Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Dissertation Advisor: Dr. William Siebenschuh


January, 2010


RONALD JEROME TULLEY candidate for the Ph.D. degree *.


William R. Siebenschuh

Kimberly Emmons

Thomas K. Fountain

Todd Oakley


November 3, 2009

*We also certify that written approval has been obtained for any proprietary material contained therein.


DEDICATION For Southsiders everywhere.


.9 Chapter One: Defining Western Autobiography ……………………………………....35 Chapter Three: Technological Transformations of the Text ……………………….190 3 ..11 Chapter Two: Setting the Stage: St.169 Appendix A—Email Correspondence with Justin Allyn Hall………………………......127 Epilogue: Social Networking: Self Presentation in Communal Hypertext Environments…………………………………………………………………………156 Notes………………………………………………………………………………….6 Abstract………………………………………………………………………………..4 Acknowledgments.72 Chapter Four: Cyberpioneer: Justin Allyn Hall and the Beginnings of Online Autobiography………………………………………………………………………...... Augustine and the Origins of Dialogical SelfRepresentation in Contemporary Autobiography………………………………….....……………………………………………………………….185 Bibliography………………………………………………………………………….....TABLE OF CONTENTS List of Figures………………………………………………………………………..102 Chapter Five: Establishing A Web Template for Self Presentation—Miles Hochstein’s “Documented Life” and Beyond……………………………………………………..180 Appendix B—Email Correspondence with Miles Hochstein………………………..

108 Figure 6: Zilpha Keatley Snyder “Autobiography” (July 2007)………………………....k.110 Figure 7: Justin Hall’s father—Wesley Gibson Hall…………………………………... December 2006………………………………146 Figure 15: Hochstein Family Pictures. 2006………………………………………….162 4 .148 Figure 16: Ron Tulley’s facebook “home” (a.81 Figure 2: Christian Classics Ethereal Library: St..LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: Axial versus network structure in hypertext. Augustine's Confessions homepage…93 Figure 3: New Advent: The Confessions (Book I)………………………………………97 Figure 4: Justin Allyn Hall.115 Figure 9: Arrest identification card……………………………………………………118 Figure 10: “Publish Yo’ Self”…………………………………………………………121 Figure 11: “Documented Life” homepage (July 2009)……………………………….160 Figure 17: Ron Tulley’s facebook “profile” (August 2009)………………………….autobio” homepage…………………………………………. ca 2008……………………………………………………104 Figure 5: “Justin Links....136 Figure 13: “biophilia” (2009)…………………………………………………………138 Figure 14: Leora and Miles Hochstein...a. the “news feed”) (August 2009).114 Figure 8: Wesley Gibson Hall’s handwritten suicide note…………………………….…………………………………...131 Figure 12: “Documented Life” homepage—initial version (2001)………………….

Figure 18: 314’s MySpace profile (August 2009)…………………………………….164 5 .

I offer my heartfelt appreciation for agreeing to serve on my committee after my dissertation prospectus had been approved. William Siebenschuh (Bill). I wish to express my deepest gratitude to Dr. Todd Oakley. a sincere thank you for guiding me through my preliminary exams and continuing to assist me as I completed my dissertation. thank you for all of your efforts on my behalf. He is a true asset to the profession and to the Case community. and I had begun to write. 6 . Kenny Fountain (Kenny). It is difficult to summarize all the ways Bill has helped me during my arduous scholarly journey at CWRU. advisor. To Dr. Bill has been a mentor. I could not have completed this journey without you. so many people have offered me their unconditional support. To Dr. T. To those whom I do not directly mention here. a true friend. His encouragement kept me going through one of the toughest moments in my life. empathizer. I owe to his skillful leadership and guidance. Todd’s insightful comments helped me revise my first published scholarly essay (in 2003). To Dr. Her editorial suggestions in the late stages of this project were crucial. and most importantly. Kimberly Emmons (Kim)—thank you for pushing me and challenging me to see the “forest for the trees. direction and guidance. I could not have moved forward without Kenny’s encouragement.” Kim’s supervision of my early research projects helped me to refocus and refine my methodology. confidant. father-figure.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Throughout the course of my doctoral studies at Case Western Reserve University. Whatever successes I have had at Case.

especially. Marie Louden-Hanes. Dr. Delta Sigma chapter. for your collegiality. 7 . To all of my friends at “DOES” (the Case Western Reserve University Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety). They graciously allowed me to include their email correspondence in this dissertation (see Appendix A and Appendix B). Michael Anders. and for providing me with a second home at Case. Serritellas. may you pursue your true dreams unencumbered by the expectations of others. It is loyal and true beyond compare. Their online autobiographies inspired me to write this dissertation. and Dr. Let neither the envy nor the cynicism of others impede your goals. To all the faculty members at The University of Findlay who shared similar struggles as fellow PhD students. To the brothers of Pi Kappa Phi. OΥΔΕΝ ΔΙΑΣΠΑΣΕΙ ΗΜΑΣ. David Sedwick (Doc) and Shirley Mele—thank you for your support. Dr. Dr. especially Hugh and Liz Sauer (“Dad” and “Mom”) whose gracious hospitality was integral to my early doctoral studies. especially Dr. Devon (Peanut). Diana Montague. Dr. Professor Nancy Munoz. Cheri Hampton-Farmer. Chris Denecker. Your stories encouraged me and provided me with the strength to carry the dual burden of writing a dissertation while teaching a “4/4” on the tenure track. Dr. To all the Tulleys.I would also like to express my gratitude to Justin Allyn Hall and Miles Hochstein for their willingness to converse with me via email on many occasions. Professor Mary Jo Geise. and Sauers who have kept me sane and supported me. To my beautiful daughter. Erin Laverick. thank you for your friendship.

who died on April 15. Dr. as I was preparing to defend my preliminary examinations. pride. and confidence in my abilities will always reassure and inspire me.To my wife. My deepest affection and love goes out to my mother. 2007. 8 . You are a true scholar without a hint of pretension. Your work ethic and positivity are infectious. Christine E. Deanna Tulley. thank you for keeping me centered and focused through a very long process. Tulley. Her unwavering love. I owe you so many weekends.

. et al. I conclude with a brief epilogue addressing autobiographical features present in social networking sites (e. facebook. i. personal achievement. cathartic events. I examine how hypertext self-life-writing approximates and simultaneously alters many conventional aspects of print autobiography. online versions of autobiography have 9 .). In this way. the inclusion of verifiable events in the subject’s life. I contend that digital autobiography often reproduces the archetypal characteristics of autobiography including but not limited to a narrative structure. family. MySpace. To accomplish this task.g. and the finite limits of what can be included within the printed text. a strong tendency towards a linear chronology. friends. an autobiography that ends before a subject’s life is complete. Digital self-life-writing also relies on many familiar models of identity formation witnessed in traditional autobiography: work.e. I trace Western autobiography from canonical texts including St.. Augustine’s Confessions to online (digital) versions of autobiography by early “cyber-pioneers” including Justin Allyn Hall (“autobio”) and Miles Hochstein (“Documented Life: An Autodocumentary”).An Exhibitionist’s Paradise: Digital Transformations of the Autobiographical Impulse Abstract by RONALD JEROME TULLEY In this dissertation. etc.

g. the multimodal and interactive nature of hypertext has the potential to alter traditional modes of self-presentation in autobiography by introducing in several key effects and features including but not limited to the following: disruption of traditional narrative patterns. Despite these similarities. streaming video. historically conceived as an individual endeavor. introduction of divergent genres (e. digital photos..) of a person(s) besides the author. 10 .). audio files. These hypertext effects and features introduce a communal element to autobiography—a dialogue between an author and a reader that is both literal and reciprocal. et al. disruption of boundaries between the public and private realms of the subject. digital media including PDF documents. media reviews. et al.changed little from the textual construction of the self witnessed in traditional print autobiographies. journalistic works. As a result of the effects and features of hypertext. and elimination of the fixed and permanent nature of the printed text. I contend that digital autobiography both mimics the “self-in-process” that scholars of autobiography have claimed cannot be accurately recorded in print and establishes self-life-writing.e. incorporation of reified elements (i. as a recurrent public exercise..

