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Douglas, "'How Do I Stop This Thing?'" (abstract)

  • J. Yellowlees Douglas. "'How Do I Stop This Thing?': Closure and Indeterminacy in Interactive Narratives." Hyper/Text/Theory. Ed. George P. Landow. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1994. 159-88.

Douglas opens this essay by mentioning some influential ideas about closure in narrative. These ideas, she suggests, do not satisfactorily explain how we read print fiction, let alone hypertext. (Her reasoning is not very persuasive: she seems to confound closure of story with other types of closure.) Then--contrary to the spirit of most writing about hypertext--she takes a fairly thorough look at two fictions by Michael Joyce, Afternoon and WOE, and describes, in some detail, her experiences of reading and re-reading them. These experiences amount to a litany of confusion and contradiction, which she does not deplore but rather embraces, with the obligatory reference to reader-response theory. Douglas sums up as follows: "Our sense of arriving at closure is satisfied when we manage to resolve narrative tensions and to minimize ambiguities, to explain puzzles, and to incorporate as many of the narrative elements as possible into a coherent pattern--preferably one for which we have a script gleaned from either life experience or encounters with other narratives." This does not notably diverge from the ideas that Douglas mentioned and dismissed at the beginning of her essay, except that those ideas seem to assume that there is a threshold below which overall coherence should not fall, and Douglas is willing to settle for a whole lot less. She does manage to convey the impression that she truly enjoys reading hypertext fiction. De gustibus . . . . (Steve Schroer.)
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Michael Hancher

Department of English, University of Minnesota

URL: http://umn.edu/home/mh/ebibss3.html

Comments to: mh@umn.edu

Created 21 May 1995

Last revised 17 September 1996