Hypertext and Feminism

f4a7c-patchwork-girl

Reading has drastically changed with the advancement of technology. Doors to new possibilities have opened and books are no longer acknowledged as single purpose objects. Through digital mediums stories can now be told in experimental and non-traditional fashions. One experimental writing form is hypertext. According to Ted Nelson, hypertext is defined as “a software system that links topics on the screen to related information and graphics, which are typically accessed by a point-and-click method.” Hypertext breaks traditional form and adds several interactive features allowing participants to explore the message or theme at an exceptionally profound level. Nelson believes hypertext was the catalyst for the new era in written word. This new era was drastically different than traditional methods of reading and writing, but was readily accepted by those who utilized digital literary mediums.

“Patchwork girl”, a hypertext story written by Shelly Jackson, uses hypertext to present a feminist message. Jackson tells the story by using drawings of female body parts stitched together through text and illustration. The story and the images utilized to create Patchwork Girl uses this breakage from traditional writing and parallels it with the voice and perspective of a female narrative. Patchwork Girl is written in Hypertext style to give writer Shelly Jackson an experimental voice to mold and shape as her own without being transfixed to a still page. Patchwork girl correlates with an expression of feminism because it moves away from the indoctrinate style of writing with its nonlinear form, its deconstructive body of the monster and its lexias, and the random selection of its text.

As seen through lecture, hypertext has three central defining functions. It has multiple pathways to continue the reading, chunked text, and a navigation system of links. The form of hypertext is revolutionary because it breaks apart linear writing styles and puts it into something completely new. By making the writing nonlinear the author is essentially no longer in control of the flow of the story. Instead, the reader has control and can navigate the story as she or he wishes. The reader chooses the pathway and she or he autonomously concludes the ending.

While some authors of Hypertext stories may etch a constant fixed destination, other Hypertext stories reveal alternate conclusions depending on the reader, at least the reader can choose the road. The reader is not bound by a narrow pathway, but instead she or he has liberty to choose. The journey to the destination matters and choice, freedom, and independence is what Hypertext offers. Equality reverberates in the very foundation of Hypertext.

In Patchwork Girl, Jackson has more of a conversation with the reader about feminism and allows the reader to come to the same conclusion through the nonlinear usage of hypertext. The message of feminism is all about equality and by using hypertext this message is not only in the writing, but it also in the construct. Patchwork Girl has apparent ploys to convey a feminist message, but the hypertext medium itself expresses feminism because it breaks away from tradition. The writer and the reader become equal participants in pushing the story forward. Just like in feminism, both parties are equally important in carrying out to the finished goal. Robert Coover wrote that “the traditional narrative time line vanishes into a geographical landscape or exitless maze, with beginnings, middles and ends being no longer part of the immediate display. Instead: branching options, menus, link markers and mapped networks. There are no hierarchies in these topless (and bottomless) networks, as paragraphs, chapters and other conventional text divisions are replaced by evenly empowered and equally ephemeral window-sized blocks of text and graphics — soon to be supplemented with sound, animation and film” (Coover 707).  He continues by rhetorically asking if hypertexts are “to be linked to the chain of existence and events, (he answers) yes, but bound by it? No. I forge my own links, I am building my own monstrous chain, and as time goes on, perhaps it will begin to resemble, rather, a web.” Coover’s quote repeated by the monster in Patchwork Girl, not only shows the power of feminism underlined, but also relates directly back to usage of hypertext. Hypertext is completely different from the traditional hierarchal form of writing and just like the monster wishes to be something equal and autonomous, hypertext does so simultaneously.

The first image that is seen when entering the story of Patchwork Girl is the deconstructed monster. The body metaphorically represents the body of text that is the story and the body that must be sewn together in order to unfold itself into its story. This monster parallels greatly with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and is also equally as important to understand and travel through to comprehend the message of feminism behind the story. The female monster correlates Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein’s monster and offers a parallel to the words of Mary Shelly’s monster. What the monster in Frankenstein yearned for the most was a female companion to be his equal counterpart so he did not have to live in solitude, dominating over another sex. The wish was denied in Frankenstein, however this power of equality is granted in Patchwork Girl as the author stitches the patchwork of the story and creates the female monster. Frankenstein thinks better of creating the female counterpart in Mary Shelly’s book and destroys the monster and in Patchwork girl the female monster is given a voice to parallel as the reader patches it together. The reader essentially gives the monster life and the female monster interrupts the voice of Mary Shelly and remarks “I told her to abort me, raze me from her book; I did not want what he wanted. I laughed when my parts lay scattered on the floor, scattered as the bodies from which I had sprung discontinuous as myself rejoice to be.” The body is reassembled by reading about all of the different body parts and the story cannot continue without first reassembling the body parts of the monster and thus giving it the voice and option to speak its story. (PatchworkGirl)

