Contents | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Conclusion | References


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

by Richard Smyth, Ph.D.

The Rhizome and Hypertext Writing

I have worked to define grammatology as an application of poststructuralism which explores the feedback loop of technology, institutional practices, and subject formation. This particular grammatological study has been specific to the Early Modern period, taking that transitional moment as analogous to our own. I have tried to demonstrate what can happen in our moment by carefully considering what happened in the sixteenth century: Ramus, a pedagogue in the midst of this transition, invented a system of mnemonics that exploited the two-dimensional writing space of the printed page, as we might invent a system of mnemonics that will exploit the three-dimensional writing space of the electronic technologies; Spenser, a writer in the midst of this transition, employed a trope that realized the monumental nature of the print apparatus in his minor poems at the same time that he incorporated the memory palace as an organizational strategy in The Faerie Queene. Like Spenser, we too can search for a primary trope of computeracy while inventing a hybrid mnemonics. I have suggested that the memory palace can be a useful part of such a mnemonics, helping us to conceptualize hypertext composition as a rhetoric that takes full advantage of its electronic features, thereby breaking free of the residual literacy that has dominated the use of these media. The time is ripe for the resurrection of this once defunct Art of Memory, given the returning emphasis on allegory and the capacity for writing with images that the new hypermedia computers are promising. Current use of computers for writing does not tap its full potential for communicative efficacy and efficient information storage and retrieval.

It remains to explore the philosophy of Deleuze as a philosophy of the screen. Within my historical analogy, I am equating Deleuze with Ramus. The difference, however, is that, while Ramus specifically worked as a pedagogue, theorizing a new method of mnemonics that released the full potential of the page, Deleuze is a philosopher whose work does not directly affect either pedagogy (especially given the degree of difficulty it poses for the student/scholar) or electronic rhetoric. My role in this chapter will be to build that bridge between Deleuze's concept of the rhizome and the new institutional practices of hypertext composition that might emerge in twenty-first century English departments. Given our knowledge of the transition that occurred in the sixteenth century, given what we know of the spatial nature of classical mnemonics and how Ramus adapted previous mnemonic strategies to the technology of the printed page, this grammatological frame may allow us to accelerate the current process of transition, such that the three-dimensional mnemonic prosthesis that hypertext can be is fully employed as such.

The notion that hypertext manifests the tenets of poststructural philosophy and deconstruction has almost become a commonplace in recent commentary on the phenomenon of hypertext. These commentators connect abstract notions of subjectivity, intertextuality, multivocality and decenteredness to the experience of composing a hypertext with a computer and reading a hypertext composition from a computer screen.1 Landow suggests that poststructural philosophy precedes the technology of hypertext in its struggle to break the boundaries of the book; as such, it demonstrates a program similar to that of hypertext engineers:

This sweeping change has many components, to be sure, but one theme appears in both writings on hypertext (and the memex) and in contemporary critical theory--the limitations of print culture, the culture of the book. Bush and Barthes, Nelson and Derrida, like all theorists of these perhaps unexpectedly intertwined subjects, begin with the desire to enable us to escape the confinements of print. (Hypertext 28)
In fact, Landow accounts for the difference in tone between these two sets of theorists as being due to their common vision of textuality as well as their relationship to the existing technology: the poststructuralists are pessimistic because of the apparent hopelessness of expressing a multi-linear kind of writing in linear book form whereas the hypertext theorists are optimistic because of what the computer makes available to writers as composers of hypertext documents.

Bolter also points out the parallel that occurs between poststructural theory and hypertext. He attributes the monumental status that printed books have taken on since the fifteenth century, the establishment of a literary canon, and the current ethos of authority to the permanence that print brings to writing and points to how recent literary theories (like reader-response theory and deconstruction) are embodied in the experience of reading a hypertext. Bolter's task becomes that of saying what the theorists could not say because of their writing prior to the advent of hypertext: "All that is left to say--what Barthes could not say because he did not know about computers--is that the paradigm for the work is a finely bound, printed volume, whereas the paradigm for the Text is a network in a computer's memory" (161). The sense that one gets from both Bolter and Landow is not so much that poststructuralism influenced the engineering of hypertext but that we are experiencing a generalized paradigm shift of which these are two aspects.

These commentaries have primarily focused upon Derrida and Barthes as representatives of poststructural philosophy.2 While much in their writings is helpful in conceptualizing hypertext as a multi-linear medium, as Landow and Bolter have worked to point out, I am proposing an extensive study of the ways in which the poststructural philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari can also be helpful--perhaps even more so than Derrida and Barthes--in thinking about hypertext composition. Others have gestured toward such a study. Gregory Ulmer, for instance, in his work inventing a genre for videography, writes of the value of the rhizome:

They give us, that is, an image of wide scope that helps us to experience the quality of a new memory, ordered in a paleological way, as well as to begin to imagine how to remotivate the tradition of mnemotechnics to the needs of electronic cognition. . . . What the tree diagram was to the book, the rhizome map is to electronics. . . . (140-141)
Craig Saper also recognizes the value of exploring Deleuze and Guattari for theoretical guidance on how to write electronically. His essay "Electronic Media Studies: From Video Art to Artificial Invention" attempts to explain as well as demonstrate this by providing a "guided tour" through a hypothetical hypertext which, as he says, "must, nevertheless, only hint at the electronic version" (123). Saper conceives of A Thousand Plateaus as itself being like a hypertext document: "I would argue that Deleuze and Guattari have written a theory about electronic learning which addresses the ideological concerns of media theory; their model of writing resembles a CD-ROM disk or hypermedia program" (122).

To recognize fully the role that the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari can play in theorizing an electronic rhetoric, I propose to call one possible genre that can be based on their work "rhizography," which suggests that hypertext writing is like their notion of the rhizome, and I will work in this chapter to demonstrate this equation. My comments will be specific to one particular hypertext writing program called Storyspace, of which Jay David Bolter is one of the co-creators. While this may limit the range of this chapter's application as instructions for hypertext writing, the Storyspace medium has the virtue of being "user-friendly" and of having achieved a degree of popularity (probably for this very reason). Conversion software exists for converting a storyspace document into Hypercard, and a recent posting to the Technoculture discussion list on the Internet tells of a program that will convert Storyspace documents into "MOO" architecture, a form of Internet communication.3 Prominent authors like Robert Coover are singing its praises and even beginning to author hypertext documents in it. For these reasons, Storyspace will at least be competitive with other hypertext formats such as Hypercard and Intermedia and will therefore be a force to be reckoned with.

If it is true that hypertext "creates an almost embarrassingly literal embodiment" of Derridean and Barthesian poststructural tenets, as Landow writes (Hypertext 34), the same might be said about the rhizomatic network that Storyspace creates. A rhizome is characterized by shoots and runners; its shallow roots do not achieve the degree of depth that a tree does, but, as a result, it runs along the surface of the earth, covering much ground. In the same manner, the opening screen of a hypertext document might have four, five, or more different directions that a reader can choose. Rather than developing in a single, progressive manner, as in a linear book, a hypertext can scatter as it shoots off runners going in many different directions. This multiplicity is very much in the Deleuzoguattarian spirit of the rhizome, as the following passage will demonstrate:

We will enter, then, by any point whatsoever; none matters more than another, and no entrance is more privileged even if it seems an impasse, a tight passage, a siphon. We will be trying only to discover what other points our entrance connects to, what crossroads and galleries one passes through to link two points, what the map of the rhizome is and how the map is modified if one enters by another point. (Kafka 3)
This latter notion of affecting the "map" depending upon a particular entry point parallels the talk among hypertext theorists of the interactive nature of hypertext reading, how the reader co-authors the text, in a sense, via the decisions she makes while reading.4 One has no choice but to do these tasks, for one enters a hypertext in the same way that one enters a rhizome. From that point on, a reader will discover "what other points" or nodes along the path are connected to an entrance into the text.

