Theorizing the digital assemblages of Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, George Landow examines the core of hypertext, essential to the understandings of both electronic literature and identity.
Compiling Jackson’s narrative of the female counterpart to Frankenstein is a collage of the author’s words and images, a “patchwork narrative” of identity, gender, and textuality. Leading her digital collage are multiple paths and female voices combining to create what Landow describes as a “Bakhtinian multivocality … simultaneously presenting a composite image of women’s lives at the turn of the nineteenth century.” Landow proposes that the construction of the counterpart from an assemblage of images and words is at once monstrous and hypertextual, a feature of modern female identity and electronic literature alike. He writes: “This digital collage-narrative assembles Shelley Jackson’s … female monster, forming a hypertext Everywoman who embodies assemblage, concatenation, juxtapositions, and blurred, recreated identities – one of the many digital fulfillments of twentieth-century literary and pictorial collages.”
Monstrous is the fundamental core of identity, what Jackson refers to as a compilation of narratives: “all bodies are written bodies, all lives pieces of writing.” For Landow, Jackson’s collage emphasizes the monstrosity of these webs of intersections that construct and realize identities. This “assemblage of points,” is characteristic of hypertext as it is of identity; indeed, identity and hypertext, in Landow’s criticism of Jackson, are near synonymous. The quality of hypertext stems from these ideas of collage and assemblage, the same qualities distinctive of understanding sexuality and self-narratives. Praising Jackson for her ability to transcend hypertext from mere technological capability to an earnest method of self-revelation, Landow expresses the critical ability of hypertext to demonstrate the complexities of identity, a map of many voices and lexia.