Hypertext relents the author from taking dominance by allowing the reader to make the choice of which text box to click on and continue the story. The link between written and stitch not only portrays the metaphor written in the following body paragraph, but also shows the equal importance of the reader and the writer. The reader must stitch the story together and the writer is responsible for the text on the screen. Both links to sewn and writing parallel each other to convey this importance. There are five paths for the reader to take; “the graveyard, the journal, the quilt, the story, and the broken accents.” The reader chooses where to begin by constructing the story together. The reader in a sense is responsible for constructing the monster by which text box they decide to click on. All text boxes lead to several more text boxes in which the reader again gets to choose randomly of how to progress this story. The reader is essentially the parallel of Frankenstein and is responsible to giving life to the female counterpart of the monster. Shelley Jackson uses the voice of the monster to remark on how the original Frankenstein story structure and control of the author kept the monster back. “I alone remember the real Mary. Her curious mix of resonance and passion. The part that twisted under me with a dark satisfaction and the part that wiped her hands afterward and twitch the curtains open with punitive haste. You can see it in her book. How she embeds her tale in a thickness of letters and second hand account as if precaution were needed to secure the monster behind those locks and screens.” The usage of hypertext gives the monster more dominance vs in Mary Shelly’s story where the still pages in them self held the monster back and kept it constrained. It is only through the random selections of story that allows the female monster it’s free voice to speak openly and lively with the reader. The author seems to have little power to what the monster will say next because it is not controlling the voice.

Patchwork girl is an expression of feminism because it moves away from the indoctrinate style of writing with its nonlinear form, its deconstructive body of the monster and its lexias, and the random selection of its text. Hypertext diverges from the hegemonic style of writing and provides freedom for writers and readers. Not only does hypertext writing reflect the feminist theory, but the theme within Patchwork Girl explicitly reflects the medium through which the story is written. Without the shared control, the work perhaps could not be close read and defined as something equal. Nor would it be able to parallel with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein so deeply to its very core and would lose its ability to critique the author through structure. Hypertext is one of many experimental forms of the digital that opens the door to convey new messages. It is important to understand how hypertext can be used so a deeper point can come across to the reader.

A penny for my thoughts.

girl-in-prayer-229x300

In times when life touches us with chaos and things that are completely out of our control, I find that gratitude is the best weapon against this natural force from consuming our emotions and our mind.

If you have something to be grateful for it can stand against the weight of any misfortune or circumstance.

I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for my siblings. I am grateful for my nephews. I am grateful for my parents. I am grateful for my family to be. I am grateful for my fiancé; my compass, my love, my best friend and my hero. I am grateful for our two cats, who bring life and joy into the apartment. I am grateful for my true friends who have stood by me for better or for worse and the friends who were temporary, but who made me smile while they were still present in my life. I am grateful to all of the professors and teachers who have supported me inside the classroom and outside. I am grateful for the gifts of talent I have been given; my singing voice, my writing skills and my imagination. I am grateful for my own appreciation and for my love of the things that I am good at. I am grateful for the education I have had and for the ability to have an intelligent mind that will allow me to continue in the future if I permit it. I am grateful for the strength and understanding God has bestowed upon me to help me get through things that I do not understand. I am grateful to live in a country where my health is taken care of. I am grateful that as a woman and as a disabled I do, at least in comparison to other places, have it pretty well and have opportunities that others may not have. I am grateful to be able to write and voice whatever I please without fear of consequence to my safety. I am grateful for the past I have lived and the mistakes and misfortunes I have grown from. I am grateful for my present, for the enormous support from a great list of different people (they know who they are). I am grateful for the future that I may still have, without expectations because I realize that there are things out of my control, just acceptance…and of course gratitude, for the ability to have gone through so much and to be able to handle it with acceptance and grace for that of which I have no control over.

I believe full heartedly that when handled with a list of things we are grateful for we can rise up stronger for the beautiful chaos in the thing that we call life.