The connectivity of a rhizome also comes very close to the linking potentials in hypertext: "unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects any point to any point" (A Thousand Plateaus 21). Hypertext, like the rhizome, has the potential of linking every node to every other node in its textual network. This, in fact, is the virtue of reading a (hyper)text from a computer screen: it provides ways of moving through the information stored within it that differ from book browsing. It might be said that hypertext internalizes an index and contents system that has a specific locus in a book, so that, rather than turning to the back of the book to locate the next page reference that appears under a given entry, a hypertext can provide immediate access to the passage with the keyword in it merely by selecting that keyword.

This elimination of steps in a process, this manifestation of a newly acquired speed, should not be underestimated: though the computer may only allow us to do what we already do a lot faster, it is the speed itself that will contribute to changing the way scholars read, write, and do research. Once the majority of scholarly information is available on-line via the Internet, the speed of accessing "books" and "articles" will increase tenfold. As an example of this process, imagine a scholar reading a book in her office. She discovers a footnote that she wants to trace, so she takes down the bibliographic information, physically goes to the library, finds the call number, searches for the item (which may or may not be there), and then leaves. Within a hypertext environment such as the World-Wide Web promises to provide, this scholar could have merely selected the footnote itself to access the article in question; the time spent retrieving it from the library collapses in that moment of access, and the associational path that her research takes because of this immediate access may differ from the one that would emerge later in the delays that physical transit cause.

Some recent texts consciously try to emulate this process. J. Hillis Miller's recent book, Illustration, is one example: while it tries to embody a hypertext format, "illustrating" an electronic rhetoric, it can only fail to do so because of its book status. In her review of his book, Rosalind Krauss writes the following:

J. Hillis Miller takes his leave of the reader of this nonbook with the insouciant thought that if this conglomeration of fragments and set-pieces has not added up to a "continuous argument" this is because it is, in its very formlessness, anticipating the brave new world of "large digitized databases." It is not for him to build a discursive structure that will unfold between the covers of a book; instead, he writes, "One can imagine a computerized version of my essay in which each section would have a 'button' leading out to the large context of which my citations are a part and in which a much larger set of illustrations (in the sense of both pictures and texts) would be available through computer links." (133)
One must "imagine" a computerized version of the essay, which of course can only fall short of the actual experience of reading the essay from a computer screen. Miller's book retains the linear format of the book; other more experimental texts such as Saper's essay mentioned above and Ulmer's "Grammatology (in the Stacks) of Hypermedia, a Simulation: or, when does a pile become a heap?" emulate the composition in fragments in which a hypertext writer must engage. Each prepares a sequence of "screens" or "cards" that represent one line or path through a larger hypertext document. While this evocation of a single path among other paths comes closer to the actual experience of hypertext reading, it does not allow for the experience of wandering from the main path--and even getting lost--that reading from the computer screen allows. Such wandering can provide an experience of discovery similar to that often associated with browsing at the library: one might stumble across some interesting or useful information that one did not intend to seek. This form of browsing, however, differs from electronic wandering in that some links and associations have already been provided by previous travellers who have forged a path through the information, and other links can be made by the one who is travelling.

So the question that this chapter asks, to state it once more, is this: how can the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari help to theorize composition in hypertext, specifically in Storyspace? I have suggested that Storyspace literally embodies the rhizome as much as this is possible, and others have pointed out this connection as well. But the rhizome is part of a complicated network of philosophical concepts that form and inform it; to explore a rhizomatic style of hypertext composition therefore will be to demonstrate the connections between their notion of the rhizome and Storyspace as a medium of information storage and retrieval in which one writes (or, more accurately, types). In doing so, I will discuss conception and method together, as they feed off of each other in a fashion that directly manifests one goal of Deleuze and Guattari's writings.5

A Deleuzoguattarian Conception and Method of Hypertext Composition

The first characteristic of this electronic rhetoric is speed. The speed that hypertext brings to composition and reading has already been acknowledged by hypertext commentators. As George Landow writes,

The speed with which one can move between passages and points in sets of texts changes both the way we read and the way we write, just as the high-speed number crunching computing changes various scientific fields by making possible investigations that before had required too much time or risk. (Hypertext 61)
If we take Landow's word for it, then both reading of and composition in hypertext should be fast, as fast as it lets readers read and writers compose, because it will generate new and different kinds of "investigations."

One line of investigation might be to explore how this characteristic of speed changes the kind of composition that is produced. In the age of alphabetic literacy, texts were most likely composed by hand. Walter Ong recognizes how the chirographic process affected the product of composition: "The very reflectiveness of writing--enforced by the slowness of the writing process as compared to oral delivery as well as by the isolation of the writer as compared to the oral performer--encourages growth of consciousness out of the unconscious" (Orality and Literacy 150).6 Ong suggests here that the material conditions of writing--i.e. using a writing utensil to compose a text on parchment or paper--helped to generate the textual norms of the present as they are manifest in the genres of high literacy (the essay and the novel), norms of depth and development which emerge from standards derived from slowness. On the other hand, the speed of typing on a computer wordprocessor, which allows some to type upward of 100 words per minute, allows one to compose much faster than a person could write.

One could see how the new conditions of composition that word-processing creates could affect the resultant composition. Judged from the point of view of literate standards, however, "fast" compositions would fall short of standards derived from centuries of chirographic practice and applied to "slow" compositions. Such judgment is reminiscent of the residual literacy previously examined in chapter four, and we also see this inertia manifest in institutional norms of tenure tracking, which demands that the work of young professors achieves some degree of monumental success--that is, that their work as professors becomes acknowledged by the academy as achieving "weight" or "gravity." The ideology of the heavy, the grave, corresponds to the monumental status that print achieves for thought: the technology of print brought with it the weight of the gravestone, the effect of thought etched into stone, into a monument, unchangeable, wrought forever. Here, I evoke the sense of monumentality both as something that endures, something that marks an achievement, and as something that is heavy, something that marks a grave/gravity.

This figure of the monument draws a connection between weight and gravity in a metaphorical sense: an argument has "weight" if it achieves a degree of "gravity" or seriousness that must be acknowledged by other authorities. One can achieve such seriousness only by arriving at a certain depth of analysis that is determined by editorial boards of older, more established professors. Receiving a Ph.D. simulates this process: the candidate writes a practice book, which must meet the standards of a committee of authorities. But the process of publishing itself secures tenure insofar as it signifies an institutional rite of passage by writing a text that becomes fixed in print. The book becomes a marker similar to a gravestone in its monumental status, for it marks an unchanging permanence. As Ong writes, "Print is comfortable only with finality" (Orality and Literacy 132). And what is more final than the "grave"?

