ictorian oetry and ypertext

graphics by Harlan Wallach ęcopyright 1994
graphics by Harlan Wallach ęcopyright 1996

Business for Today

Landow, Chapter 2: "Reconfiguring the Text"


To test out Landow's claims about the "new" experience of reading hypertext, let's work with the "In Memoriam" program for a while. First, let's look at some basic features of the program:

Next, I have a series of steps listed below to get you using the program for different purposes. Once you complete them, explore the hypertext further on your own, until we move on.

  1. From the IM OV, find and read the "introduction" to the poem.
  2. Explore some of the background/cultural context for the selected "Darwinian" stanzas of the poem (LV-LVI) in our anthology.
  3. Pick some imagery from one of the sections in our anthology, and see if the hypertext allows you to trace it through the entire poem.
  4. Trace some of the sections "linked" to VII.

More Concepts: Verbal and Nonverbal Text

Where in this week's readings have you encountered the kinds of "nonverbal texts" Landow writes about? How have they affected your experience of the verbal texts associated with them? Do design issues matter as much as Landow claims?

Other Reconfigurations Predicted by Landow

My hope is that the Rossetti and Browning materials on the web can help us illustrate some these ideas about textuality. So, let's break up into small groups and re-examine The Rossetti Hypermedia Archive, The Victorian Web, and Robert [Hypermedia] Browning.

Group #1: Examine the different versions of "The Blessed Damozel" at the Rossetti Archive. How does the technology facilitate study of Rossetti's composition of the poem?

Group #2: Try reading "In Memoriam" from its "beginning" ("Prologue") on. Even if you don't finish the poem (you won't), be sure to read the "Epilogue" to get a sense of its ending (you might also look at various "commentaries" linked to sections you study). After looking at the poem in this "linear" fashion, discuss how easy or difficult it was to read the sections we did earlier, out of sequence. Consider Landow's question: "What happens when a work offers many "main" entrances?" (58). Does it make it easier to study the text?

Group #3: Read the hypertext versions of the Browning poems and the linked information from the Victorian Web. Consider how justified Landow is in making these assertions: "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, . . . one change comes from the fact that linking permits the reader to move with equal facility between points within a text and those outside it. . . . then, in an important sense, the discreteness of texts, which print culture creates, has radically changed and possibly disappeared" (61-62). Do the "outside" materials (commentary, illustrations, notes, etc.) gain in importance when reading in hypertext?

With whatever time is left, explore the on-line texts further and construct (email) questions/commentary about the poets/poetry we've considered today.

Back to Reading Schedule for LIT: 400