Remediating the apocalypse

Derrida: bites

From George Landow Hypertext Online

Derrida properly recognizes (in advance, one might say) that a new, freer, richer form of text, one truer to our potential experience, perhaps to our actual if unrecognized experience, depends upon discrete reading units. As he explains, in what Gregory Ulmer terms "the fundamental generalization of his writing" (58), there also exists "the possibility of disengagement and citational graft which belongs to the structure of every mark, spoken and written, and which constitutes every mark in writing before and outside of every horizon of semiolinguistic communication. . . . Every sign, linguistic or non-linguistic, spoken or written . . . can be cited, put between quotation marks." The implication of such citability, separability, appears in the fact, crucial to hypertext, that, as Derrida adds, "in so doing it can break with every given context, engendering an infinity of new contexts in a manner which is absolutely illimitable" ("Signature," 185).

Like Barthes, Derrida conceives of text as constituted by discrete reading units. Derrida's conception of text relates to his "methodology of decomposition" that might transgress the limits of philosophy. "The organ of this new philospheme," as Gregory Ulmer points out, "is the mouth, the mouth that bites, chews, tastes. . . . The first step of decomposition is the bite" (57). Derrida, who describes text in terms of something close to Barthes's lexias, explains in Glas that "the object of the present work, its style too, is the 'mourceau,' " which Ulmer translates as "bit, piece, morsel, fragment; musical composition; snack, mouthful." This mourceau , adds Derrida, "is always detached, as its name indicates and so you do not forget it, with the teeth," and these teeth, Ulmer explains, refer to "quotation marks, brackets, parentheses: when language is cited (put between quotation marks), the effect is that of releasing the grasp or hold of a controlling context" (58).

This web project is an evolving space exploring contemporary manifestations of the apocalyptic in current affairs and popular culture. It is being developed in association with my Ph.D. research and is both a research method and a presentation of that research. In exploring the apocalyptic I am particularly interested in mapping a series of multimodal mythic clusters that are evolving through a process of remediation which I identify as a key cultural logic for an age in which electracy is the new literacy of nomadic subjects. This hypertextual presentation foregrounds affiliational logic and although I hope the project accumulates meaning it does not seek to present a single, formal, linear argument. I have presented some of these ideas in more traditional academic formats in other places. Although the navigational choices are the user's own these tips may be useful. Feedback is very welcome.

Marcus O'Donnell 2005-2006