Tracing a journey from the s through the s, N. Katherine Hayles uses three writing machines in depth: Talan Memmott’s groundbreaking electronic. Writing Machines has ratings and 8 reviews. Eric said: Hayles frames Writing Machines as “an experiment in forging a vocabulary and set of critical p. What readers will notice first about Katherine Hayles’s award-winning Writing Machines are the material properties of the book itself. Part of the MIT Mediawork .
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Electronic text has its own specificities, and a deep understanding of them would bring into view by contrast the specificities of print, which could again be seen for what it was, a medium, and not a transparent interface.
To students of new media, the concept of materiality writinh medium as shaping components of artworks is so basic that it might seem strange that it remains radical in literary studies.
The meanings of literary works are generally still thought unrelated to the media in which they are presented, or for which they are written. While a host of experimental poets and writers on poetics have been daily exploding that view for decades , their machnies is culturally marginal.
Writing Machines is part of a push to help bring such modes of analysis from the margins into the mainstream of criticism. The emergence of electronic literatures in the 20th century and the ever-increasing use of new media in literature means that the acceptance of media and materiality as dimensions of literary meaning is inevitable, no matter how long it has been delayed.
Besides making electronic literatures critically legible, it could crucially affect the whole business of literary criticism, to the point of completely changing the way certain canonic writers are interpreted.
I imagine that the resistance to Hayles’ line of thinking, therefore, begins with sheer horror at the prospect of adding yet another dimension of complexity to an already difficult pursuit.
The mere acceptance of electronic literature as historically legitimated, a basic premise of Writing Machinesposes enough of a problem in itself. One of the questions or spectres Writing Machines raises is that of the possible eventual or actual obsolescence of print.
Due to their sturdiness, usefulness, and their particular virtues as knowledge-storing systems, books and print will be with us for quite a long time yet. Whatever phase of print culture we are in now, it certainly didn’t start with hwyles spread of home computers or IT; it has roots centuries deep.
The still evolving general concept of hypertext best defined as: The way in which reading is usually organized in cyberspace basically extends from that form of mafhines reading. Due to the ubiquity of computers and by virtue of the fact that the WWW is still basically a gigantic reference text — I have heard it called an endless library of informational pamphlets — hypertext may have already become our new paradigm of reading.
It isn’t coincidental that, at this juncture, a book like Writing Machines would emerge. Nor is it surprising that one of the key texts it investigates is Tom Phillips’ A Writint , which so strongly recalls aktherine manuscripts.
For many reasons, most directly tied to changes in technology, people are looking at print with fresh refreshed? As Hayles says in an interview accessible through the MIT web site: And so Writing Machines is stimulating for those interested in the literary dimensions of new media, or for students of literature not intimidated by new complexities. Even katheriine Writing Machines is only an incomplete foray into the area, it’s worth reading for the host of useful formulations and valuable information it contains, and for the model it provides of an integrated approach to materially-oriented criticism.
Hayles also takes great pleasure in her task, which is endearing in any writer.
Writing Machines by N. Katherine Hayles
Nevertheless, I believe most readers will agree that when considered in its totality Writing Machines disintegrates. The autobiographical or pseudo-autobiographical narrative components are the most galling aspect of the book. Where Hayles sounds high-minded and brilliant in many of the critical chapters, the quality of the writing in the narrative ones plummets to almost blog level — unpleasantly raw. Katherone so, she betrays that she neither has any skills as a storyteller nor as a creator of modulated narrative prose.
Someone in the chain of command — writer, editor, publisher, friend? If the narrative chapters were replaced with more critical explications, or if the narrative and critical materials were more completely integrated, Writing Machines would be a far superior book.
The critical components of the book, however, have their own problems. From the start, Hayles omits from her study almost all the valuable work that has already been done on the topic of “media and materiality” in literature. Much of that work has been accomplished through experimental poetry and its critics, recently extended into discussion of electronic literature. The omission is incomprehensible. No body of writing in the world is more relevant to what Hayles attempts in Writing Machines.
Most of what she is saying has been said, often more charismatically, wrriting more clearly, albeit with different objects in mind. She claims to know that this work exists, she even lists some of it in her online bibliography, but the same interview quoted above includes this remark: This idea is hardly new; innovative poetic practice, artists’ books, concrete poetry, and a host of other literary and creative practices have been exploring it for a hayoes time.
Yet literary criticism has remained largely untouched by these experiments. If criticism has indeed been “untouched,” it would be because Hayles’ colleagues chose to trivialize or simply ignore a considerable body of critical writing by people who are — we are forced to infer — outside of “the literary community.
Hayles often sounds as if she perceives herself as being naughty and very brave to venture into this territory.
She formulates old ideas as if they were entering the world for the first time. She also self-dramatizes her intellectual process to make her not very original theories sound admirably hard-won.
Maybe she doesn’t really “get” the poetics of the kinds of work she is approaching; by “get” I mean to grasp intuitively how the work is positioned, which is necessary for writing effective criticism of it. Her chapter on A Humument is the major speedbump: Instead of giving it an appropriately lithe reading, Hayles goes at it with bulldozer and dynamite, like a paleontologist of old. The material operations of writing and reading take center stage on page This page is visually transformed into the space of the room, inviting us to project our proprioceptive sense into the scene.
Moreover, the space is imaged as an art gallery, complete with a picture on the wall and pedestals associated with the display of art objects.
Instead of physical objects, here the pedestals are occupied by rivers of text, a move that imaginatively cycles through the absent object to arrive at the words. The text reenacts this displacement by proclaiming a punningly appropriate phrase that performs what it names, abstracting the missing artifact into “abstract art. Such accidental boorishness makes us also seriously distrust her readings of the other main works she presents, Lexia to Perplexia, and A House of Leaves, as well of the many succulent book works she describes in Chapter 5.
What is really upsetting here is that we begin to wonder if Hayles is perhaps, by her sensibility, simply locked out of an understanding of poetics.
If so, she finds herself in a kind of Ancient Mariner scenario — thirsty, but unable to drink from the body of water her ship floats on. Most katherrine what is happening, and is likely to happen, in electronic literature is dependent on a subtle, para-textual poetics.
If Hayles can’t even pick up such signals in a relatively accessible work like A Humument I fear she will go on missing crucial contextual clues, and continue using the wrong tools for her job. Writing Machines came along at the right time, and in many ways it offers a fresh look at important ideas.
Hayles’ brilliance and enthusiasm carry us through to the end, and even bring us back to poke around in the better passages. I sincerely hope that in future books, she will avoid the errors that make Writing Machines — so promising, so fascinating — so disappointing.
Cambridge and London,p. Floyd Jones having afternoon tea with Mrs. Robert Smith, where a jellyroll was served and enjoyed by all.
She did not see a dial telephone until she left home for college; in Clarence she used the phone by cranking the ringer, whereupon Delores, wrjting town operator, would answer and ask what number she wanted, no doubt continuing to listen in to catch the juicy bits. Television, like all things technological, came late to the little town, arriving a good decade after it had hit the big cities hwyles St.
Louis and Kansas City. The family purchased its first set when she was nine, and she still remembers staring at test patterns, sitting through Howdy Doody, and watching Cowboy Jim gulp down Prarie Farm mzchines. See the page described in full color in the online supplement under “Source Material”. Writing Machines by N. Katherine Hayles  is a proponent of a critical mafhines she calls “media-specific analysis,” which is “a mode of critical interrogation alert to the ways in which the medium constructs the work, and the work constructs the medium.
Yet Writing Machinespublished inis timely.