American Literary Traditions
Paper #2: Assignment and Template for Writing an Electronic (Hypertext) Paper
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This is the assignment for the second paper in this class. For those of you choosing to write a traditional print papers you may write on Moby-Dick, Ceremony, or Maus. Any topic you choose. The length should be 4-6 pages. For those of you choosing to do an electronic paper, the remainder of this document is designed to give you some ideas for shaping that paper, along with a template for creating it. In these instructions, I will include a few options for writing a "hypertext" paper.
"Hypertext" means "non-sequential writing" where the reader has a certain amount of control over the direction and flow of the paper. That can mean many things. In their simplest form, (in the context of this assignment) hypertext links can serve as a way for you to make "linkages" between what you're talking about in your essay and other texts or images that are located somewhere else. When you wrote you Beloved essays that we later put online, you were drawing connections between specific passages in Beloved narratives of the holocaust, Nagasaki, or slavery. When we put those essays online, we were able to make an actual electronic link between the two texts. Here's an example from the Beloved essays that are online:
Sethe has to understand that the effects of her past are not limited to her life, but also define much of who Denver is. Denver therefore feels a strong need to understand this past. It is not enough for her to know the objective facts of the past, she has got to go beyond that to understanding. This idea is reflected in Judith Jagermann's "Memories of my Childhood in the Holocaust". Ms. Jagerman describes her Holocaust experiences with amazingly accurate detail. However, despite her excellent memory of the events, she does not now and did not then understand the reasons for the Holocaust.
The highlighted text in the passage represents an direct link to the Jaegermann narrative that is online at the "Cybrary of the Holocaust" site. This is the simplest and most direct kind of hypertext links that you can make. This may be all that you want to do for your first electronic paper.
This is a lot, though. I'm not saying that what this allows you to do is JUST make links. The electronic links are direct paths to narratives and testimonies (or other kinds of sites) that you are explicitly incorporating in your paper itself. An electronic link is not the substitute for a rhetorical connection in the language of your paper. It is the enhancement of it.
Connecting Your Paper with Other Sources or Texts
Another way of thinking about the function of this kind of hypertext, however simple, is that it gives you an opportunity to use your paper as a bridge between the text you're examining and other texts and images that constitute part of its context. For example, let's say that you're writing on Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony. And you want to do an extended analysis of the passage dealing with the Santa Fe Railway calendars, and all that they imply about the romanticization of Native Americans, commercialism, travel, tourism, and cultural survival. Naturally there are some written sources that you would use to inform your analysis, such as the passages we read in class from T.C. McLuhan's Dream Tracks. But there are also some interesting resources online, like the exhibits at the Heard Museum, in Phoenix, Arizona.
At the Heard Museum site there is a fairly extensive "exhibition" on the Fred Harvey company and the marketing of the Southwest. You may well want to use this site as an outside text from which to draw upon in order to enhance your analysis of the Santa Fe Railway calendars in Ceremony and their role in Tayo's dilemma and recovery. In doing this, you would want to do at least two things:
So, for example. In the course of your paper, you might address how the Native American in the Southwest and at the Gallup ceremonial in particular was in the double bind of commercializing their culture in order to survive. This would relate to Tayo's negotiations of biculturalism in several ways. As context for this dilemma, a context that Silko invokes, you might begin by discussing what you learned from the Heard Museum site, such as how the Fred Harvey company "in partnership with the Santa Fe Railway, the Harvey Company pioneered the use of modern advertising and marketing techniques to invent a mythic Southwest." You could either quote the text alone, or link the text electronically to its source. Alternatively it might read, as the author at the Heard Museum exhibition on the Fred Harvey company in the Southwest puts it, the Fred Harvey company "in partnership with the Santa Fe Railway, the Harvey Company pioneered the use of modern advertising and marketing techniques to invent a mythic Southwest." The difference is that the source, rather than the text itself, is linked electronically.
However, as you continue to discuss the topic, and as there are other relevant places in the site to which you can connect, you can create hypertext links that are specifically targetted. For example, if you were to talk about "tourism" specifically, you might want to link to that part of the Heard Museum discussion; or the Santa Fe railway, and so forth.
Using Hypertext to Bring Other Texts into Your Analysis
So far I've been citing examples of using hypertext to create links between your paper and "sources" that exist elsewhere online. However, I hope that you will explore ways to make these hypertext connections more substantive as well. As with your Beloved essays, you should use hypertexts to link specifically to external links that you want to analyze, or whose analysis illuminates your own text. For example if you wanted to compare Ceremony's discussions of white prejudice's against Indian "superstitions", you could draw explicit parallels to Zitkala Sa's "Schooldays of an Indian Girl" located as a link off the Native American Electronic Text Resources; or similarly connect passages and themes from Maus to Holocaust narratives, or even the hundreds of memories and testimonials at the Remembering Nagasaki site.
Playing with Form and Format
Beyond these uses of hypertext to connect your paper to other texts and to draw concrete connections across texts, there are ways to use hypertext in other creative ways as well. More specifically, you can use hypertext to "map" less traditional ways of seeing the connections across texts, and less traditional ways of writing about texts in a nonlinear fashion. Let me offer two examples.
Example #1: Annotated Passages
What if your paper were a series of richly annotated passages from the book you're analyzing? Across those passages were a series of themes that you might treat in a number of separate documents. For example. You want to closely look at three separate passages from Moby-Dick. The three passages together get at several important big themes: the idea of Providence, human community, and religion. You could create a series of written sections on different key themes, but not necessarily linked in order. One section might be called "Providence", one called "Community", and one called "Religion." Each of these would have a substantive part of your argument, but it wouldn't read in a linear fashion. Or it could read linearly like a regular paper, but you could overlay hypertext links (both internal and external) to enable readers to read in a nonlinear fashion as well. Then you could also have a document that contained the key passages that you wanted to analyze. Each passage could have some explanation beneath it about the role in the book, but there would be other links in the text as well. Here is an example of a fairly simple hypertext project on "Utopia and Dystopia" in the 19th century. It is written in just "two documents": one document has a series of sections on key concepts that he's writing about; the second document has a series of passages with annotations. Throughout the paper he has built in hypertext links across his own argument to show the interrelatedness of his ideas.
The key to the ability of the reader to navigate this hypertext is the use of both internal and external links. Internal links are the links that target a link to the same page. So, for example, if from this point you wanted to read the Overview again, or the section on "Connecting your paper to other sources" you can simply click on these links that are targetted--not outside the document--but within it.
A second example of writing a nontraditional paper that plays with form and format would be this. This is a really a variation of the above without the annotated passages. In this case, you would write your sections on key ideas as a series of short documents. There might be an overview page, then a series of four or five other pages. There might be a linear argument that could be followed with a series of "next" buttons, but also many options for jumping around, both internally and externally. In this way your paper becomes more like the narratives we have read this semester: a combination of a narrative line forward and many digressions and spirals leading in different directions. See below for examples of this kind.
Some Examples of Hypertext Papers I Have Known
Here are the hypertext projects from the American Literary Traditions course last Spring.
There are two additional pages that you can go to look at hypertext papers written by my students. Bear in mind that these are graduate classes. But you'll get the idea.
There are many other ways to use hypertext, including the importation of images (and other media) into your papers. We can talk about doing this in class. But if you're just starting out you might want to stay with the basics.