervene, however, depends upon one's ability to determine where change might be fruitful.

To the extent that one might want to institute such change, this ability to determine where change is needed could come only from some awareness of the history of given institutional practices. All of our current behaviors, both as scholars and as pedagogues, have evolved over time. The extent to which these are thought to be natural is the extent to which they have become part of our ideological make-up, which complicates our ability to recognize how they have emerged from a particular cultural and historical matrix. To some extent it is in the best interests of the institution for such historical considerations to be ignored, as Samuel Weber notes: "Indeed, the very notion of academic 'seriousness' came increasingly to exclude reflection upon the relation of one 'field' to another, and concomitantly, reflection upon the historical process by which individual disciplines established their boundaries" (32). Given this difficulty, it is no wonder that a phenomenon I will call "institutional inertia" occurs, one in which pedagogical and scholarly practices as pursued within the university setting are perpetuated in established customary procedures.

My use of "institution" here refers to only one of its elements, the sense of the word that Rene Lourau sees as the now dominant conception: "By emptying the concept of institution of one of its primordial components (that of instituting, in the sense of founding, creating, breaking with an old order and creating a new one), sociology has finally come to identify the institution with the status quo" (quoted in Weber xv). As such, it is meant to indicate the kinds of relationships a university fosters between scholars and their scholarship and between scholars and their students, relationships which are determined by the drive to maintain the status of "professional." Weber's comments about the professional are helpful here; he writes that "the professional sought to isolate, in order to control. . . . In short, the culture of professionalism drew much of its force, its 'social credit,' credibility, from the cultivation and exploitation of anxiety" (27-28). The invocation of anxiety here is related to Fish's critique of Montrose for being nervous over his success1; it suggests that there is a structure of insecurity in professionalism which demands continual justification: "Once the professional has succeeded in gaining admittance to the 'field,' he can hope to enjoy a measure of security unknown by other nonprofessional salaried persons: provided, of course, that he continues to accept and to practice the game according to its rules" (Weber 31, emphasis added).

Increased specialization within disciplinary pursuits--the desire to isolate certain elements of a discipline for specialized study, as Weber notes, in the pursuit of an idealized notion of professionalism--results in control wielded not only within the given field but also over students as well. Once a niche is filled in a particular environment of textual studies, the professional need not fear being challenged, for s/he is the expert, s/he is the one to consult when questions concerning this narrow bandwidth of information arise. Such a situation fosters a form of pedagogy that Paulo Freire has suggested manifests the "banking concept of education," that is, a conception of the student-teacher relationship which figures the student as a passive recipient of "deposits" of knowledge and the teacher as the One Who Knows.2

One force which tends to work against institutional inertia is that of technological change. At present, this change is coming so quickly that Alvin Toffler has called it "Future Shock." "Cyberspace," the "Internet," and "Hypermedia": each of these current technologies, getting press now even in such journals as Time and Newsweek, is putting pressure upon the educational institution to reconsider its definitions of scholarship, pedagogy, disciplinarity, and even institutionality. In light of these changes, those professionals within the educational institution and within the discipline of textual studies itself must begin to ask the questions that such technologies are raising: What is the role of the teacher? How will disciplinary boundaries be reconfigured in the new electronic environment? What will scholarly research become, and how will it change?

Answering these questions can be easier if one investigates the evolution of reading and writing practices as exercised within the educational institution. Doing so would provide data about past transitional moments that might help in the negotiation of the present one. The Renaissance (or "Early Modern"3 period) is known as a particularly significant moment in terms of the history of technological and pedagogical change and would therefore warrant close investigation. The justification for such an investigation comes from the field of grammatology, a variant form of Cultural Studies which considers the traditional questions of subject formation and ideological positioning as understood in current theoretical treatments in light of the electronic transformation of language and representation.

Grammatology offers, therefore, a way of thinking about the present which can only be managed by recourse to a consideration of the institution's past. Most would associate it with deconstruction, and specifically with Jacques Derrida's project in Of Grammatology. But even there it is a term that refers to the history of reading and writing, and to the ways that such histories have perpetuated certain ideologically motivated evaluations of presence, the origin, the telos. In the work of Gregory Ulmer, grammatology becomes a theoretical practice which works to institute institutional change by focusing upon past institutional practices and attempting to derive new practices for the use of the emergent electronic technologies. It draws its theoretical basis and inspiration not only from Derridean deconstruction but also from contemporary French poststructuralism and twentieth-century literary theory in general.4 As such, it is a theoretical practice that can be applied to any text in any era. It will be my intention to explore the Early Modern period as a grammatologist would, and in doing so demonstrate grammatology's efficacy as a particularly pragmatic form of literary studies.

To explore the Early Modern period in this way, for the reason of answering some of the questions posed above, I must first define grammatology as a version of literary theory different from other such versions. In the process of doing so, I will look at some of the contemporary applications of theory--specifically the deconstructive work of Jonathan Goldberg and the New Historicist works of Louis Montrose and Stephen Greenblatt--in order to glean the ways that grammatology is both similar to and different from current studies.5 This initial work is preliminary to the larger project both of deriving compositional practices for hypertext from the sixteenth century and of attempting to learn from the sixteenth century how to negotiate the current transitional shift in technologies.

The term grammatology came to enjoy its recent theoretical status with the publication of Derrida's Of Grammatology. While Derrida did not invent the term, he remotivates it according to his deconstructive program. As he writes, "Through all the recent work in the area, one glimpses the future extension of a grammatology called upon to stop receiving its guiding concepts from other human sciences, or, what nearly always amounts to the same thing, from traditional metaphysics" (83). Following through with the implications of Derrida's deconstructive work as well as attempting to incorporate Derrida's more experimental approach to writing philosophy in the later works (Glas, The Postcard, The Truth in Painting ) into a pedagogy of Writing, Gregory Ulmer, in Applied Grammatology, further defines the term in characterizing his application of Derridean (and, beyond Derrida, of poststructural) theory to pedagogical concerns.6 My work in this dissertation will build upon Ulmer's, but first I must briefly present the "original" Derridean conception of the term.

Consistently, throughout part one of Of Grammatology, Derrida uses grammatology to refer to the history of writing, his purpose in doing so being to demonstrate what I will call the "cultural inertia" perpetuating philosophic concepts that began with Plato and Aristotle and continuing within the writings of Rousseau and Saussure.7 So pervasive is this historical sense of his work that he frequently uses the term "epoch" to denote the centuries that logocentrism--the privileging of speech over its writing--has permeated the foundations of Western philosophical thinking. At one point he states, "This logocentrism, this epoch of the full speech . . ." (43), and thereby demonstrates through apposition the historical breadth of logocentrism's reign.8 One gets a real sense that Derrida detects our time as a time of change, of paradigmatic upheaval in which a shift is occurring between two epochs--between that of logocentrism and that which poststructuralism is heralding:

The end of linear writing is indeed the end of the book, even if, even today, it is within the form of a book that new writings--literary or theoretical--allow themselves to be, for better or for worse, encased. It is less a question of confiding new writings to the envelope of a book than of finally reading what wrote itself between the lines in the volumes. That is why, beginning to write without the line, one begins also to reread past writing according to a different organization of space. If today the problem of reading occupies the forefront of science, it is because of this suspense between two ages of writing. Because we are beginning to write, to write differently, we must reread differently. (emphasis mine, 86-87)
As we shall see, although writers like Derrida and others have pioneered, in book form, how such "new writings" will be fashioned, the new technologies now available to the humanities--in the form of hypertext and hypermedia programs--will generate the kind of "nonlinear writing" that Derrida calls for in Of Grammatology.9

The sense of grammatology, then, that Ulmer adopts from Derrida is this historical sense, the sense that grammatology refers to the history of reading and writing. He rereads Derrida's "oeuvre from a perspective that turns attention away from an exclusive concern with deconstruction." In doing so, Ulmer substitutes "grammatology" for "deconstruction," as he writes in his preface to Applied Grammatology, in order to privilege Writing, "in order to explore the relatively neglected 'affirmative' (Derrida's term) dimension of grammatology, the practical extension of deconstruction into decomposition" (x). Defining a sense of the "apparatus" as that which not only maps the intersection between the various technologies of writing practices and the institutional incorporations of these practices but also considers the resultant subject formation that emerges from these intersections, Ulmer is able to expand the sense of grammatology to include reflection upon these broader concerns. His ultimate purpose in doing so is to glean pedagogically relevant institutional practices from the provinces of deconstruction, practices which he works to show are employed directly by Derrida himself.10

As such, Ulmer's position on grammatology enables one to consider the history of pedagogical practices as codified by educational institutions, specifically how technologies of writing inform and are informed by these practices. Sharon Crowley might also be called a grammatologist in the sense that she too takes the broad view of composition instruction and finds, in her Methodical Memory: Invention in the Current-Traditional Rhetoric, that current instruction has, as its "epistemological underpinnings," a logocentric epistemology which emerged in the eighteenth century. She writes, "One of my book's central points is that current-traditional rhetoric is a historical hangover. Its epistemology, and the pedagogy associated with it, need rethinking" (xii).11 Both Crowley and Ulmer find it necessary to consult history in their attempt to critique current pedagogical practices so that the discipline of English can move beyond, in whatever ways this is possible, the confines of a logocentric epistemology.12