I propose using the concept of “family resemblances” developed by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Despite the presence of autobiographical works outside the West. I provide the reader with a brief historical background of the scholarly discourse on autobiography in the West and explain how the concept of autobiography has been. autobiography has enjoyed a long oral tradition where whole communities gather to listen to the life stories of the village elders. So much so. but there is also a growing number of theories of those theories. that there are now not only many theories of autobiography. autobiographical works appear in nearly every culture with a writing system.e. For instance. i. the notion of the 11 . I provide responses to these questions in Chapters Four and Five. 1 and in China writers such as Wang Chieh and Mao Ch’ i-ling flourished in the so-called “golden age” of Chinese autobiography before Western influences reshaped China (Wu 251). a particularly Western phenomenon. in fact. The autobiographical impulse is certainly not an exclusively Western phenomenon. From the writings of the court women of the Heian Period (794 -1192 AD) in Japan to historical works in Arabic prevalent in the Middle East (particularly Usāmah ibn-Munqidh’s Kitab al-I'tibar published in the 11th century). until recently. Robert Smith. the crux upon which self-life-writing rests.. Derrida and Autobiography (1995) In this chapter. in sub-Saharan Africa.CHAPTER ONE—DEFINING WESTERN AUTOBIOGRAPHY The theory of autobiography has become very well trodden terrain. focusing particularly on online hypertext manifestations of digital autobiographical texts. To address the problematic nature of defining autobiography. I also show how literary scholars have struggled to define autobiography as a genre. I conclude Chapter One by asking a few questions about autobiography.

Part of the reason for the scholarly attention to these archetypal Western texts is that these historical autobiographies all exhibit what George Landow refers to as a reflective self-conscious state necessary for a work to be classified as an autobiography: “autobiography must not only present a version. it is not my intention to claim that Western thought dictates a normative status for all autobiography.g. myth or metaphor of the self…it must be retrospective and hence it must self-consciously contrast[s] two selves. And though non-Western autobiographies are increasingly the subject of scholarly interest.). Most non-Western examples of autobiography prior to the late 19th century do not exhibit 12 . Albert Stone referred to autobiography as “an important new field for scholars and critics” (1). e. And while notable exceptions as described above can be found outside of the West. Augustine’s Confessions (397 A. is deeply entrenched in the history of Western thought. Autobiographicality. Benjamin Franklin’s The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin (1791). First. the writing “I” and the one located (or created) in the past” (“Autobiography.D. and Self-Representation”). the primary academic focus has been concentrated on autobiographies that have emerged from the Western tradition.. St. et al.self as an individual unique among others. the concept of the self that drives autobiography has a deep-rooted basis in Western thought. the history of autobiography as a topic for scholarly investigation is relatively new. that as recently as 1981. Autobiography is primarily a logocentric act and while it is necessary to acknowledge that there are dangers in approaching autobiography as an exclusively Western phenomenon. So new. I focus on defining Western “autobiography” as opposed to “autobiographical works” en masse for two reasons. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions (1782).

Works including the previously mentioned Chinese authors Wang Chieh and Mao Ch’i-ling contain elements that might be loosely classified as autobiographical fragments. the narrative framework and subjective insights so commonly associated with le pact autobiographique are rarely found in non-Western works prior to the late 19th century once the influence of the European colonial powers was established. 13 . This is not to say these works are not factual—dates and events reported can indeed be verified.” These autobiographical works lack much of what Philippe Lejeune termed “the autobiographical pact” in Le pacte autobiographique (1975) (4). Using these three criteria.this self-consciousness. 2) the progression of time (the subject’s lifeline) in an autobiography is usually linear and limited to the subject’s lifetime or a significant portion thereof. Works including the previously mentioned Kitab al-I'tibar as well as those written by the court women of the Heian Period in Japan are often written in the third person with limited (if any) self-reflection. Second. many works classified as “autobiographies” from the non-Western traditions are perhaps better described as “autobiographical works. According to Lejeune. the pact generally limits the genre primarily (but not exclusively) to historical autobiographies from the Western tradition. and 3) the reader of autobiography expects a “story-structure” or narrative framework to give order to the events described by the author (13-16). the readers of self-life-writing expect at least three things from a work labeled autobiography: 1) the autobiography presents a generally factual account of an individual subject’s life (though the subjective presentation of the details surrounding the facts (emphasis mine) is assumed). yet their writings do not exhibit a strong narrative drive and exclude factual details about the author as the subject 2 of the work. Yet.

It is my hope that in doing so I will establish a useful starting point from which to investigate current developments in autobiography. Just three years later in Figures 14 . Writing about pornography in the plurality opinion of Jacobellis v. et al. The etymology of autobiography. Augustine’s Confessions. Olney notes. but rather by Supreme Court Justice Potter Brown. James Olney emphasizes a similar dilemma affecting the classification of works as autobiography. Simply defined from its Greek origins. et al. autobiography is “self-life-writing” or auto (self) + bios (life) + graphe (writing). “everyone knows what autobiography is.For these two primary reasons.). I will devote my efforts in this chapter to examining how autobiography has been defined by scholars in the Western tradition. Lejeune. and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. (Jacobellis v. Echoing Justice Brown’s frequently quoted words in his Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical (1980). Justice Brown uttered his now famous words: I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [hard-core pornography]. While the history of autobiography in the West can be traced back to a few archetypal texts (St. however. Ohio) Ironically.g.. no matter how assured they may be are in agreement as to how to define it” (7). But I know it when I see it (emphasis mine)…. tells us little. The problematic nature of defining autobiography is perhaps best categorized not by a scholar of autobiography.) the history of Western autobiography with the ability to define Western autobiography. but no two observers. Ohio (1964). perhaps. it would be imprudent to conflate the ability to track or categorize (e.

The writer must possess a consciousness of her unique self as an “isolated being” (93). a self-conscious awareness develops that provides the necessary conditions for autobiography to exist. Herein lies the essence of a long-standing debate about autobiography: can any text be classified as an autobiography and if so what are the characteristics of such a classification? One of the first scholars to tackle the question.” and thus to analyze the boundaries of the genre. “What is autobiography?. introduced the world to the fundamental ideas behind postmodern theory. Once the autobiographical writer is removed from a limited identity as a member within a specific community. literary theory focused on the characteristics of autonomy and fictionality as defining elements of the 15 . some say. In the 1940s and 1950s. In his 1956 essay. prodigious scholar Avrom Fleishman echoed the dilemma of attempting to define the term. "No one can tell what autobiography is. “Conditions and Limits of Autobiography. Quite simply. In order for autobiography to take place he argued. was Georges Gusdorf.of Autobiography: The Language of Self-Writing (1983). Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism (1957) changed the conception of how a literary text was defined and thus. an individual must rely upon a separate or an "isolated" identity distinct from society. Gusdorf claims that autobiography cannot exist when “the individual does not oppose himself [sic] to all others…" (93). yet that has not dispelled a surge of recent efforts to define it" (53).” Gusdorf established parameters for the self portrayed in autobiographical texts. Northrop Frye ushered in a new approach to self-life-writing. Though not exclusively interested in autobiography. Gusdorf’s theory posits that an “isolated” identity empowers the autobiographer to understand her life as exceptional and worth relating to others.