Deleuze and Guattari oppose this tradition of gravity and weight that constitutes the apparatus of print literacy, instead espousing the opposing virtues of lightness and speed. As Kristin Ross writes of their philosophy of action libre, "'Absolute' speed and the way in which parts of the body escape from gravitational pull in order to occupy a nonstratified, nonpunctual space characterize 'free action'" (68). Gravity here signifies a force of tradition, a force of stasis, that which denies experimentation by perpetuating a particular world-view. They draw their example for this force of cultural inertia that exists within even science from physics itself:

Universal attraction became the law of all laws, in that it set the rule for the biunivocal correspondence between two bodies; and each time science discovered a new field, it sought to formalize it in the same mode as the field of gravity. Even chemistry became a royal science only by virtue of a whole theoretical elaboration of the notion of weight. (A Thousand Plateaus 370)
Gravity here is said to provide the terminology by which new sciences defined themselves. Speed, then, does not necessarily signify actual motion but represents the concept of freeing oneself, as much as this is possible, from institutional restraints and the inertial forces of a culture that are imposed upon its individuals. In terms of hypertext composition, it just so happens to be the potential speed of composition that allows one to "pick up speed" in this figurative sense in order to free oneself from the gravitational forces of residual literacy.

To present their position in another way, the opposition to gravity is an opposition to what they call "arborescent thinking," which is the binaristic form of logic that they oppose to the rhizome. Arborescence is the realm of print literacy, which always manifests a unity, and it is to this unity that the poststructural thrust of Deleuze and Guattari's work is addressed. They write of three different kinds of books:

A first type of book is the root-book. The tree is already the image of the world, or the root the image of the world-tree. This is the classical book. . . . One becomes two: whenever we encounter this formula . . . what we have before us is the most classical and well reflected, oldest, and weariest kind of thought. (5)
The "root-book" represents arborescence in its purest form: binary logic, the "weariest" kind of thinking from which their work tries to free us.7 The second kind of book, the "radicle system," appears to undermine the unity of the root-book but ultimately reasserts a higher unity:
This is as much to say that the fascicular system does not really break with dualism, with the complementarity between a subject and an object, a natural reality and a spiritual reality: unity is consistently thwarted and obstructed in the object, while a new type of unity triumphs in the subject. (6)
These two forms of arborescence are elsewhere connected to the force of gravity, which implicates the concept of arborescence as a form of institutional stasis: "In short, it seems that the force of gravity lies at the basis of a laminar, striated, homogeneous, and centered space; it forms the foundation for those multiplicities termed metric, or arborescent, whose dimensions are independent and are expressed with the aid of units and points (movements from one point to another)" (370). If gravity is in the realm of arborescence, then speed is in the realm of the rhizome, the third form of "book."8

This connection between speed and the rhizome becomes clearer when, in the process of defining the concept of the rhizome, Deleuze and Guattari invoke simple geometry in characterizing the notions of arborescence and gravity as being similar to the mathematical exercise of plotting points. In their plateau entitled "The Smooth and the Striated," they write, "Of course, there are points, lines, and surfaces in striated space as well as in smooth space. . . . In striated space, lines or trajectories tend to be subordinated to points: one goes from one point to another. In the smooth, it is the opposite: the points are subordinated to the trajectory" (478). The plotting of points, of localizable loci, then, is antithetical to the rhizome: "Make rhizomes, not roots, never plant! Don't sow, grow offshoots! Don't be one or multiple, be multiplicities! Run lines, never plot a point! Speed turns the point into a line!" (24). Speed here becomes instrumental in converting the striated into the smooth, the heavy into the weightless, the point into a line. The progression of exclamations suggests that the rhizomatic gesture is one of speed, and the geometric description suggests that speed creates a dimension: if a point, which is zero dimensions, becomes a line when it is speeded up, a line being one dimension, then it is the speed itself that acts as a dimensional generative, that creates a dimension where one never before existed.

It is in this "space" of dimensional generation that Deleuze and Guattari create the tensions that promote rhizomatic thinking. Indeed, "between" dimensions is where speed occurs: "The middle is by no means average; on the contrary, it is where things pick up speed" (25). This statement develops their theory of the between, the middle space between dimensions, for it is there that points are not localizable: "Between things does not designate a localizable relation going from one thing to the other and back again, but a perpendicular direction, a transversal movement that sweeps one and the other away, a stream without beginning or end that undermines its banks and picks up speed in the middle" (25). This fascination with the between or the middle explains their fascination with fractals, as fractals are fractional dimensions, dimensions that exist between the typical one, two, or three-dimensional objects that we are most familiar with in Euclidean geometry:

Is it possible to give a very general mathematical definition of smooth spaces? Benoit Mandelbrot's "fractals" seem to be on the path. Fractals are aggregates whose number of dimensions is fractional rather than whole, or else whole but with continuous variation in direction. An example would be a line segment whose central third is replaced by the angle of an equilateral triangle. . . . [S]uch a segment would constitute an infinite line or curve with a dimension greater than one, but less than a surface (= 2). (486)
They continually refer to mathematics in defining their key philosophical concepts, as in this definition of "multiplicity":
In a multiplicity what counts are not the terms or the elements, but what there is "between", the between, a set of relations which are not separable from each other. Every multiplicity grows from the middle, like the blade of grass or the rhizome. We constantly oppose the rhizome to the tree, like two conceptions and even two very different ways of thinking. A line does not go from one point to another, but passes between points, ceaselessly bifurcating and diverging, like one of Pollock's lines.9 (Dialogues viii)

This abstract sense of betweenness that appears so central to their thinking relates to hypertext composition in that, when one is composing in Storyspace, there is a sense that the job is never finished--one is always "in the middle," so to speak, as always another potential line of development (or "line of flight" as Deleuze and Guattari are fond of calling it) offers itself, or a link between two nodes that went unrecognized presents itself. Thus, hypertext composition in Storyspace manifests this rhizomatic action of "transversal movement," this perpendicular off-shooting that resembles a living rhizome. It allows the composer, upon thinking of something only tangentially connected to the "line" of reasoning being developed at whatever point in a composition, immediately to realize its presence, to make it real, by making a textbox, establishing the link that generated the tangent in the first place, and then--depending on the composer's desire--either developing the new line or returning to the "main" or initial line of reasoning. Whichever way the composer, the rhizographer, chooses to go, both paths are in (computer) memory. There is a smaller chance of forgetting that new idea, that potential pathway. This notion of having "lines" of thinking employs the terms of the rhizome that Deleuze and Guattari offer: rather than making a "point," a rhizographer would make a "line."

