Contents | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 5 | Conclusion | References


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

by Richard Smyth, Ph.D.

The Return of Allegory and the Privileging of the Surface

Jorge Luis Borges, writing about the decline of allegory in the age of print literacy, asks, after considering its past popularity in the Middle Ages and characterizing its present status as a "stupid and frivolous" genre, "How can I explain the difference in outlook without simply appealing to the principle of changing tastes?" (156). The discussion at the close of my third chapter, however, suggests that forces greater than mere taste were behind this decline in status that allegory experienced. But Borges' statement, as far as it is acceptable, implies the possibility of a reversal in taste, and this is what I will suggest has occurred in the aesthetic and theoretical sensibility of twentieth-century artists and philosophers. Evidence for this change in taste ranges from the presence of allegory in the graphic novels of popular culture1 to the canvas texts of Rauschenberg and the resurrection of the baroque by Walter Benjamin and Gilles Deleuze.2 This change in taste may also be a result of the emergence of electronic media which, as I will soon show, contain the potential for student and scholarly composition of allegorical forms of textuality. I hope to encourage the recognition of this allegorical potential of the electronic technologies, and I suggest with this chapter that the overlap into current literary and aesthetic theory will guide institutional practices into a more overtly allegorical pedagogy, both in terms of its form and its content.3

Part of the reason for the return of allegory results from the recognition by literary theorists of symbol's role in the Romantic conception of aesthetic sensibility and their subsequent desire to undermine that role. Insofar as the symbol came to be considered as an organic, unified form of signification superior to allegory and its arbitrary form of signification, it displaced allegory as the dominant trope in the making of meaning. Opposed to the superficial relationship between allegorical signifier and its signified, a relationship said to be imposed upon the referent by the author, is the more profound connection that symbol implies, with its "natural" synecdochic reference "growing" out of itself. I consciously used the evaluative terms "superficial" and "profound" in the previous sentence to highlight the implied metaphors of surface and depth at the root of the connotative associations normally employed: superficial is used in the sense of "comprehending only what is apparent or obvious" but primarily means "of, affecting, or being on or near the surface"; profound is used in the sense of "thorough-going, far-reaching" and "penetrating beyond what is superficial or obvious" but primarily means "situated at, extended to, or coming from a great depth." Benjamin recognizes this dynamic associating symbolism with depth and profundity in "Allegory and Trauerspiel," a dynamic which pervades the way art commentators discuss their subject:

This [notion of the symbol], which is the one used in the field of theology, could never have shed that sentimental twilight over the philosophy of beauty which has become more and more impenetrable since the end of early romanticism. But it is precisely this illegitimate talk of the symbolic which permits the examination of every artistic form "in depth", and has an immeasurably comforting effect on the practice of investigation into the arts. (159-160)
Benjamin views the hegemony of the symbol in terms of the "tyranny of a usurper who came to power in the chaos which followed in the wake of romanticism" (159), and he identifies the theological motivation (Derrida would call it "transcendental signification") residing in the association between symbolism and depth. As a way of undermining this hegemony, Benjamin returns to the baroque as a period in the history of art when artists indulged in allegorical representation.

To understand this resurrection of allegory, then, we must consider the return of the surface as a privileged metaphor. This return is in part attributable to the renewed emphasis on language that poststructural theory has fostered in literary criticism, an emphasis which directs us to attend to the surface of language. The playful aspect of the pun exemplifies this attention to the surface of the letter, and its reputation in popular consciousness as the "lowest form of humor" demonstrates its association with "superficiality." Derrida and Lacan are the best-known of the poststructural philosophers to use the pun in their writing, and their use elevates its status from the lowest form of humor to a rhetorical device recognized for its potential power as a way of multiplying the polysemy of language.4 In her attempt to define allegory, Maureen Quilligan identifies this very aspect of language use as being fundamental to a genre "which consistently pays the most profound attention to the radical significance of that much-dismissed literal surface" (29). Elsewhere she writes, "Wordplay is an organic part of the genre . . ." (46), since "the effect of wordplay is to make readers self-conscious of reading by indicating the primary importance of the verbal surface rather than the imagined action" (254).

It is the "much-dismissed literal surface" that Derrida refuses to forget in his conscious attempt to remember the forgotten meanings buried in words and to write with all of these meanings at once.5 Derrida writes elsewhere of the surface, in his discussion of the crypt in "Fors: The Anglish Words of Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok." Hillis Miller's reading of Derrida's discussion in "Derrida's Topographies" asserts that wordplay is a necessary part of literary discourse in that it creates a crypt of secrets, a secretive language that never reveals its secrets. This explains from Miller's point of view the deconstructive desire to view all writing as literary, as harboring a signified that is problematized by the impenetrable surface-effects of tropological language.6 As Hillis Miller writes, "Derrida's current way of saying this is to argue that all literature harbors a secret. The secret is an essential feature of literature" (16). Wordplay is not playful so much as necessary--"its bizarre turns of phrase, its syntactical equivocations, its outward resemblances [ses dehors ressemblants ]. By 'dehors ressemblants' I take it Derrida means the figurative or tropological surface of the language necessary to talk about the crypt--for example, his own language about cement and caulking" (15). Here, the tropological is viewed as an inherently superficial aspect of language, one that plays with and on the surface of language as it keeps the secret of an ultimate meaning that never will be revealed by the language without imposing a hermeneutic gesture of interpretation, which confinines the polysemous play of the words themselves to a single, rational, revealed meaning.

So to preserve literature as literature, literary critics reading such literature in order to interpret it must allow the text to have these secrets without wanting to know what these secrets are, one reason being the practical one that they are impossible to discover. The "meaning(s)" reside on the surface, in the language itself, on the level of the signifier, rather than in the depth of the signified:

Literature eternally keeps its secrets, and the secret is an essential feature of literature. If the secret tells us something essential about literature, literature on the other hand tells us something essential about the secret. It tells us that the true secret, if there is such a thing, is not hidden somewhere, in some place from which it might in principle be wrested, recovered, uncovered. A true secret is all on the surface. This superficiality cannot by any hermeneutic procedures, material or linguistic, be gone behind. A literary text (and any text may be taken as literary) says what it says. It cannot be forced to say more than it says.7 (Hillis Miller, "Derrida's Topographies" 17)
Those involved in a hermeneutic search for the transcendental signified behind or underlying the surface of language, those trying to "force" it "to say more than it says," conveniently forget the "much-dismissed" surface. With Derrida's challenge to the 2500 year hegemony of hermeneutics inaugurated by Plato, this forgotten surface of the letter, of the literal, returns--and some would say with a vengeance.

Craig Owens notes an equation between allegory and Writing (capitalized to indicate the kind of surface-oriented, picto-ideo-phonogrammatic writing that Derrida calls for) based on their similar suppression at the hand of Platonic essentializing.8 This essentializing, Owens asserts (following Benjamin), is a common denominator in both the privileging of the symbol over allegory and the privileging of voice over writing--what Derrida calls "phonocentrism": "It is of course within the same philosophic tradition which subordinates writing to speech that allegory is subordinated to the symbol. It might be demonstrated, from another perspective, that the suppression of allegory is identical with the suppression of writing" (215). Writing of the kind that attends to the surface, then, manifests what Owens calls an "allegorical impulse" because in allegory, "the image is a hieroglyph, an allegory is a rebus--writing composed of concrete images" (209).9 One is reminded of Derrida's consideration of the hieroglyph in part one of Of Grammatology and its result for the advent of Writing:

By a hardly perceptible necessity, it seems as though the concept of writing--no longer indicating a particular, derivative, auxiliary form of language in general (whether understood as communication, relation, expression, signification, constitution of meaning or thought, etc.), no longer designating the exterior surface, the insubstantial double of a major signifier, the signifier of the signifier--is beginning to go beyond the extension of language. (6-7)
For Derrida, the return of the surface that occurs with a return of the allegorical impulse--a return of picto-ideo-phonographic Writing--paradoxically undermines the surface-depth distinction, as all that is left is a textual network of signifiers that do not point to signifieds but only to other signifiers: "There is not a single signified that escapes, even if recaptured, the play of signifying references that constitute language. The advent of writing is the advent of this play . . ." (7).10

The insight Owens offers later in his essay that is most helpful to my project of trying to discover an electronic rhetoric parallels allegory with filmic writing. While film is not "electronic" per se, its strategies of montage and juxtaposition, its composition by means of fragments, make it similar to both video and hypertext composition. The capacity of hypertext, or better, hypermedia, to sustain sound, graphics, and now "quick-time video" (short portions of video that play on the computer screen) brings to hypermedia considerations once confined to the film-maker. But it is the presence of the image, the "pictogram," that for Owens defines film as allegorical:

[T]hat film should be the primary vehicle for modern allegory may be attributed not only to its unquestioned status as the most popular of contemporary art forms, but also to its mode of representation. Film composes narratives out of a succession of concrete images, which make it peculiarly suited to allegory's essential pictogrammatism. (230)
To draw a cause-effect relationship between the emergence of electronic technologies and the current challenge to Platonic logocentrism is unnecessary, as one can attribute both phenomenon to some kind of "epistemological shift" that is in the process of playing itself out not only in the humanities but also in the sciences.11 Such a move does not make the mistake of citing one as the cause of the other but sees both as being caused by larger cultural forces. At any rate, there has been a general return to Greek philosophy as a way of negotiating our current moment.12 In terms of poststructural philosophy, this return has entailed a search for philosophical alternatives to the hegemony of the Platonic "epoch." Eric Charles White, for instance, in Kaironomia: On the Will to Invent, returns to Sophists such as Gorgias for the exposition of an "antimetaphysical metaphysic" which finds its resurrection in the texts of recent philosophers like Derrida, Barthes, and de Man. White introduces the idea of metonymy in a discussion of the poststructural perception of the fragmented self and its revision of Freud's idea of the "middle voice"; he characterizes kaironomic thought, a thought which is "invested in the present" and which implies a "rhetorical practice in which intention emerges in response to a particular situation," as metonymic, as oriented to the surface :
The disruptive agency of metonymy suggests an aesthetic of surfaces, of abrupt shifts and juxtapositions, a movement of thought in which desiring energy is invested in the present. Instead of the reflexive dream of purely habitual uninventive behavior, it implies a rhetorical practice in which the speaker's intention emerges in response to the particular situation. (56-57)
White here valorizes metonymy as a way of arguing for a sophistic rhetoric of invention. His relation of the Sophists' philosophy to that of contemporary French poststructuralism locates another reference to the return of the surface. The description of metonymy as an aesthetic of "abrupt shifts" and "juxtapositions" reinforces the filmic/electronic aspect of this poststructural orientation to the surface.

The surface also returns in a second example of the poststructural revival of a Greek philosophy other than Platonic, manifesting another instance of the contemporary desire to overcome Plato's pervasive influence in philosophic thought. Gilles Deleuze, in The Logic of Sense, calls for consideration of the Stoic philosophy because "[t]he Stoics discovered surface effects" (7). Deleuze also discovers the surface in the works of Lewis Caroll. Like the Stoics, Carroll is an inventor of paradoxes, which is significant in terms of the surface-depth distinction because "[p]aradox appears as a dismissal of depth, a display of events at the surface, and a deployment of language along this limit" (9).13 The progression that Deleuze notes in Through the Looking Glass parallels the displacement of depth as a privileged metaphor and the replacement of the surface that I have discussed above:

As one advances in the story, however, the digging and hiding gives way to a lateral sliding from right to left and left to right. The animals below ground become secondary, giving way to card figures which have no thickness. One could say that the old depth having been spread out became width. The becoming unlimited is maintained entirely within this inverted width. "Depth" is no longer a complement. Only animals are deep, and they are not the noblest for that; the noblest are the flat animals.14 (9)
As an alternative to the Platonic philosophy of the heights and the Nietzschean philosophy of the depths, Deleuze offers a philosophy of the surface, which is no less than "a reorientation of all thought and of what it means to think: there is no longer depth or height " (130). The emblem of this new way of thinking will be Hercules, hero of Seneca's tragedies:
He always ascends or descends to the surface in every conceivable manner. He brings back the hell-hound and the celestial hound, the serpent of hell and the serpent of the heavens. It is no longer a question of Dionysus down below, or Apollo up above, but of Hercules of the surface, in his dual battle against both depth and height: reorientation of the entire thought and a new geography. (132)
Such a position might be criticized as perverse by one invested in the ideology of depth, an ideology whose metaphor is strengthened in the culture of print.

Deleuze has, in his more recent work, continued this focus on the surface, finding in Leibniz's baroque philosophy of the fold a figure of the kind of thinking and perceiving he is trying to enact. Deleuze views Leibniz as an anti-Cartesian philosopher trying to override his philosophy of the separability of parts, or what one scientist calls "the atomistic machine view of the world"15; in its stead, Leibniz offers a philosophy of the fluid, a vision of a matter that is connected rather than merely a result of the juncture of parts: "a flexible or an elastic body still has cohering parts that form a fold, such that they are not separated into parts of parts but are rather divided to infinity in smaller and smaller folds that always retain a certain cohesion" (The Fold 6). This is a vision of matter that would very much appeal to the Deleuze of A Thousand Plateaus, who takes comfort in concepts that try to realize the spaces in between, that recognize the continuities rather than the discontinuities between things, whether they be the special relationship that a wasp and orchid develop or the geologic mobility of strata in flux.16 The point most helpful to my argument here is that the concept of the fold attends to the surfaces of matter, viewing all of it as surface: "Unfolding sometimes means that I am developing--that I am undoing--infinite tiny folds that are forever agitating the background, with the goal of drawing a great fold on the side whence forms appear; it is the operation of a vigil: I project the world 'on the surface of a folding . . .'" (The Fold 93). The concept of the fold is a concept entailing an endless surface-effect.

The Fold is also helpful in that Deleuze recognizes the baroque philosophy of Leibniz as a manifestation of allegory; his return to Leibniz's philosophy therefore participates in this general poststructural return to allegory.17 He points to Benjamin's essay on "Allegory and Trauerspiel" as a key moment in the re-emergence of the baroque: "Walter Benjamin made a decisive step forward in our understanding of the Baroque when he showed that allegory was not a failed symbol, or an abstract personification, but a power of figuration entirely different from that of the symbol . . ." (125). His stated goal of "stretching [the Baroque] outside of its historical limits" (34) presents a desire to recognize the importance both of the baroque in art and of Leibniz in philosophy; such a desire demonstrates what Owens would call an allegorical impulse insofar as "[c]ombinations of the visible and the legible make up 'emblems' or allegories dear to the Baroque sensibility" (Deleuze, The Fold 31). As such, Deleuze will be, I wish to propose, our mentor for the articulation of an electronic rhetoric.

Deleuze's role in this articulation will become clearer if we recall the grammatological analogy framing this exploration. The sixteenth century saw the birth of the print culture that we see dying today; likewise, we are witnessing the birth of electronic culture, or what Bolter calls "network culture" in opposition to the culture of ideational hierarchy which emerges from a print apparatus.18 As with any substantive change in a culture's mnemonic strategies for information storage and retrieval, the stress of transition causes some degree of anxiety among those participating in its unfolding. But such stress is the necessary pressure that forges new institutional practices. At the same time that Spenser was involved with the invention of our current notions of authorship and authority, Peter Ramus was transforming the use of the page as a mnemonic space, a transformation which would result, as I have already pointed out, in the institutionalization of the five-paragraph theme--a crystallization of the literate apparatus. But the five-paragraph theme did not leap from the head of Ramus like a Greek god; it developed over the centuries during which print literacy came to reign supreme.

One goal of a grammatological project such as this dissertation is to recognize the historical nature of institutional practices in order better to recognize the changes being undergone during our present moment.19 Such recognition theoretically enables educators to intervene in a self-conscious way to invent new institutional practices that exploit the advantages of the current technologies of communication. In the same way that Ramus released the potential for mnemonic efficiency inherent in the printed page, I wish to release the potential inherent in the screen, specifically the screen of a multi-media (or hypermedia/hypertext) computer. Ultimately, I will suggest that Deleuze can provide a theory for the screen (computer and television) in the same way that Ramus provided a theory of the page in the sixteenth century with his new mnemonic system of the dichotomies, which exploited the spatial potential of the page for a purely verbal mnemotechniques.

Before proceeding, in the next chapter, to a general theory of hypertext composition derived from the philosophy of Deleuze, it will be necessary to explore the "writing space" of the computer screen and to determine the limitations of interface metaphors based on print literacy. While these are fine as provisional devices meant to help us negotiate the transition from print literacy to computeracy, they should at some point be discarded for interface metaphors more appropriate to the potentials of the computer as a medium that is ultimately different from the technology of the book. Combined with a recognition of the potential in pre-Ramist mnemonics for the imagistic media of the screen, Deleuzian theory will provide one site of such metaphors.

Hypertext and the Visual Representation of Information

One goal of grammatology is the invention of institutional practices that attempt to maximize the efficiency of information storage and retrieval by considering how technologies of communication and institutional practices inform the manner in which information is stored. Grammatology also considers the subject formation that results from this configuration and how this participates in a feedback loop which affects further developments and uses of the information technologies. Indeed, one axiom of poststructural philosophy posits the dissolution of the unified subject, and its reconfiguration in the electronic age is a popular topic among grammatologists of the current transitional shift in communications technologies. While I wish to acknowledge the necessity of considering the latter, my project more fully embraces the former goal, with specific application to hypertext as the newest writing space.