What is at stake here is the state of educational practices in the late twentieth century, in the impending (or already present) "age of information," the age of data highways and cyberspatiality which is now upon us. As a dissertation on the ways in which academic scholarship in Early Modern studies may change when pursued in hypermedia, this "book," a manifestation of linear writing which Derrida views as being on the way out, will discuss a nonlinear form of writing in a linear manner, simply because the institutional inertia surrounding Ph.D. work will not allow me to submit a hypertext as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a doctoral degree. I could compose a hypertext, but it would have to be submitted in addition to a full-length manuscript of a dissertation. Such a state of affairs provides no motivation for a doctoral candidate to do the extra work of composing in a new and alien medium, thus perpetuating the institution's love-affair with/reliance upon the book. The institution will not yet accept electronic essays as a legitimate form of scholarship because it is still bound up within the practices of literacy. Stuart Moulthrop notes the absurdity of working during this transitional time, during which we read and write about hypermedia in printed books:

Why aren't you reading this document in a hypertext system? How is it that those of us who analyze hypertext, even those of us who promote and proselytize for it, carry on our communications primarily in print? What does this preference imply, both about the organizations interested in hypertext and about the systems they develop and study?13
One question that this dissertation intends to propose concerns the relationship of hypermedia to Early Modern studies: how will the forms of writing that Early Modern scholars engage in as well as the kinds of questions posed about Early Modern texts change when hypertext composition becomes the norm rather than the exception? Because a new technology of writing exists, one that radically changes the ways that writers compose, scholars publish, students and instructors interact, and, perhaps most importantly, the way that readers read, the question of how this new technology will be implemented and what such implementation will mean for how teaching and scholarship are conducted must be further explored.14

My look at the sixteenth century is motivated thus by the recognition that this period not only harbors potential practices for dispositio within hypertext compositions but also offers an historical analogy of a pedagogical crisis brought on by a new technology. One example of the degree of this crisis is Peter Ramus who, as a theorist of the page who invented a mnemonic method intended to exploit the communicative potential of the printed page, was murdered as a result of the upheavals he created in education. A parallel has been drawn between Ramist's effect on the sixteenth century and Derrida's effect upon our own in terms of pedagogical upheaval.15 While Derrida does not specifically employ the new technologies nor has the ostensible purpose of influencing pedagogy in the ways that Ramus did, the implications of his work have begun to trickle down into composition textbooks and pedagogical treatises.16 Embracing the grammatological frame, then, with its consideration of the history of reading and writing and of how this history has determined current pedagogical practices, allows for a more self-conscious procedure to take place, one in the spirit of postmodernism and poststructuralism.

The adoption of such a self-conscious attitude toward the way we conduct ourselves as professionals will enable us to recognize the epistemological metaphors underlying our methodologies which unconsciously shape our (institutional) behaviors.17 Part of the value of a deconstructive approach is this very detection and exposure of foundational metaphors. The grammatological approach I am attempting to describe here goes beyond mere exposure, however: again, to repeat a previously cited passage from Applied Grammatology, it tries to develop the "relatively neglected 'affirmative' dimension of grammatology." What this means is that, after exposing a particular metaphor, an alternative one is offered in its place, one that provides a conceptual framework other than that which already exists, one that permits a transgression of boundaries previously held to be insurmountable or assumed to be natural.18

It is curious, to say the least, that the computer I am using at present has a "desktop," that information is stored in the form of "documents" within "files," when in reality the resemblance of the computer's desktop to my own is slight, and the computer always seems much faster at locating documents in files than I am.19 And the documents in my desk files are permanent items (barring a fire), whereas this document, at present stored as a series of ones and zeroes (a coding system that informs an electronic machine when to turn certain switches on and when to leave them off) is much more ephemeral. The point here is that we have entered the age of computers carrying the metaphoric baggage of alphabetic literacy, baggage which, while perhaps expedient for the moment, may weigh us down more than is necessary. The metaphor of "baggage" is appropriate since, as a grammatologist, I am concerned with the storage and retrieval of information, how this was done in the past, how it is done now, and how it might be done in the future.

So a grammatologist might approach the Early Modern period with the purpose in mind of finding metaphors that could serve as an alternative to current metaphors of information storage practices, metaphors that are perhaps more suitable to the potential capacities of the computer interface. The mnemotechnics of the sixteenth century, as I intend to suggest, may provide just the alternative to existing mnemographies--to methods of storing and retrieving information. But before entering such an investigation, which will begin in chapter 2 by recounting the history of the memory palace and continue in chapter 3 with a close look at Spenser's use of the memory palace in The Faerie Queene, I must further define grammatology and will do so by discussing two of the more systematic applications of contemporary French theory to Early Modern studies--that is, deconstruction and new historicism--in order to show, by contrast, how grammatology compares. This approach to the problem seeks not only to define grammatology as a consistent and focused theoretical approach but also to legitimate it as an application of theory that is particularly amenable to the sixteenth century. This chapter, then, works to define; the next chapter demonstrates an exemplary application of grammatology to the sixteenth century in general and to Edmund Spenser in particular.

Deconstruction in Early Modern Studies

Despite the apparent flowering of theoretical investigations of the Early Modern period, a conservative strain still lingers, a strain that is quite pervasive, as Jonathan Goldberg notes in a review essay on "The Politics of Renaissance Literature": "I cannot close without remarking the persistence of older modes of criticism, and the sad fact that these represent a historicism vitiated of the vitality and intelligence and moral seriousness of the work of Douglas Bush or Helen Gardner and devoid too of the rigor of a Cleanth Brooks" (538).20

Within this landscape of Early Modern studies, a landscape seemingly barren of theoretical work, one comes upon deconstruction, which some would consider an oasis of pure water and others would view as a deadly trap of quicksand. With critics as erudite as Kenneth Gross, Patricia Parker, David L. Miller and Jonathan Goldberg--all of whom adopt a deconstructive approach, some to a greater extent than others--able to invent21 the moments of deconstruction that they write about in texts of the Early Modern period, one might view this period as inherently receptive to such a critical and philosophical perspective.22 Given that historical moment, at which time no standardized English dictionaries or grammars of English existed,23 one could argue that the state of the language itself was a breeding ground for linguistic behaviors that would later come to be recognized as deconstructive: fluidity, instability, indeterminacy.24 If deconstruction could emerge during the twentieth century--the age of linguistic standardization par excellence with the OED and the Harbrace Handbook--to describe the supposedly inherent instability of language , then imagine what things were like at a time when one could sign one's name seven different ways.

Perhaps one of the best-known practitioners of deconstruction in the Early Modern period is Jonathan Goldberg, whose earlier writings include a full-length deconstructive study, entitled Endlesse Worke, of the fourth book of Spenser's Faerie Queene as well as an innovative book of essays entitled Voice Terminal Echo, which covers a range of Early Modern writers, essays attempting to go beyond the rational hermeneutics of some versions of deconstructive criticism.25 While the former is more characteristic of the kind of work done when applying deconstruction to an author's text, the latter is a significant departure from standard textual studies, one which challenges the means and the ends of scholarship as it is practiced today within the academy.

In Endlesse Worke: Spenser and the Structures of Discourse, Goldberg offers a poststructural reading, as he assumes what most traditional critics fight to suppress--that Spenser's Faerie Queene is a broken text, a fractured text.26 For this reason, he views the Faerie Queene as a text whose narrative, because broken, concerns the nature of narration.27 So, rather than trying to account for the frustrating moments in the text, providing hermeneutic closure wherever such closure is lacking, Goldberg privileges frustration, asking, "What are the virtues of, the pleasures offered by, a broken text?" (1). His project, then, offers "a way of reading Spenser," one which describes the "narrative principles that induce frustration, that deny closure . . . . [T]he generation of the text and its production is my subject" (xi-xii).

Goldberg's language reveals his essentializing gesture: he wants to find the "narrative principles," to clarify the "nature" of narrative progress. In doing so, he is naturalizing the features of the deconstructive analytic mode by suggesting that the denial of closure is a feature inherent in narrative itself.28 One could argue that, given the generic mode within which Goldberg works--the academic essay--he cannot avoid such a gesture. As a genre which privileges the explanatory, the academic essay reinforces the logocentric foundations of its formulation: in it, Goldberg claims and argues for a truth, the truth of narrative's nature, despite his investment in the tenets of deconstruction and poststructuralism.29

Thus, Goldberg's talk of Spenser's text "clearly conveying" the fact that writing comes before representation reveals his investment in a conventional, rationalist, scientific manner of proceeding which, in the end, perpetuates the entire logocentric model and its institutional manifestations that the philosophy seeks to undermine.30 By engaging the metaphor of sight in "clearly," Goldberg relies upon the ultimate sense of objectification, sight--that which the entire metaphysics of the West relies upon, that which serves as the primary trope of understanding--to make his claim about the poststructural nature of Spenser's text. Such a metaphor elicits de Man's study in "The Epistemology of Metaphor" of the Early Modern philosophers Locke and Condillac, who sought to skirt the inherent metaphoricity of language to write a "plain" and "clear" style, one unhindered by the ornaments of language, one transparently conveying the meaning along reductively constructed two-dimensional vectors.31 By raising the standard of transparency, of clarity, Goldberg perpetuates the privileging of clarity as a metaphorical term laden with culturally attributed value.