This leads to the second characteristic of electronic rhetoric, which suggests that the mind should be allowed to wander as much as possible during composition, taking advantage of the speed with which Storyspace allows one to compose in order to map the mind in action. This precept assumes that Storyspace is somehow particularly amenable to representing mental activity. This is so because it is, as I am arguing, a hypertext program that embodies many characteristics of the Deleuzoguattarian concept of the rhizome, and the mind, from their point of view, is structured like a rhizome:

Thought is not arborescent, and the brain is not rooted or ramified matter. What are wrongly called "dendrites" do not assure the connection of neurons in a continuous fabric. The discontinuity between cells, the role of the axons, the functioning of the synapses, the existence of synaptic microfissures, the leap each message makes across these fissures, make the brain a multiplicity immersed in its plane of consistency or neurologia, a whole uncertain, probabalistic system ("the uncertain nervous system"). Many people have a tree growing in their heads, but the brain itself is much more a grass than a tree. (15)
The recent work building neural networks and connectionist models of the mind also supports this rhizomatic conception of the mind. Theorists of cognitive psychology write of how the mind works like a network,10 while artificial intelligence (AI) researchers have realized that conceiving of the mind as a computer, which works serially (logically), does not approach the way the mind really works.11 A misconception of AI research posits that a piece of information has a single, identifiable address in the mind,12 whereas connectionist theory allows for two or more memories to reside in the same place and also that the same memory may reside in several places at once:
Not only is an item of knowledge smeared out across an expanse of network instead of being at one pinpoint location; it is also superimposed on other items, so that any given place in the network thousands of different memories may reside, one on top of the other. (Campbell 157)
The multi-layered connections and networks of memories stored in the brain help to explain how the mind is nomadic by nature, how it encourages wandering.13

The debate between AI researchers and theorists of neural networks concerning where and how memories are stored parallels Deleuze and Guattari's dichotomy of the arborescent vs. the rhizome. Recall that the arborescent privileges the point over the line; it plots locatable points that are places of stoppage. The rhizome, on the other hand, privileges the line over the point, or the point in motion (which constitutes a line); it is constantly trying to avoid stopping at any given point by remaining in motion and attaining speed. Its desire to be between represents a desire to avoid being "weighted down" by gravity at any one place. In this way the concept of nomadism overlaps with the concept of rhizomatics insofar as each encourages a wandering from fixed points of habitation as well as from habitual thinking.

The nomadic concept of the rhizome forces us to reconceive our use of classical rhetorical training in terms of this poststructural abhorrence of the localizable point.14 The memory palace tradition, as I have written in previous chapters, instructs us to have specific places in which images are stored. This is a topographic gesture, a desire to map out knowledge in the same way that AI researchers wanted a single address for each item of information stored in a computer, and as such it is a manifestation of logocentrism, according to J. Hillis Miller: "Topography is a logocentric practice through and through. It depends, for example, on the law of noncontradition. A place is either there in a given place or not there, and no thing, a building for example, can be in more than one place at once" ("Derrida's Topographies" 12). But memory, as we have seen, is not logocentric in this sense; memory places can overlap, can be in more than one place at once.

So, while the memory palace is a mnemonic tool that helps us to remember, it may not work the way the mind does when it remembers. In terms of hypertext composition, the traditional process of building a memory palace--with fixed places and localizable loci -- can help to organize the architecture of a Storyspace environment, but we do not want it to foreclose the anti-logocentric possibilities of wandering, of being between places. This is the subject matter of Craig Saper's Tourism and Invention: Roland Barthes's Empire of Signs. Barthes's book is about getting lost as a tourist in Japan. According to Saper, Barthes is playing with the idea of the "commonplaces" as topoi for orienting a speaker/writer within the treasure-house of memory. If one is properly trained as a rhetorician, one will never get lost, for speaking and writing effectively becomes a matter of going to the memory loci and retrieving information. Saper writes that Barthes's book is a set of instructions for getting lost; he suggests that the losing of one's way ultimately can be an inventive process.

Knowing where every item of information is within a memory-palace or a database denies one the pleasures of getting lost, the pleasures of discovering some knowledge that one had not intended to discover. While some would find such an efficiently mapped topography to be an advantage, others, like Michel de Certeau, find it problematic:

Both contemporary scientific analyses that reduce memory to its "social frameworks" and the clerical techniques that in the Middle Ages so cleverly transformed it into a composition of places and thus prepared the modern mutation of time into a quantifiable and regulatable space, forget or reject its detours. . . . In this way, surprises are averted. (89)
De Certeau is calling here for an embrace of memory's detours, its nomadic wanderings that lead one away from the quantified and regulated spaces of a topography, away from the plotted points of arborescence.

This emphasis on getting lost, on travelling like a nomad between established points, is very much part of the anti-Cartesian tendency in poststructural thought. Descartes is, after all, the one who codified the link between algebra and Euclidean geometry, the one who invented the mapping of points in the first place.15 Georges Van Den Abbeele is very helpful in identifying the use of travel as metaphor in Descartes's philosophy and deconstructing the grounds upon which the philosopher bases his system of thought. Insofar as Descartes perpetuates the logocentrism that he inherited from ancient Greece, Van Den Abbeele's work participates in the general poststructural project of overturning the reign of the arborescent and its privileging of unity. In Travel as Metaphor, Van Den Abbeele writes of Descartes's negotiation of the semantic void by means of a mixed metaphor. According to Van Den Abbeele, in his Second Meditation Descartes first describes being thrust into a disorientation that is like an abyss of water out of which one is unable to swim. But suddenly a ground appears upon which he can climb out of the abyss. Van Den Abbeele comments that the very fact of having a certain destination is what provides this grounding:

In other words, the very act of positing certainty as a destination already puts the philosopher on firm ground and keeps him from slipping into the drift of aimless nomadism. To say where one is going is to orient one's position in relation to that destination, to define one's position as a position in relation to that destination, toward which one can proceed teleologically. (43)
With Descartes's position, any deviation is already taken into consideration: "No notion, in sum, is more circumscribed than the notion of transgression. . . . The very metaphor of wandering precludes wandering . . ." (47). The cogito becomes a point of origin, an anchoring point, "certain and unshakable," from which any wandering can occur and to which any such wandering will return. "What is projected is a circular journey, a wandering that is not at all aimless but in fact always already circumscribed, such that it must inevitably return to the point of departure" (45).

An anti-Cartesian perspective such as poststructuralism fosters would therefore encourage an aimless wandering with no return, a perpetual nomadism.16 One engaged in a rhizographic writing style embracing this dictum would never try to make a "point"; rather, one should let the mind wander and record that wandering as quickly as possible with the speed of a Storyspace program. Such speed should encourage the automatic style of writing that surrealists attempted but would avoid the senseless quality of its results, the goal being to map the mind in its rhizomatic branching in a medium that mirrors its structure. The problem with Surrealistic automatic writing lay with the medium which they were using: while typing enabled them to approach the speed of the keyboard, their writing could only go in one direction because of the linearity of the page. The Storyspace program, on the other hand, combines speed with a rhizomatic medium.

A scholarly essay on Spenser written in Storyspace, for instance, would not seek to be completely objective, to obliterate the subject who is writing it, but would develop any associational lines of thinking that presented themselves, because the Storyspace hypertext program encourages their pursuit. Reference to the writer's experience with comic-book heroes, dungeons and dragons, video games or popular fantasy movies all would become viable subject matter in various rhizomatic offshoots branching from an essay on The Faerie Queene, for instance. Personal experiences that perhaps relate only allegorically would also become included, as well as fictional storylines that might masquerade as real experience. The injunction to wander nomadically, that is, would encourage interdisciplinary, multi-generic compositions and could open up to include other people's comments, essays, short stories, poems, whatever. A rhizography may be by many people or it may be by only one, but either way it will reveal the dialogic character of the mind as the various voices are set free from the gravity of a single, unified self.