The Endless Captivity of an Anxious Mind

phoenix-diana.jpg

It’s 1am right now and my mind is busy fighting a dragon of anxieties and demons with a broken sword to let me get any sleep. So I, as per usual, attempt to vent it out through writing.

The anxiety is the worst at night. I wonder if that is how it is for all people who are hold under its endless captivity.

An anxiety disorder is the most common mental illness, but is often taken less seriously than any other clinical illness. Coming from someone who is actually dealing with this sickness I wish it was taken more seriously.

It’s not exactly curable. When seeking out help you will get a couple dozen of pills thrown at you for a trial and error period and a few coping skills before they throw you back in the real world.

I can’t speak for others, but I don’t find that helpful. The medicine helps me function, but at night I can feel my thoughts racing through my head so quickly that i’m unable to focus on any one in particular. As you might imagine, it’s hard to sleep when your brain is having a marathon.

I think the worst part is never knowing when or why I get anxious. When it’s chronic it can really be triggered by anything, even happiness.

The medication that is prescribed to “treat” it is meant to sedate you and your emotions. I’m personally not a fan of being apart of the walking dead, but the anxiety interrupts my daily functions like driving, going to school, getting out of bed. So, I swallow down the numbing pills and I step through life, occasionally feeling the fleeting emotion of selfness and freedom.

I know true physical illness. I know loss and I know suffering and yet I do not hold those above my mental health.

I think anxiety disorders are hard for people to understand because logically there is supposed to be a cause of the stress and when the conflict is resolved the stress is meant to go away.

I think the most frustrating question I get is, “why are you so anxious” because rarely does my maze like mind allow me to fathom one.

These might be questions that I will never have answers too, but perhaps if I continue to use writing as an outlet I could one day aim for a pulitzer.

My sword might be broken, but I have nothing, but respect for those who share my struggles because even broken we still find ways to keep fighting. Reborn every time with chains around our necks. We may not be the lucky ones, but we are the strong, the brave, the understanding and the survivors in this world.

The Last Day Before Everything Changed

Author Note, please read first: Everything in this journal entry is factual. I wrote it down the day that it happened and the picture that you will read about it posted at the bottom. It was summer 2011 and it is now 2016. I am okay now. My family is okay, but this entry still remains as vivid as if I were still standing there in the sand. There are moments in life that time seems to stop for just a second and although the world continues on the moment is stuck in your brain for life. I am not posting this because I want pity or because I want judgement. I simply think that I was brave enough to write all of this back and then and just find it tonight should be posted.*

A Broken Paradise-based on true events (written summer of 2011)

By Kayla McCurdy

I remember. The sunset that day was a series of colors; vibrant oranges, pearly pinks and soft purples. I had seen a sunset before, but never in my life had I seen something that moved me so much as that one did. It was fading and with the sun, marked not only the end of another day but, the life I knew and the possibility of the future I thought was coming with it. It was our last day at Camp Penelton and I had been dreading that moment for the whole week. It hadn’t been a happy week for me, but I felt peace as I watched that sun go down. I was trying to cherish the moment for as long as I could. Take a mental picture of all of my surroundings so that I could reflect later when things got hard and have an escape.

You know that fantasy people have about leaving their realities to lounge in a hammock on a deserted beach somewhere where the only thing you can hear are waves crashing on a sandy shore—while drinking out of a coconut with a little umbrella on the side? It felt a lot like that. Only the hammock had been substituted with a lounge chair and the coconut was replaced with a soda, but it was the same desired effect. The waves, the solitude, the heavy desire to never leave. It was paradise. For that brief moment in time my own reality didn’t exist. I knew it’d be there next week waiting for me…but for now this was all I needed.

Time to reflect. Time to remember.

For most people the summer after high school graduation is supposed to be a time of a celebration for four years of hard work and the beginning of a transition into a much anticipated college lifestyle. This is what’s expected as we turn in our last final and walk down that line in our big white and blue caps and gowns to get our diploma. It’s what I had been anticipating/dreading in the long months leading up to it, but it wasn’t what I got. For me the most significant part of that summer was my parents breaking up. I’ll always remember why and how I was the first one who knew it was going to happen.