While it is true that Derrida himself employs a rational and logical approach in his deconstructions of the major Western philosophers--after all, one cannot avoid participating in that which one deconstructs--we see Derrida gradually move away from such a straightforward approach toward more radical experimental texts like The Post Card, The Truth in Painting, and Glas. Ulmer is helpful here in distinguishing between the two approaches that Derrida takes:

The difference between Writing and deconstruction may be seen most clearly in the ways Derrida treats philosophical works (which he deconstructs) and literary or artistic texts (which he mimes). The methodologies in the two instances bear little resemblance to each other: the philosophical work is treated as an object of study, which is analytically articulated by locating and describing the gap or discontinuity separating what the work "says" (its conclusions and propositions) from what it "shows" or "displays" (its examples, data, the materials with which it, in turn, is working). Literary or plastic texts (a "new new novel" by Sollers, or drawings by Adami, for example) are not analyzed but are adopted as models or tutors to be imitated, as generative forms for the production of another text. (Applied Grammatology x-xi)
Understood in these terms, Endlesse Worke privileges the mode of deconstruction rather than the mode of Writing. In doing so, it reinforces the explanatory mode of academic writing which works within the metaphoric structure of seeing as understanding.

Voice Terminal Echo comes closer to privileging the mode of Writing, demonstrating Goldberg's refusal to repeat mundanely the formulaic gesture of conventional deconstructive application. What makes Voice Terminal Echo different is the fact that Goldberg chooses to emulate Derrida's texts rather than merely to explicate them. One sees this immediately at the opening of the book, where Goldberg begins by playing with the various senses of "terminal," a word which now can refer to a computerized telephone as well as evoke the more common notion of something ending or "terminated": "Receiver and sender are at their terminals, voice terminated. The end of the voice and the beginning of the terminal: a technological image of the text, of this text, too, with its images of relays and circuits--of the short-circuiting of the voice" (1). This is verbal play characteristic of Derrida, unfolding the metaphors inherent in the word, using his titles to suggest something of the essay to come: do we read the title as "Voice: Terminal Echo," or "Voice: Terminated Echo," or perhaps "Voice Terminated--Echo"?32 He also unveils his method, relieving me of the need to describe it; it is actually a part of his argument: "The project of these pages, to be brief: to show in the Renaissance text voice-as-text, and to show it through a practice of voice terminated" (1).

The crucial words here are "show" and "practice": Goldberg will "show" us rather than tell us; he will engage in a "practice," a word which bears within it a sense of performance, the act of doing something. Soon after this lively opening, Goldberg explicitly reveals the source of his method (or what some would call "madness"): "In another light, they are a set of readings of texts that are . . . demonstrations of techniques of reading consequent upon the work of writers like Maurice Blanchot or Jacques Derrida" (5). As such, "the voice on these pages is not singly determined to a procedure of logical demonstration. Multiple and fractured, it responds to texts and recounts them, pursuing and permitting disseminative practice" (4). Ultimately, by abandoning argument as his procedural strategy, Goldberg proposes here a radical departure from traditional critical practice: "What follows is not structured as an argument and resists such structures, eschewing (so far as possible) the critical impulse to totalize and the historical drive towards teleological closure" (4).

So Voice Terminal Echo avoids the strictly explanatory mode practiced in Endlesse Worke and in this sense is "radical," that is, starts at the root of what constitutes academic scholarship: the desire to clarify and explain in flawlessly logical argumentative writing. As such, it is a book that can be as frustrating to read as Goldberg claims that Spenser's The Faerie Queene is, perhaps because of its almost poetic quality: we are asked to read Goldberg's book of essays as poems which employ a style that is "allusive, disconnected, multiple, lyrical, fragmentary, dense, insubordinate--a challenge, in short, to logical discriminations" (VTE 8). This is Goldberg's description of Derrida's style(s), but it equally describes his own in Voice Terminal Echo --as it should, given his attempt to demonstrate Derrida's techniques of reading. Ultimately, for Goldberg's work to be effective in the academy, the goal of producing literary criticism must change from hermeneutic closure to heuristic (or, as Ulmer would call it, "heuretic") opening.33

It would be useful at this point to begin seeking, through comparison with these Goldberg texts, something of how a grammatological approach will differ. I delineate above the difference between Endlesse Worke and Voice Terminal Echo: whereas the former seeks to explain how deconstructive concepts work within Spenser's text, the latter seeks to employ deconstructive concepts as a means to generate (critical) essays which show as well as tell. Like Goldberg in Voice Terminal Echo, the grammatologist desires to displace logical argument from its dominance within the hierarchy of academic genres of writing in order to institute a "metarational" discourse, which Derrida claims, at the end of his consideration of "Grammatology as a Positive Science," will be a result of his meditation on writing: "The meta-rationality or the meta-scientificity which are thus announced within the meditation upon writing can therefore be no more shut up within a science of man than conform to the traditional idea of science" (Of Grammatology 87, my emphasis).34 Such a "meta-rational" discourse would avoid the violence of classification, a pejorative term which the sciences are known for among poststructuralist thinkers.35

So grammatology is similar to Goldberg's work in Voice Terminal Echo, both arguing against the current mode of critical practice, offering an alternative in its stead. But while both seek guidance for how to proceed in the major texts of poststructural philosophers, the grammatologist does not seek to emulate their difficult and impenetrable style, as Goldberg ends up doing in his book of essays (a fact demonstrated by DeNeef's comments indicating their potential difficulty). While Goldberg's text engages a different and radical approach, it has the air of inaccessibility that many texts labelled "poststructural" have. A grammatological criticism, on the other hand, wants to prepare texts that are accessible to others, not only texts that can be read but also texts that generate the desire to write in the same transgressive manner that they embody.36

An example of such an experimental text, one that is accessible even to freshman English students, can be seen in Text Book, a writing-about-literature text informed by poststructural principles. One of the optional tracks in chapter four of this text, co-authored by Robert Scholes, Nancy Comley, and Gregory Ulmer, prepares the students to write a "signature" essay, which is based on the theoretical writing of Derrida. The text that they model their assignment after, "A Jarrett in Your Text," was written by James Michael Jarrett, a former student of Ulmer's. In my experience of teaching this textbook, students can successfully emulate Jarrett's experiment,37 using their own names. They therefore employ sophisticated philosophical concepts of language developed by a leading poststructural philosopher, some greatly enjoying themselves in the process. The fact that this is at all possible stands as a tribute to the goal of democratization which the grammatologist adopts.38

Ultimately, Ulmer's goal is to make theory a potential hobby that anyone can adopt. One can see this in his work-in-progress entitled the "Theory Hobby Handbook," three of the lessons of which have appeared in print.39 Craig Saper, guest editor of the special issue of Visible Language in which "Lesson Five" appears, writes about this aspect of Ulmer's grammatological approach:

Gregory Ulmer exposes the process of making knowledge specialized and unreceivable. In this way, he does not abide by traditional pedagogy's separation between the popular and the theoretical or the instant and the accumulated. This orientation of theory toward thought rather than information allows us to translate a specialized knowledge into a popular idiom. (390-91)
As Ulmer himself writes in "Lesson Ten," "Anyone can make a theory, when theory is approached as a craft rather than as a specialty for experts" (85).

While the stated goal is for "anyone" to make a theory, Ulmer's work occurs within the academy and so is directed specifically toward students. Here we see the pedagogical emphasis of the grammatological approach, and this becomes a key component differentiating Ulmer's use of poststructuralism from Goldberg's. Goldberg's work, at least in Voice Terminal Echo, "concerns matters of critical practice," thereby attempting to inaugurate change at the institutional level; Ulmer's work, on the other hand, while also gesturing toward institutional change at the level of academic and scholarly practice40, wishes to revolutionize the scene of pedagogy as well. This dissertation follows Ulmer in this respect: it explores the possibilities not only of doing serious academic research in hypertext and hypermedia formats and how such writing can change what our discipline calls research but also of how students might write about the Early Modern period in hypertextual formats.