This leads to the third and final characteristic of electronic rhetoric that I will treat here, that of density. The kind of text described above has the quality of a patchwork quilt or, perhaps more accurately, an aggregate of loosely connected nodes that are networked via hypertext links. These links may be determined only by very superficial associations, hence its rhizomatic, surface-oriented status. I have previously discussed the prevalence of an ideology of depth which is privileged in the apparatus of print literacy and argued that a resurgence of the surface is presently working to undermine this hegemony of depth. Rhizography, then, helps to deconstruct the metaphorical concept of depth and substitutes the concept of superficiality. The rhizome grows on the surface and covers much ground, whereas the tree achieves great depth but does not spread out along the surface to the extent that a rhizome does. Such is the advantage of the multi-linear format of electronic composition in hypertext as opposed to the oftentimes linear format of literate composition. Because a rhizography can only be composed in an electronic hypertext program, the rhizographer can create a true "text" in the etymological sense of the word: a woven network of connections that resembles the way rhizomes like watermelons or crabgrass grow.

But even these metaphors, rhizomatic though they are, do not adequately describe the structure that the Storyspace hypertext will take, for they are two-dimensional, describing the surface of a plane, whereas Story-space (among other hypertext programs) enables the composer to visualize a three-dimensional entity. I have discussed in chapter four how the spatialization of knowledge in hypertext takes an important leap from two-dimensional representations on the page to three-dimensional representations in cyberspace (hypertext being a primitive form of cyberspace). The model of the rhizome need not be abandoned, however; it merely needs adaptation to the third-dimension. Deleuze and Guattari provide this adaptation with their concepts of the molar and the molecular.

Extracting the connections among their concepts is not always easy, though. Often it is a matter of identifying a parallel description which applies to two or more of the concepts. The idea of the line of flight as a descriptive phrase, for instance, is clearly connected to the rhizome: "There is a rupture in the rhizome whenever segmentary lines explode into a line of flight, but the line of flight is part of the rhizome. . . . You may make a rupture, draw a line of flight, yet there is still a danger that you will reencounter organizations that restratify everything . . ." (A Thousand Plateaus 9). This passage suggests that the concept of escaping an organizational structure is an integral part of the rhizome, and we see that the rhizome joins a complex of terms that suggest motion, escape, destabilization: nomadism, speed, deterritorialization. At the end of the introductory chapter on the rhizome in A Thousand Plateaus, the philosophers summarize the principal characteristics of a rhizome, at this point further defining the concept:

Unlike a structure, which is defined by a set of points and positions, with binary relations between the points and biunivocal relationships between the positions, the rhizome is made only of lines: lines of segmentarity and stratification as its dimensions, and the line of flight or deterritorialization as the maximum dimension after which the multiplicity undergoes metamorphosis, changes in nature. (21)
This passage helps to highlight one primary perception that their work continually emphasizes: a sense that things are always in flux, that either a state (of things, matter, people, whatever) is reaching toward stability or in the process of (escape from) dissolution. Any one state of affairs is never fixed but always in a state of change, of flux.17 Many of their concept-pairs reiterate in different terms this same idea: the nomad vs. the State, deterritorialization vs. reterritorialization, destratification vs. (re)stratification, the smooth vs. the striated, the rhizome vs. the arborescent.

The concept-pair molecular/molar also follows this tendency, with the molecular falling on the side of the rhizome. In defining society, they speak of the molecular in terms used in descriptions of the rhizome: "From the viewpoint of a micropolitics, a society is defined by its lines of flight, which are molecular. There is always something that flows or flees, that escapes the binary organizations, the resonance apparatus, the overcoding machine . . ." (216). The molecular is rhizomatic insofar as it opposes a totality--the "molar," which is defined as being "of or pertaining to a body of matter as a whole, perceived apart from molecular or atomic properties."18 The molar here functions like the arborescent as that which hierarchizes, that which imposes an external structure: "In a molecular population (mass) there are only local connections between discrete particles. In the case of a molar population (superindividual or person) locally connected discrete particles have become correlated at a distance" (Massumi 54-55). These molecular connections between discrete particles, like atoms that are bonded in a molecule, constitute a rhizome in its multiple connectivities.

In terms of writing, a "molecular" approach would suggest a form of writing that is equivalent to brainstorming strategies in current compositional methods. Rhizographers, that is, should spontaneously generate text-boxes, as the urge or desire drives them, with no fear or concern of relevance or disposition (in the rhetorical sense of "arrangement"). Such a method would cultivate "local connections" between discrete ideas that are associationally related. The proximity of two text-boxes in Storyspace, then, would indicate some relation, though this relationship would not have to follow logically but could be metaphorical, allegorical, or metonymic. Pursuing tangential lines of thinking would thus be encouraged--even insisted upon--in a rhizography.

Defining this procedure in the terms of classical rhetoric, the first and third steps of rhetoric--inventio and elocutio, brainstorming and writing--collapse and become the same step. Composition as such would take on the appearance of a brainstorming cluster done on paper: nodes/topics linked to other nodes/topics by associational links (the lines connecting the topics). The traditional second step of rhetoric--dispositio, arrangement--would follow. In terms of the molecular/molar distinction, arrangement would be the molar formation, the perception of patterns among the various molecular clusters that emerges after the molecular growth has spontaneously occurred. Brian Massumi uses the analogy of "muck" in its process of formation as an example of this transition from a chaotic, molecular state to an overarching molar organization:

Our granules of muck were an oozing molecular mass, but as their local connections rigidified into rock, they became stabilized and homogenized, increasing the organizational consistency of different regions in the deposit (correlation). (55)
The writer can then arrange the emergent molarities into an architecture, into a three-dimensional memory palace built within the Storyspace program. The electronic memory palace, then, comes to fulfill the role of dispositio.

But in this electronic rhetoric, the writer is not confined to following the steps in precise order. S/he may decide to consider the arrangement first, and then go on to inventing/writing. In this procedure, dispositio becomes step one, and the combined steps of inventio/elocutio come afterward. As Massumi writes, "Molarity implies the creation or prior existence of a well-defined boundary enabling the population of particles to be grasped as a whole" (55). Molarity as the creation of a well-defined boundary describes rhizography when dispositio comes after writing has begun; molarity as the prior existence of a well-defined boundary describes rhizography when dispositio is the first step in the process.

Does not this latter version of rhizography contradict the rhizomatic process of undermining arborescent totalities? Not necessarily. The difference lies in the relationship of the structure to the content. In traditional composition instruction, no such relation between content and form exists; the five-paragraph theme structure is the empty vessel into which students put their thoughts. To use the language of mnemonics, the topics (the paragraphs) of a five-paragraph theme are empty places (topoi) to be filled by the student. In rhizography, on the other hand, the molar structure should relate somehow to the molecular infrastructure. While it may be more difficult to start with a molar structure and then write spontaneously in a way that fulfills the demands of the molarity, it would not be impossible. Of course, the molar structure can always be changed later should the molecular particularities mutate into some other form. But as long as the quick, light, associational writing is not constricted by the initial imposition of a structure, then taking the step of dispositio first should not conflict with the spontaneous spirit of rhizography.

