Units of Meaning

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Is Courbet’s The Stone Breakers a unit of meaning?

No is my answer. It is a potential universe of possibilities though. It is a whole within a greater assemblage, as is Bill Kluba’s Two Tables.

On the poet and the poet’s language, Shelley writes:

Their language is vitally metaphorical; that is, it marks the before unapprehended relations of things and perpetuates their apprehension, until the words which represent them, become, through time, signs for portions or classes of thoughts instead of pictures of integral thoughts; and then if no new poets should arise to create afresh the associations which have been thus disorganized, language will be dead to all the nobler purposes of human intercourse.

One reading of this passage suggest that we cannot end the conversation with Kluba and Courbet and Timmons or Weishaus’ The Way North or François Coulon’s The Reprover. Although well known, it is worth remarking that the significance of Shelley’s observation has to do with the “unapprehended relations of things” and the human need to persist in the search. In Ornans, we learn that Courbet found significance in the power of the moment “in between,” as Eliot and Joyce would build on later, and that Arnold found power in the act of striking out the center, envisioning a world where every human act has the force of relation. Courbet did not paint a funeral. Arnold did not write “lust.” But these are not works of “negation.” They are additive, bringing to light the “unremarked” and “unapprehended,” the dark matter of human experience.

Kafka’s The Trial never grows stale. The Kafkan, however, as a descriptive modifier, has become a cliche. The Borgesian suffers similar potential for emptiness, while the fictions live on with every encounter. And what political commentator hasn’t used Yeats to describe the current state of affairs? In my view, Victory Garden must not “prove” anything. There is something implicit in the voice and feel of interactive fiction, something impressive in its often powerful imagery and relationships, something impressive in its infinite possibility of forms, and, finally, something in its ideas that can be expressed in no other form, something that will “create afresh the associations.”

It’s time to close this first section of the series on reading hypertext. Some structure and language has been found, I believe. An idea that might act as a guide: hypertext as a confluence of a universe of human experience in space and time.

Time to get back to reading.


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