The "New Historicism" of Grammatology

Though I have discussed Jonathan Goldberg in the above section primarily as a deconstructive critic, he has done work that has been labeled in critical articles as "New Historicist." Perhaps this label comes from his review essay published in English Literary History entitled "The Politics of Renaissance Literature: A Review Essay," which Montrose writes is one of two "influential and generally sympathetic early surveys/critiques of New Historicist work."41 More likely, however, the title comes from his work in James I and the Politics of Literature: Jonson, Shakespeare, Donne, and Their Contemporaries, the publication of which followed shortly after the review article.42 The confusion, if it could be called this, is appropriate in that the New Historicism is known to result from a poststructural approach to the historiographical study of Renaissance texts.43 Montrose calls it a "poststructuralist orientation to history," the various modes of which "can be characterized by . . . a shift from History to histories."44

It can be difficult to talk about the way that New Historicism manifests poststructural theory in its approach to the Renaissance simply because it does not have an established theoretical practice to which one can point. This deficiency is even admitted by its most celebrated practitioners and apologists. Greenblatt, for instance, quite frankly confesses to this in the inaugural essay of the anthology The New Historicism :

One of the peculiar characteristics of the 'new historicism' in literary studies is precisely how unresolved and in some ways disingenuous it has been--I have been--about the relation to literary theory. On the one hand it seems to me that an openness to the theoretical ferment of the last few years is precisely what distinguishes the new historicism from the positivist historical scholarship of the early twentieth century. . . . On the other hand the historicist critics have on the whole been unwilling to enroll themselves in one or the other of the dominant theoretical camps.45
Montrose, too, makes the same kind of statement in the essay that follows Greenblatt's in the same anthology:
In the essay of mine to which I have already referred, I wrote merely of a new historical orientation in Renaissance literary studies, because it seemed to me that those identified with it by themselves or by others were actually quite heterogeneous in their critical practices and, for the most part, reluctant to theorize those practices. ("The Poetics and Politics of Culture" 18)
And in his survey of Renaissance New Historicist scholarship, which claims to be "an Apology or apologetics for the New Historicism complete with incorporated criticisms" (771 note 95) and ends with a call for a full-scale theory of New Historicism, Alan Liu writes, "in most works that follow a New Historicist approach it ["the diverse body of structural or quasi-structural thought" indicative of New Historicist study] is surprisingly underthought at the theoretical level" It is, he later says, a "wonder-cabinet of ill-sorted methods."46

Much discussion of the actual methods and implications of New Historicism has occurred, so that there seems almost as much said about New Historicist practice as there is actual New Historicist practice, both by practitioners and commentators alike.47 To the extent that those critical of New Historicism's practices homogenize the varied approaches, they are able to isolate themes or motives that recur.48 Rather than recount what has already been more than adequately documented, I will instead try briefly to describe the poststructural "sources" of the New Historicism and then go on to discuss some of the most notable comments made concerning its virtues and vices before proceeding to further delineate the grammatological program in which I am engaged.

One concise statement of the poststructural paradigm useful for the purpose of clarifying the poststructural sources of New Historicism can be found in Roland Barthes' essay "From Work to Text."49 In this essay, which serves as an inaugural enunciation of the changes undergone (and, in some ways, still being undergone) in the "paradigm shift" from modernism to postmodernism, Barthes invokes the etymological sense of "text" in working to define "Text": it is a "weave of signifiers" (159) which is "woven entirely with citations, references, echoes, cultural languages . . ." (160). The root of text, a metaphor latent in the original Latin "texere" which could mean both "to weave" as well as "to compose" (speech or writing), helps to define the new poststructural sense of the pervasiveness of language as a determinant feature structuring the way humans think. "The metaphor of the Text is that of the network " (161), Barthes writes, and it is within the network of signifiers that cultural agents are born and raised.50 The Text, that is, does not refer to a single book or enunciation in the language (as the term "work" does) but to the entire field of language itself: "the work can be held in the hand, the text is held in language" (157). As such, distinctions between particular genres cannot be evaluatively hierarchized since they are all participants in the same textual field. As Barthes writes, "the Text does not stop at (good) Literature; it cannot be contained in a hierarchy, even in a simple division of genres. What constitutes the Text is, on the contrary (or precisely), its subversive force in respect of the old classifications" (157).

It is this sense of text that New Historicists embrace in their approach to the Renaissance. As critics like Howard Felperin and Alan Liu have noted, New Historicists treat various kinds of texts in the Renaissance as being part of a larger context which serves as a substrate of ideological axioms that find expression in particular articulations.51 This justifies, for instance, Greenblatt's celebrated glance in "Invisible Bullets" at Thomas Hariot's A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia--one of the various travelogues representing the "New World" inhabitants--as a way of talking about Shakespeare's history plays, or his exploration of the reiterations by the culture of the important elements of the Bower of Bliss episode in The Faerie Queene.52 Letters, travelogues, diaries--texts not considered "literary" in the more traditional sense of that term--become loci for the kind of cultural production that critics more typically look for in canonical authors like Shakespeare or Spenser. So the New Historicist tries to trace the "serial movement of disconnections, overlappings, variations" that occurs within the "field of the text" (Barthes, "From Work to Text" 158), and this helps to explain the interdisciplinary, intertextual emphases that one embraces when engaged in the New Historicist project.

Accompanied by this poststructural sense of textuality is the postmodern penchant for the self-reflexive. No longer will work in the humanities attempt to mimic the (questionable and questioned) status of the objective, the claim to which the sciences used to boast; rather, it will foreground the subjective, the subject's effect upon the object of inquiry. The "observer's effect" is recognized and embraced whole-heartedly. Both Greenblatt and Montrose openly admit to this: Greenblatt writes that "methodological self-consciousness is one of the distinguishing marks of the new historicism in cultural studies as opposed to a historicism based upon faith in the transparency of signs and interpretive procedure" ("Towards a Poetics of Culture" 12). Montrose acknowledges as well the cultural specificity of the project, noting the inescapable nature of the observer effect: "The project of the new socio-historical criticism is, then, to analyze the interplay of culture-specific discursive practices--mindful that it, too, is such a practice and so participates in the interplay it seeks to analyze."53 Methodological self-consciousness, however, is not equivalent to a theoretical foundation upon which such a method should be based, according to some critics.

Stanley Fish notes the peculiarly rhetorical quality of this notorious maneuver:

Some New Historicists outflank this accusation [of doing what they critique other "older historicists" for doing] by making it first, and then confessing to it with an unseemly eagerness. In this way they transform what would be embarrassing if it were pointed out by another into a sign of honesty and methodological self-consciousness. (The New Historicism 306)
Fish proceeds to suggest that such a maneuver is an unnecessary escape, a "false dilemma" that he attempts to reconcile in the writing of his essay. He separates the general question of historical practice or procedure from specific questions of historical inquiry to argue that the "observer effect" (to put it briefly) does not change the fact that things happened, only the way we perceive them to have happened. The New Historicism sometimes confuses the two, Fish argues. When the "paradigmatic parergon" (to fuse the concepts of Kuhn and Derrida) is challenged, "the result will not be an indeterminacy of fact, but a new shape of factual firmness underwritten by a newly, if temporarily, settled perspective" (308).54

The assumption that Fish makes, enabling him to draw such a conclusion, concerns the way that historical inquiry--or, for that matter, academic research in general--is conducted. For Fish, one will not answer a specific historic question differently if one believes that historical events are constructed as opposed to found, because the means of construction are similar: historical narrative is still linear and tries to define cause-effect relationships, drawing upon the epistemology of rationality and scientific inquiry.55 Fish says as much soon after examining Jean Franco's anthologized essay on "The Nation as Imagined Community":

Not that I am faulting Franco for falling into the trap of being discursive and linear; she could not do otherwise and still have as an aim (in her terms an allegorical aim) the understanding --the bringing into discursive comprehension--of anything. In the end you can't "defy categorization," you can only categorize in a different way. (312)
This is a critical point that must be highlighted, as it will serve as one major crux of my argument: understanding, as we understand understanding, as the paradigm that is currently being challenged understands understanding, depends upon linearity for its epistemological underpinnings.56 Understanding as it is used here by Fish implies the kinds of comprehension that are figured in the metaphors of seeing as understanding, grasping or apprehending as comprehending, of theoria and "idea" as words etymologically rooted in the sense of sight. And he is right: within this framework, this paradigm, even New Historicists committed to engaging a poststructural practice cannot help but be "discursive and linear."57

The grammatologist would agree with Fish's criticism but would work to put his understanding into a perspective informed by the history of communicative technologies and of the practices that institutions adopt in employing these particular technologies. Along with Derrida, as the primary exemplar of the historical grammatologist in his earlier, more traditional work (when compared to works such as The Post Card and Glas, for instance), the theoretical grammatologist views the discourse of rationality as being part of the "epoch of logocentrism," an epoch governed by the metaphysics of presence that Derrida sets out to undermine, and s/he wishes to contribute to the kind of "meta-rational" thinking that the poststructural philosophers are forecasting as an effect of their work. One might even be inclined to call grammatology a kind of "new historical" approach.

As such, it shares certain qualities with the New Historicism as delineated above. Like the Renaissance New Historicists, the grammatologist will work to establish a self-conscious relationship to the past and to past practices in the history of reading of writing, but its purpose of doing so is to seek potential alternatives to current rhetorical practices. Writing was not always entirely alphabetic, with pages and pages of straight text, but in fact incorporated imagery as mnemonic and/or decorative devices, as in the emblem books of the Renaissance or the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Derrida himself has sung the praises of the hieroglyph, a kind of writing that he claims can be multilinear in its signifying practice. The grammatologist will cull from these and other past writing practices strategies for writing in the multilinear formats of the electronic media. In the process of doing so, s/he will self-reflexively discuss, in the manner of Montrose and Greenblatt, the current institutional practices--with an emphasis more on how they have come to be and how they affect perceptions of subject positioning than on the relative power(lessness) of the academic with a "frankly political agenda" (as Fish says)--as well as the historical contexts of those past institutional practices being drawn upon analogically as s/he begins to invent rhetorical practices for the electronic era.