Massumi's use of "muck" to illustrate the transition from molecular to molar includes a qualification that maintains the Deleuzoguattarian emphasis on flux: "Its particles are correlated, but not rigidly so. It has boundaries, but fluctuating ones. It is the threshold leading from one state to another" (55). This aspect of muck, of the molecular/molar fluctuation, and of their general focus on the liminal moment of transition--the between--corresponds to the general unfinished state of electronic texts. Commenting on how electronic publishing will change scholarly publishing, R. A. Shoaf writes the following, paraphrasing Bill Readings' essay in the electronic publication Surfaces:

In the world of Internet publishing, length is no longer a valid criterion for rejecting an item of work. Similarly, related to the issue of length, a work need never be "finished" again (works, of course, are never finished anyway, simply abandoned). Any work can be updated, revised, expanded, altered, corrected indefinitely, because of its electronic form and availability through the Internet. These are radical changes if one stops to consider the criteria used in the past for judging what does and does not go into a journal. . . . [T]hese developments can clearly be liberating. (7-8)
Electronic media are suited to a philosophy of the fluid, which characterizes the poststructural paradigm as well as electronic texts.19

Recent theories of the mind, as developed by cognitive scientists, describe the activity of the brain in similar terms. The insight that these theories provide points to a conception of memory that supports the connectionist theory as opposed to the AI theory: the latter builds computers that store memories in a single, localizable place, whereas the former tries to build computers that store memories in no particular place:

In a standard computer, information sits there, waiting to be used, and is the same entity while it is waiting as it is while it is being used. Something far more exotic and ethereal is going on in a connectionist network. The information cannot really be said to exist at all when it is not being used. . . . Memories are not stored, they are recreated over and over again in response to whatever reminds you of them. (Campbell 163)
This description of memory follows from the recent theories of the schema, theories which posit that structures of neuronal pathways form in the brain from our everyday experiences, and these are activated by stimuli from the outside world. Any new experience is always tested against existing schemas to make sense out of the experience. Thus, schemas work to filter out much of the information entering through our senses. But these schemas are by no means fixed in the mind; on the contrary, like memories, they are recreated every time a stimulus activates a particular neuronal pathway and are therefore liable to revision. The following passage describes the schema in terms of a fluid metaphor:
Only in the most superficial sense can a schema of this kind be described as a mental object, a ready-made interpretation that is stacked in memory like a book on a shelf, always the same no matter how often it is taken down from the shelf and read. In fact, it is more like the pattern of waves on the surface of an ocean, reflecting the countless influences and forces at work beneath the surface of the water, and in the shifting, restless depth. (Campbell 197)
To fully engage in rhizography as a mode of electronic composition that avoids residual literacy, then, we must encourage the naturally associative tendencies of our brains. The network effect that hypertext provides calls for a method of writing that emulates the brain in its connectivity: the more connections there are, the more densely meaningful the composition is, as in this description of "bridge-definitions" by Marvin Minsky:
What people call "meanings" do not usually correspond to particular and definite structures, but to connections among and across fragments of great interlocking networks of connections and constraints among our agencies. (131)
A higher number of connections brings about an increased quality of information storage, as the increased number of "molecular" connections facilitates navigation through the information: "The connections as a whole define the information content of the system" (Campbell 12). The more connections there are, the more information is contained in the system, despite its limited volume.

Competence, then, would be based on criteria other than those derived from an ideology of depth. The mode of evaluating the performance of a rhizographer--his level of competence--cannot come from the metaphor of depth, which governs evaluation within the alphabetic apparatus (answering questions like "Is he a deep thinker?" "Has his analysis achieved depth?" "Is it a penetrating analysis?"). In comparison to density, which describes proximity within a three-dimensional space, depth merely acknowledges one vector in a three-dimensional model--that of one downward line perpendicular to the surface. Density, therefore, a word signifying the tightness of a cluster of discrete particles (such as molecules or hypertext nodes) is one way of evaluating the success of a hypertext document.

A nomadic style of rhizography therefore compares to essay writing as neural network research compares to AI research: the former affirms the simultaneity of parallel processing while the latter affirms the seriality of computer logic. An essay is written in a linear fashion, serially presenting point by point, one after the other, whereas a hypertext composition allows for multiple pathways through the information to co-exist simultaneously within a given text rather than choosing one of these pathways as in the essay.

The virtue of rhizography, then, may lie in its privileging of simultaneity, its graphing of the rhizomatic nature of parallel processing, as current research in cognitive science views the brain to be a neural network: "The brain seems to be able to perform as many as two hundred trillion operations in a second; not serially, but simultaneously" (Campbell 12). This is the difference between computer thinking and human thinking, between the brain as AI research conceives it and the brain as connectionist theory conceives it: one requires a hierarchized, step-by-step process to achieve its retrieval of information while the other functions by a multiple and synchronous firing of the neurons. This is why the multi-linear format of hypertext is more amenable to representing human brain activity than the strictly linear format of print literacy.

My position assumes that representing the mind in action is a useful endeavor to pursue. Given the efficiency and power of the brain's storage and retrieval system, such a goal would be favorable if the desire were to approximate the capacity of the mind to perform these functions. This dissertation has addressed throughout the need to adopt a more efficient means of information storage and retrieval, since the pressure due to information overload has provided stress upon current storage strategies (i.e. book/paper storage). Setting aside the relative virtues of more accurately representing brain activity, however, I have here shown hypertext to have the potential of being structured like the brain insofar as each manifests a rhizomatic pattern, a multi-linear format that differs drastically from the arborescent pattern of literacy.

As a philosophical concept that considers the brain as a nonlinear entity more similar to crabgrass than to trees, the rhizome is also characterized in terms of memory. Deleuze and Guattari contend that "the rhizome is an antigenealogy. It is a short-term memory, or antimemory" (A Thousand Plateaus 21). They categorize the two different kinds of memory within the rhizome-arborescent schema: "The difference between them is not simply quantitative: short-term memory is of the rhizome or diagram type, and long-term memory is arborescent and centralized" (16). Such a conception of the rhizome as short-term or antimemory might seem to problematize my project. After all, if my goal is finding strategies for improved storage and retrieval of information, if I have set out from the start treating hypertext as a mnemonic prosthesis, then why this talk of forgetting? If short-term memory is rhizomatic and "includes forgetting as a process" (16), then how can the rhizome be an appropriate conceptual foundation for a hypertext compositional practice?

To answer these questions, I must briefly return to a consideration of Spenser as providing instructions for how to negotiate our current transitional shift. This return will justify the earlier discussions of Spenser's use of prosopopoeia and his motivation for doing so as relating to changes that print literacy brought to textuality. In the same way that Spenser grasped and exploited the monumental possibilities of print, we too must consider how composers can fully embrace the electronic media that are more and more at our disposal.

I have argued that Spenser turns to prosopopoeia as a trope that crystallizes the experience of print. Its rhetorical capacity to give voice to the voiceless dead serves a memorial function that becomes more efficacious with the permanence that print can provide. The permanence of stable textual production takes some time to truly establish itself as the norm, of course, but Spenser senses, I suspect, this inherent characteristic and uses this ploy as a new way to persuade potential patrons. Insofar as prosopopoeia is associated with remembering the dead, it figures the emotion of mourning, both in Spenser's minor poems and in contemporary theoretical considerations. The equivalence of a printed text to a concrete monument marking a grave might be exaggerated, but when compared to the relative instability that preceded it in the age of chirography, their association is not inappropriate.