” Roy Pascal attempted to establish autobiography as a genre by examining audience expectations. Designating autobiography as a form of fiction (one of four such forms). Pascal also defined the term autobiography and compiled a catalogue of works of autobiography to support his definition. Frye liberated autobiography from its marginal literary status to a subject worth critical analysis. i. (2) Pascal also noted that the reader of autobiography has many expectations of the author including a “coherent shaping of the past” and “the slow assimilation of experience and emergence of character” (162). which one recognises [sic] and distinguishes from other literary modes. there was little doubt in his mind that autobiography was indeed a genre: There is an autobiographical form.literary text. Frye sought to integrate literature with autobiography.. and critics are in no great difficulty to define their subject-matter when they write autobiographies. In his seminal work Design and Truth in Autobiography (1960). however. writers know roughly what they expect to do if they write autobiographies. Pascal emphasized.e. Building upon Gusdorf’s description of autobiography as the work of an “isolated being” in “Conditions and Limits of Autobiography. that the most troubling problem of autobiography was not the issue of defining the genre but rather answering the question: “[D]oes the author’s representation of himself [sic] as a personality 16 . Frye claimed that this focus was too restrictive and that any “order of words” could be examined through the lens of literary analysis (3). Building on the belief that the line between and fact and fiction. the line between non-fiction and literary works. While the logistics of his definition were yet uncertain even to Pascal. was inherently tenuous. and indeed a convention.

attempt to address the problems of genre by broadly classifying autobiography in its ideal form as a “metaphor and…in the reader’s experience that ideal psychic being and realized self…we sometimes call this act autobiography. and T. True autobiographies. He does. not just “symbolic images…of symbolic lives” (50). 3). Newman. He also determined that there is no specific autobiographical form to trace through the ages. Jung. James Olney approached the issue of genre in autobiography as “neither a formal nor as historical matter” (3). however. Olney argued against rigidly defining autobiography claiming a definition would either “include so much as to be no definition.correspond to what we can get to know of him through other evidence?” (188). we other times call it poetry. 195). but it always art” (318). he contended autobiography is more universal than it is localized. or exclude so much as to deprive us of the most relevant texts” and dismisses the topic as unworthy of further investigation. Darwin.” he 17 . In Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography (1972). In spite of his claim that defining autobiography is “not desirable. Olney notes specifically that these “metaphors of self” are metaphors for the readers’ lives as well. “definition is not particularly desirable or significant” (38-39). Olney was specifically interested in how autobiography could advance the reader’s understanding of the “moral” question: “‘How should I live?’” (viii. Channeling Plato. Pascal initiated a concern for “truth” that has shadowed autobiography scholarship for years.S. Olney examined texts by Montaigne. contain “inner personality” and are written only by those “pledged to their innermost selves” (194. Noting the complexity of the “form” of autobiography. xi. Less concerned with idea of truth in autobiography than Pascal. according to Pascal. instead of attempting to locate and define a historical genre. Eliot among others.

philosophical self-analysis. Jill Kerr Conway. the creation of a complete work of art” (137). et al. In contrast to Olney’s nod to Plato’s ideal forms. In other words. Susanna Egan. In Confessions. Augustine’s Confessions. and contingent upon. Hawthorne became consciously aware that his autobiography had actually created the “self” it supposedly set out to expose. Hawthorne felt that the “complete being was synonymous with. i. The sheer number of works that might be classified as autobiography given a definition so broad in its scope complicates Spengemann’s rather straightforward approach to the genre of autobiography. but claims that the genre has evolved over time from a specific archetype—St. William Spengemann. in The Forms of Autobiography: Episodes in the History of a Literary Genre (1980). Sidonie Smith. Many contemporary scholars (cf. In The Forms of….presents an approach to the genre..e. 3 While Spengemann approached genre in autobiography schematically with his meticulously supported methods of self-presentation. He claims that the formal evolution of the genre reaches its conclusion in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. American deconstructionist Paul de 18 . Spengemann notes that three methods of self-presentation are established: historical self-explanation. asserts not only that autobiography is a genre. and poetic self-expression (xvi). Metaphors of Self… is enticing precisely because of its broad applications. Spengemann asserts. “metaphors of self.” that has influenced autobiography theory for much of the last 35 years. Judith Coullie. but isolating “ideal” forms makes practical applications of his approach to the term “autobiography” difficult.) in autobiography look to Olney’s intentionally nebulous categorization of autobiography to establish a framework for their own positions.

In Autobiography as Defacement (1979). Empirically as well as theoretically. autobiography is not a genre at all. Jay uses the terms “self-reflexive works” and “literary self-representation” (19. among the canonical hierarchies of the major literary genres. or lyric poetry. albeit a modest one. This does not go without some embarrassment. He notes that defining autobiography in the abstract is difficult enough in its own right. 21). To him. not a form of referentiality—a necessarily fictive exercise that is rhetorical in nature. not historical. one elevates it above the literary status of mere reportage. chronicle. or epic. de Man states bluntly. By making autobiography into a genre. de Man views the subject of the autobiography as a textual production. Inspired by de Man’s take on autobiography. (919. each specific instance seems to be an exception to the norm…. autobiography lends itself poorly to generic definition.Man attacked the notion of autobiography as a legitimate genre. 19 . 920) Simply put. Jay states succinctly. autobiography always looks slightly disreputable and self-indulgent in a way that may be symptomatic of its incompatibility with the monumental dignity of aesthetic values…. but that the real problem begins when trying to place actual texts under the umbrella of autobiography. since compared to tragedy. Paul Jay addressed the idea of the genre of autobiography in Being in the Text (1984). but rather a “figure of reading or of understanding that occurs … in all texts” (921). Shunning the problematic generic label “autobiography” altogether. or memoir and gives it a place. “I resist the idea that the works can be categorized as ‘autobiography’ in any coherent or helpful way” (14).

scholars began investigating a new concern: the voice(s) of the marginalized “Other” as articulated through autobiography. but it must also be retrospective and hence it must self-consciously contrast two selves. Beyond these two concerns.. the writing “I” and the one located (or created) in the past. Landow finds fault with generically labeling the act of autobiography as self-representation: [S]elf-representation is not autobiography…to qualify as autobiography a work must not only present a version. how closely self-representation mirrored a verifiable truth about the author/subject) and genre (i. myth. Beginning in the 1980s.Contrary to de Man’s claim that autobiography is implicit “in all texts” and Jay’s labeling of autobiography as “literary self-representation.. or metaphor of the self. the broader questions surrounding autobiography were largely trained upon these two problems. many scholars continued to focus on close readings of selected works of autobiography prior to the early 1980s. Yet. how should autobiography be defined?). however.e. Landow is clearly responding to Olney’s “symbolic self” as well as de Man and Jay’s contentions that autobiography is simply a “figure of reading. 20 . Until the early 1980s. the reader is left not with autobiography but rather with a state of “autobiographicality” (2). the two fundamental questions: 1) could autobiography be classified as a literary genre? and 2) if the answer is “yes” to question 1.” George Landow contends in Approaches to Victorian Autobiography (1979) that autobiography cannot simply be any act of “self-expression or self-representation” (1).e.” In short. (2) In this passage. two primary topics dominated autobiography theory and criticism: “truth” (i. Landow argues that without the “self-conscious” writer juxtaposing a present self (writing “I”) with the past self.

where the “I” of the memoir is transmuted into the universal “I” of group identity. and Roy Pascal. Enright suggests in his memoirs. and she avoids thorny distinctions between autobiography and autobiographical fragments.e.. Benjamin Franklin’s The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin. The “I” being “transmuted” into the “universal ‘I’ of group identity” is a particular oppressed group that finds a common experience not in the individual selfrepresentation of the author but it the author’s common experience of suffering (126). St. et al. the individual voice in the autobiography acts as a surrogate for the larger oppressed community. She contended that in many cases. Judith Coullie also explored autobiographical works in the black South African tradition. Karl Weintraub. The use of personal history as an illustration of the troubles of an entire community is what transforms these autobiographies and autobiographical fragments into literature. or even. is not truly universal but rather local as Olney claimed in Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography.. Autobiographies from the canon of “dead white men” (e. as D. One of Watts’ contemporaries. black South Africans) in autobiography was Jane Watts. however.J. In “Not Quite Fiction: The Challenges of 21 .One representative scholar who focused on marginalized voices (i.” (125) Watts’ claim of a “universalizing” experience renews an old critical problem. Augustine’s Confessions.g. where ‘I’ bears the sense of “eye. Watts noted a condition inherent in autobiography from oppressed groups. In Black Writers from South Africa: Towards a Discourse of Liberation (1989). The community Watts speaks of.) were long thought to have “universalizing” tendencies by well-known scholars including Saul Padover. It is here that the writer universalises [sic] his [sic] experience.

