hypertext and screen

Where hypertext theory advocates what might be a new sort of writing, for fiction, the academy, and where ever else writing happens, we should strongly distinguish between an argument for exploring this writing and any claims for an exclusive or inevitable development towards such writing.

What is much more likely is simply that such hypertextual writing will become another form of writing amongst all our other forms, and this, in itself ought to be considered another form of the pluralism that hypertext theory appears to advocate.

one ending

one ending

This is not a plea or a description of a new romanticism. It is an effort to take seriously the claims of hypertext theory in an academic context, and it is an investigation of what happens when we take seriously the implications of writing in a new medium.

If film, as art, is marked by the diversity of readings it can sustain, then hypertext could be a medium that assists in elaborating this diversity.

If theory, as practice, is also marked by a diversity of positions and positionings, then hypertext could also be a medium that performs this.

This is not convergence for it is the distance between the film and writing, theory and its object, that sustains hypertext s academic relevance.

integral readings

integral readings

Unlike the majority of critical writing in the humanities, cinema studies has always had a great difficulty in quoting from its source material films. This is obvious, and while the use of film stills is common this has had the effect of treating the cinematic text as a photograph or painted image.

While much of cinema studies has relied upon an elaborate and highly sophisticated theoretical practice various forms of theoretical reflection can be regarded as stymied, or frustrated, by the difficulty of reflecting upon the work, in the work. This has lead to writing that either spends inordinate amounts of space (or time) paraphrasing films, or sequences, or even shots, with the attendant issues and problems that paraphrase and translation entail. Or, on occasion, a writing that by virtue of the absence of any film within the writing very easily slides around, or away from, those aspects of the film that problematise or fall away from the proposed argument.

At this point in our consideration of the relation of writing to the moving image, and the reinvention of this in hypertext, these may well be irrelevant questions. Indeed, all that hypertext may eventually be understood to augment are more or less classical hermeneutically orientated close readings where the incorporation of the film, in some form, assists in the hermeneutic enterprise. It might, however, herald a requestioning of what is considered peculiar to cinema, and cinema theory.

doing theory

doing theory

While a digitised extract does not compare, qualitatively, with an image on a film screen, it does represent a paradigm shift in writing about film.

Having the film in the same space as the writing, in the same field of view, being able to dip in and out of the writing and the film by a simple gesture all produce a different phenomenology of writing and criticism.

This difference leads to a form of writing that hypertext theory does describe, you do wander in and out of a close reading, you follow ideas, lines of thought, and the otherwise marginal begins to constellate into a series of readings, all overlapping and somewhere conjoining within a relationship to the film.

specificities of films

specificities of films

In critical writing on literature and poetry it is conventional practice to quote original material. Indeed, not to do so would appear odd.

A result of this transparency is the ability to produce theoretical work that interrogates the material in a manner that is almost a bearing witness to the work. Because the thing is there it becomes amenable to study, to analysis, and in the process of this writing new things are found within the text. By having the thing in, or by, the work it enters a dialogue around the critical writing and thinking that, if you like, has the characteristics of a conversation (even at times an interrogation), between theoretical practice and object. In those forms of theory that rely on close reading strategies, the incorporation of the film into the writing offers new possibilities for theoretical practice.

But it is not only that the theorist can now be freed from the demand to paraphrase and translate a temporal and image based art form into words, but that the extract, the object of consideration, virtually bears witness to the theory. What happens in the extract must be acknowledged, it now gains a critical force back towards theoretical practice, where its specificities must be accounted for in some manner.

But there is also an obverse side to this relation. Not only might the digitised film present itself as some sort of hermeneutic constraint to interpretation but by writing with the film the experience of doing film theory alters.