Given my desire to learn from Spenser how to negotiate our current moment of transition, I find in Spenser's choice of prosopopoeia as the primary trope of print literacy the injunction to choose a trope that would help to cohere the experience of working in electronic media. Finding such a trope might help to accelerate the process of transition within which we as an educational institution find ourselves, as it would organize people's perceptions about the new media by establishing and clarifying the key characteristics of computeracy in the same way that prosopopoeia clarifies the key characteristics of print literacy. This trope should therefore function as an artificial indicator of potential attributes which create expectations and thereby reduce the anxiety induced by the transition in cognitive modes from arborescence to rhizomatics.

The trope that I propose will perform this function for the medium of hypertext is metalepsis. The main element of metalepsis, according to Lanham's A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, is the "omission of a central term in an extended metaphor" (66). Metalepsis therefore manifests a quality of jumping to conclusions or of skipping the presentation of a step-by-step progression from point to point, metaphor to metaphor, as a way of providing its rhetorical effect. This definition embodies the filmic logic of hypertext insofar as hypertext is a medium of juxtaposed fragments that could facilitate the process of metalepsis. As a defining feature of video and filmic media, juxtaposition embodies the metaleptic feature of omitting the explanatory link between two terms, leaving a gap to be filled in by the one encountering the text. One might perceive this process of omission as a kind of forgetting, a conscious forgetting that omits its central term on purpose. Such a structure, then, would position literacy and computeracy as opposed in the same way that remembering and forgetting are.

Other features of literacy and computeracy that oppose one another, as in the descriptions of the monumentality of print documents versus the anti-monumentality of electronic texts, reinforce this opposition between remembering and forgetting.20 I have described the monumental drive in the apparatus of print as being motivated by an attempt to remember, to make permanent. In electronic texts, however, forgetting becomes the norm, as drafts of previous texts, once made inexorably permanent by print, are now able to be forgotten in electronic formats, replaced by different versions that can be replaced again.21 This anti-monumental feature of electronic publishing is similar to the features of short-term memory, which functions because of its ability to forget what was previously stored there in order to store the new information. Though the computer's capacity to save various versions of a document undermines this comparison of electronic textuality and short-term memory, the ephemeral and ethereal quality of electronic texts, which provide them with the anti-monumental features that Lanham and Bolter point out, makes it more similar to short-term memory than printed texts.

So the Deleuzoguattarian emphasis on forgetting as rhizomatic described above supports the choice of metalepsis as an organizational trope for the medium of hypertext, given my conception of metalepsis as embodying a form of forgetting in its very structure. Deleuze's notoriety for studying the philosophers of joy also reinforces this choice of the trope of forgetting, in that forgetting might be viewed as a joyful process. Certainly the antithesis of gravity and weight, both metaphoric features of the seriousness of traditional Western philosophy, can be found in the lightness or joy that the nomadic rhizome manifests. I imagine that Deleuze was attracted to these philosophers of joy for the reason that, from his point of view, they opposed this Western tradition of the melancholy philosopher, providing an alternative to the typical conclusions reached. Metalepsis as a trope of forgetting, then, replaces prosopopoeia as a trope of remembering in the move from print to electronics, and the primary emotion evolves from mourning into joy.

The question of how to incorporate the memory palace tradition within an electronic rhetoric that foregrounds forgetting remains to be answered. Umberto Eco asks a question similar to the one posed here in his essay "An Ars Oblivionalis? Forget It!" Playfully imagining the existence of an "art of forgetting," Eco proceeds to show that such an art would be impossible by demonstrating mnemotechnics to be a semiotic system, which is "inherently ill-suited to stimulat[ing] forgetfulness" (255). After providing a thorough discussion of the semiotic character of mnemotechnics, he does, however, provide "strategies for producing oblivion": "There are no voluntary devices for forgetting, but there are devices for remembering badly: it is necessary to multiply the semiosis. . . . One forgets not by cancellation but by superimposition, not by producing absence but by multiplying presences" (259-260). Personal examples of forgetting in this manner reinforce the fear expressed by writers of many memory treatises that one might have so much stored in memory that one would confuse the ideas and therefore, in effect, forget.

Eco's definition of forgetting as a multiplication of presences provides a description similar to the process of rhizographic writing: the multiplication of genres, the multi-linearity, and the molecular proliferation of cells all contribute to a conception of the electronic memory palace as a place of forgetting, a potentially vast mnemonic space in which writers wander in a metaleptic, nomadic network of associations. As the World-Wide Web comes to fruition and more and more people begin to access information via the hypertext-based Mosaic, the experience of skipping along a surface of information, of getting lost like a tourist wandering through foreign streets, of forgetting from where one has come or how one arrived at a particular node, will become more common. Maybe then Deleuze's assertions will have become common sense.


1See Landow, Hypertext Chapter One, for a sustained treatment of these connections.

2Terence Harpold's Lacanian "reading" of hypertext, which offers a "psychoanalytic theory of narrative digression in hypertexts" (172), is one notable exception to this generalization.

3David Blair, author of this posting of April 6th, 1994, writes of his project titled "Waxweb," which "is a large constructive hypertext (with hypertext extensions coming later) which has been converted to MOO-space at Hotel MOO. . . . 'Waxweb' formally began as a hypertext groupware project, in which 25 net-connected people around the world would use the groupware functionality of Eastgate's Storyspace hypertext software to add counter-writings, counter-structures, imaginary backstory or characters, or simpler things, onto a hypertext 'baselayer' which I constructed. . . . Not long after the above project began, Tom Meyer, a grad student in computer science at Brown, decided to open the hypertext-based Hotel MOO, which incorporated an extension he had written that allowed the conversion of 'Storyspace' hypertext files into coherent MOO-architecture. . . ." For a recent article on MOO spaces, see David Bennahum's article entitled "Fly Me to the MOO: Adventures in Textual Reality," Lingua Franca 4.4 (June 1994): 22-36.

4See, for instance, Bolter's discussion of the hypertext-style novel Composition No. 1, which is a sheaf of unnumbered, unbound, individual "pages" that comes in a box and can be shuffled around, and Michael Joyce's renowned hypertext "Afternoon" (written in Storyspace): "In both fictions, the burden of constructing the text is thrown back on the reader" (142).

5In Brian Massumi's reading of their work, "meaning is force" (as the first chapter of A User's Guide is entitled). Concepts have a material effect in the world and are not merely of the ethereal realm of the "mind." "Interpretation is force, and an application of force is the outcome of an endless interplay of processes natural and historical, individual and institutional. This gives us a second approximation of what meaning is: more a meeting between forces than simply the forces behind the signs. Force against force, action upon action, the development of an envelopment: meaning is the encounter of lines of force, each of which is actually a complex of other forces" (11). The goal of their work, then, is to invent concepts which exert some force in the real world.

6Despite Carruthers's problems with Ong, she writes of Quintilian's comments on writing as a hindrance in passages which agree with Ong on this point: "Quintilian stresses one matter in regard to the layout of the waxed tablets. Waxed tablets best serve excision and correction (though people with poor eyes may have to use parchment in order to see the letters better--parchment slows down the writing process, however, and so may hinder thought)" (204). The slowness is necessary for achieving the degree of depth that alphabetic literacy makes possible: "Writing is crucial because it forces us to concentrate and its slowness makes us careful: 'as deep ploughing makes the soil more fertile . . . so, if we improve our minds by something more than superficial study, we shall produce a richer growth of knowledge and shall retain it with greater accuracy'" (204). These references to depth and superficiality should resonate with my earlier discussion of these issues.