The strategy for achieving this goal entails an understanding of the evolution of our current practices and the history of past practices, such as the Art of Memory, which may avail themselves of reterritorialization in a different set of rhetorical circumstances. This dissertation participates in the grammatological project insofar as it is trying actively to intervene in the current trajectory of hypertext rhetorical practice so that users will exploit the full potential of the electronic apparatus. The purpose of this section is to trace the history of the way information is spatially presented in different material forms, with the goal of asserting that hypertext is a three-dimensional medium that needs to be recognized as such. When it is treated thus, hypertext writers (and their counterparts in cyberspace architecture) will recognize the powerful potential of the memory palace as an information storage strategy available to them as an organizational tool.

A grammatological history considers the material form that texts take as manifestations of a particular communication technology and how this form affects meaning. Roger Chartier, known for his work in addressing the history of reading practices in France, leads us to such material considerations of how producers of texts used the "writing space" of the page and how such usage affected a text's legibility and, as a result, its reception. Aspects of the text that we perhaps take for granted today, such as punctuation, page numbers, margins, and the presence of space between words, were not always conventional practices but had to be invented over time. Chartier comments on the creation of a "new horizon of reception" when modifications to the physical form of the book created a product that was more manageable, more readable for those unlearned in paleography, thereby enabling the general public to access more readily the book's contents:

The same is true, on a greater scale, of the greatest change in the way texts were cast into print between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries, "the definitive triumph of white over black"--that is, the introduction of breathing space on to the page by the use of more paragraphs to break up an uninterrupted continuous text and by paragraph indentations that make the order of discourse immediately visible. (11)
Bolter, too, notes this phenomenon, calling them changes to the "soft structures," which are "those visually determined units and relationships that are written on or in the hard structures."
Soft structures [more often] change without a change in materials. The medieval codex permitted remarkable changes in the visual presentation of text: through the creation of new scripts and through the gradual development of punctuation, marginalia, and marks of emphasis and organization. Today, the technology of print has a large repertoire of soft structures that have evolved over hundreds of years. (41)
While the most significant changes were put in place during the manuscript culture of the Middle Ages, as Bolter notes, the age of print fixed these conventions as well as others heretofore fluid, such as spelling, word meaning, and pronunciation.

Carruthers elaborates on the transformation of the page as a writing space in the Middle Ages. She tells of the various mnemonic strategies employed by Christian monks for the memorization of sacred texts, since this was one of their monastic tasks.20 One method instructed monks to break up the space of the page into a grid upon which one could then place numbers. One would then break down the text to be memorized and associate each part with the concordant number. This numbering system could be applied at the macro- and micro-levels as well: "Under [psalm] number twenty-two, for example, one visualizes a subsidiary set of numbers, again beginning with 'one' and proceeding in consecutive numerical order; to these one attaches the rest of the text. . . . The crucial task for recollection is the construction of the orderly grid of numbers which one can see in the memory" (82). While every Christian was expected to have memorized the psalms, this method was applicable to other texts as well and was, by the time of the Middle Ages, a common technique: "There are a number of other sources and practices current throughout the Middle Ages which indicate that both the numerical grid system and mnemonic value of page layout were well known . . ." (95).

This attention to page layout, a form of two-dimensional representation of knowledge, became more common as the Middle Ages progressed, according to Carruthers. The use of columns drawn on the page served to separate the information into sections so that it could be arranged spatially in the memory: "the effect is to divide the page into a series of small rectangular 'bins,' none holding more than five items. Such a layout is clearly designed for mnemonic ease" (93). This practice recalls the Art of Memory as practiced from the time of antiquity: "places" on the page holding images, or, in this case, words. But the difference is that, rather than having an imagined (or remembered) three-dimensional space--such as one's garden or room, for instance--in which one locates a number of designated loci meant to serve as repositories of mnemonic imagines, one now has a flat, two-dimensional grid.21 Here, a transformation of the practice occurs on the material level of the page; practitioners of the Art of Memory adapted it to the written page as a technology of the manuscript culture's apparatus.

Members of manuscript culture transformed the Art of Memory in other ways, too, keeping the general dictum of using images in places but changing the focus again from the use of imaginary images (images conjured in the mind) to the use of actual visual images depicted in the margins of the page. These marginal images, then, ostensibly serving the purpose of page decoration, also have a mnemonic function (Carruthers 130). Their characteristics often share the grotesque or startling features of their classical counterparts: the prevalence of scatological depictions of nuns worshipping defecating anuses or the use of feces as gifts or bowling balls suggests the extent of these images.22 The presence of fantastic animals in the margins also indicates that bestiaries fulfilled the mnemonic function of making the page memorable. As lexicons of allegorical lore surrounding birds and animals, lore which often figured the ethical values that infused the kinds of texts monks were memorizing, these bestiaries became a fund of loaded images for textual producers and consumers alike.23 Descriptions of the beasts and the birds were therefore graphic enough to make them likely candidates for images to be placed in a person's loci, as Beryl Rowland writes in the following passage:

Indeed, the bestiary may have owed its popularity in part to the facility with which it might be remembered. For here were the imagines agentes, each one in its place and with its accustomed rubric that externalized the rhetorician's chambers of memory. (Rowland 20)

What one sees here in the above transformations of mnemonic practice is the use of the book as a mnemonic prosthesis: operations once carried out in the mind--the construction of images and the placement of these images in pre-established places in memoryÊ--are now carried out on the page itself. Carruthers is clear about this classification: quoting Isidore of Seville, she concludes that "Writing is a servant to memory, a book its extension. . . . writing is an activity of remembering" (111). This begins a process of reifying the memory that ends with what Sharon Crowley calls "the methodical memory," that is, a method for assisting the memory to express itself clearly and distinctly. The five-paragraph theme, Crowley writes, becomes the culmination of method as a locating of what is inside the mind outside on the page (as one chapter title suggests: "How the Insides Get Outside Again: The Logic of the Methodical Memory"): "Such an arrangement would jog the memories of both rhetor and audience, since it would mirror the way ideas had been stored there in the first place" (The Methodical Memory 44).

Crowley recognizes the role that Peter Ramus plays in inaugurating the methodical memory, which makes his iconoclastic system of mnemonics the grandfather of the five-paragraph theme. I have already treated the effect of Protestant iconoclasm and the Ramist-Brunian debates upon the memory palace tradition in chapter 2. One point that needs to be emphasized again in this context concerns the stripping of images from the mnemonic process: whereas in the medieval manuscript practices we see the imagines agentes, once only fabricated in the mind, reified in the margins of the page, with the Ramist dichotomies we see only words spatially arranged on the page. Images are stripped from this process.24 With Ramus, then, the two-dimensional surface of the page is used in a manner similar to the medieval manuscript writers, who employed page layout as a way of organizing information.25 His diagrammatic strategy of arranging information in sets of dichotomies charted on the page ultimately evolves into the outline that precedes a final written essay, but even this evokes the Ramist ethic, with its paragraphs composed of topics.

The two-dimensional space of the page comes to be a space devoid of images in Ramism; the information stored on the mnemonic prosthetic of the page is solely verbal. One reason for this can be attributed to the exigencies of the printing press: the beautiful hand-made marginal art of medieval manuscripts requires individual care and attention to each production, which a manuscript culture cultivates. Print culture, on the other hand, in its infancy during the Age of Ramus and Spenser, encourages mechanical reproduction rather than hand-crafted marginal artistry. It has even been suggested that the book was the first assembly-line industry, pre-dating the industrial revolution by centuries.26 This condition encourages the elimination of images, since pages were being mass-produced rather than individually made one at a time by an individual scribe. At the same time, Ramus produces a system of dichotomies that eliminates images and arranges words on the page in complicated hierarchical structures. The ability of the printing press to duplicate these complicated diagrams that Ramus devised leads Ong to conclude that it was instrumental in promoting the spatializing feature of Ramist mnemonics.

Spatial constructs and models were becoming increasingly critical in intellectual development. The changing attitude manifested itself in the development of printing, in the new Copernican way of thinking about space which would lead to Newtonian physics, in the evolution of the painter's vision climaxed by Jan van Eyck's use of the picture frame as a diaphragm, and in the topical logics of Rudolph Agricola and Ramus, as well as in other phenomena. (83)
Ramus thus conceives the interface of the page in such a way that it enhances the potential for information storage and retrieval within the apparatus of print.

At the close of the twentieth century, however, there is a new apparatus, one that will require a new interface to maximize its efficiency as an information storage medium. This apparatus, whose technology is the multi-media capacity of the newest computers on the market, is in its infancy in respect to the promises of virtual reality (VR) apologists, though architects are beginning to design structures with the aid of VR goggles that enable one to experience the three-dimensionality of the building and the space that it will become. One story has it that designers avoided an expensive problem by viewing it first via VR goggles. At any rate, as this example suggests, the new technology, when fully implemented, promises a three-dimensional virtual space through which one will be able to move, manipulate "objects," and encounter other "entities." As in the tradition of the memory palace, three-dimensional structures will be built and images will be stored within them; unlike the memory palace, these structures will not be imaginary, residing only in the imagination, but will be "real" insofar as they will exist outside of the mind, perhaps even as public places which more than one person can inhabit at a time, and will be experienced directly by the user's senses.