Despite the introduction of a relatively a fresh corpus of autobiographical material (oral praise poems) in an attempt to revitalize the discourse about autobiography. Coullie examined South African narratives and South African oral “praise poetry. Yet she also provides many examples of black South African authors who move between or combine both oral and written traditions. Coullie largely reasserts past critical approaches to the genre. Neuman contends that the Cartesian concept of dualism has greatly influenced criticism of autobiography creating a logocentric bias that must be acknowledged: 22 . In “‘An Appearance Walking in a Forest the Sexes Burn’: Autobiography and the Construction of the Feminine Body” (1994). as all concepts do. Coullie essentially confirms Lejeune’s le pact autobiographique noting.” 4 Viewing the communal act of oral presentation as autobiography.” (226). She notes that black South African oral praise poetry is dissimilar from traditional western autobiography in that is not created in a private and individual manner nor is it created for a social setting. Shirley Neuman argues for a move away from traditional monological assumptions associated with self-presentation. relationally: like history… Autobiography usually expressly invokes a contractual agreement with the reader (emphasis mine): the reader reads the references as true. “autobiography defines its own limits. Coullie straddles the boundaries of several genres. Specifically concerned with addressing the representation of the feminine body in autobiography. and the text undertakes to refer to people. places and events which had material existence.Poststructuralism to the Reading of Contemporary Autobiography” (1991) as well as in later works including “(Dis)Locating Selves: Izibongo and Narrative Autobiography in South Africa” (1999).

The histories of autobiography and of its criticism construe the self as individuated and coherent rather than as the product of social construction and as a subject-in-process. but commonalities are always established. (293) Neuman contends that the effects of this repression of the body upon women is to either suppress their self-life-writing completely or to force them “to invent a self that is female and noncorporeal. Folkenflik argues. a self outside Western cultures” (294). The Culture of Autobiography: Constructions of Self-Representation (1993). Folkenflik also concerns himself with the location of autobiography and its subject arguing the earlier critical approaches to the issues of genre and truth were limiting (9). and then identifies “self” with the spiritual. textuality. however. Drumlin Woodchuck (influenced by Boswell and ostensibly a 23 . We can cite many reasons for this…among them a…tradition that opposes the spiritual to the corporeal. The same opposition informs…the Enlightenment definition of “man”…the corporeal functions as the binary opposite by which the spiritual is understood. He contends autobiography and the autobiographical are indeed unique categories: Some works are autobiographical despite being principally or officially something else—Boswell’s Life of Johnson and Mark Harris’s Saul Below. In either scenario “true” selfrepresentation is not possible. that broad definitions of the term miss the point. he asks where the reader would find the locus of autobiography: “[I]s autobiography to be found in referentiality. No genre is an absolute. or social construction? Is there a self in [the] text?” (12). In the introduction to the edited collection.

Susan Ingram renewed the problem of generic terms used to define self-life-writing. as opposed to life-writing. It would be reserved for texts that involve intervening with one’s surrounding culture and would be marked by being based on ones’ own lived experience and its realization into writing.. The writer is keenly aware that “there is no such thing as a ‘life as lived’ to be referred to” (38). they serve to draw attention to the bases on which these categories are constructed. Concerned specifically with the narrow categories assigned to the autobiographies of women of historical importance.. would be restricted to works that deliberately invoke Lejeune’s autobiographical pact…[this] choice…is dictated by subject matter. (14) He notes without irony that the writer of autobiography is always aware of the boundaries between the autobiographical and autobiography. . (Ingram 6-9) 24 . not of the theorist” (21-23). Zarathustra’s Sisters: Women’s Autobiography and the Shaping of Cultural History (2003).[A]utobiographical writing.. In her recent work. the autobiographer still views the text as “the certificate of a unique existence” and that the autobiographer “is on the side of the lay reader of autobiography.the autobiographical texts of these…women elude generic and periodic capture.biography of Bellow) come to mind…[yet] the autobiographical and autobiography are not the same…. Yet.. Ingram builds upon Lejeune’s le pacte autobiographique when she distinguishes “life-writing” and autobiography from her choice of terminology—autobiographical writing (Ingram 6-7): Autobiographical writing…is intended not to supplant life-writing but rather to supplement it.

In short. As I noted in the introduction of this chapter. I employ Lejeune’s le pacte autobiographique as a gauge by which I establish a “bare minimum” of what an autobiographical work must contain. and 3) a “story-structure” or narrative framework to give order to the events described by the author (13-16). if we rely upon Justice Potter Brown’s loose. Jointly. Ingram is troubled by chronological and generic distinctions that “leave no room for discussions of the texts” 5 and that exist outside of “explicitly literary labels. 2) a linear chronological progression of time (the subject’s lifeline). legal definition of pornography to similarly define autobiography (i. at least three aspects must be present: 1) a generally factual account of the subject’s life. the ability to track or categorize autobiography does not necessary yield a clear definition of autobiography. “I know it when I see it”). these two concepts may be used to 25 . However. we will be presented with an infinite variety of self-representations recorded in text.. In the following section. By this I mean for a work to be categorized as autobiography. I illustrate how Lejeune’s le pacte autobiographique can be used in tandem with the concept of “family resemblances” developed by Ludwig Wittgenstein. for the purposes of observing the transformation of autobiographical texts from print to digital media in this dissertation. The sheer volume and differentiation of these textual representations of the self would make any methodical inquiry into the digital transformations of the autobiographical impulse incongruous at best.e. Her analysis takes into account both the binary Neuman defines and Folkenflik’s concern that existing approaches to a “genre” limited any critical discussion of autobiography. Therefore.” particularly women who did not “consider or construct” their autobiography as an aesthetic undertaking (9).

or their exclusion from. Writing as postmodernism criticism was rising to prominence in academia. Perhaps. Placing Autobiography on the Bookshelf: How Would the Reader Define Autobiography? In “Autobiography in the Aftermath of Romanticism” (1982). are weak in respect to the latter: for if they do assume that some works are not autobiographies (a likely supposition. their vague notions of “poetic” autobiography do not provide us with any rigorous criteria for denying texts this classification. When reviewing Olney’s Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography and Spengemann’s The Forms of Autobiography: Episodes in The History of a Literary Genre (both relatively new texts at the time). Lang was not being glib. 6 She acknowledged the difficulty in defining autobiography as a genre using the tools of literary criticism. giving guidelines for inclusions of works in. Candace Lang noted that “Autobiography is indeed everywhere one cares to find it” (6). after all). Both Olney and Spengemann.investigate the ways that the multimodal and interactive nature of hypertext has altered (and sustained) historical features of self-presentation found in print autobiography. the category of autobiography. she challenged the notion of cultural relativity as it applied to establishing a definition of the genre. It would seem expedient to at least limit the rubric “autobiography” to works in which a first-person narrator explicitly declares his intention to recount a major portion of his 26 . however. she took exception with their unwillingness to narrow down the terms of their own obscure “definitions:” [O]ne might reasonably expect each critic to justify his own use of the term.

I can think of no better expression… for the various resemblances between members of a family: build. Philosophical Investigations. etc. temperament. yet they all 27 .the “authenticity”. (67). boundaries become muddled and critical analysis and discourse become absurd propositions. Without some generic framework. establishing a generic definition that offers a clear distinction between the autobiographical and autobiography is still vital. One might as well say: “Something runs through the whole thread—namely the continuous overlapping of those fibres [sic].of the autobiography to be dealt with in each individual case) and to settle for the term “autobiographical” for other works which one may care to propose as attempts at “self-inquiry. overlap and criss-cross in the same way…if someone wished to say: “There is something common to all these constructions—namely the disjunction of all their common properties”—I should reply: Now you are only playing with words.experiences and/or his reflections on those experiences (even though this still leaves the question of the referential dimension. features. In other words. there may not be one common feature to the entire family. Wittgenstein states.” “self-creation. (6) Though defining autobiography is not necessarily the urgent critical concern it once was. colour [sic] of eyes. gait.” and the like. In his treatise. To address the problem of genre classification in autobiography. I propose using Wittgenstein’s “family resemblances” as a guide.” “self-revelation.

