From Lexias to Remediation: Theories of Hypertext Authorship in the 1990s

Author: Eric Rasmussen, University of Illinois Chicago

The effects that electronic-writing technologies will have on authorship remains an important issue in hypertext theory. Theorists agree that the authorŐs function has changed and will continue to change as writing migrates from the page to the screen, but they disagree on the specifics of how print-based and hypertext-based authorship differ and whether this migration from the page to the screen constitutes a radical break from the age of print. Early hypertext advocates, writing in the early 1990s, claimed that electronic features, such as hypertextual links, transfer a large degree of textual control from writers to readers, thus blurring the distinction between the role of the author and that of the reader. More recently, theorists began to dispute the idea that the hypertextual reading experience was necessarily more creatively empowering than reading a printed book. Exploring the arguments of influential hypertext theorists, this essay traces the development of hypertext theory in the United States during the 1990s. It describes how poststructuralism has informed hypertext theories of authorship, identifies problematic or undertheorized claims made about hypertext, and points towards new avenues of theoretical inquiry that hypertext scholars are beginning to explore. It endorses the recent medial turn in hypertext theory and argues that literary scholars must revise existing theories of authorship to better articulate how hypertexts are produced and function within online networks where the written word coexists with streaming multimedia content.

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