If we give the name "virtual reality" or "cyberspace" to any computer-based information space that is three or more dimensions, then hypertext, I wish to argue, is a simple form of virtual reality or cyberspace in that it provides the illusion of a three-dimensional medium. Macintosh's "Hypercard" rubric, as one example of a hypertext program, invokes a three-dimensional interface metaphor as a way of conceiving of the program: one creates a stack of "cards" (they are even called Hypercard "stacks") that are electronically linked one to the other via "buttons" which, when pressed, take the user from one card to another.27 A second common hypertext program, Eastgate Systems's Storyspace, also presents a three-dimensional interface, though this one is not as obvious. Its interface for authoring consists of the "writing space," which appears on the screen as a box with a title bar. Clicking on the title bar allows an author to write within the space, storing there whatever information is desired--text, graphic, quick-time video, and/or sound. Clicking within the writing space opens up the space to allow the author to store more boxes on the inside, potentially providing the effect of "Chinese boxes"--boxes within boxes within boxes.

For example, if one imagines a computer screen with a single box in the middle, box A, which appears to have two little boxes inside of it, boxes B and C, clicking inside writing space A makes boxes B and C within it suddenly appear to be the same size as A was. The effect, then, is that one has travelled "into" the computer screen, traversing a distance, a space between box A and boxes B and C which made B and C only appear to be smaller because they were placed beyond the plane of the computer screen. To put it another way, if one views the computer screen as a plane, then box A would lie on the plane nearest the computer user, while boxes B and C would lie on the first plane just behind and parallel to the one with box A in it.

One early experiment in Storyspace did not employ this three-dimensional potential of its interface, instead ignoring the possibility of "going inside" the computer screen. Stuart Moulthrop's attempt to map the Borges story entitled "The Garden of Forking Paths" fails to nest the storyspace boxes within other boxes, leaving all of the boxes on one plane and thereby limiting the experience of the reader to a two-dimensional experience of the space.28 One student reported the following after reading the text on the computer:

It seemed as though, with very few exceptions, "right" was the only choice one could make in terms of movement within the story. The "up" option always took you back to the beginning, which was frustrating. . . . It was an interesting experience, and if there were more travel options (other than just "right"), I would have enjoyed it more. (Moulthrop, "Reading" 128)
Had Moulthrop scripted the story using the third dimension beyond the surface plane, embedding boxes within boxes, the student would have had more travel options. The full potential of the medium as an information space would thus have been employed, thereby providing a richer, more enjoyable reading experience for the reader.

Such ambiguity does not exist with the other, more complicated manifestations of electronic technology. The difference between these is also a result of complexity. Allucquere Rosanne Stone offers a useful definition of virtual reality which identifies its relationship to cyberspace: "VR, one of a class of interactive spaces that are coming to be known by the general term cyberspace, is a three-dimensional consensual locus . . . in which data may be visualized, heard, and even felt" (84). As one can see, in this definition virtual reality is a subset of cyberspace, as cyberspace can represent multiple dimensions (or "n-dimensions") over the standard three or four which is the province of virtual reality. Cyberspace therefore has the capacity for increased complexity, for a more dense representation of information.29

In fact, the conflict among architects who are theorizing the way that cyberspace should be structured concerns the degree to which cyberspace should emulate reality (as virtual reality does). Benedikt is the strongest proponent of the view that cyberspace should as closely resemble our experience of "real" space as possible so as to minimize the potential disorientation that free-floating passage through a computerized landscape of information can produce, and his proposals direct cyberspace architects to adopt such mimetic considerations in subsequent thinking about this issue. Any deviations from real experience must be justified, according to him.30 Marcus Novak, on the other hand, wants to celebrate the possibilities inherent in this new technology, as one can sense from the following passage of exuberant prose:

Cyberspace is a habitat of the imagination, a habitat for the imagination. Cyberspace is the place where conscious dreaming meets subconscious dreaming, a landscape of rational magic, of mystical reason, the locus and triumph of poetry over poverty, of "it-can-be-so" over "it-should-be-so." (226)
Novak calls for the restoration of poetry and poetic thinking to science, indulging in the poetic as he does so: "Cyberspace is poetry inhabited, and to navigate through it is to become a leaf on the wind of a dream" (229). While one might consider Novak's ebullient prose to be the ranting of a technophilic utopian, his desire to take full advantage of the potentials within the new medium should not be ignored in order to exploit its differences rather than fight these differences as limitations to be overlooked.

While some disagree about the extent to which the "liquid" architectures in cyberspace should be fluid, the common denominator among these theorists is a vision of cyberspace as a space in which information is stored visually, a space which users will be able to traverse with the purpose of retrieving information stored there, in whatever fashion it comes to be stored. The title of Alan Wexelblat's essay in Cyberspace: First Steps, which is about "Giving Meaning to Places," indicates what is at stake in the building of cyberspace. One definition begins as follows: "Cyberspace is a completely spatialized visualization of all information in global information processing systems . . ." (Novak 225). Envisioning cyberspace as a three-dimensional visual information space evokes the art of building memory palaces as well as all that memory performs for an individual and a culture. David Tomas acknowledges the implications of this vision for the perpetuation of culture by directly pointing out the mnemonic status of cyberspace:

Although cyberspace has been popularized by Gibson's books, it is neither a pure "pop" phenomenon nor a simple technological artifact, but rather a powerful, collective, mnemonic technology that promises to have an important, if not revolutionary, impact on the future compositions of human identities and cultures. (31-32)
As an anthropologist, Tomas understands the significance of mnemonic technologies for the definition of self and culture. Cyberspace is a tool of memory, an electronic extension of our brains, and as such it becomes another storage medium for personal, familial, cultural, and disciplinary memory. In the memory storerooms of cyberspace, with its multi-dimensional imagines, "chambers bloom wherever data gathers and is stored" (Benedikt "Intro" 2).

The mention of chambers here reintroduces the metaphor of the store-room, or cella, which occurs in discussions of the Art of Memory, and evokes a medieval aura of monk's cells and palatial meeting-rooms. This evocation is not accidental: Theorists of electronic rhetoric, whether it be hypertext or cyberspace architecture, are consciously employing romantic images of fortresses and castles to describe the experience of "reading" these electronic texts. For instance, Novak, in extended passages of italics meant to indicate transition into fantasized depictions of entering into and navigating cyberspace, speaks of "armor" and "palaces." I quote at length so as to provide enough of the necessary context to appreciate the allusions:

Using my deck, I enter the cyberspace. At first the world is dark, but not because of an absence of light, but because I have not requested an environment yet. I request my default environment, my personal database. From it I choose my homebase, or workbase, or playbase. I am in my personal cyberspace, and I am not yet in contact with others. This is my palace, and it is fortified (emphasis mine). . . . I sense the presence of others. I see the traces of passage, the flares of trajectories of other searches. Those who share my interests visit the spaces around me often enough for me to recognize the signature of their search sequences, the outlines of their icons. I open channels and request communication. They blossom into identities that flow in liquid metamorphosis. *Layers of armor are dropped to reveal more intimate selves*. . . . (emphasis mine, 232-233)
Setting aside consideration of the curious poetry of this passage and its implications for subject formation in the electronic era, I am interested in the palace metaphor and how this coincides with the Art of Memory. The passage evokes allegorical commonplaces similar to those found in Spenser's The Faerie Queene : the fortified palace and the layers of armor become allegorical images of the isolated and protected subject within a cyberspace, in which interaction with others can only occur when the layers of armor are shed to reveal the inner self. Here, cyberspace as an information space is literally figured as a memory palace, which one builds to one's own specifications.

More to my purpose is a similar allegorical evocation of medieval architectural structures that occurs in Jay David Bolter's writings about hypertext. One of the creators of Storyspace, Bolter has himself employed the term "cell" to describe the writing spaces (or "boxes" as I have crudely called them) of electronic writing.31 In doing so, whether consciously or not, Bolter recalls the traditions of the Art of Memory, in which the cella is a store-room for the memory images (Carruthers 35-36). His characterization of hypertext as a kind of "topography" or "place-writing" also recognizes this spatial aspect of Storyspace: "It is not the writing of a place, but rather a writing with places, spatially realized topics" (25). Implicit in this characterization is a literal return to the traditional rhetorical notion of having "topics" or "commonplaces" (loci communes ) to which one can "go" for information about a subject.32 This tradition was perpetuated during the Early Modern period through Agricola's "place-logic" and its revisioning in Ramus's dichotomies; tenuous remnants can even be seen today in rhetoric textbooks and their "strategies"for development (e.g. definition, classification, division, example, cause/effect analysis, comparison and contrast, etc.).33 The advent of electronic writing--whether in hypertext or cyberspace--promises to return to rhetoric the consciousness of space inherent in the forgotten etymologies of these central terms.