7 It may contain a few elements that are autobiographical. Most would likely attempt self-definition of some form. present a generally factual account of their lives. do not many of them share certain similarities and relations with each other? If. it perhaps makes sense to look carefully at how a reader might differentiate the family resemblances from among these sources. journals. or that some. e.e. In short. i. for example. memoirs. For example.. e.resemble (emphasis mine) one another. David. Wittgenstein’s family resemblances can be useful when thinking about autobiography precisely because of the scholarly complications associated with the classification of autobiography. is a novelist who started out as a political reporter as did Dickens. letters. David is a naïve. verse-narratives.. yet these “truthful” elements can easily be juxtaposed with the larger fictive creation. If it is possible to distinguish autobiography from its close. while Charles Dickens spent his childhood with his natural parents in the seaside towns of Portsmouth and Chatham (coastal towns). etc. the protagonist (subject). autobiographical novels.g.. 28 . have a clear story-structure or narrative drive. diaries. but not all. orphaned village boy. the idea of family resemblances can be applied to autobiography by asking a relatively simple question: while not all autobiographies have all the elements used to categorize self-life writing. but certainly not all.. We might also notice that some. but not all. autobiographical poems. yet very distinct autobiographical cousins. I suggest that in the mind of a typical reader of autobiography. follow a clear progression of time.g. David Copperfield is a novel by Charles Dickens—not the literal self-representation of Dickens. we would notice that some autobiographies. it were possible to look at all autobiographies ever written rather than think about what an autobiography should entail.

Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. however.. and editor of the Brooklyn Eagle. It would be. the typical reader of autobiography might quickly notice the title and the verse of the poem and focus particularly on the repetitive use of the first person and specific information on Whitman. an American. Toklas. if given a copy of Song of Myself 8 to peruse. While large bookstore chains which carry the publishers’ catalogues would not place Song of Myself or David Copperfield 9 under the subject heading “Autobiography. and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings under the subject heading of “Autobiography” or under the subject 29 . “Walt Whitman. one of the roughs…” (48). If David Copperfield were in fact The Autobiography of Charles Dickens.” (85) the audience is aware that the “subject” portrayed in the Song of Myself goes far beyond Walt Whitman. Augustine’s Confessions. publishers choose their selections carefully based upon demographic and marketing data which indicate which texts the public prefers.which were comparatively cosmopolitan (Dickens 12). printer’s devil. one that has arguably demolished conventional notions of the self. e. the typical audience for autobiography would not expect (nor appreciate) the author taking such liberties in the telling of his life.g. When Whitman’s persona notes that he is “not contained between my hat and boots” (31) and that he is “large…I contain multitudes.” they might place well-known autobiographies including St. It is also important to consider what publishers classify as autobiography as determined by the public’s expectations. nearly impossible for anyone to suggest that the expansive persona created by the poem. Moreover. is the straightforward autobiography of Walt Whitman’s life. As publishing is primarily a business enterprise and not an intellectual one. journeyman compositor.

What happens. and even in Second Life? At this moment in history when 30 . 920) or defined so broadly and vaguely as to encompass nearly all forms and styles of self-expression? 13 While this question persists as historically troublesome. “all writing” is autobiographical in some sense (Autobiography 4). when even this historical “given” is challenged? What happens when two of these three markers of autobiography (self and writing) are now in flux as is the case in blogs. Ultimately. This seems to indicate that the publishers understand that certain characteristics of autobiography are clearly recognizable. facebook pages. what makes a text an “autobiography?” may simply be to ask more questions: 10 Is autobiography simply “A rose by any other name”? 11 Is not parsing over minutia in search of definitive characteristics of a genre (or an anti-genre for that matter) of autobiography ultimately futile? What would a definitive genre tell us? If as Olney suggests. yet these works are not completely defined by these characteristics.” and “African-American Literature” respectively.” “Literature/ Fiction. scholars have generally agreed that autobiography is “self-life-writing” written as text by an individual author. are we to define autobiography—an autobiography that the public not only has so little trouble defining and separating from other literary genres. and history itself can be seen as autobiography “writ large” (Metaphors of Self 49) then why trouble about these distinctions at all? If we are indeed “stuck” with Olney’s paraphrase of Justice Potter’s words as our best explanation of what an autobiography is. How then. but also one that some scholars have either eschewed as “lend[ing] itself poorly to generic definition” and “disreputable and self-indulgent” (de Man 919. the answer to the question. however.headings of “Religious. then perhaps an “elephant test” 12 is indeed the best we can do.

the written word varies tremendously in its frequency of use and its importance to the narrative. no version of the text can be said to be permanent. though not atypical. In short. “[N]o single generic term has emerged as a critical concept to describe how the practices of a digitized imaginary in cyberspace life writing will differ from the analogue writings of lines on a page” (150). etc. in some fundamental way. it may be possible to use both past scholarship on autobiography and the previously mentioned assumptions of the audience as a base from which to 31 . resumes. take into account the fluid essence of the sites themselves.) complicates the interconnections between writer. reconsidering the definition of autobiography seems an urgent task indeed. reader and medium (media) making the written word just one of a choice of devices to reveal the self. perhaps the analysis of these hypertext sites should. For example. perhaps. What I use as a sample today may tomorrow be eradicated. artifacts. Perhaps this is because discussing hypertext autobiography using terms typically applied to print autobiography is difficult for several significant reasons. among hypertext autobiographies. The expanded corpus of materials available in hypertext autobiography (external links. 14 we may need to ask new and different questions about autobiography. audio. particularly the fanatical popularity of “network” sites in the United States such as MySpace and facebook. hypertext autobiography is in a constant state of revision—some are revised daily by both the author and others. As Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson note in Reading Autobiography (2001). streaming video. Taking into consideration the proliferation of autobiographical websites. photographs. is not a given. therefore. Most importantly.not just autobiography but the text itself is undergoing a radical transformation. The linear progression of the narrative. And.

(Johnson 300) The irony of Johnson’s claim is obvious. how important is a linear chronology to understanding the life of the subject? In the desultory world of the web. successive narrative drive? For that matter.’ Definition is. though admittedly still in an evolutionary phase. No less than the great lexicographer himself. I provide responses to these unanswered questions. in the emerging world of hypertext autobiography. As is the case with most 32 . Samuel Johnson. For example. how essential is a clear. does the audience assume hypertext “self-life-writing” to be truthful in a literal sense with all the technological possibilities of rendering a fictive self? These questions. are a start at examining what role the medium of the Internet might play in modifying the definition of autobiography. warned his readers of the dangers inherent in defining anything: It is one of the maxims of the civil law. that ‘definitions are hazardous. or too much diffused in their relations. not the province of man. and the performances of art too inconstant and uncertain to be reduced to any determinate idea. every thing [sic] is set above or below our faculties. Why endeavor to define anything (let alone compile a dictionary) if all definitions are fraught with such unreliability? Johnson’s answer to this question is particularly relevant to the act of defining autobiography: “I have only failed in an attempt which no human powers have hitherto completed” (12). indeed. this chapter serves only as a scratch at the surface in the quest to define Western autobiography. With the limitations of any “true” definition in mind.formulate these questions. In the following chapters. The works and operations of nature are too great in their extent.

