Getting Lost in Narrative Virtuality

2001Will Leurs at berfrois:

We don’t have a word to properly describe the cognitive space of the reader, the way a text triggers personal trails of thought and imaginary possibilities of an emerging fiction. In Terminal Identity, Scott Bukatman compares the de-narrativized spaces in postmodern literature and author Samuel Delany’s notion of “paraspace,” a term referring to “a science fictional space that exists parallel to the normal space of the diegesis- a rhetorically heightened ‘other realm.’” (157) The emblematic use of paraspace is at the end of Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Odyssey, where astronaut Bowman (and we the viewers) experience a loss of narrative and spatio-temporal coherence as he/we enter an alien world. “The intensification of this paraspatial sequence performs an ontological deconstruction within the diegesis as well as for the film viewer.” (177) In science fiction movies and novels, many of these paraspatial techniques draw on avant-garde practices (abstraction, rapid montage, concrete poetry or fragmentary prose) to introduce an unknowable realm within the emerging known of the narrative world. The notion of a space parallel to that of the narrative space and yet within the diegesis; that introduces processes disruptive to coherent narration and yet has a narrative purpose, seems to get at the complexity of narrative virtuality in digital texts.

If electronic literature remains tied to, as Ryan argues, Roland Barthes notion of a plural text – “[a] galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds” (from S/Z in Ryan (3587) – this heritage extends well beyond modernism and postmodernism.

more here.