Jackson, Shelley. "my body —a Wunderkammer." Alt-X Online Network, 1997. Rpt. in The Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 1, October 2006. <http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/jackson__my_body_a_wunderkammer.html>

Media Specific Analysis (Model)
Kenneth Sherwood

Overview


"My Body" is a classic, hyper-text fiction that entices the reader into following the introspective but sometimes dramatic and disturbing recollections of the speaker's upbringing. Primary themes include a growing consciousness of the body, transgression, and gender roles in American society.

Textual Features

  • Intimate and revealing first-person narration
  • Confessional tone and fictive/personal details
  • Reflective assessments of social conventions
  • Paragraphs and "screens" as units of coherence
  • Screens offer multiple paths to further the narrative

Media Features

  • minimally formatted, paragraph-structured text
  • sparse use of images; black text on white background
  • primary "mapping" index screen in the form of a body
  • image style conveys a tactile, wood-cut feel
  • few orientation clues: no "map," no "home", no "back" buttons

Reading Experience


The readerly experience of clicking and exploring is cast, from the primary screen, as a kind of exploration and, perhaps ironic, exploitation. It places the reader in an almost voyeuristic role of clicking on the speaker's body to reveal further confessional scenes. Unlike some hypertexts, it is not suspense or the "decision" to choose one plot course over another that characterizes our experience of the text.The text on each screen is largely coherent, and the relationship to adjacent screens which can often be accessed through multiple clicks, is one of association or overlapping themes and images.


Analysis/Interpretation

"Paying attention to the ways Electronic literature both extends and disrupts conventions is a neat trick..." according to N. Katherine Hayles in Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (30). She warns of the tendencies to see E-lit as either totally innovative or completely derivative of print. "My Body" was composed at a moment when many critics still celebrated the "link" structure as the characteristically open, reader-freeing consequence of hypertext. Jackson exploits the mode of diaristic reminiscences and the networking structure to create an exploratory field; but, ulimately, it is framed more as a liberatory project for the writer / speaker herself who is able to associate one memory with another, areas of the body with each other, in a blended, organic fashion.

Ironically, the index image (of the body) and the entry on the cabinet (wunderkammer) reveal an underlying metaphor governing the whole piece which is not electronic, not the figure of digital flows or the cyborg body, so much as an embodied physical space that biology and experience have written -- and which the writer/reader explores.

See this entry on the Cabinet: http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/jackson__my_body_a_wunderkammer/cabinet.html