Individual Work

“Ah” is the creation of K. Michel and Dirk Vis, which first appeared in 2008 on the “Poetry International Weblog,” and was translated from Dutch into English by Paul Vincent. “Ah” demonstrates the importance of the eye and mind when it comes to making sense of a sentence or a line of text; it proves that readers do not have complete control over comprehension when they read a sentence that disappears quickly. Also, “Ah” reiterates the fact that without the ability to “go back” and reread what was read, reading becomes a passive action. In the author’s description of his animated digital literature, he claims that the text he created represents the “flow of time,” and that while the words initially mingle together, they eventually align themselves properly to be read like a “stream of consciousness.” The reader’s role while reading a text is vital in this piece and in all works of literature. Due to the fact that “Ah” is an “endless loop of the work” for the reader, the reading is left to his or her interpretation.

In order to view “Ah,” potential readers need to download Flash. To start the viewing, you simply hit the “BEGIN” button and automatically the literary work will start to play. “Ah” works rather simply: in the beginning a series of overlapping letters scroll from right to left, but then eventually (midway through the screen) space themselves out into words, once the word is visible it quickly starts to “scramble” itself again. The reader must constantly decipher words to create a sentence, and then try to remember them (because each word only appears once). Like all works of literature, some kind of emotion is provoked, especially in “Ah.” It is emotionally straining at first to interact with “Ah.” Personally, I felt a pressure to decipher the letters, remember the words, and make a coherent sentence after it was off the screen. After viewing “Ah” many times it became easier to read, but to remember a constantly moving text and remembering the sentence holistically still remained complicated.

Engaging with this complicated work recalls Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One.” In this book, Fish interacts with sentence making and discusses how effective sentences can be. Fish firmly believes that sentences are the main ingredients of writing, not just words. Sentences when crafted certain ways can be more effective than the best essays. It is also reminiscent of Fish’s famous text, “Is There a Text in this Class?” Here Fish argues that readers of any literary work do not just read the text but create and interpret the text for themselves. Fish believes that in reading the text, readers are responsible for “creating” the meaning (interpretation) of the text, versus the text solely creating a meaning for the reader. Fish even discusses an interesting aspect that literature is evolutionary and that our interpretations of text change. “Ah” would be a perfect example of Fish’s ideas in “Is There a Text in this Class?” since it does not just allow the reader to create sentences by waiting for the letters to space themselves out properly so they can be read as words, it requires them to do this. They must work to interpret the word and then (once they read the sentences) interpret a meaning. While Fish means “evolutionary” in the sense that a text read in earlier part of life could be interpreted differently when read in the later part of life. “Ah” is evolutionary in a different sense: it is constantly changing, not just over time but right before your eyes on the computer screen.

“Ah” demonstrates the complexity of our personal stream of consciousness, a reader’s deciphering ability to comprehend a sentence, and how readers interpret and essentially create them.