Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Stitch ‘n Create

Shelly Jackson’s hypertext, "Patchwork Girl" is an interesting piece of fictional literature. At right is a screen shot of the 'title' page of "Patchwork Girl."
The hypertext has five main sections within it: Graveyard, Journal, Quilt, Story, and Broken Accents, each with their own different storied to tell. The main storyline of the entire hypertext is that Shelly Jackson uses Mary Shelley’s novel, "Frankenstein", as a foundation to create her own monster, Patchwork Girl. Through the different sections of the hypertext, the interactor can experience how Patchwork Girl, the monster and the hypertext, was put together, read excerpts from "Frankenstein," and see the story of Patchwork Girl after her creation. The main theme of the hypertext is that of finding one’s history and how a person’s history really makes up who that person is on the inside.

The Graveyard section of “Patchwork Girl” is my favorite because of the stories that are told about Patchwork Girl’s body parts. The first screen shot at right shows the title page of this section. The second screen shot, which would be the lexias that the interactor normally would see after clicking on the pervious screen shot. This is an important screen shot, but just not important to this section, but to the whole understanding of hypertext because of what it says: “I am buried here. You can resurrect me, but only piecemeal. If you want to see the whole, you will have to sew me together yourself” (Jackson graveyard). The lexias basically gives the interactor a description of the whole genre of hypertext. This is because of the way that the interactor has to use hypertext, they ‘sew’ their own story since one person will click on something that other person would not click on. In “Navigating Electronic Literature,” Jessica Pressman quotes Jay David Bolter while explaining how everyone reads a different piece of literature when they read hypertext because “‘[t]here is no single story of which every reading is a version, because each reading determine the story as it goes. We could say that there is no story at all; there are only readings’” (Pressman 6). This quote completely grasps the idea of hypertext, since interactors will experience the same text, but in different orders, creating a different story/reading for each user.

The Graveyard section of “Patchwork Girl” is similar to another piece by Jackson called “my body – a Wunderkammer” (screen shots are above). The two pieces of hypertext are similar because they both talk about how body parts make up a person. In Graveyard, the body parts literally make up Patchwork Girl, but she does not have a history of her own, instead she has the history of the body parts; like how her trunk belong to Angela who was a dancer and her right leg belonged to Jennifer. In “my body,” Jackson talks about her own body, through which she makes the statement that how a person is today reflects different things that happened in their past, whether it deals with the physical body or mental ‘body.’ Also both hypertexts use the method of clicking on different body parts to hear about their history, which helps the interactor follow the story and points that Jackson makes in both of her creations.

The Journal section of the hypertext shows the interactor the journal of Mary Shelley, the character that Jackson creates based on the real Mary Shelley, who physically creates Patchwork Girl.
Also through the journal, the interactor is able to see Mary Shelley’s feelings of a creator, friend, and mother to her monster. This section shows the difference between Mary and the characters in her novel. This is because the creator in her novel does not care about his creation once he is made and Mary loves her monster as if it were her own child. Also in this part, Jackson come in to the picture as the ‘author’ of Patchwork Girl (both monster and hypertext), as the screen shot at left shows. Although that Mary is the monster’s physical creator, Jackson claims herself as the monster’s literary creator. This is shown in the way that Mary says that she feels as if she is writing when she is stitching Patchwork Girl together. Through the lexias, Jackson is showing her existence in the hypertext through her writing that Mary feels as if she is writing while creating the monster. I feel as if this is a stroke of genius on the part of Jackson since it shows that people (in the physical world) effect who a person is by their upbringing (or in the case of Patchwork Girl, her creation).

The Story section of “Patchwork Girl” uses actual pieces of writing from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” to compare Frankenstein to Patchwork Girl and how the loving environment that the later was ‘brought up in’ made her who she turned out to be. Also in this section Patchwork Girl gives light to her own thoughts and thanks those who gave her life – those whose body parts make her up. Also she knowledges the pasts of the body parts, but she wants her own past, which is the reason that this section also shows her buying a woman’s past.The bought past, although that it is not her own, gives Patchwork Girl a semblance of having a real life since she has never been able to fit in with her scars and large build (as seen in the “birth” lexias).

The Broken Accents/Phrenology
section tells the interactor about Jackson’s experience with writing with hypertext, as seen with the screen shot at left labeled “this writing.” Also in this lexias, Jackson mentions that she has gotten lost in hypertext (both reading and writing) and that with a book it is easier because once you up a book the reader knows where they are, what page they are on, but she feels as if writing with hypertext fits her better because it allows her to jump around from topic to topic. I feel as if “this writing” lexias does not just fit “Patchwork Girl” or “my body” (which it seems to pertain to more so than the former), but all works with hypertext. This lexias in particular makes understanding the reason to write with hypertext easier to understand.

The Crazy Quilt part of the hypertext shows the different sources that Jackson either took text from or borrowed ideas from in order to create “Patchwork Girl.”This section has two parts to it the first part being shown at left. The second part, as Carolina Sanchez-Palencia Carazo and Manuel Almagro Jimenez state in their essay, “Gathering the Limbs of the Text in Shelley Jackson’s “Patchwork Girl,’” the quotes [from the sources that Jackson used] used are not documented or presented with different typographies as they are in the first part (scrap bag). “ However, the lexias are presented with different colours in order to evoke the idea of that ‘crazy quilt’” (Carazo 117). I have never been able to see this in my experiences of interacting with “Patchwork Girl,” but the idea of the crazy quilt, which is a quilt that really does not follow any patterns or rules other than it has to be crazy upon the senses, especially sight.

It is hard to write about hypertext for the similar reason that it is difficult to write about interactive fiction since each person that interacts with them receives a slightly different story because of the order they click on the links. The hypertext format works really with “Patchwork Girl” and “my body-a Wunderkammer” because of the ability for the interactor to create their own story with the text that Shelley Jackson created with a certain experience that comes from writing in the hypertext genre of literature.

Works Cited
Carazo, Carolina Sanchez-Palencia and Manuel Almagro Jimenez. “Gathering the Limbs of the Text in Shelley Jackson’s ‘Patchwork Girl.’” Atlantis 28.1, 2006. Web.
Jackson, Shelley. “my body – a Wunderkammer.”
Jackson, Shelley. "Patchwork Girl." Watertown, MA: Eastgate Systems, 1995. CD-Rom.
Pressman, Jessica. “Navigating Electronic Literature.”

Thank you for this class. It has been an amazing experience to be able to learn all that we have learned. Thank You!