If we are truly to define a “genre” of Western autobiography. I contend that it is useful to employ Lejeune’s le pacte autobiographique in tandem with the concept of “family resemblances” envisioned by Wittgenstein.D.. hypertext).). the boundaries of autobiography are challenged both by the intended and unintended influences of the new medium (in this case. Augustine’s The Confessions of Saint Augustine (397 A. Toklas (1933) and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969). Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1782). beginning this inquiry looking for these core characteristics can serve as a useful starting point. Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. we must include an exploration into digital self-life-writing. a self that 33 . specifically. To accomplish this task. and 3) a “story-structure” or narrative framework to give order to the events described by the author (13-16). To begin an investigation of digital autobiography.e. Perhaps we will find that such a limited definition for categorizing autobiography is not suitable for digital autobiographical “texts. i.traditional genres in print. I examine four historical print autobiographies.” 15 Yet. The family resemblances I use in this dissertation to classify a work as an autobiography include the following features based upon Lejeune’s le pacte autobiographique mentioned previously in this chapter: 1) a generally factual account of the subject’s life. St. we may discover new insights about the effects of digital media upon the act and product of self-presentation. A close reading of each of these historical print texts serves to support my contention that the autobiographical self has always been a product of social construction. we must first be able to ascertain if there are certain “core” characteristics located in any text labeled as an autobiography. From this point. In chapter 2. 2) a linear chronological progression of time (the subject’s lifeline).

I argue that the often subtle dialogue (between the author and his or her interlocutor) in print autobiography becomes considerably more conspicuous in hypertext media. 34 .is constructed in dialogue (literal and figurative) with others.

” This stage provides both a venue (front) to present an idealized self-image and a “curtain” that hides 35 . To make this case. Though one individual’s name may be attributed to an autobiography.CHAPTER TWO—SETTING THE STAGE: ST. AUGUSTINE AND THE ORIGINS OF SELF-REPRESENTATION IN CONTEMPORARY AUTOBIOGRAPHY It is probably no mere historical accident that the word person. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1956) In this chapter I argue that the process of self-representation that produces an autobiography has always been one that is heavily influenced by social interaction—both real and imagined. it is in these roles that we know ourselves…For if the individual’s activity is to become significant to others. playing a role. more or less consciously. the product is the result of a complex series of virtual and imagined social interactions. As is the case in theatrical performance. In short. Goffman contended that human life shares similarities with a theater. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1956). demeanor and/or setting to match their perceptions of their audience’s expectations. Erving Goffman. It is rather a recognition of the fact that everyone is always and everywhere. he must mobilize his activity so that it will express during the interaction what he wishes to convey. individuals attempt to guide the impression others have of them by changing their appearance. It is through these that we know each other. in its first meaning. individuals engaged in social interactions meet their audiences on a “stage. is a mask. I employ the dramaturgical social theory outlined by Erving Goffman in his most important work. My intention in exposing the social influences upon the construction of the self evident in historical print autobiography is to illustrate how these influences have become considerably more literal and evident in digital media.

However. literary critic. he looks into the eyes of another or with the eyes of another (Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics 287).To be means to be for another.. looking inside himself. the idea of the solitary author would not have had its privileged status in Western culture for much of the history of printed texts. The fixed and permanent nature of print makes the idea of an individual writing his or her story in relative isolation tenable. A person has no internal sovereign territory. and through the other. he is wholly and always on the boundary. the process of communication through language (written or oral) is necessarily social: I am conscious of myself and become myself only while revealing myself for another…To be means to communicate. It is perhaps. and scholar. If it were. Mikhail Bakhtin notes. a discourse always takes place between the individual and his or her audience. As the Russian philosopher.private characteristics that conflict with the idealized self-image being presented. In this sense.. The autobiographical subject can be imagined by the reader to be reflecting upon events of the past without the mediating influence of an ongoing dialogue with others. for oneself. in some ways axiomatic to note that writing one’s autobiography is a social process rather than an individual endeavor. the socially-constructed self manifested in print autobiographies is not mere tautology. And while the construction of the self using digital media (as I demonstrate in Chapter 3) destroys any illusion of a solitary author working alone with 36 . all speech acts (including writing one’s autobiography) should be viewed as communal in nature. Since all speech requires an utterance from a speaker and a response from an interlocutor (imaginary or real).

For much of the last 400 years of Western history. In doing so. Cartesian ideology has been the basis for establishing a framework that has driven our understanding of the self as separate and distinct from the community. individual voice. Descartes also believed that language and thought could be separated—a concept that has been challenged by many thinkers in the modern era. the self has been envisioned through the lens of Rene Descartes 16 (i.. Moreover.. not as a process that evolves in conjunction with a community of others. which is guided by primarily by 37 . the social influences upon the process of self-construction are apparent in all texts—digital and print. I examine excerpts from four canonical Western autobiographies. Descartes’ famous quotation.e.his or her thoughts. The Cartesian idea of the self is sometimes referred to as a dualistic concept (i. and this framework provides a scaffold for much of the past scholarship in autobiography. As evidence of the dialogical nature of historical print autobiographies. a binary opposition) with the self contrasted with the other or the social. when the autobiographer writes his/her life story. he/she does so divorced from the corruptive influences of outside voices—he/she follows only the linear precepts of an internal. Descartes contends that knowledge comes not from perception but from deductive reasoning because the senses can be easily deceived. the “Cartesian” notion of the self). Throughout much of Western history.” All thought is embodied in the individual mind— the only place thought can exist. “Cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am) illustrates his idea that thought is indicative of the existence of a “self. I illustrate that a figurative social process of self-construction is evident in traditional print autobiographies. Descartes imagines the construction of a self as prior to the social or the communal. According to a Cartesian framework.e. hence.

In a certain sense.… The act of autobiography and the act of poetry. James Olney. Descartes’ “Cogito. One of preeminent twentieth-century scholars on the subject of autobiography. consciousness of this continuing creation of the self accompanies the creation. at the time of writing…. both as creation and as recreation. and. then history tells us that print autobiography would be its medium bar none. ergo sum” is a preautobiographic statement. for autobiography. at the time of action. In the great autobiographers. constitute a bringing to consciousness of the nature of one’s own existence. he does not argue that social influences fully permeate the self-narrative or affect its construction. (43-44) Olney expands upon the original Cartesian concept to include the discursive idea of “continuing creation” as the autobiographer composes his or her narrative (44). that it is a definition of the writer’s self in the past. From a Cartesian point of 38 . If the “contained” self is sacred in the Cartesian mode of thinking. transforming the mere fact of existence into a realized quality and a possible meaning.the solitary thoughts of the author. establishes a clear link between autobiography and Cartesian thought in Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography (1972): Awareness of the nature of self-being is essential to the full autobiographic art. in the moment after. While he questions the possibility of a self that is all-knowing and self-sufficient. whether it be autobiography as such or poetry. autobiography and poetry are both definitions of the self at a moment and in a place: and I do not mean. but in the present. becomes it…. this being so.

In order to move beyond the boundaries of the individual self. if I am scheduled to appear for an interview for a job that requires a certain level of formality. Erving Goffman.e. “I…become myself only while revealing myself for another” (Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics 287).. For example. “‘An Appearance Walking in a Forest the Sexes Burn’: Autobiography and the Construction of the Feminine Body” (1994). I might also arrive early. Contrary to the Cartesian conception of the self called into being by individual thought. When an individual enters into face-to-face interactions with others. Bakhtin’s work concept of dialogism shares commonalities with other theorists critical of egocentric approaches to the self. is the agency of the subject in self-representation. I might shake hands 39 . Goffman contends that the self is a product of social performance—a reaction to others. Her claim that autobiography is a social construct channels Bakhtin’s concept of dialogism. the process of creating the autobiographical self has to be monological (representing an individual voice). I adjust the presentation of myself to fit that setting. I might also modify my non-verbal communicative traits to fit the context. he or she relies upon cues from the specific setting to create a contextualized self. Superficially. the Cartesian concept of dualism is inherently flawed when it is applied to self-representation: “The histories of autobiography and of its criticism construe the self as individuated and coherent rather than as the product of social construction (emphasis mine) and as a subject-in-process” (293). this could mean that I wear my best suit and tie. I shave and a shower and I comb my hair carefully. i. according to Neuman’s definition. Autobiography. Yet as Shirley Neuman articulates in her previously mentioned work. rather than a product of an isolated individual. For instance. it is necessary to turn to the work of the Canadian sociologist and scholar.view.