I remember someone once asked me in high school what the most important thing in my life was and why. I told them it was my family, because I could count on all of them for anything. Because we were a team. Because I knew it would always be that way. I’ve learned the hard way since then that there is no such thing as always. There is no such thing as permanent and life isn’t set in stone. Mom and Dad had a hard time facing things they didn’t want to see. When there was conflict we all stuck our heads in the sand and pretended it wasn’t there. It somehow made everyone feel better to think that there wasn’t an issue or that it would pass in time on its own. I remember feeling like I should’ve done something to make them see before it was too late to fix it. I remember staying up all night just going over all of my memories and trying to pinpoint the exact moment when everything went wrong. I know now, that there was nothing I could’ve done. The pristine facade of a perfect family was shattered that summer and everything that I held most dearly was ripped away from me.

I remember when I still lived at home I often sat in the windowsill attached to my room or on the roof that was about three feet below it. Nobody ever really noticed me there, but I liked that. It was the spot I’d go to escape—my own way of sticking my head in the sand I suppose. It was peaceful and secluded in that little spot. During the afternoons the sun would shine through the trees so I could sunbathe there, read a book, feel the breeze and write.  I had been sitting there when I heard my dad arguing with my mom over the phone. He had gone outside to keep it hidden from us kids, but I had overheard it on accident.

“I know about Martin.” He said calmly into the phone. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I couldn’t breathe and my head spun in a slow sickening movement. It was as if I couldn’t understand the words I had just heard. I wanted nothing more then to take them out of my head, out of memory…but it was too late for that. At seventeen I had a pretty naive viewpoint of the world. I was a natural born optimist, I believed good things came to good people and that the realm of possibilities was possible. It was the classic story that breaks up a marriage. Infidelity. There was obviously a lot more to is. My father never being around, always yelling at her…broken trust. I suppose I’m not old enough to understand all of the reasons that went into her choice to do something like that. I just remember how it felt to become aware of it.

I wasn’t so unobservant to know that my parents weren’t having problems. I remember things got really bad right after graduation. In the beginning it was easy to shrug off. Ignorance is bliss after all. Mom kept leaving in the early morning to go to her friend’s house and wouldn’t come home until late at night. She also didn’t want much to do with any of us. It was hurtful behavior, but Dad blamed it on a midlife crisis. He lied. A midlife crisis would’ve been easier. At least that way things would’ve gotten better eventually.

I remember falling off that windowsill in shock. I shrank back into a corner in my room, curled myself into a ball and cried. It hurt so badly. I didn’t understand the pain that I was feeling. The gut wrenching, heart stampeded on emotion was not one that I was accustomed to. I just wanted it to all go away. I wanted to stick my head in the sand and pretend that it wasn’t there. There wasn’t an escape. My father’s pain rushed into my heart like open flood gates. My whole body drowned under the heavy weight of the water.

Every time my mom left after that it hurt ten times worse. I wanted to be in denial, but I skipped that step and went straight to fury. I was so mad at her for being so selfish. I was mad at her for not being stronger and making it work. I was mad at her for leaving. I was mad at her for breaking me. When I eventually told my Dad what I had I heard on the windowsill in a moment of tearful weakness he made me promise not to say anything to my brothers and sisters or my mother. We were going to Camp Penelton as a family in a week and he wanted everyone to stay in the dark about it until we got back. He wanted me to pretend and to lie. The intentions were there, but it was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

I did what I was told. At Camp Penelton I plastered a smile on my face and ignored the battle going on inside of me. The hot sun beat down on my skin and I lounged around in the sand and put my focus on tanning. My skin had always been a ghostly white color and I always fell victim of a sunburn as opposed to that nice brownish color I tried to achieve. I thought of my little sister. She was the youngest, only twelve years old at the time. Despite our age difference she was my best friend. I always laughed the hardest with her and spent many nights sleeping in the same bed staying up all night and sharing secrets. I needed to protect her.

I jumped in the ocean and forced laughter out of my mouth as I splashed everyone in the water. I built a sand castle and let the forceful waves knock the hard work down. I thought of my youngest brother. He was more sensitive then the rest of us. He was shorter then my younger sister despite that he was year older then her. He was bright kid though. He could lighten any situation with a dumb joke and a cheesy smile. I needed to protect him.

I took out a towel and read a book. I wanted to get lost in its pages and convince myself that I was the protagonist, dealing with another life and another conflict. I hugged my mother and rest my head on her shoulder as we sat in the sand watching the waves brush against the surface line. I thought of my older brother. He was four years older then I was and I had always looked up to him and yet after he got his heart broken by his long time girlfriend who decided to get engaged five months after breaking up with him, I started to feel the need to look out for him. I needed to protect him.