So, participating in the tradition of the Art of Memory by using the word "cell" and by recognizing hypertext's topographic aspects, Bolter compares the Storyspace environment to that of exploring a dungeon or a magic castle:

Any book can be thought of as a dungeon, a receptacle of treasures and dangers. A printed book is a dungeon whose walls are solid. In an electronic book the walls of each cell may give way to the touch. Hidden passages may transport the reader across many levels of the structure. (Writing Space Storyspace document)
His description is significant, especially for a project such as mine, which is attempting to find in the memory palace tradition a model for storing information in a hypertext environment. The similarity of Bolter's description of the electronic dungeon to the following description of how to establish the loci of one's memory palace is striking:
Ricci suggested that there were three main options for such memory locations. First, they could be drawn from reality--that is, from buildings that one had been in or from objects that one had seen with one's own eyes and recalled in one's memory. Second, they could be totally fictive, products of the imagination conjured up in any shape or size. Or third, they could be half real and half fictive, as in the case of a building one knew well and through the back wall of which one broke an imaginary door as a shortcut to new spaces, or in the middle of which one created a mental staircase that would lead up to higher floors that had not existed before. (Spence 1-2)
Each suggests a magical aspect enabling one to pass through walls and build new structures. This magical aspect, here only a metaphor for the fluid nature of electronic space, parallels Novak's depiction of cyberspace as a "landscape of rational magic" in which one will experience what is only figured in Bolter's depiction of traversing the hypertext castle. But one thing is certain: hypertext, as an informational field, can find a home in the architectural metaphor of the memory palace. As such, it can mimic the more advanced developments of cyberspace architecture as they are presently being theorized by adopting the memory palace as a method of organizing information in what can be perceived as a three-dimensional electronic writing space.

It remains now to explore *why* hypertext architects (as we should now properly call them) have not adopted the obvious architectural metaphor for guiding composition in hypertext authoring that Bolter hints at with his dungeon metaphor. I will argue that this is due to the phenomenon of "residual literacy" and provide examples of how inertia from centuries of alphabetic literacy and print culture has carried forth book practices into electronic texts, some of which become allegories of book reading from an electronic screen. By examining the interfaces of various hypertexts by recent authors as well as the gateways to other electronic technologies, we can begin to see such residual literacy as a limitation upon the storage potential of electronic media and begin to theorize the alternatives to such a model.

Residual Literacy in Electronic Interface Designs: Allegories of Book Reading

When Plato wrote his philosophical treatises, he represented them as dialogues, employing the oral form of conveying information that predominated before chirography as an interface for transmitting his philosophy. Though the kind of thinking that enabled the dialogues was, in part, facilitated by the apparatus of alphabetic literacy that had developed in the centuries prior to his writing, Plato valorized the face-to-face dialogue as fundamental to learning and to the discovery of Truth. One might say he ignored the very medium that gave body to his philosophy.34 On the other hand, perhaps an inevitable looking backward occurs in the transitional process of adopting and implementing an emergent technology of communication. Ong speaks of the centuries that went by after the introduction of the alphabet before Plato and the Greeks "interiorized" writing (Orality and Literacy 24). Spenser's use of the memory palace as a way of thinking about the work that The Faerie Queene was engaged in is another example of this phenomenon as it occurred at a different transitional moment in the "technologizing of the word."

During our current moment of transitional shifting from one dominant technology to another, evidence of a similar dynamic can be found in some of the early interface designs. I will call this "residual literacy," a phrase I derive from Ong's concept of "residual orality" that, as he writes, "can be calculated to a degree from the mnemonic load it leaves on the mind, that is, from the amount of memorization the culture's educational procedures require" (Orality and Literacy 41). In a parallel way, "residual literacy" can be detected in the reliance upon book and paper metaphors that we see in computer interface design. Each is symptomatic of a reluctance to embrace the full potential of the emergent technology. Each results from a form of cultural inertia that must be overcome before this full potential can be tapped. Each indulges a Janus-like stance, looking both forward and backward at the same time. While at first this process is for the most part an unconscious (one might say "natural") way of coping with the change, eventually the shock of the new wears off and the technology is "interiorized."

One example of such residual literacy occurs in LEXIS/NEXIS, a commercial online database service which provides legal documents from all states (LEXIS) as well as the texts of major newspapers and periodicals (NEXIS). The documents in NEXIS, for example, are grouped into "libraries" and "files" and include full text sources from newspapers, wire services, and full transcripts from news shows. The information organized in the "library" is said to be like a file cabinet drawer in which "files" of information reside. "Entering" one of the libraries is therefore like opening a drawer full of files. Files are subgroups of documents in a library; a typical file consists of all of the available articles in a single publication. The paper metaphor presides in this interface insofar as it provides an intuitive method for locating information in the LEXIS/NEXIS database: we are familiar with going to libraries to find information and with storing documents in files stored in filing cabinets.

The hypercard stack entitled *If Monks Had Macs*, by Brian Thomas, employs a similarly familiar interface with which the user interacts to navigate through the information. The opening screen positions the user as if s/he were sitting at a desk, looking out of the window of a monastery. Below one sees the courtyard, a fountain, and the walls of the facing buildings. Gurgling water pervades the background, with the occasional bird twitter interrupting this simulated fountain sound. Upon first opening the stack, the user also hears monks singing Gregorian chants. On the desk is an open book with an indiscernible image. Next to this is a pad with what appears to be a quill. On the right of the opening screen (or "card") is the lower left hand part of a picture which has been cut off. On the left side of the card one sees a bookend and two books, one with an arrow pointing to the left. Clicking on this arrow brings the user to the next card, which positions the user in front of a bookshelf full of books. Thirty-six books (they are numbered on the spine) rest on two shelves. One through nine are titled, naming the various stacks that make up *If Monks Had Macs*.35 Clicking on any of these opens up the stack that bears its title.

The premise of the title suggests the task that awaits us during this process of transition: if monks had macs, they would have translated the sacred texts into hypertext documents. This is, in effect, what Brian Thomas has done with Thomas ˆ Kempis's Imitatio Christi, which is the most developed of the stacks that one can explore: he has served as a "scribe" (or, more accurately, a typist) who has transcribed this classic into the new medium.36 Thomas's choice of the Imitatio was not random, however; he points out in his introduction how suitable it is for this medium:

Despite the inner unity of the Imitation, the reader is usually advised in the introductions to "open the book to any page at random where he will find much instruction and inspiration," or to read the book "slowly, reflectively, in brief portions at a time," or to repeatedly turn to it as a "source of devotional thoughts and aphorisms." Thus, these introductions to the Imitation advise readers that this is a book that need not be read sequentially. . . . Ted Nelson, originator of the term "hypertext," writes in Literary Machines, "By hypertext, I simply mean non-sequential writing. . . . Computers are not intrinsically involved with the hypertext concept." The Imitation of Christ started out as a medieval manuscript with some of the qualities we now associate with hypertext.
At one point the document even calls for "dedicated men and women" who will "copy and illuminate" the wisdom of antiquity and Christianity in the "hyperage."

Much of the material in *If Monks Had Macs* employs the book as an interface metaphor. If one clicks on the image of the open book that appears on the desk in front of the window, the program presents the user with a card that looks like an open book. To the right of the "book" are icons that represent the various options available to the user: a "contents" icon (the word "contents" on what appears to be a platter), a "find" icon (the word "find" in a circle and on top of an open book icon), an open book icon which appears to have the pages flipping back and forth (pressing this will randomly select one of the chapters for the user, as though s/he were flipping through a book), a "bookmark" icon (an image of an open book with a bookmark marking a page), a "library" icon (a bookshelf with books on it; pressing this will return the user to the library interface described above), and finally an "inkstand" icon (which opens up a stack allowing the user to "write" notes, comments, responses, etc.). The common experience that this interface relies upon is that of sitting in front of one's personal library, pulling a book off of its shelf, and doing with it whatever one can do with a book: consult the table of contents, flip through the pages, mark a certain passage with a bookmark, or take notes on one's pad.37

A second stack within *If Monks Had Macs* that utilizes a book metaphor is entitled "Passing Notes," the premise of which is based on an anecdote that Thomas tells of being a bored student who decides to pass notes in class while his biology teacher drones on about evolution. The stack contains about twenty cards the backgrounds of which depict a torn page, as though a student ripped a page from her textbook and scribbled a note on it to pass on to a friend. The content of these notes questions the hegemony of scientific education and asserts its failure to acknowledge the mysteries of existence. Each card has written text as well as an image that directly relates to the note, which demonstrates the limitations of this interface: while the source of these torn pages is ostensibly a student's textbook, their actual content reflects the concerns of the "student" Brian Thomas. There is no attempt to maintain the illusion from which the interface originated.