Grammatology in the age of the Early Modern period will differ from a strictly New Historicist practice, however, in that it has a theoretical position that one can locate, and part of the purpose of this dissertation will be to delineate, exemplify, and enact this theoretical practice as it would be applied to the Early Modern period. While it is perhaps just as vague as the New Historicists' articulation of their theoretical grounding to say that grammatologists draw upon "twentieth century French literary theory/philosophy" as a theoretical basis, they desire not to engage in the debates over interpretations of these writers as much as they wish to look to them as models for how to "write" electronically. This may be taken as a polite sidestepping of significant issues, but they do not define grammatology in a way that requires critique and therefore see it as being outside of this realm, insofar as engaging in such debate can be taken up as a primary focus for academic work. For the grammatologist does not wish to fall into the same trap that Fish claims the New Historicists' did; that is, rather than continue in the realm of hermeneutics, of interpretation and description, the grammatologist seeks to cultivate an heuretic approach, one which does not necessarily entirely abandon the hermeneutic but which does not privilege it either, as s/he works to invent heuretically the new practices for an electronic age.58

To cultivate such an approach will be to escape (to whatever degree it is possible) the linear, rational, narrativizing of most current critical practice in order to elaborate a more richly specified practice of the meta-rational. Grammatological practice will invent, that is, the practice of invention--insofar as invention is a metarational process--and will work to institute a pedagogy that can teach this practice to those unacquainted with the difficult poststructural philosophies upon which it is grounded. Before beginning to do so, however, before beginning to derive ways of composing in the new medium of hypertext from the sixteenth century, I must provide more groundwork in the next chapter by situating grammatology in the recent orality versus literacy debates, looking especially at Jonathan Goldberg's negotiation of that debate in Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance, as well as point to what precisely in the Early Modern period can yield to a grammatological look by considering two histories of the period, The Art of Memory by Francis Yates and Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue by Walter Ong. Such a consideration will identify the sixteenth century as a site of educational transition caused in part by technological change, and will end with a preliminary consideration of Spenser as a writer in the midst of this transitional moment who was affected by the educational changes that took place.


1"It is hard to know whether such anxieties are a sign of large ambitions that have been frustrated . . . or a sign of the familiar academic longing for failure--we must be doing something wrong because people are listening to us and offering us high salaries. But whatever the source of the malaise, I urge that it be abandoned and that New Historicists sit back and enjoy the fruits of their professional success, wishing neither for more nor for less." Stanley Fish, "Commentary: The New Historicism," The New Historicism, ed. H. Aram Veeser (New York: Routledge, 1989) 315.

2Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970) 57-74.

3There is currently a shift to renominalize "Renaissance Studies" as "Early Modern Studies" for various theoretical reasons. Jonathan Crewe believes that using the former is a conservative gesture whereas using the latter is a more progressive one; he asks, "what implied commitments remain unalterable as long as the category 'Renaissance' remains in force?" Trials of Authorship: Anterior Forms and Poetic Reconstruction From Wyatt to Shakespeare (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990) 2. His goal is to achieve "representation [of the Renaissance] radically otherwise" and so sees the use of "Early Modern" as challenging the "tacit conservation of premises" that the term "Renaissance" carries with it.

4I do not intend to claim here that the term "poststructuralism" denotes a unified theoretical approach to literary and cultural studies. The grammatologist, however, does focus on those common denominators among the theorists, for instance the experimental writing projects of Luce Irigaray in The Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche, of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus, or of Jacques Derrida in Glas, all of which challenge institutionalized practices of book-literacy.

5There is a tendency among literary critics to distinguish their own position in the process of deriding others, as in Greenblatt's "Towards a Poetics of Culture" [The New Historicism, ed. H. Aram Veeser (New York: Routledge, 1989) 1-14] in which he critiques Jameson's and Lyotard's definitions of capitalism in order to suggest that his is more "complex": "If capitalism is invoked not as a unitary demonic principle [as it is in Jameson and Lyotard], but as a complex historical movement in a world without paradisal origins or chiliastic expectations [as it is in Greenblatt's work], then an inquiry into the relation between art and society in capitalist cultures must address both the formation of the working distinction upon which Jameson remarks and the totalizing impulse upon which Lyotard remarks" (6). In another strategy employed to create a niche for themselves in the ecology of textual studies, some critics, like Derek Alwes in "'Who knowes not Colin Clout?' Spenser's Self-Advertisement in The Faerie Queene, Book 6," Modern Philology 88 (August 1990), 26-42, work to correct or emend a previous reading. Alwes corrects Louis Montrose, who believes that Spenser defined himself as being the Queen's adversary, contesting her authority through his poetry. Alwes believes, on the other hand, that "the poetic role Spenser defines for himself in his works is that of accomplice, not adversary"(29). Here, Alwes in effect employs Montrose's method to make a different assertion. Perhaps the form of argument itself requires such embattled rhetoric, for in each example the critic assumes he knows the truth and is working to reveal inadequacies in preceding commentary. Revelation, then, becomes the primary mode of procedure, as implied by the following metaphor that Greenblatt employs at the end of "Towards a Poetics of Culture": "It is in response to this practice [of constructing an interpretive model that will more adequately account for the unsettling circulation of materials and discourses that is . . . the heart of modern aesthetic practice] that contemporary theory must situate itself: not outside interpretation, but in the hidden places of negotiation and exchange" (13, emphasis mine). Greenblatt works to reveal these "hidden places" to us in his essay. Rather than rely upon such metaphors of excavation, a theoretical grammatologist works to invent, working heuretically rather than hermeneutically. In this project, I will invent the institutional practices (or, more precisely, an institutional practice) for working with hypertext/hypermedia in Early Modern studies.

6Ulmer writes in the preface of Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys , "The applied phase of grammatology, which I introduce here, is meant to be the pedagogical equivalent of this scripting beyond the book, adequate to an era of interdisciplines, intermedia, electronic apparatus" (xiii). Ulmer indicates this special form of Derridean writing by capitalizing Writing.

7See also "The Pit and the Pyramid: Introduction to Hegel's Semiology," Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982) 69-108, in which Derrida writes, "The process of the sign has a history . . ." (71). His purpose in this essay, as he states, is to analyze the system of "the coordination of the theory of the sign and the light of parousia. . . {whose constraints} are exercised, in constitutive fashion, over the entire history of metaphysics" (72).

8Of course, this use of history is qualified and itself put into historical perspective; that is, history itself is seen to be a product of the logocentric dominion: "This phoneticization has a history, no script is absolutely exempt from it, and the enigma of this evolution does not allow itself to be dominated by the concept of history. To be sure, the latter appears at a determined moment in the phoneticization of script and it presupposes phoneticization in an essential way" (Of Grammatology 88).

9On the equivalence of "nonlinear dynamics" (as an aspect of what recent breakthroughs in physics are labelling "chaos theory") with deconstruction, see N. Katherine Hayles, Chaos Bound: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and Science (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1990): "Deconstruction and nonlinear dynamics appear isomorphic, then, because the concepts with which they are concerned form an ecology of ideas" (185) .

10As Ulmer writes, "The ultimate deconstruction of the logocentric suppression of writing is not to analyze the inconsistency of the offending theories, but to construct a fully operational mode of thought on the basis of the excluded elements (in the way that the non-Euclideans built consistent geometries that defied and contradicted the accepted axioms)" (Applied Grammatology xii). According to Ulmer, Derrida works to construct this mode of thought: he "systematically explores the nondiscursive levels--images and puns, or models and homophones--as an alternative mode of composition and thought applicable to academic work, or rather, play" (xi). See Text Book by Scholes, Comley, and Ulmer for an experimental "deconstructive" composition textbook for teaching writing about literature.

11In A Teacher's Introduction to Deconstruction (Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 1989), an introduction to high school instructors explaining deconstruction and its implications for writing instruction, Crowley concludes that many instructors now contradict themselves by teaching traditional rhetorical strategies for writing based on the logocentric mode while at the same time espousing, in their reading practices and interpretive work, a more progressive poststructural epistemology.

12Of the two, Crowley is more pessimistic about the possibility of doing so than Ulmer is. In A Teacher's Introduction to Deconstruction, she writes, "The performance of this 'reading' of traditional pedagogy may be as far as deconstruction will take us. I am not sure that a deconstructive pedagogy can be realized--the term is itself an oxymoron" (45). Despite this disclaimer, she does go on to suggest ways that instructors implementing a deconstructive pedagogy would conduct themselves, many of which are similar to those proposed by Stanley Aronowitz and Henry A. Giroux in Postmodern Education: Politics, Culture, and Social Criticism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).

