The Electronic Labyrinth

Formal Devices and the Novel

The traditional novel has depended largely on the conventions associated with a plot unfolding in chronological sequence. The models for these fictions have been the teleologically-based narratives of the "life" (eg. the bildungsroman) or the "history." Many texts, however, have experimented with formal devices that break with this aesthetic. Hypertext follows in the steps of this counter-tradition, seeking new narrative models that might mirror its structural decentring of the book. The following list is an attempt to show the range of formal devices which have been variously employed by hypertext authors, both in print and electronic forms.

A hypertext, however, need not be constrained to any single formal device but may indeed incorporate many heterogeneous materials, devices, and forms. For example, nodes may take the form of film scripts, lyrics, song sheets, architectural blueprints, hospital charts, police reports, baseball cards, philatelic paraphernalia, programming code, and so on. Many of these have been used in printed books with great success. In a hypertext they may be active elements in the narrative as opposed to merely illustrative accompaniment. For example the reader might click on a room in a blueprint which may then link to a text node describing events that may (or may not) be related to that physical space. The exact nature of the relationship between the various elements of the hypertext--whether it be by way of metaphor, metonymy, analogy or something entirely disjunctive--might constitute in itself an aspect of the text's "meanings."

See also: Literary Formats from Manuscripts to Electronic Texts.

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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