A similar breakdown in the "user illusion" occurs in the interface metaphor for the stack entitled "Meat and Conversation," which opens with an open book: on the left a woodcut image of Brother Andrew, on the right the title "Meat and Conversation," subtitled "Excerpts from Brother Andrew's journal." The first couple of "pages" establishes the context for what is to become a hypertext version of a video game: Brother Andrew is asked to dine with a Russian monk visiting the monastery; the monk speaks of how his fellow monks in Russia had to travel to other monasteries in order to borrow books to study, as they were so scarce. "The journey is often viewed," says the monk, "as a kind of trial," and he proceeds to speak of how "the devil spins a dream-bed of lies among those rocks for every monk. . . ." Brother Andrew's journal then tells of how he suddenly finds himself on the path. When the user pushes the arrow to turn the "page," the book disappears and there appears on the screen a map indicating Andrew's position. The user is now within Andrew's hallucination and must make decisions about which direction to walk in and what actions to perform. The book interface completely breaks down as the "reader" becomes the player of a game, a puzzle that requires a solution.

The fashion in which the interface described above breaks down indicates the limitation of the book metaphor for interface design. A more recent set of hypercard stacks by John McDaid, entitled Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse, employs a variety of different interfaces, one of which depends on a book metaphor.38 But the purpose of this particular stack, entitled "Fictionary of the Bezoars," is to provide an intertextual parody of Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars, which Robert Coover classifies as a hypertext novel.39 The author employs the book metaphor to invoke the Pavic text (the "title page" of the "Fictionary" exactly emulates the title page of the Dictionary ), and this invocation is meant to suggest the absurdity of the book metaphor as interface: the book interface constitutes a limitation of hypertext's potential that is just as problematic as having a book like the Dictionary of the Khazars in book form. That is, the Dictionary does not belong in book form just as the book interface does not belong in a hypercard stack, for the Dictionary is the closest thing to hypertext that one can achieve in book form. Each entry has key words that lead the reader in different directions, forcing him or her to make decisions about what order to read the selections in. Pavic writes, "the reader has no other choice than to begin in the middle of any given page and forge his own path. . . . Hence, each reader will put together the book for himself" (13). This kind of reading differs from the kind of semantic production a reader provides when reading a typical printed text in that the author invites readers to construct the order in which the parts of the texts are read. Such is the ideal of hypertext: a multitude of different pathways through a given textual network which invites (or forces) the reader to become an active reader making choices and therefore affecting his or her own reception of the text.

Despite the apparent headway that a stack like Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse makes, with its parody of the book interface and its gesture toward an architectural interface, recent theorists of hypertext composition call for an ethos of composition in print when composing with computers. George Landow, as one of the major theorists of hypertext to date, provides a set of compositional guidelines to follow if one is not to upset or disorient the reader. His feeling is that, because readers are used to reading books, a medium in which they always feel oriented, they must be catered to by the hypertext author, and he sees this imperative as creating three problems for authors in this medium: "First, what must they do to orient readers and help them read efficiently and with pleasure? Second, how can they inform those reading a document where the links in the document lead? Third, how can they assist readers who have just entered a new document to feel at home there?" (Landow, "The Rhetoric of Hypermedia" 82). While Landow's rules may be appropriate to a certain kind of text, one perhaps more informative or functional, his generalized approach limits many of the possibilities open to the author as well as the potential for a different kind of reading experience that only the computer can provide.

Landow's concern is rooted in this phenomenon of residual literacy, which applies the standards of print literacy to the medium of computeracy. He expects of the computer what scholars and pedagogues in an age of logocentrism expect from its primary organ, the book: transparent and direct communication, educational efficiency, the elimination of confusion. "In particular, authors should label folders and descriptions of linked blocks with an eye to clarity and efficiency" (88). Calling for hierarchical overviews and other such "devices of orientation," Landow praises the use of the desktop metaphor as an interface which enables the user to navigate without fear of disorientation. Speaking of his hypertext document The Dickens Web, Landow writes, "Equally important, the desktop and folder system efficiently serve to orient the reader by making movement back to documents opened previously a quick and easy matter" (87).

The desktop metaphor itself, the icon-driven interface perfected and popularized by Apple Computers, has come under much fire lately, which suggests that the interim period of residual literacy may be beginning to end. Benedikt recognizes the desktop as a product of designers who unconsciously incorporated the way that information has been organized on the page:

Here is a simple example of the hidden valences of the WM [window manager] space of a "desktop" GUI [graphical user interface]: why is the Macintosh trashcan icon--pale and ashen--positioned at the bottom right of the screen, while the rainbow-colored apple icon of the Apple system menu-- happy and edenic--is positioned diametrically opposite, at the top left? Why have almost all GUI designers agreed that the top of the screen is icon/menu territory? These are vestiges of the organization of pages, which for thousands of years (even before there were "pages") have given different value to the top and bottom, center and margin, left and right. . . . (131)
This critique makes sense coming from a cyberspace architect who wants to escape the two-dimensional organization of information that has dominated from the time of antiquity in order to enter an era of three-dimensional representations in the form of virtual reality. Benedikt's point, similar to one made above, concerns the conversion, the flattening, of a three-dimensional representational space into a two-dimensional one.

Theorists of human-computer interface design also critique the desktop metaphor as manifesting residual literacy, which is said to limit the ways that information can be stored and retrieved electronically. Alan Kay, for instance, writes that "the very idea of a paper 'metaphor' should be scrutinized mercilessly" (199), and he goes on to attack the desktop metaphor, the idea of the "folder," and the metaphors in Hypercard, the latter of which are not "just imitating paper with a vengeance--it is building in a limitation not imposed by the physical world" (200). Another theorist, Theodor Nelson, writes of how the interface of a desktop does not act like a real-world desktop and therefore is not believable or consistent: "We are told to believe that this is a 'metaphor' for a 'desktop.' But I have never personally seen a desktop where pointing at a lower piece of paper makes it jump to the top, or where placing a sheet of paper on top of a file folder causes the folder to gobble it up" (237). Nelson here perhaps asks too much of metaphor, demanding of the desktop metaphor of interface design a transparent reproduction of real-world experience.

Nelson, in fact, finds fault with the very use of metaphors, pointing to the false restriction that accompanies their use of having to avoid mixing metaphors: "the metaphor becomes a dead weight. Once the metaphor is instituted, every related function has to become a part of it " (237).40 He calls this debilitating aspect of resorting to metaphor the new "Metaphoric Ideology" and says that "this 'metaphor' business has gone too far" (236).41 Alan Kay, too, has similar trouble with the use of metaphor, locating the problem with the term itself: "One of the most compelling snares is the use of the term metaphor to describe a correspondence between what the users see on the screen and how they should think about what they are manipulating" (199). His alternative is the phrase "user illusion," which provides "clear connotations to the stage, theatrics, and magic--all of which give much stronger hints as to the direction to be followed" (199). For Kay, as for Marcus Novak, it is the magic that makes this medium special and that therefore should be augmented. "Magic" might be viewed as another way of stating what the electronic media have to offer in terms of communicative potential: the speed of associative linking or "travelling" that print literacy can not provide.

A similar distaste for metaphor occurs in the work of Deleuze and Guattari.42 Deleuze wants to invent concepts,43 which are actions upon the world, rather than metaphors, which are representations that polarize meaning within a vehicle and a tenor. In considering this, Brian Massumi writes, "The concept has no subject or object other than itself. It is an act. Nomad thought replaces the closed equation of representation, x=x=not y (I=I=not you) with an open equation: . . .+y+z+a . . ." (6). The emphasis here is on motion: the open equation of the concept moves, while the closed equation of representation, in which the metaphor falls, is a stoppage. The open equation evokes a "logic of the AND" (A Thousand Plateaus 25), which establishes a different kind of comparison, "neither a union, nor a juxtaposition, but the birth of a stammering, the outline of a broken line which always sets off at right angles . . ." (Deleuze and Parnet 9-10). This movement is nomadic; it is not merely compared to nomadism as in metaphor. Writing of Kafka, Deleuze and Guattari speak of his anti-aestheticism:

"Grasp the world," instead of extracting impressions from it; work with objects, characters, events, in reality, and not in impressions. Kill metaphor. Aesthetic impressions, sensations, or imaginings still exist for themselves in Kafka's first essays where a certain influence of the Prague school is at work. But all of Kafka's evolution will consist in effacing them to the benefit of a sobriety, a hyper-realism, a machinism that no longer makes use of them. (Kafka 70)
Since they view metaphor as unreal, the creation of concepts is marked by "sobriety" and "hyper-realism."