I watched my father turn out all of the lights in the trailer to go to bed and ignored the fact that I knew my mother was going to spend another night sleeping in her friends trailer without us. I thought of my older sister. She was more vulnerable then the rest of us. Life had been hard on her and she decided to take those hardships and project them through a creative light. I needed to protect her from that light getting tainted with the damage that I knew was coming.

I waited until I was completely alone to go down to the water and cry. That was the only place that I could go where I could be sure the roughness of the waves would drown me out. I’d feel the cold air against my skin and I’d let all of the salt water tears fall into the sand. All the evidence that I had been there washed away with the shore.  I thought of my eldest sister. She had already had two near-death experiences and I had come so close to losing her so many times. I looked up to her and often dreamed of looking and being like her. She was such an amazing human being. I needed to protect her.

I was never very good at not wearing my emotions on my sleeve, but I was somehow able to make an exception when it came to them. They were more important to me then my own happiness or sanity. There was no reason why they should have to carry the same burden that I did. I respected my father for finding the same strength as me. I let him lean on me and took the weight of his heartbreak because I was the only one who could.

The week went by too fast. It felt weird waiting for the other shoe to drop like that. It was so out of character for me and yet it seemed to be the only appropriate response given everything that was happening. The last night we were there I could feel what was coming next. I could almost taste the bitterness in my mouth that the morning would bring as we went back to our old life and dealt with the millions of shattered pieces that was left of my family. I knew it was coming and yet scared as I was I found myself enjoying the last few seconds of the afternoon.

My parents stood side by side. Their hands swung limply next to each other. I wanted to run over to them and force their hands together with super glue. They watched my brothers play football in the sand. The boys were tumbling over each other and laughing. Genevieve was standing on the sidelines and cheered them on. I stood at a safe distance from it all and watched. There was nothing unfamiliar about the activity or how happy everyone seemed to look. I took a deep breath and stared out at the sun. It was almost one of those surreal moments that seem to last an eternity, but time never stops moving…not even for me. I snapped a quick picture of it before it disappeared completely. Then I turned and went back into the trailer, mentally preparing myself for what tomorrow would bring.

paradise

Caged Bird Sings

 

photo-2

 

There is a natural order to things. A natural flow, i’d say. Life has a way of pushing you in a direction, down a road and making pieces of a puzzle fit perfectly together so when it comes down to it you look at this thing that makes perfect sense and you think, “okay not bad, this could be good. Why should I do anything different”. This life could fit inside a frame and look amazing, but if you really look at these stills…what happens in between them? When it’s not the image of perfection what is it? It looks perfect on the outside and you feel like you’re saying all of the things like the universe handed you a script, highlighted words and said speak here and everything will be okay.

How long have I told myself “this is going to be good?” How long have a waited for a future that I somehow believe to know that is coming, but I am still unable to feel. Is it me? Am I supposed to continue to listen to the voice that tells me that I’m building something that will be worth it. That i’m going to be happy?

People call me brave, but the truth is I’ve never been a risk taker. I don’t jump for the feeling of love because love doesn’t come with security. I don’t really make the effort to study abroad because I’m scared to be alone. I let myself be taken care of because it’s easy, because it’s nice, because it’s secure.

However, I can’t say this is the person I want to be. Are the people we want to be different from the people we are?

For my the first part of this life, I have felt like a caged bird and now I want to break free, but I feel trapped in the hands of a life that I chose years ago.

 

 

The Word “Always”

499dcd5ad0e63c4b671e473941cda6f1

Rowling’s secret that Alan Rickman took to the grave was “the meaning behind always” A question like that took someone who must have been a brilliant, special man to truly understand the meaning. Further proof that J.K. Rowling is a genius.

I still struggle myself to find the meaning of Always, but I am at a passé. I do think that the people who understand “Always” are the most successful to find great, maybe tragic like Snape’s, but great love.

A few extra thoughts if the author does find the time to read this; I wonder, if Always translates into what love really is. It is not necessarily romantic, platonic or often mistaken for hate, but if it is instead a love that just simply is. A person who does not have a label necessarily, but someone who would give unconditional love to another human being that would no waver in its devotion, nor would it ever change with the changing seasons of the types of relationships.