13Stuart Moulthrop, a pioneer in hypertext studies who has already begun to compose texts in such hypermedia systems as Macintosh's Hypercard and Eastgate System's Storyspace, here implies that the features of hypertext will reconstruct institutional relationships to such an extent that the institution will resist its adoption. The piece cited here appeared in an essay entitled "The Shadow of an Informand: A Rhetorical Experiment in Hypertext," Perforations 3: After the Book, spring/summer 1992, ed. Richard Gess.

14Initial explorations have been made by George Landow in Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1992) and also in a book edited by Landow and Paul Delaney entitled Hypermedia and Literary Studies (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991).

15See Ulmer's recent publication, Heuretics: The Logic of Invention, pp. 18-19.

16For one example beyond the already mentioned work of Crowley and Ulmer, see Writing and Reading Differently: Deconstruction and the Teaching of Composition and Literature. Eds. G. Douglas Atkins and Michael L. Johnson. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985. See also the special issue of College Literature entitled Literary Theory in the Classroom 18.2 (1991).

17See Paul de Man, "The Epistemology of Metaphor," Critical Inquiry 5: 1 (Autumn 1978), 13-30, in which he exposes how major Western philosophers, in trying to avoid the use of metaphor, cannot do so: "All philosophy is condemned, to the extent that it is dependent upon figuration, to be literary . . . " (28).

18This is precisely what Derrida does in his overall project, according to Ulmer: upon undermining the primary metaphors governing cognition--the senses of distance (sight and hearing)--Derrida provides an alternative, an alternative discovered in the neglected possibilities of the vehicle: the chemical senses of proximity (taste and smell). That is, in recognizing the complicity of visual metaphors of cognition (implicit in the Latin "videre" which means both "I see" and "I understand") in the hegemony of logocentrism, Derrida suggests that using the chemical senses as alternatives can provide a way to undermine logocentrism. See Ulmer, Applied Grammatology, 30-67: "The philosophemes are to be deconstructed by an examination of their metaphors--specifically, the vehicles, the senses or sensible aspect of the organs. The goal is the conceptualization of the chemical senses, excluded thus far from theory" (54).

19The limitations of the "desktop" metaphor in computer interface design have been noted. See especially Alan Kay's article "User Interface: A Personal View" in The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design. ed. Brenda Laurel (New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1990) 191-207.

20Despite the fact that this essay is now over a decade old, the condition Goldberg describes does not seem to have changed much, as Louis Montrose notes in his more recent essay entitled "Professsing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture," in The New Historicism, ed. H. Aram Veeser (Routledge: New York, 1989) 15-36: "Until very recently--and perhaps even now--the dominant mode of interpretation in English Renaissance literary studies has been to combine formalist techniques of close rhetorical analysis with the elaboration of relatively self-contained histories of 'ideas,' or of literary genres and topoi--histories that have been abstracted from their social matrices" (17-18). Montrose goes on to describe "two other traditional practices of 'history' in Renaissance literary studies," practices which reflect what I have called the conservative strain, and then proceeds to point out what is "new" about the new historicism. Montrose is perhaps the most helpful in understanding the history of new historicism and its emergence on the critical "scene."

21I use "invent" here to invoke both the sense of coming upon or finding (the classical rhetorical conception) as well as the more modern conception of fabricating or making. It is widely acknowledged, in the poststructural paradigm, that critics no longer uncover the Truth of any given text but that they take part in constructing the meanings that are generated from their reading.

22Goldberg says that, "as Foucault shows, the very shape of knowledge in the Renaissance is deconstructive" (Endlesse Worke 11, note 5).

23William Caxton, the renowned printer, critic and translator best known for introducing the printing press into England in 1476, bemoaned this state of affairs in a prologue to his translation of the French poem Eneydos (1490) and called for standardization in spelling and punctuation so that printers like himself could do their job that much easier: "Loo what sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte egges or eyren / certaynly it is harde to playse euery man / by cause of dyuersite & chaunge of langage." Quoted in W.F. Bolton, A Living Language: The History and Structure of English (New York: Random House, 1982).

24In fact, many of these critics seem to work with this as an underlying assumption, since they seem to present their discoveries of deconstructive characteristics within Spenser's texts as though Spenser himself were a Derridean. Of course, this is a common critique of any theoretical application, one which may even be unavoidable despite the gestures that even self-reflexive critics like Gross, Miller, Greenblatt Montrose, and Goldberg make toward acknowledging their presence in the critical mediation of Spenser's texts.

25I choose Jonathan Goldberg as an exemplary representative of deconstructive criticism in the Early Modern period as a conscious act of reduction, since to cover the critics mentioned above alone would cost space I do not have. The trajectory of his career, too, is most interesting: going from Endlesse Worke to a book on James I and then on to the deconstructive essays in Voice Terminal Echo, he follows these with a historical study I will later argue is "grammatological," entitled Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance, and his most recent book, Sodometries, which is classified in the ascendant category of "gay studies." In his career, therefore, one sees a nomadic progression, one which is sensitive to the changing possibilities that poststructuralism has allowed and which has responded to these possibilities with works that continue to demand attention.

26Louis Montrose, in "Professing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture," adequately summarizes two "traditional practices of 'history' in Renaissance literary studies: one comprises those commentaries on political commonplaces in which the dominant ideology of Tudor-Stuart society--the unreliable machinery of socio-political legitimation--is misrecognized as a stable, coherent, and collective Elizabethan world picture, a picture discovered to be lucidly reproduced in the canonical literary works of the age; and the other, the erudite but sometimes eccentric scholarly detective work which, by treating texts as elaborate ciphers, seeks to fix the meaning of fictional characters and actions in their reference to specific historical persons and events" (18). For an example of both the former and the latter types of traditional practices that Montrose mentions, see William Nelson's The Poetry of Edmund Spenser. New York: Columbia University Press, 1963.

27In describing the altered 1596 ending and introducing its deconstructive qualities, Goldberg writes, "It seems arguable, and I will want to maintain the point, that this revision clarifies the nature of narrative progress throughout the poem and suggests the peculiar pleasures this text offers" (2, emphasis added).

28Other critics make similar gestures. Patricia Parker, in Inescapable Romance: Studies in the Poetics of a Mode (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1979), defines romance as being "characterized primarily as a form which simultaneously quests for and postpones a particular end, objective, or object . . ." (4). She isolates the key strategies of romance as being "deferral" and "delay," both falling under the notion of "dilation." Parker demonstrates how Spenser's texts perform such dilatory strategies: "by repetition and doubling, by the proliferation of the fragments of one episode into others . . ." (70). With her focus on "dilation," she, like Goldberg, provides a way of discussing Spenser's narrative in terms of Derridean "differance." Kenneth Gross, too, in Spenserian Poetics: Idolatry, Iconoclasm, and Magic (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985), carefully foregrounds his discussion in a reading of Hebraic, Kabbalistic, and New Testament texts so as to claim that Spenser had an attitude toward language very similar to recent deconstructive theories of language. Like Goldberg, Gross works to explain why Spenser would approach language as uncertain and duplicitous, why he would intentionally confuse beginnings and endings and mystify their origins.

29N. Katherine Hayles, in Chaos Bound: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and Science, writes of how the deconstructionist can be more totalizing than those texts s/he deconstructs: "There is a growing inclination within literary circles to regard deconstruction in these terms, as a theory of local knowledge more totalizing than the totalizing theories it criticizes" (227). She goes on to praise Paul de Man for his brilliance in recognizing this fact in his essay "The Resistance to Theory": "When Paul de Man creates a global theory of local knowledge, he simultaneously repudiates and practices mastery in this sense, for he resists totalization by totalizing. . . . The ideology of local knowledge, pushed to the extreme, is thus inextricable from the totalitarian impulses it most opposes. The unflinching honesty with which de Man faces this paradox is admirable, for it implies a profound awareness that impulses toward mastery are still masterful even when they are directed against mastery" (232).

30I will quote the passage in its entirety, a passage from a footnote: "The reversal here is extremely significant since a normative boundary is crossed. The opposition of speaking and writing is analogous to the opposition of nature and culture, of interiority and exteriority. As Derrida argues in Of Grammatology (pp. 6 ff.), this opposition is weighted in terms of value and sequence, so that the terms nature-inside-speech are granted priority and value, spirituality. However, they can be reversed, and Of Grammatology is intent upon the reversal that allows writing-culture-exteriority to precede or replace the opposing terms. When we approach Spenser's writerly text, one thing we mean--and one thing that Spenser's text clearly conveys--is that writing comes before representation. Voice in the proem is an artifact, a cultural construct, an echo of other texts; nature is made by art" (15, note 7, emphasis added).

31"In all three instances, we started out from a relatively self-assured attempt to control tropes by merely acknowledging their existence and circumscribing their impact. . . . But, in each case, it turns out to be impossible to maintain a clear line of distinction between rhetoric, abstraction, symbol, and all other forms of language" ("The Epistemology of Metaphor," 26).

32See, for instance, the untranslatable titles and subtitles of "White Mythology: Metaphor in the Text of Philosophy," Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982) 207-271, untranslatable because of the cluster of puns they radiate.