It is not my intention to resolve the debate over the virtues of metaphor which is found not only in the works of philosophers like Deleuze and Guattari but also in the speculations of computer interface designers. This debate among interface designers concerning the problems inherent within the desktop metaphor and, indeed, in metaphor itself demonstrates the heightened awareness of these issues that has come about as a result of recent rapid changes in the communicative capacities of electronic media. My goal, then, is to offer a theory of hypertext composition which, as I have suggested, will find its tutor in the writings of Gilles Deleuze. The next chapter constitutes a beginning exploration of the instructions that one can find there. The primary concept that I will draw upon will be that of the rhizome, a surface-phenomenon which manifests the web-like quality of hypertext linkage. The rhizome will provide the conceptual model for a multi-linear mode of writing appropriate to hypertext, a three-dimensional writing that opposes the two-dimensional linearity of the book.


1See, for instance, the recent issues in the DC Vertigo line, such as Mercy, The Enigma, Death: The High Cost of Living, and The Sandman, each of which personify the title figures in typical allegorical fashion. The medieval genre of the mystery play itself has been evoked in a recent issue entitled Mystery Play, which incorporates the medieval form of allegory as a way of inaugurating the narrative.

2See Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque and Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama. For commentary on Rauschenberg as an allegorist, see Owens, "The Allegorical Impulse."

3See, for instance, Ulmer's Applied Grammatology, appropriately subtitled Post(e)-Pedagogy from Joseph Beuys to Jacques Derrida. Ulmer argues for a pedagogy based upon the experimental arts of the twentieth century, one that invokes the mnemonic possibilities of performance art and poststructural punning: "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). And elsewhere, he writes, "An AG [Applied Grammatological] lecture (seminar-performance) will include the equivalent of 'non-diegetic inserts,' that is, it will mount scientific information in its discourse which will have the status not of disciplinary content but of metaphor . . ." (287).

4See Ulmer's discussion of the "puncept," which he derives from his consideration of Derrida, in his article "The Puncept in Grammatology."

5Such is the injunction of Ulmer's Heuretics: The Logic of Invention, in which he offers the following principle of the new form of writing he calls "chorography": "do not choose between the different meanings of key terms, but compose by using all the meanings . . ." (48). For an exercise in writing chorographically, see Scholes, Comley and Ulmer's Text Book, chapter four, which presents an assignment based upon Derrida's recognition of the signature effect in certain writers.

6Hillis Miller writes, "To turn whatever is written 'on' into literature, in the particular way in which Derrida associates literature with undecidability, inviolable secrecy, and the irresponsibility that is the most exigent responsibility, might even be said to be the deconstructive move par excellence. . . . Deconstruction, it can be said, if there is such a thing, is the exposure of the literary in every utterance, writing, or graphic mark" (20).

7This description of the "true secret" being all on the surface is similar to Richard Rambuss's assessment of Spenser's secrets in The Shepheardes Calender. In "The Secretary's Study: The Secret Designs of The Shepheardes Calender, " Richard Rambuss discusses The Shepheardes Calender as being the showcase of an "empty secret," which stores not an actual secret but only the fact that there is a secret. Such might be considered one ultimate goal of poststructural philosophy (if it can be said to have a unified goal) and the grammatological mobilization of this philosophy: the foregrounding of the secret within the unconscious, the mapping of a logic of the unconscious, the writing of a rhetoric of dream-work. As Ulmer writes in Heuretics, "The part of Kristeva's theory most important for chorography is her understanding of the chora function as a process or movement of invention, conducted as a transgression of rules (the burlesque principle) that undermine the plausibility and verisimilitude of classic mimesis, argumentation, judgment, realism. Choral writing is a kind of Dream Work (hence the usefulness of psychoanalysis for theorizing her poetics), drawing not only on condensation and displacement (metaphor and metonymy), but especially on a third process--'the passage from one sign system to another '" (176).

8I deliberately invoke the hand in this line to recall Goldberg's critique, in the last chapter of Writing Matter, of the "hand in theory," how an apparently poststructural philosopher like Barthes re-inscribes logocentrism by emphasizing the materiality of writing with the hand. The hand is the source of the metaphor of "grasping" which signifies comprehension. "[Barthes'] desire for the pen is a logocentric desire; writing by hand betrays its essentialism; it puts the hand in mind; it transforms the hand into the mind" (285). Later he writes, "Speech is a derivative effect of the labor of the hand, through which primitive community is founded . . ." (314).

9Benjamin attributes the sixteenth-century resurgence of allegory to the discovery of the mysterious Egyptian hieroglyphs, which resulted in the writing of books of iconology and emblem books. Here, Benjamin quotes Usener: "Under the leadership of the artist-scholar, Albertus, the humanists thus began to write with concrete images (rebus ) instead of letters; the word "rebus" thus originated on the basis of the enigmatic hieroglyphs, and medallions, columns, triumphal arches, and all the conceivable artistic objects produced by the Renaissance, were covered with such enigmatic devices" (169).

10Derrida notes elsewhere this paradoxical effect of an orientation to language which denies the presence of the signified. See, for instance, his discussion of the Chora as quoted in Ulmer's Heuretics : "Everything inscribed in [the Chora] erases itself immediately, while remaining in it. It is thus an impossible surface--it is not even a surface, because it has no depth" (65). Hillis Miller also notes this paradox in his discussion of "Derrida's Topographies": "To say literature is an ideal object is the same thing as to say it always hides an inviolable secret because it is always a matter of a surface without depth. The reader cannot go behind it, or beneath it, or before and after it. Literature keeps its secret, but on the surface" (18).

11N. Katherine Hayles notes as much in the preface to her book The Cosmic Web: "We are living amid the most important conceptual revolution since Copernicus argued that the earth was not the center of the universe. . . . In this book I have singled out the 'field concept' as the theme that is at the heart of this revolution, and have examined its various manifestations in the models of physics and mathematics, the theories of the philosophy of science and linguistics, and the structure and strategies of literary texts" (9).

12One example of this can be seen in Lanham's recent book entitled The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts. One book review of this is titled, "The Ancient Road to Hypertext: A scholar finds links between the Greek Sophists and today's information revolution." See Bernard Sharratt, "The Ancient Road to Hypertext," rev. of The Electronic Word by Richard Lanham, The New York Times Book Review 28 Nov. 1993: 2.

13Ronald Bogue is helpful in understanding how Deleuze's philosophy of the "surface-effect" is relevant to the discussion above of poststructural notions of language: "Once unanchored, the Stoic system becomes a powerful tool for exploring the relationship between surfaces and depths, problems and bodies. But most important, the concept of the incorporeal affords Deleuze a point of entry into the investigation of language and meaning, for the Stoics regard both linguistics and logic as disciplines concerned exclusively with incorporeals. . . . For the Stoics, words are bodies, in that they are sonic entities that possess real being. A word as sonic body, however, is the same entity for those who understand it as for those who do not (such as foreigners). That which makes a word understandable to one individual and not to another is its meaning, an incorporeal attribute which is added to the word and which in no way affects the word's being as a body. Both words and things, then, are bodies upon whose surfaces incorporeal lekta 'insist' or 'subsist', the surface effects of words being 'meaning', and those of things, 'events'" (68-69).

14Deleuze notes in an endnote that "The discovery of the surface and this critique of depth represent a constant in modern literature. They inspire the work of Robbe-Grillet. In another form, we find them again in Klossowski . . ." (336, note 7).

15"Descartes's error probably concerns what is to be found in different areas. He believed that the real distinction between parts entailed separability. What specifically defines an absolute fluid is the absence of coherence or cohesion; that is, the separability of parts, which in fact applies only to a passive and abstract matter" (The Fold 5). For an account of how this Cartesian perspective governed the birth of the paradoxical science of fluid "mechanics," see Hayles, "Gender Encoding in Fluid Mechanics." I derive the phrase in quotation marks from R.C. Lewontin: "We have become so used to the atomistic machine view of the world that originated with Descartes that we have forgotten that it is a metaphor. We no longer think, as Descartes did, that the world is like a clock. We think it is a clock. We cannot imagine an alternative view unless it be one that goes back to a prescientific era" (Biology as Ideology 14).

16For the clearest account of the wasp and the orchid, see Deleuze and Parnet 6-7. For Deleuze and Guattari's perceptions of stratification, see A Thousand Plateaus 40-74.

17"And if it is true that appertaining--belonging to--is the key to allegory, then Leibniz's philosophy must be conceived as the allegory of the world, the signature of the world, but no longer as the symbol of a cosmos in the former manner. In this respect the formula of the Monadology, that 'components symbolize with simple units,' far from marking a return to the symbol, indicates the transformation or translation of the symbol into allegory" (The Fold 127).

18See Writing Space 231-236.

19For a detailed account of the philosophical and historical foundations of the five-paragraph theme, see Crowley, The Methodical Memory: Invention in Current-Traditional Rhetoric.

