e-Lit Resource
The Contour of a Contour

In “The Contour of a Contour,” David Ciccoricco explores the work of Mark Bernstein and Michael Joyce. Both well-known and respected hypertext authors, Mark Bernstein is a self-described scientist while Joyce is a self-described artist. It is within these boundaries that Ciccoricco searches for a “pedagogically sound way of understanding the ‘text beyond the text.’”

Ciccoricco extensively traces the history of contour--for literary theory in general and hypertext theory in particular--in order to trace his own path (contour) through the works of Bernstein and Joyce. Ciccoricco aims to answer the question of whether or not the work of Bernstein and Joyce has “atomized the concept of hypertextual contour, or has the work somehow created the concept’s own foundation?” Furthermore, Ciccoricco hopes to elucidate the Contour in our contemporary media ecology, and predict where it might be headed in the future.

Ciccoricco’s essay serves as an entry-point into the complex, erudite theory of the contour trope in hypertext. Ciccoricco explores contour as the ways in which our brain shapes hypertexts, its structure and architecture, and its inherent link to our corporeal bodies (building off of Joyce's "Skin is screen"). While Joyce discusses the sexualization of hypertextual vocabulary and theory, Bernstein sees that very vocabulary as being the main flaw of hypertexts: “The problem is not that the hypertexts lack structure but rather that we lack words to describe it.” Ciccoricco explains that Bernstein sees contour as adding to the cycle of hypertextual reading practices. A contour, then, emerges when cycles are layered over top of one another, when they run parallel and throughout each other.

More from David Ciccoricco on ebr:

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