Breaking the Sentence: Hypertext, Poststructuralism, and the Fragmentation of Grammar

Dissertation, University of South Florida (1995)

Hypertext has been the subject of a great deal of interest from literary critics. The possibilities involved in a text that branches into various other texts has fascinated those who consider the relationship of reading and writing to social and political institutions; if the discourses of history, philosophy, and the law depend on sequential reading as it has developed during the age of print, then if the rules of reading change, the discourses depending on those rules must perforce change with them. ;Previous attempts to consider hypertext as a mode of reading have either viewed it as a form of super-indexing, which does not affect the material indexed, or have seen it as inherently liberatory for the reader, empowering such readers to make choices and gain access to unrivalled amounts of information. Such beliefs rely on assumptions about the nature of reading and the reading subject that have been challenged during the last thirty years by poststructuralist theorists. Some theorists have attempted to use poststructuralist theory to elucidate the possibilities of hypertext; this study will attempt to consider the effects of hypertext on the problematic of poststructuralism. ;Through the analysis of literary texts, this study examines the paradigm of technological modernity and its theory of reading, then considers the effects of hypertext on that paradigm and those theories. If the presence in a text of marked links to other texts changes the act of reading, the change occurs whether the links are activated or not. Thus, this study will consider the effects of hypertext on linear text and some of the traditional problems of reading such linear text. ;The hypertext chapter of this dissertation serves as an example of such an irruption of hypertext into linear text, by taking a sentence from Friedrich Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols and subjecting it to a hypertextual breaking, examining the words of the sentence in interlinked hypertexts. Such a textual experiment will serve to formulate some of the questions to be asked by future readers and writers in this new medium
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