20Francis Wormald describes the giving out of books to the brethren on Monday after the first Sunday after Lent: "Before the brethren go in to the chapter, the librarian should have all the books save those given out for reading the previous year collected on a carpet in the chapter-house; last year's books should be carried in by those who have had them. . . . the librarian shall then read out the list of the books which the brethren had in the previous year. When each hears his name read out he shall return the book which was given him to read, and anyone who has not read in full the book he received shall confess his fault prostrate and ask for pardon." Francis Wormald, The Year 1200: A Background Survey, II (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970), 170. Excerpted in Journal of Typographic Research 4 (1970), 336.

21"This changed understanding of the nature of the mnemonic 'locus'--from a three-dimensional room, in which perspective changes as one 'walks' through it mentally, to a two-dimensional cell within a grid on a flat surface--may account for some of the confusion medieval writers had in understanding Tully's rules about the making of backgrounds (these gave them more trouble than the ones about the making of images). 'Locus' for Cicero was a space with depth and variable perspective; for Hugh of St. Victor, 'locus' was a position on a page that could be 'viewed' only frontally" (Carruthers 129).

22Michael Camille writes, "Of all aspects of medieval culture it is perhaps the currency of scatology, the constant playing with faeces in text and image, that is hardest for us to understand. The margins of manuscripts are literally full of it" (111). For illustrations of such marginalia, see Image on the Edge: The Margins of Medieval Art, pp. 45, 50, 112, 113.

23Carruthers views their usage in pedagogical contexts as being more mnemonic in scope than anything else: "What the Bestiary taught most usefully in the long term of a medieval education was not 'natural history' or moralized instruction . . . but mental imaging, the systematic forming of 'pictures' that would stick in the memory and could be used, like rebuses, homophonies, imagines rerum, and other sorts of notae, to mark information within the grid [of the page]" (127).

24One notable exception to this phenomenon was the emblem-book tradition, which, as the previously cited Coates essay suggests, attracted even Protestants like Theodore Beza as a genre with a visual emphasis similar to the memory palace tradition which was under so much attack at that time.

25Carruthers takes issue with Ong on this very point. She finds his claim that Ramus's dichotomies represent a "general, unconscious veering toward the visual and 'objective' which marks the Gutenberg and post-Gutenberg epoch" (Ramus 108) to be reductive, given the scope and results of her own study: "My study will make it clear that from the earliest times medieval educators had as visual and spatial an idea of locus as any Ramist had, which they inherited continuously from antiquity, and indeed that concern for the lay-out of memory governed much in medieval education designed to aid the mind in forming and maintaining heuristic formats that are both spatial and visualizable" (32). The point I wish to make here, however, is that there is a difference that has to do with the replacement of the pictorial image with the word in text that, while once ornamental and highly visual in itself, comes to be more and more uniform.

26See Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy, the chapter entitled "The invention of typography confirmed and extended the new visual stress of applied knowledge, providing the first uniformly repeatable commodity, the first assembly-line, and the first mass-production" (153-155).

27Alan Kay points out the limitations of the "hypercard" interface metaphor: "That wonderful system, Hypercard, in spite of its great ideas, has some 'metaphors' that set my teeth on edge. Four of them are 'stack,' 'card,' 'field,' and 'button.' In 'stack' we find grievously unnecessary limitations, not the least of which is the strange notion that only one stack can be in front of us at a time" (200).

28The results of this experiment are recorded in Moulthrop's essay in Hypermedia and Literary Studies, eds. Paul Delaney and George P. Landow, 119-132. One can view the chart of his "storyspace map" on p. 127.

29Michael Benedikt most clearly writes of the multiple variables of information that cyberspace enables one to plot. A three-dimensional entity in cyberspace can, for example, have more dimensions hidden from view that can be displayed by means of viewing the object from a different perspective. As he writes, "we can deal with many of the problems of size and shape I have mentioned by zooming in, getting closer. The object, enlarged in our view, is isolated from the overall context. It might expand in inner detail, revealing complexity indefinitely. Here we see intrinsic dimensions expand to become the extrinsic dimensions of the object now extended enough to have space within it, to be a space" ("Cyberspace" 143). In this quote, a "dimension" refers to a variable of information plotted in relation to other variables. "Extrinsic" dimensions are the ones that are immediately visible; "intrinsic" dimensions are those that are hidden from view and that require "unfolding" to be seen: "When an object unfolds, its intrinsic dimensions open up, flower, to form a new coordinate system, a new space, from (a selection of) its (previously) intrinsic dimensions" (144). Marcus Novak is helpful in relating this phenomenon to hypertext: "Just as hypertext allows any word in a normal text to explode into volumes of other words, so a hypergraph allows any point in a graph to expand to include other graphs, nested and linked to any required depth" (230). One helpful way of visualizing the possibilities described here is to imagine that every point (normally thought of as having zero dimensions) in a three-dimensional space has the capacity of being a multi-dimensional object; every point, that is, can be considered a cube.

30"Even as we strive for higher dimensionalities or supernormal capabilities for the denizens of cyberspace, ordinary space and time must form the basis, the norm, any departures from which we must justify. Neither an advanced degree in math nor extraordinary powers of visualization ought to be necessary for a reasonably well-educated person to spend time productively in cyberspace" ("Cyberspace" 128).

31Ong writes of how the Agricolan "place-logic" conceived of loci as boxes: "The annoyance is vanquished by the conviction that some sort of spatial imagery--loci, topoi, receptacles, boxes--can serve as a means of controlling the profusion of concepts and/or things" (Ramus 118). For the invocation of the "cell" in recent discussions about cyberspace, see Novak: "In a neural net simulation, information . . . is encoded implicitly, as weightings on connections between simple computational cells. Reality is an emergent property of the cell . . ." (237).

32See Carruthers, p. 34, for expanded discussion of "commonplaces." See also Ong, Ramus, pp. 104-112, 116-121.

33For the sake of comparison, see an exemplary list of loci in Ong, Ramus : "definition, genus, species, property, whole, parts, conjugates, adjacents, act, subjects, efficient agent, end, consequences, intended effects, place, time, connections, contingents, name, pronunciation, compared things, like things, opposites, differences" (122).

34In Orality and Literacy, Ong writes, "For Plato expresses serious reservations in the Phaedrus and his Seventh Letter about writing, as a mechanical, inhuman way of processing knowledge, unresponsive to questions and destructive of memory, although, as we now know, the philosophical thinking Plato fought for depended entirely on writing" (24).

35One interesting feature of If Monks Had Macs is its desire to function as a "mini-home stack" for other stacks that one might own. The blank books on the shelf (numbered 10 through 36), that is, can be given names and can be linked to other hypercard documents that a user has on his or her hard-drive. The library here becomes an organizing trope, a trope that organizes one's collection of hyper-card stacks.

36We must not forget that the materiality of the medium into which a text is translated ultimately affects the meaning and its reception. As Bolter writes, "A text always undergoes typographical changes as it moves from one writing space to another. The Greek classics, for example, have moved from the papyrus roll, to codex, and finally the printed book. When we read a paperback edition in English of Plato's dialogues or Greek tragedy, we are aware of the translation from ancient Greek to a modern language. But we should also remember that the original text was without book or scene divisions, paragraphing, indices, punctuation, or even word division. All these conventions of modern printing are significant organizational intrusions into the original work" (118).

37Clicking on the "inkstand" icon opens up a stack entitled "Journal," which is subtitled "a companion stack to Imitatio. " The user can also get to this stack by clicking on the image of the pad with the quill on it on the opening card.

38Significant for my purposes is the "home" card of Uncle Buddy's Phantom Playhouse, which portrays a house with windows bearing the titles of the various stacks one can explore. While this is only a very simple use of architecture as interface metaphor, it does point to the path which this dissertation wishes to clear: the conscious use of the memory palace as an organizational schema for the storing of information in electronic media.

39See Landow, Hypertext, 107.

40One glaring failure that Nelson points to is the trashcan icon in the Macintosh interface. This allows one to either delete files or to eject one's disk at the end of a session. Once, when working together on a project with a person who did not know this, I dragged the icon of the disk into the trash to eject it, and she thought that I was deleting the entire disk at one time. She loudly expressed her fear, which suggests the need for consistency, if only for personal comfort.

41Thomas D. Erickson's essay, in the same volume, wants on the other hand to understand metaphor and to recognize its pervasiveness in our language as a means of creating more consistent interface metaphors. See his essay "Working with Interface Metaphors," 65-73.

42Deleuze and Guattari are attracted to Kafka in part because "Kafka deliberately kills all metaphor, all symbolism, all signification, no less than all designation" (Kafka 22).

43Deleuze writes that "philosophy is the art of forming, inventing, and fabricating concepts" ("The Conditions of the Question: What is Philosophy?" 471).

Contents | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 5 | Conclusion | References

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