contextual social interaction motivates and informs the autobiographer to create a self in a print. I might alter my personality traits. If the process of self-representation is a social construct..e. e.g. i. I might listen more than I speak. print. rigid position. e.. is essentially dialogical in nature. On a deeper level. are necessary components to selfconstruction and identity formation in Goffman’s mind. then I contend that autobiography in all of its forms. we must ask a basic question: how does the idea of contextual self-presentation apply when the face-to-face interaction is removed? If proximal objects. or I might answer questions in ways that reveal (or conceal) certain thought patterns. he posits that the self becomes a “moving target”—a performance that can be enacted and re-enacted in multiple. Of course. Before we can apply Goffman’s theory of identity formation through contextual self-presentation to print autobiography. and the recalled moments of face-to-face interaction with others are written to present not the self engaged in these past moments. By this I mean the process of autobiographical creation is inherently social in nature and 40 . etc. The self constructed in an autobiography is based upon the recollection of interactions with others and upon anticipation of how others will read and interpret the constructed self. clothing.more firmly. and sit in a more contrived.. then what happens when these proximal objects are removed or at least minimized? An autobiography is an artifice—a physical product of an imagined self.g. maintain more eye contact. Whether face-to-face or imagined. digital. but a new idealized self. Dialogue with these “others” is recollected and imagined. Rather. Goffman does not contend that individual thought does not exist in the absence of another person. etc.. smile more. make-up. divergent ways to address an ever-changing context..

St. Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Augustine. in this chapter I engage in a brief. there is a need to have a diverse corpus of evidence to make a case for the dialogical process inherent in autobiography. Besides Confessions’ obvious ramifications on the history of Christianity.D. 354-397 AD). it could be argued that each of the texts I have selected for examination introduces a benchmark to autobiography. Augustine’s The Confessions of Saint Augustine 17 (397 A. close reading of four historical print autobiographies. Clearly. St. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau 18 (1782).e. St. the text provides a rare look at an unbroken transcript of an individual’s thoughts and actions over a particular period of time (i.deeply influenced by the “other. it would be difficult to have a discussion of autobiography in the West without including St.. as the first definitive Western autobiography. Unlike similar earlier texts including Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic. His introspection provides one of the first examples in text that reveals the unique character of its subject—a defining characteristic of autobiography more typical of the Enlightenment than of the late Roman Empire. Beyond this perfunctory motivation. To some degree. I chose this autobiography as a sample for inquiry because it was among the first to record the secular and personal 41 . specifically.). As for The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In fact. For example. Augustine offers deep introspection. To this end.” This intrinsic dialogical essence can be observed using evidence from several “generic” cases. I have selected these texts as representative samples of the print autobiographical canon. my motive for choosing these texts is axiomatic. Toklas (1933) and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969). Augustine’s Confessions seemed an appropriate place to begin an investigation.

If Rousseau is credited with the first modern autobiography.. With Rousseau’s secularism and solipsism. Obviously.. Candid information on the private lives of these women might have compromised their mission. Stein’s persona challenges the notion of presenting one’s own self through the conventions of autobiography such as those outlined in Lejeune’s le pact autobiographique. the intimate details concerning the personal lives of artists and the general focus on gossip strongly resembles features (e.g. self-life writing moves closer to the narcissistic tomes more familiar to us at the dawn of the 21st century. Rousseau wrote to convince others that what he presented was unique in the history of humankind: “My purpose is to display to my kind a portrait in every way true to nature. Toklas is particularly relevant to my discussion in Chapter Five of using outside media and materials to create an online persona. Toklas. Alice B. Ann Petry) that tended to mount defenses against the prevailing stereotypes of black women in America.g. 19 Angelou’s revelations made her 42 . and the man I shall portray will be myself” (3). Whereas St. Stein is able to write about her own life in ways that mimic the voice of her companion. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings offers a representative example from a historically underrepresented group (African-American women). Toklas. the “wall”) of social networking sites including facebook. By adopting the persona of Alice B. In addition. The Autobiography of Alice B. It is important to this study because it marks a shift away from earlier AfricanAmerican memoirs (e.feelings and experiences of the author. For my final choice. then Gertrude Stein could be credited with and early attempt to subvert the genre. Augustine always channels his thoughts in Confessions through the perspective of a man in search of a closer relationship with his god.

are specifically named until the end of Book IX. his father’s death is barely discussed. Examining the Canon: A Brief Investigation of the Social Presentation of the Self in Historical Print Autobiography Some 20 have argued that with Confessions St. however. Confessions was not the first autobiography. traditionally categorized through the specter of the Cartesian notion of an individual self. both of whom have enormous significance in his life. For example.personal tribulations public in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and in doing so set a precedent as a voice for others both within the African-American community and throughout the larger public audience. Heraclitus’ writings. In fact. The form of 43 . and many years of his life seem overlooked or at least neglected. his autobiography is generally considered to be the first “truly and completely subjective autobiography in Western civilization…” (Padover xiv). However. Nevertheless. which would seem to disrupt the chronological order readers may expect (204). 63-65 AD). can be argued to be precursors of Western autobiography as exemplified by Confessions. has socially-influenced underpinnings. Augustine did establish a pattern to be followed. Augustine invented the modern conception of the autobiography. St. for example. as most autobiographers to this day are affected by his approach. Marcus Aurelius’ What I Have Learned and Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic (ca. To be sure. Confessions. Augustine certainly leaves out key events that may hold significance for the reader in understanding his life story. should not be considered a complete or entirely “honest” telling of Augustine’s life. My hope is that a close reading of these four texts will demonstrate that print autobiography. neither his mother nor his father. Many classical works.

Almost immediately. Augustine: one version is a young man grappling to find his “truth” and a sense of spirituality. probably seems a bit disjointed to the contemporary reader. Augustine carefully chooses events that describe his path to spiritual development while continually reiterating his love for God—all other details of his life are secondary. he inquires: Do heaven and earth. wiser and more humble. Augustine begins his autobiography in Book I by relaying details of his infancy and early childhood. since you fill them? Or. 21 Despite these variances. and the second version is the older Augustine. Speaking directly to God. when you have filled heaven and earth. the philosophical and spiritual musings evident in this example 44 . does that part of you which remains flow over into some other place? (22) On the surface this excerpt does not appear to tell us much about the specific details of his life. trying to illustrate how he finally came to his acceptance of Christianity as the one true faith. However. is some part of you left over because they are too small to hold you? If this is so. For example. Augustine focuses in the first five chapters of Book I on the glory of God and the nature of God—not on his birth. Confessions allows us a glimpse of two versions of St.Confessions. moreover. and Chapters XI-XIII contain exposition that addresses the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. when once you have filled them. then. yet Chapter X focuses on an examination of how his memory works which leads him to question the “self” that is evolving as he writes (222-223). family and hometown (21-24). contain the whole of you. Proceeding in a fairly ordered chronological manner. The first nine books take us through most of Augustine’s life. the narrator. a pattern is established.

Moreover. however. is both a metaphorical confession to the reader.permeate the text. his “fatherless” son (Adeodatus). etc. While the reader might insist that Augustine’s greater sins of promiscuity..” in this sense. Augustine continues his chronological push forward when he reflects upon his adolescence. Augustine makes the point that the sin committed just “do wrong for no purpose” (47) is quite different from sin committed to “live on the proceeds” (48) of the crime. his reference to the stolen 45 . Augustine details his theft of pears from a vineyard with a few of his closest friends noting that his real purpose was not to eat them but rather to take pleasure “in doing something that was forbidden” (47). His “confession. and a literal. Chapters 1-3. he quickly moves from the sins of lust into an anecdote that might seem trivial at first glance to the reader but holds great significance in the telling of his life story—a theft of pears (47). In Book II. Augustine’s faith and the process of his redemption. his concubine (unnamed). His decision to focus on his spiritual life reveals a “truth” Augustine is attempting to establish in the mind of the reader—the story of Augustine’s return to God. e. and vanity are not only more serious in the eyes of God but also more glaring in their effects on others. While he begins by describing his budding sexuality and sins born of it in Book II.g. his mother (Monica). pride. Catholic sacrament addressed to God. adultery. and 3) it establishes the primary audience of the text as God and the secondary audience as the general reader. the praise of God infused throughout his life story serves several additional purposes: 1) it establishes a conversation between Augustine (I) and God (You) 22 crucial to understanding St. As is the case through much of Confessions.. illustrating his acute power of observation and thought. 2) it allows the readers to reflect upon their own relationship with God.

