Chapter 3: Hypertext and Hypermedia

Funkhouser’s first move in the third chapter is to reference Michael Joyce, who claims that hypertext is primarily visual. Joyce states that, in hypertext, “the text becomes a present tense palimpsest where what shines through are not past versions but potential, alternate views” (151). Funkhouser claims that the palimpsest—historically, a manuscript page which has been written on, scraped off, and used again—is a good model for hypertext because of its roots in the material/tactile. Digital palimpsest is unique because of its rhetorical complications to authorship and the concept of legibility.

Funkhouser states that “once hyperworks were developed, all the principal possibilities of contemporary digital poetry were already available [. . .] we can identify distinct characteristics in every digital poem, but the accumulation of styles confounds any single critical definition of artistic works that merge poetry with digital technology” (151). Funkhouser identifies some of the historical forebears of hypertext (though Duchamp's Green Box is noticeably absent) but chooses to focus on the concept of intertextuality more than an extensive discussion of non-digital examples. One prominent digital example that he does discuss is Amendent Hardiker's Zaum Gadget. Produced with HyperCard, it represents an extreme convergence of hypertext and hypermedia, incorporating graphical links, automatic and mouseover sound effects, and pop-up boxes in which users enter text and which also communicate messages to the user. Examining hypertextual poetry, then, is quite important in any comprehensive study of digital literacies because of hypertext’s transformation of the practices of reading poetry, and because of the interaction, albeit limited, that users have with the poems themselves.