Summary 3

From Snyder, Ilana. ‘Reconceiving Reading and Writing’. Hypertext : the electronic labyrinth. Carlton South, Vic. : Melbourne University Press, 1996

         Books are written to be read in the order set out by the author. The author is strictly the producer and the reader the consumer. In the age of manuscripts, scribes frequently altered what they copied, the distinction between authors and readers were not so significant. It was the invention the printing press that strengthened the authority if the author. Hypertext and contemporary literary theory, however, infringes upon the power of the writer by removing some of that power and granting it to the reader. The reader can choose his or her way through the metatext, to annotate text written by others and to create links between documents written by others. Consequently the reader becomes an active, independent and autonomous constructor of meaning.


Landow suggests that there are more than one way to kill an author. Firstly, by denying autonomy to the text and secondly by decentering the text or by transforming it into a network. With hypertext, it is the reader who integrates the multiple and scattered parts into a whole. The process resembles what Claude Levi-Strauss calls bricolage, which is the construction of something out of whatever materials are available. It is difficult to read books subversively because the technology itself works against the reader’s aggressive appropriation of the text. The computer, however, makes concrete the important act of reading as interpretation and challenges the reader to engage the author for control of the writing space.  



This article shows how the print media restricted readers to become passive readers. Now with the electronic era, readers are now able to become active readers and participate in ‘writing’ the text.  This article was mainly an attempt to show how hypertext realizes the ‘writerly text’ proposed by Barthes. It brought in theories from many other post-structuralists such as Foucault, Nietzsche, Derrida, Iser and Fish. All these theorists support the idea that the production of meaning lies with the reader and not the author.

             It is said that the reader can choose to follow paths that interest him or her and in this way the reader produces meaning. It can be counter-argued that all the links are provided by the author himself, therefore the meaning is already there, pre-provided by the author.  The author can also choose what to hyperlink and this limits what the reader can read. When the author exerts control over what is read, then the author is present in the text unlike Barthes idea that the author is ‘dead’ in the text.



From Snyder, Ilana. ‘Reconceiving Reading and Writing’. Hypertext : the electronic labyrinth. Carlton South, Vic. : Melbourne University Press, 1996 

Readers of print narratives usually begin on the first page and even though they may move backwards and forwards, generally proceed through the text to the end.  By contrast, most hyperfiction have no single beginning or end. The possibilities for readers to create their own stories are considerably greater in hyperfiction than when reading a print narrative or Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, both of which have highly visible beginnings and endings, as well as other structural limitations.

             There have been literary precursors of hyperfiction such as Tristram Shandy and Ulysses. Such texts simultaneously invite and confirm reader-interaction. In Tristram Shandy, Sterne dislocates and distorts the order in an otherwise simple story to create a complex plot. He subverts the conventions of printed texts by leaving a page empty to invite readers to a few words of response to his text. Tristram, the narrator in the book, thus involves his readers in the very making of the book. Sterne only pretend to offer his readers the opportunity to take part in the construction of the book, hypertext can demand that the reader participate. Bolter notes that the electronic medium gives a stronger sense of the author ‘being there’. The author is present in the electronic network of episodes that he or she creates.




             This article shows that there have been attempts to deconstruct the book. However, since books are bounded by the front and back covers, it is difficult but still possible to deconstruct the book with examples such as Tristram Shandy and Choose-Your Adventure stories. These books encourage active reading by providing for missing links, annotating it and choosing your own path to follow. Hypertext realizes all these to a greater extent because the electronic environment is not constrained by a front and back cover. It is constrained only by the hardware or software used. Writers have greater freedom to exploit the space and they need not limit themselves to a central theme. With decentering many themes can be written without the text sounding incoherent.

             Bolter argues that the author is present in the text. This contrasts with Barthes’ notion of  death of the author with the onset of a writerly text. The author is still present because the links or networks are provided and manipulated by the author . For example,  Joyce’s Afternoon is not an aleatory, random fiction because its author exercises control over the choices his reader can make. Afternoon can be a linear story, because occasionally only one path leads from one episode. At other times, it gives its reader dozens of choices, although they are far from random.

             Therefore, its arguable whether the reader produces meaning when the author manipulates how the text is to be read.

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