[Colonial & Postcolonial Theory]

The Performative and Processual: A Study of Hypertext/Postcolonial Aesthetic

Unitary and Unilinear Text/Networked or Multilinear Text

Part Two: Dispersal of Hypertextual Strategies: Shelley Jackson and Leslie Silko

Jaishree K. Odin, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl makes use of the expressive representational surface that electronic medium provides to create a text that is capable of countless mutations as a part of her storytelling. A tree map, a story space map, an outline of the story all contribute to the reading experience. The tree map, which looks more like a ribbed box with brightly colored horizontal and vertical bars of varying lengths, shapes, and colors, becomes itself the focus of aesthetic attention. Underneath the electronic patchwork arrangement hides the textual patchwork which the reader must sort out and reassemble to create a coherent whole. The writer narrator in one of the lexias reflecting on the "spatial and volumetric " book reading where one can trace one's linear path through the text finds "assembling these patched words in an electronic space" very different from reading a book. In electronic space, according to one lexia, the present moment achieves significance, and the reading becomes " haphazard hopscotch through other present moments."

Jackson's crazy patchwork is assembled from pieces from Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, her own experiences of this text, L. Frank Baum's The Patchwork Girl of Oz and fragments here and there from contemporary theorists' works. Above all though, the text is an encounter of Shelley Jackson, an aspiring writer attempting to find her voice, with Mary Shelley, the writer of Frankenstein. The two texts are so intertwined that it is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. Shelley's debt to her foremother comes in the allusion in the title page itself which says "Patchwork Girl or A Modern Monster by Mary/Shelley and Herself-a graveyard, a journal, a quilt, a story, and broken accents". As has been shown by various critics, just as the monster in Frankenstein is assembled from dead parts from charnel houses, so is Mary Shelley's text filled with allusions to other texts. Mary Shelley also surrenders claims to originality as well as authorship in the way she frames her narratives which opens with letters from Walton to his sister, followed by the narrative of Frankenstein and the innermost narrative of the monster. Mary's text thus "offers an appropriate metaphor of the writer's activity: the reconstruction of dead fragments from many bodies, the traces of many texts, into a new and hideous combination that refuses to submit to the authority of the creator. Frankenstein can thus be read as an interrogation of origination, creativity and authority..." (Botting 22). Feminist critics regard the narrative of the monster who is described as a female in disguise as the heart of the text. Without making any claims to originality, Shelley's text is then an attempt on her part to come to grips with Mary's text at one level and at another level it is a continuation of Mary's story which is every woman's story both literally and metaphorically. Out of disparate elements of the story, the reader creates her own patchwork which is neither Mary's text, nor Shelley's text, but the reader's text as she traces are own path through the lexias. As one of the lexias under the section Grave advises that if the reader wants to create a coherent whole out of the text they will have to sew the pieces together.

Leslie Silko's print narratives also reflect hypertextual strategies such as resisting the fixed unilinear status of the written word in order to embrace the open, multivalent, ambiguous nature of the spoken word. As often noted, Silko's works are rooted in the oral tradition. She compares Pueblo Indian expression to a spider's web, where "the structure of the web emerges as it is made. You must simply listen and trust....that meaning will be made" (1996: 49). In her three works Storyteller, Ceremony, and Almanac of the Dead, the narratives appear as criss- crossing threads flowing in different directions, even as they are part of the same web. Just as in story telling, the context and the participants constitute an important element of the direction the story takes, so it is with Silko's works where the reader's positioning determines the trajectory that she traces through the weave of texts. Silko resists looking at her tradition as something that can be packaged into a product for consumption. Instead, her narratives convey the shifting and changing nature of her cultural heritage as it interacts with the dominant culture and with other minority cultures. Here the past and the present come together in a spiral of time where the past is transformed and reenvisioned in the contemporary reality of the present.

Postcolonial OV PoCo Theory Themes