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Moulthrop, "Rhizome and Resistance" (abstract)

  • Stuart Moulthrop. "Rhizome and Resistance: Hypertext and the Dreams of a New Culture." In George P. Landow, ed. Hyper/Text/Theory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1995. 299-320.
Moulthrop, hypertext theorist and novelist, explores the confrontations between what Charles DeLeuze and Felix Guattari termed "smooth space" and "striated space" in order to "explore the interface between technology and culture." For Moulthrop, the nomadic rhetoric of Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987) is particularly appropriate to discussions of hypertext: though a print artifact, in its multiplicity of possible arrangements, its cross-referentiality and randomness, and even in its cultural critique, A Thousand Plateaus suggests a proto-hypertext, one that provides "a laboratory or site of origin for a smoothly structured, nomadic alternative to the discursive space of late capitalism." Situating himself in a "new tradition" of hypertext theorists--Nelson, Landow, Ulmer, and many of the others included in this volume--Moulthrop reads the fiction of Thomas Pynchon, the technical writing of Boeing engineers, and the speculation of Robert Coover in questioning whether their various genres can indeed function in smooth, rather than striated, spaces. Noting that "vastness and randomness are not particularly valuable per se," Moulthrop predicts two waves of resistance to hypertext: the first, yet to come, will critique the lack of lack of convention in hypertext operations; the second, already in motion, dissents from the celebratory treatment of its cultural possibilities. Experiments in hypermedia to date point to the futility of resistance and remind us that such systems, for all their apparent spontaneity and freedom, are nonetheless "entirely routinized . . . contrivances composed of discrete rules and relationships, designed to be regular and reliable even in their 'vastness and randomness.'" As such, the "new culture of which we dream when we venture into hypertext" will offer liberation neither from geometries nor from routinizations. For the moment, Moulthrop concludes, hypertext readers, writers, and critics must be content with more pragmatic insights. (J Paul Johnson.)
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Michael Hancher

Department of English, University of Minnesota

URL: http://umn.edu/home/mh/ebibjpj6.html

Comments to: mh@umn.edu

Created 29 April 1995

Last revised 17 September 1996