[Colonial & Postcolonial Theory]

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


Part One: Shelley Jackson and the Spaces In Between

Jaishree K. Odin, University of Hawaii at Manoa

From the perspective of print aesthetic, a text has a beginning, middle, and an end. The novel is the perfect representation of this type of text. Postcolonial theorists have shown that the novel rose with the rise of colonialism and scientific materialism in Europe. Both colonialism and scientific materialism promoted individualism which was based on binary dualism of self and the other, where the self defined itself by setting the other as its opposite. Print text was the ideal representational medium for an individuated and dosed self. As we enter into the age of electronic textuality we need to move away from closed texts so ideally suited for narratives of colonization and explore the decentered and non- hierarchical world of hypertext. Hypertext appears as comprised of fragmented units of text with no unity or center. Approaching it from the hypertext aesthetic, the hypertextual indeed has no beginning or end, but just the middle where the hypertextual subject realizes herself in the form of the trajectory along which the reading takes a shape which is composed of moments of textual embodiment and disembodiment. Thus "the reader of a hypertext not only chooses the order of what she reads, but her choices in fact, become what it is. The text continually rewrites itself and becomes... the constructive hypertext: a version of what it is becoming, a structure for what does not yet exist" ( Joyce 235).

Shelley Jackson achieves fragmentation to open in-between spaces by using patchwork as the thematic as well as structural principle of her text. As Deleuze and Guattari point out, a patchwork represents smooth space that has no center. "Its basic motif ('block') is composed of a single element; the recurrence of this element frees uniquely rhythmic values distinct from the harmonies of embroidery (in particular in 'crazy' patchwork, which fits together pieces of varying size, shape, and color and plays on the texture of the fabric)." Through its "amorphous collection of juxtaposed pieces that can be joined together in an infinite number of ways we see that patchwork is literally a Riemannian space, or vice versa....The smooth space of patchwork is adequate to demonstrate that 'smooth' does not mean homogenous, quite the contrary; it is an amorphous, nonformal space prefiguring op art" (476-477).

In Jackson's text the textual patchwork creates precisely this kind of smooth space where individual textual units are subordinated to the space between the individual fragments. Thus, one of the lexias says: "I hop from stone to stone and an electronic river washes out my scent in the intervals." Creation of gaps and in-between spaces allow for an interaction which is liberating both for the writer who must struggle to find her voice as a woman and for the reader who must genuinely engage with her text. The narrator becomes "a discontinuous trace, a dotted line." A dotted line here represents the fractured textual surface as well as patched and discontinuous artistic subjectivity; "it indicates a difference without cleaving apart for good what it distinguishes. It is permeable membrane: some substance necessary to both can pass from one side to the other. It is a potential line, an indication of the way out of two dimensions ...Because it is a potential line, it folds/unfolds the imagination in one move...A dotted line demonstrates; even what is discontinuous and in pieces can blaze a trail." In the trajectories that the reader traces through her text, the lines of traversal take precedence over the points marked by the lexias which produces a continuous variation of form in an essentially open text.

Postcolonial OV PoCo Theory Themes