Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures 10 (Fall 2013)
The new issue of Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures is now live. My contribution is a reconsideration of Stephanie Strickland and Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo’s V: Vniverse, which was included in the ELO’s Electronic Literature Collection Volume 2. Here’s an excerpt from my review-essay:
According to Strickland’s explanatory essay “Making the Vniverse,” “if you go to the Vniverse Web address, you find a dark space full of bright points, most easily read as stars.” It is tempting then to read V: Vniverse as Valéry read Mallarmé’s groundbreaking Un coup de dés: that is, as an attempt, through electronic means, “to raise a printed page to the power of the midnight sky.” But Strickland importantly holds out the suggestion that the bright points might be “neurons,” allowing us to understand the space of V: Vniverse as a bridge between mimetic image and conceptual schema just as it remarkably bridges page and screen, series and sequence, myth and science. In other words, V: Vniverse is intermedial, intergeneric, as well as inter-epistemological.
In a curious 2003 review that appeared in the online journal Perihelion, Vivek Narayanan launched perhaps the most vociferous and misguided attack on V‘s intermediality. In his review, patronizingly titled “not nearly noVel enough,” Narayanan egregiously conflates hypertext literature with electronic literature; but worse yet, in spite of rejecting Marshall McLuhan’s fifty-year-old dictum that “the medium is the message,” he polemically claims that he would have preferred V “if it had come packaged in a drab, photocopied cover in courier[sic] font and insisted on being a thoroughly linear text.” For Narayanan, V:Vniverse is “redundant”—ostensibly because it draws on the already existing “WaveSon.nets” as its database. Narayanan attempts a balanced assessment and acknowledges Strickland’s chops “as a basic modernist poet,” but, with a finger-wagging confidence, he pronounces that “the book’s attempts at philosophy fall flat.”
Against Narayanan, I argue that V‘s philosophical engagement is at its strongest and most provocative precisely in its digital incarnation. Far from being redundant or a “fetishiz[ation of] innovation” (Narayanan), V: Vniverse visually and interactively performs Theodor Adorno’s theorization of the “constellation,” which, according to Martin Jay, is “a juxtaposed rather than integrated cluster of changing elements that resist reduction to a common denominator, essential core, or generative first principle”(14-5). I argue that the flickering constellations of the V: Vniverse are informed by an Adornian philosophy, one which uses constellational thinking to “attain…what was necessarily excised from thinking.” This is so because, as Adorno says in his Negative Dialectics, “constellations represent from without what the concept has cut away within: the ‘more’ which the concept is equally desirous and incapable of being” (162).
Strickland just released a volume of print poetry, Dragon Logic, with Ahsahta Press. Below is an image of the beautiful cover.