7The desire to escape the dichotomous thinking of binaristic logic is a commonplace of poststructural thought. See for example Barthes, A Lover's Discourse, in which he writes of "the glorious end of logical thinking" (21) and of how he "seeks a new unheard-of consciousness beyond dichotomies" (61). See also Derrida, "White Mythology," in which he writes that the "logic of the abyme is the figurative ruination of logic" (262).

8Gregory Ulmer, in Teletheory, draws upon these terms to characterize his genre for videography that he calls "mystory." He opposes "models" to "relays": models are problematic in that they inspire only imitation and not invention, not experimentation. As he writes, "The problem is that nomadic texts such as those authored by Artaud or Kleist themselves end up becoming monuments, 'inspiring a copy to be modeled.' This alternative--the relay, organized by speed, rather than the gravity of a monument--will be one of the most difficult and important issues for teletheory . . ." (170). Insofar as rhizography emphasizes speed, it is similar to this aspect of Ulmer's "mystory."

9The notion of the space between is also significant and recurs in definitions of other key concepts, such as the following clarification of "becomings": "We said the same thing about becomings: it is not one term which becomes the other, but each encounters the other, a single becoming which is not common to the two, since they have nothing to do with one another, but which is between the two, which has its own direction, a bloc of becoming, an aparallel evolution" (Dialogues 6-7).

10Jeremy Campbell, writing of these matters, says, "Papert and his colleague Marvin Minsky see the brain as a network of networks . . ." (215). Minsky, in his book The Society of Mind, tells how the structure of his book emulates the mind itself: "One trouble is that these ideas have lots of cross-connections. My explanations rarely go in neat, straight lines from start to end. . . . Instead they're tied in tangled webs. Perhaps this fault is actually mine, for failing to find a tidy base of neatly ordered principles. But I'm inclined to lay the blame upon the nature of the mind: much of its power seems to stem from just the messy ways its agents cross-connect" (17).

11Campbell writes, "Throwing out the metaphor of the serial computer and replacing it with the metaphor of a brain which is not a logic machine but a knowledge medium . . . leads to a considerably more expansive and generous view of the mind" (16).

12George Johnson, in In the Palaces of Memory, writes, "Inspired by artificial intelligence, many psychologists were seized by the idea that the churnings of the mind could be thought of as algorithms, step-by-step procedures that could be embodied in computer programs. But when eyed too closely, the metaphor became strained. In a computer, memory and processing are completely separate functions--different boxes on the architectural plans. Every parcel of information is assigned an address and stored in an array of memory chips or on a magnetic disk. When the central processor needs the information, it must be summoned from its numbered cell. The computer has to know where the memory is stored in order to retrieve it" (163-164).

13Deleuze and Guattari recognize the epic quality of thought when, in one passage treating nomadism, they write that "To think is to voyage" (482).

14This emphasis on the "nonlocalizable loci " has become common among poststructural thinkers. The notion of the nonlocalizable recurs in Deleuze's The Fold, which finds in Leibniz's baroque philosophy much that connects to his own thinking. Writing of the motion of the fold at one point, Deleuze says, "It is an extremely sinuous fold, a zigzag, a primal tie that cannot be located" (120; see also pp. 103 and 111 for references to the nonlocalizable). Derrida's conception of the crypt also participates in this trend. According to J. Hillis Miller, "The chief obstacle to a complete cartography of Derrida's topographies, however, is not the extent and complexity of the terrain but the presence within any place on his map . . . of a place that cannot be mapped. This place resists toponymy, topology, and topography, all three. Somewhere and nowhere in every Derridean topography is a secret place, a crypt whose coordinates cannot be plotted" ("Derrida's Topographies" 6).

15"Descartes had both 'algebraized' geometry and 'geometrized' algebra. (And it is this second movement that is of most interest to us here.) With one profound invention, he had built the conceptual bridge we today call the Cartesian coordinate system" (Benedikt, "Introduction" 20).

16This follows Ulmer's strategy in Heuretics, in which he revises Descartes's discourse, deriving an anti-method, by contrasting all of Descartes's points, since "so many theorists of the contemporary paradigm have declared themselves to be Anti-Cartesians" (12). One of the instructions in ANTI-(BOOK)THREE provides the following moral rule: "wander aimlessly (vagabondage)" (13).

17One example of this tendency occurs in a passage in which they discuss the 1968 uprising in France, which "was molecular," according to Deleuze and Guattari: "A molecular flow was escaping, minuscule at first, then swelling, without, however, ceasing to be unassignable. The reverse, however, is also true: molecular escapes and movements would be nothing if they did not return to the molar organizations to reshuffle their segments, their binary distributions of sexes, classes, and parties" (A Thousand Plateaus 216-217).

18Massumi offers a helpful discussion of these matters, here speaking in terms of an individual: "The basic change is in the 'mode of composition' or 'consistency' of the individual, in other words in the way in which the particles hold together. The statistical accumulation started as a shifting mass brought together by fragmentary processes operating particle by particle through strictly local connections, or in a manner that could be called 'molecular.' The resulting multilayered individual was then grasped as a whole by a set of outside forces working in concert and molded into a well-defined superindividual or 'molar' formation" (48).

19Characterizing Leibniz's philosophy, Deleuze writes, "Essentialism makes a classic of Descartes, while Leibniz's thought appears to be a profound Mannerism. Classicism needs a solid and constant attribute for substance, but Mannerism is fluid, and the spontaneity of manners replaces the essentiality of the attribute" (The Fold 56). The emphasis on flow and fluids recurs: in the chapter "What is an Event?" Deleuze writes, "Events are fluvia. From then on what allows us to ask, 'Is it the same flow, the same thing or the same occasion?'" (79). The monad is said to be "a lapping of waves" (86), and the baroque view sees matter as overflowing like fluid: "matter tends to spill over in space, to be reconciled with fluidity at the same time fluids themselves are divided into masses" (4). Luce Irigaray also emphasizes the fluid in This Sex Which Is Not One, in which she recognizes the correlation between logocentric logicality and solids: "what structuration of (the) language does not maintain a complicity of long standing between rationality and a mechanics of solids alone? " (107). In this chapter, titled "The 'Mechanics' of Fluids," she writes of how scientists try to make a solid out of fluids in order to render it predictable, to analyze it, to find formulas that define its behavior, and she sees this as characteristic of the masculine attitude toward women in general. Fluids, then, suggest a kind of feminist thinking beyond the masculine: "And yet that woman-thing speaks. But not 'like,' not 'the same, ' not 'identical with itself' nor to any x etc. Not a 'subject,' unless transformed by phallocratism. It speaks 'fluid' . . ." (111). These poststructural texts rely on fluidity as a significant metaphor in the development of their respective theories, which makes fluidity common to poststructural theory as well as the characteristics of electronic textuality as described by scholars like Shoaf and Lanham. In Revising Prose, Lanham writes of "Electronic Literacy" and of the difference between printed and electronic texts: "[Print] fixes things. Electronic text unfixes them. It is by nature changeable, antiauthoritarian" (86).

20For one of these accounts, see Lanham, Revising Prose, chapter five on "Electronic Literacy."

21See the editorial comments of any published essay in the electronic journal Surfaces, which requests those wishing to cite its texts to "consult the journal at source in order to be sure of using the latest version."

Contents | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Conclusion | References

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