33In Ulmer's latest book, entitled Heuretics: The Logic of Invention , Ulmer defines heuretics as "the branch of logic that treats the art of discovery or invention."

34I take "meta-rationality" to refer to the "logic" of the arational, to a desired goal which avoids the binaristic thinking of rational thought. The major philosophers of poststructuralism work to undermine the hegemony of reason within modern philosophy (and this is perhaps why their work is considered so alien and therefore shunned in many quarters). Barthes, in A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill & Wang, 1978), looks forward to "the glorious end of logical thinking" (61); Deleuze and Guattari offer a "new logic of the AND" [A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 1987) 25]--the rhizome--which is opposed to the binary logic of the tree; and Derrida speaks of the "logic of the abyme" as the "figurative ruination of logic" ("White Mythology" 262).

35Part One of Of Grammatology ends with a consideration of how difficult it is to comment upon the epoch of logocentric domination within this tradition itself, using the very conceptual paraphernalia Derrida is attempting to deconstruct, of how his revision of grammatology cannot be called a science: "What seems to announce itself now is, on the one hand, that grammatology must not be one of the sciences of man and, on the other hand, that it must not be just one regional science among others" (83). And elsewhere: "A science of the possibility of science? A science of science which would no longer have the form of logic but that of grammatics?" (27-28). See also "The Law of Genre," in which Derrida reads Blanchot's La Folie du Jour as a direct challenge to the violence of classificatory thinking, the "madness of law--and, therefore, of order, reason, sense and meaning, of day" (228). Barthes, too, writes, "I enable you to escape the death of classification" (A Lover's Discourse 221), and Reda Bensmaia, in his forward to Deleuze and Guattari's Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, writes, "Deleuze and Guattari give the modern reader a means by which to enter into Kafka's work without being weighted down by the old categories of genres, types, modes, and style. . . . These categories would imply that the reader's task is at bottom to interpret Kafka's writing" (xiv).

36Ulmer says as much in his chapter on Beuys in Applied Grammatology: " . . . a further pedagogy of creativity is also set in motion, intended not only to show people the principles of creativity and how to put them into practice but also--and here is the particular power of the new pedagogy, beyond deconstruction--to stimulate the desire to create . . ." (264).

37See Ulmer's essays that conceptualize pedagogy in the humanities in terms of the pedagogy of the sciences, essays that propose assignments in which students are asked to replicate the great experiments of avant garde literature in the same manner that chemistry or physics students are asked in the sciences to replicate the great experiments of those disciplines: "Textshop for Post(e)pedagogy," Writing and Reading Differently, eds. G. Douglas Atkins and Michael L. Johnson (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985) 38-64; and "Textshop for an Experimental Humanities," Reorientations, eds. Bruce Henricksen and Thais E. Morgan (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990) 113-132. See also the "Discussion" that follows the reprint of "Grammatology (in the Stacks) of Hypermedia, a Simulation: or, When Does a Pile become a Heap?" Literacy Online, ed. Myron Tuman (Pittsburg: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992) 159-164.

38As Ulmer writes, "In the process [of expanding images of quotidian objects like a postcard, an unlaced shoe, etc. into models for writing], he [Derrida] reveals a simplicity, an economy, underlying the so-called esotericism of intellectual discourse which, if properly tapped, could eliminate the gap separating the general public from specialists in cultural studies" (Applied Grammatology xii). While such a goal of "democratization" may come across as a lofty one--and one perhaps fraught with ideological traps--the example of undergraduate success that I described seems to offer some hope for making a writing based upon poststructural principles accessible to the "non-expert."

39"Lesson Five" appears in Visible Language 22 (1988) 399-422 (a special issue entitled "Instant Theory: Making Thinking Popular"), "Lesson Eight" appears in Art and Text (Fall 1990), and "Lesson Ten" appears in Exposure 28 (1991) 85-90.

40Ulmer's two major books, Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys, and Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video, are concerned with, among other things, changing the way scholars in the humanities conduct their work. Applied Grammatology works to cull the twentieth century experimental arts for alternative pedagogic strategies: "The task of applied grammatology is to introduce this [picto-ideo-phonographic] Writing into the classroom (and eventually into research communication in the form of video tapes)" (242). Though Applied Grammatology primarily focuses on the pedagogic level of applying grammatology, of introducing into the classroom the "picto-ideo-phonographic Writing" Ulmer sees Derrida using, Teletheory begins the discussion of introducing this Writing into academic research, ending with an experimental research project. Ulmer himself says in an interview that "When I finished Teletheory I was surprised by the extent to which it is a sequel to the first book [i.e. Applied Grammatology ]" (9). "The Making of 'Derrida at the Little Bighorn': An Interview," Strategies #2 (1989), 9-23.

41See "Professing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture," 32, note 7. While Goldberg is certainly kinder to Montrose and Greenblatt than he is to Fredric Jameson and to those practicing "older modes of criticism" (538), he does comment upon various shortcomings of the method. See "The Politics of Renaissance Literature: A Review Essay," ELH 49 (1982), 514-542.

42This title is grouped with the more "consistent" New Historicists (like Montrose and Greenblatt) in various disparaging assessments of the New Historicist method. Alan Liu, for instance, includes it in a list of "examples of such paradigmatic or 'anecdotal' openings, which since the time of Howard's essay have become a favorite stalking-horse for readers critical of the New Historicism" ["The Power of Formalism: The New Historicism," ELH 56 (1990), p.757 note 2]. Christopher Kendrick, too [in "Anachronisms of Renaissance Postmodernism: On the Textuality Hypothesis in Jonathan Goldberg's Voice Terminal Echo, " Boundary 2 15 (Spring/Fall 1988), 239-69], writes of "the exemplary quality of Goldberg's criticism, which has worked both sides--philosophical and culturalist--of the divide opened up by the textuality hypothesis, and participated in both the 'New Historicist' and deconstructive tendencies that characterize much recent Renaissance criticism" (240). And even as late as the Winter 1990 issue of New Literary History, we see Goldberg defending himself against the attack of Richard Levin's "Unthinkable Thoughts in the New Historicizing of English Renaissance Drama," in a special issue on "New Historicism, New Histories and Others" which produced quite a heated exchange among the participants.

43There is some debate--or disagreement--over the precise relationship between deconstruction and New Historicism. Joel Fineman, for instance, equates the two critical approaches in terms of their attention to the "textuality" of their texts (see his essay "The History of the Anecdote: Fiction and Fiction" in The New Historicism, 65, note 6), while Howard Felperin distinguishes New Historicism as a contextual approach from deconstruction as a textual approach ["It is, rather, because post-structuralism, in both its contextualist (or neo-historicist) version and its textualist (or deconstructive) version, is not, philosophically speaking, a 'realism' at all but a 'conventionalism.'" "Making it 'neo': the new historicism and Renaissance literature," Textual Practice 1 (1987), 263.]. Liu, on the other hand, writes of New Historicism as in between these two categories: "Fearing total commitment to either contextual or textual understanding, it pauses nervously in between" (768, note 62). Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak views conflict between the two and attributes this to a turf battle ["As I believe Derrida himself surmised at the conference, the conflict between New Historicism and deconstruction can now be narrowed down to a turf battle between Berkeley and Irvine, Berkeley and Los Angeles" ("The New Historicism: Political Commitment and the Postmodern Critic," The New Historicism 278)], and Stanley Fish views the dilemma of New Historicism, which on the one hand undermines the ability to know the past except through the filter of the present and on the other hand wants to assert a particular kind of knowledge about the past as being true, as "a tension between the frankly political agenda of much New Historicist work and the poststructuralist polemic which often introduces and frames that same work" ("Commentary: The Young and the Restless," 304). Finally, Stephen Greenblatt seems to want to distance his practice from poststructuralism as he situates himself "in relation to Marxism on the one hand, and poststructuralism on the other" ("Towards a Poetics of Culture" 1-2). He finds that in both (represented by Fredric Jameson in The Political Unconscious and Jean-Francois Lyotard in "Judiciousness in Dispute or, Kant after Marx") "History functions . . . as a convenient anecdotal ornament upon a theoretical structure, and capitalism appears not as a complex social and economic development in the West but as a malign philosophical principle" (5). Greenblatt's assumption here is that any single theory cannot fully describe something as complex as capitalism: "I propose that the general question addressed by Jameson and Lyotard--what is the historical relation between art and society or between one institutionally demarcated discursive practice and another?--does not lend itself to a single, theoretically satisfactory answer of the kind that Jameson and Lyotard are trying to provide" (5). This, then, justifies the theoretically eclectic approach of the New Historicism.

44"The Poetics and Politics of Culture," 20. If the New Historicism is a "poststructural" history, then Goldberg's later work in Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance might be called "New Historicist." But he takes great pains to establish and carry out a "deconstructive history" which avoids the "vulgar concept of time" which linearizes history, a problem he found with the kind of historicizing Greenblatt does in Renaissance Self-Fashioning: "To label history in hindsight means to narrativize history in a certain way, to view its course as linear and teleological and to assume that one can read back" ("The Politics of Renaissance Literature" 534). Others have found this tendency in New Historicist work, as will be seen. So there appears to be a rift in the field of "poststructuralist history," thereby problematizing the use of that label.

45"Towards a Poetics of Culture," 1-14.

46See p. 743. In note 5 (758-59), Liu shows what the contents of this "wonder cabinet" are in an extensive documentation of the theoretical sources of New Historicist vocabulary: "In the main, the method bears the imprint of a massive borrowing from New Criticism . . . from deconstruction . . . from 'dialectic' and its components . . . and from complementary terminologies in Foucault, Geertz, and Althusser."

47Besides the essays already mentioned by Alan Liu, Howard Felperin, Louis Montrose, Stephen Greenblatt, Stanley Fish, Christopher Kendrick, Richard Levin, and Jonathan Goldberg, see also Louis Montrose, "Renaissance Literary Studies and the Subject of History," ELR 16 (Winter 1986), 5-12; Jean E. Howard, "The New Historicism in Renaissance Studies," ELR 16 (Winter 1986), 13-43; and David Norbrook, "The Life and Death of Renaissance Man," Raritan 8 (1989), 89-110. Fish makes a similar comment concerning the essays anthologized in The New Historicism: "For the most part (and this is a distinction to which I shall return) these essays are not doing New Historicism but talking about doing New Historicism, about the claims made in its names and the problems those claims give rise to . . . " ("Commentary: The Young and the Restless" 303).

48As Montrose writes, "But neither has it become any clearer that 'The New Historicism' designates any agreed upon intellectual and institutional program" ("The Poetics and Politics of Culture" 18). He goes on to detail the conflicted terrain that "New Historicism" designates, concluding that "Inhabiting the discursive spaces traversed by the term 'New Historicism' are some of the most complex, persistent, and unsettling of the problems that professors of literature attempt variously to confront or to evade . . ." (19).

49In Image Music Text, tr. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977) 155-64.

50Lacan is best known for formulating the sense of how cultural agents are "separated" from their mothers by the "Name-of-the-Father," that is, how the in(tro)duction into language constitutes an entry into a cultural "field" of language governed by the "paternal signifier." His work with linguistics in the area of psychoanalysis exemplifies the general way that considerations of linguistics have infiltrated almost every field of study.

51Alan Liu, in fact, suggests at the end of his powerful critique of the New Historicist methodology (or lack thereof) that: "That which needs to be unthought, in other words, is the very concept of the 'text' itself" (756). His portrayal of the New Historicist as a postmodern intellectual so embarrassed by his social and political impotence that s/he finds vicarious reassurance in identifying with those Renaissance figures who subversively fight the oppressive forces of monarchical rule--an account no less dramatic than the New Historicists he critiques--ends with a call for a "New Historicist study of New Historicism" (752), "a full-scale theory of New Historicism" (754), "a renewed rhetoric" (755), and a prophecy of a "'new rhetorical historicism' now making its advent" (771, note 95)--i.e. an historicism that is active in a rhetorical sense rather than being the passive hermeneutic practice that it is under the present circumstances. I have John Murchek to thank for clarifying some of these issues for me.

52For "Invisible Bullets," see Shakespearean Negotiations (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988) 21-66. For the essay on Spenser's "Bower" episode, see Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980) 157-192.

53Montrose in fact closes by admitting to having a purpose which grows out of this perspective: "If, by the ways in which we choose to read Renaissance texts, we bring to our students and to ourselves a sense of our own historicity, an apprehension of our own positionings within ideology, then we are at the same time demonstrating the limited but nevertheless tangible possibility of contesting the regime of power and knowledge that at once sustains and constrains us" (31). While some have questioned the extent to which the New Historicism empowers its students, many have noted the phenomenon that the New Historicism communicates more about itself in the present, by means of using the past as a mirror, than it reveals about the Renaissance. See, for instance, Alan Liu: " . . . the New Historicist interpreter is thus a subject looking into the past for some other subject able to define what he himself, or she herself, is; but all the search shows in its uncanny historical mirror is the same subject he/she already knows: a simulacrum of the poststructuralist self insecure in its identity" (733); Howard Felperin: "For all the Renaissance erudition in Greenblatt's work, its command of historical detail, richness of peculiar anecdote and attentiveness to contemporary texts, it is his own culture that he broods on and depicts. If we want to understand the historical nature of Greenblatt's achievement, we must look finally beyond the Renaissance context he so painstakingly constructs and into his own cultural and institutional context" (276); and David Norbrook: "In an era of escalating competitiveness for academic posts in an increasingly market-oriented career structure, academics are no longer allowed the luxury of an earlier generation's idealization of the disinterested quest for truth, and it is not surprising that their discourse should betray such pressures" (107-08). Liu even suggests that this feature should become foregrounded as a primary part of a fully delineated theory of New Historicism: "A concept with eminently academic overtones, 'acknowledgement' of the present's intervention in the past should blossom into disciplined study. We should see our own prejudices and concerns in such constructs as the 'Renaissance' . . . " (753).

54N. Katherine Hayles makes a similar argument in discussing gender encoding in the science of fluid mechanics. She attempts to account for the reason that complex flows in hydraulics were ignored (because unsolvable)--and their subsequently being gendered as feminine--by examining the initial assumptions of the differential mathematics used to solve such equations. Before the advent of fractal geometry and chaos theory, complex flows were considered aberrations, but now, within the new mathematical framework, scientists are finding the complex and nonlinear to be the norm. Hayles' explanation is like Fish's in its explanation of how conclusions can still be valid (like scientific laws, for instance) yet be in conflict with other conclusions (for example, Newton's Laws of Gravity vs. Einstein's Laws of Relativity). She writes, "It is not that the 'laws' are untrue, but rather that they represent formulations which can be verified when one is standing at a certain position and looking at things in a certain way. Despite their names, conservation laws and continuity principles are not inevitable facts of nature but constructions that foreground some experiences and marginalize others " (31, my emphasis). See "Gender Encoding in Fluid Mechanics: Masculine Channels and Feminine Flows," Differences 4.2 (1992), 16-44.

55To repeat a line already quoted in note 40 from Jonathan Goldberg: "To label history in hindsight means to narrativize history in a certain way, to view its course as linear and teleological and to assume that one can read back" ("The Politics of Renaissance Literature 534). Liu also comments upon the point of narrativizing as a New Historicist habit: "One way to approach the problem of New Historicist 'paradigms' might thus be to recognize that they are first and foremost highly sophisticated exercises in storytelling" (767, note 55). His astute comment holds significant intimations concerning the status of New Historicist practice as being anything really new when the implications of being labelled "narrative" are considered. As Jerome McGann (whom Liu refers to in the same footnote) writes, "In the discourses of criticism, and most typically in philosophy and literary discourse, narrativized forms are so common that their narrativity is often not even noticed" [Social Values and Poetic Acts: The Historical Judgment of Literary Work. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988) 133]. McGann invokes Hayden White's question of what a non-narrative history would be and proceeds to provide two models--what he calls "criticism as array" and "criticism as dialectic"--that already exist and that can serve as alternatives to the ideological axiomatic inherent in narrative's emphasis on continuity.

56Disciplines that are currently challenging epistemological assumptions include poststructural philosophies, theories of chaos, fractal geometry, cognitive science and neural network research. Each of these emphasizes non- or multi-linearity as fundamental to its approach.

57Hayles begins her essay on "Gender Encoding in Fluid Mechanics" by discussing the differences between Donna Haraway and Luce Irigaray in their approach to writing about the sciences. The fundamental difference is that Haraway's arguments "challenge scientific objectivity from within the rules of the game . . . Positioning oneself at the periphery [as Haraway does] is not the same, however, as leaving the game altogether. Leaving the game is the move Irigaray makes . . ." (18-19). She later characterizes Irigaray's discourse as being "fractured, elliptical, nonlinear " (19, my emphasis). This is, in part, the goal of the grammatologist as well: to escape the game, the game of narrative criticism that only adds more stories to the overstuffed shelves of libraries, a game which engages the ideology of continuity and linearity. But the new game is not supposed to be so intimidating (as is Irigaray's) that nobody will want to play.

58Ulmer might not call his work newly historical but newly "mystorical," as he invents a new genre called the "mystory," the title of which intends to parody "history" and juxtapose against the obvious patriarchal pun a rubric for this particular heuretic work in Teletheory. He himself writes about the necessary suspension of the hermeneutic impulse in order to allow for the heuretic, inventive process to occur. As he notes, the interpretive process can come afterwards: "The mystory learns from the psychoanalytic interview the strategy of suspending critical analysis, temporarily, in order to bring into appearance, into representation, the pattern that inevitably arises when texts are juxtaposed. 'Derrida at the Little Bighorn' is classified as a 'fragment' in Teletheory because it remains to be interpreted. It was generated heuretically by juxtaposing the three discourses that constitute my 'life story.' In fact, the main purpose of this interview is to begin the interpretive process" ("The Making of 'Derrida at the Little Bighorn': An Interview" 13).

Contents | Introduction | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Conclusion | References

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