. In this scene. Throughout Confessions. yet is easily overlooked. take it and read” (177) while sitting under a fig tree in the garden. He cannot yet let go of his sinful life until the precise moment of clarity when the girl’s voice calls to him. letting Him know that he is telling his own story “so that I and all who read my words may realize the depths from which we are to cry to you” (45).pears is doing more than simply acknowledging to both God and reader that he understands his sins on a relative level. Besides the obvious references to the Fall in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2–3). His own life story becomes an allegory through which he shows his readers that even the most sinful can achieve salvation if they are open to faith beyond knowledge. when he hears the child’s voice saying. Chapter 12. Augustine is foreshadowing his later conversion in Book VIII.e. he is in the throes of frustration with his desperate quest for certainty in his spiritual life: “I probed the hidden depths of my soul and wrung its pitiful secrets from it. he connects his youthful descent into sin to his eventual salvation. He also recognizes the paradox of explaining himself to an omniscient God¸ i. Augustine then responds to her call and opens the Bible and reads from Romans 13:13–14. He is establishing a metaphor. By linking these “bookends” together. 23 Whether the catalyst (the young girl’s voice) is “real” or not is irrelevant. which is perhaps obvious. Augustine makes his motivation 24 for writing evident— he clearly desires to explain himself to both God and the masses. a great storm broke within me. the passage lays to rest his fears and doubts about leaving his old self behind (177-179). “you are the God who knows me…you have recognized me” (207) and thus he sets out to explain himself to 46 . and when I mustered them all before the eyes of my heart. He addresses God directly. “Take it and read. bringing with it a great deluge of tears” (177).

In other words. Should the autobiographer move through his/her own memories and offer some conclusion about them? Should the autobiographer take on an involved or a distant persona as he/she revisits the past? Or.” In Chapter X. to 387 A.himself. More importantly.D. In one of his most revealing moments. Chapter 5 that Augustine reveals the difficulty of telling his own story. he also presents the audience with a subject that is contextualized and personalized by its narrator—an approach to autobiography that has become nearly de facto in nature.D. how can one ever know the “true” self? 25 (211). can an autobiographer perform “a sequence of 47 .. his autobiography reveals something more significant in the development of “self-life-writing. However. i. Augustine succeeds in establishing several notable traits that have become family resemblances within works commonly labeled as autobiography. In Confessions. The self that Augustine presents through Confessions and that I describe briefly here represents a benchmark in the development of autobiography. he sets forth a pattern of entrusting the audience to be the measure of the truth: “[I] cannot prove to them that my confessions are true…I shall be believed by those whose ears are opened to me by charity” (208). Augustine understands that the picture of the self that he attempts to capture for the reader is elusive and thus he again places his hopes in God to “not play us false” (211). In doing so. it is in Book X. Augustine asks the questions that still vex the contemporary autobiographer.e. Beyond these easily identifiable traits. he acknowledges a problem that continues to plague autobiography to this date—the elusive nature of the self: “This much I know…at present I am looking at a confused reflection in a mirror” (211). He develops his life story in a chronologically linear way based upon personally selected events and facts from his life from 354 A. however.

In this way. anyone can. Consciously. While a succinct characterization of St. Augustine is as concerned with the present. Augustine does this more or less in Books I-IX. However. eternity” as he is with his past (23-24). an autobiography that many 26 claim invented the modern conception of the self-narrative.symbolic actions through which the ineffable self can be realized?” (Spengemann 32). The text has also served as a traditional example of a monological autobiography. St. perhaps the best place to begin dismantling the automatic assumption of the monological self is precisely with The Confessions of St. confessional autobiographies 27 are particularly well-suited to 48 . he uses the past as a foundation from which to persuade his audience. If he can be converted. St. As a genre. One of the fundamental markers of a social dialogue at work in Confessions runs contrary to the popular perception of St. I would argue that the dialogical nature of autobiography can be witnessed in almost any print autobiography. Augustine. A common trajectory for the life-narrative is to catalogue the past—to move from one point in time in the past to another point in time closer to the present. and “above all. Augustine’s work as a benchmark for contemporary autobiography and problematizes the assumption that autobiography is s Cartesian self-representation. future. Augustine from Confessions may be impossible due in part to both the complexity of his thought and his digressive expository method. but his chronological log of past events is only a part of Confessions. Confessions succeeds as an attempt to provide answers to these questions that confront all of us as we seek our own “true” selves. the autobiographer attempts to conjure a past self in the present moment. As Karl Weintraub notes in The Value of the Individual (1978). He knows his journey is not yet complete.

St. Augustine as confessor writes solely for himself. Since God is omnipresent. there is little doubt that St. He confesses his sins to an omniscient God. Augustine sets out to do many things in Confessions. While the dialogue with his reader may be symbolic in the sense that the audience offers no spoken or written utterance in return. Of course. But the influence of the other upon St. Here. perhaps even disingenuous.exposing the social influences on self-representation through the text. and he spends nearly three books (XI-XIII) discussing the allegory and meaning in the opening lines of Genesis. If St. St. but rather to engage in the act of humbling himself to his creator. 2) he attempts to persuade his audience to seek out God within themselves as the only path to salvation. and if the confession is to God alone. considering God’s omniscience. and 3) he relates selected events from his past to illustrate the depths of his depravity. Among the evidence for the dialogic at work in Confessions is the conversation St. Augustine is engaged in a spiritual dialogue with the Supreme Being. Augustine does much more than this. and disrupt the common assumption of a self-life writer free from social influences. most of them dialogical in nature: 1) he actively confesses to (converses with) God as he writes and does so in the presence of an imagined reader. he believes he 49 . not to inform God of his sinful acts. A confession clearly requires both a confessor and a confessee (recipient of the confession) in order to be complete. Augustine goes far beyond these rather intuitive observations. Augustine has with God. In the main. then nothing is confessed to the other. then it is gratuitous. He spends much of Book V building a case against the Manichees (a legitimate threat to Christianity in his time). I am concerned primarily with the closely related aspects outlined in points 1 and 2 listed above as these activities reveal the strong dialogic tendencies inherent in Confessions.

there is little doubt that St. Augustine attempts to offer a 50 . the nature of St. you have first spoken it to me yourself. Augustine’s words are influenced by his perceptions of his communication with God: I acknowledge that it was by your grace and mercy that you melted away my sins like ice…what man who reflects upon his own weakness can dare to claim that his own efforts have made him chaste and free from sin…there are some who have been called by you and because they have listened to your voice (emphasis mine) they have avoided the sins which I here record and confess for them to read. St. Augustine’s dialogue with God is ambiguous and ultimately unprovable in a literal sense—God acts as a literary trope. however. 45. In this way. but in your presence I tell it to my own kind. The above excerpt also makes clear that he recognizes that his own life story channels God’s voice by encouraging the audience to avoid “the sins which I here record and confess” (51). It is only as they listen and hear God’s voice that they can make a change. For whatever good I may speak to men you have heard it before in my heart. (24. who may perhaps pick up this book. 208) Of course. Nevertheless. my God. (51) St. and whatever good you hear in my heart. Augustine thus shows the audience the futility of “reflecting” upon their sins in solitary isolation without a dialogue with God. to those men. And I tell it so that I and all who read my words may realize the depths from which we are to cry to you….is influenced by God’s utterance as he writes: Help me find the words to explain…I need not tell all this to you.

In this respect. as though it were they who were to cure all the evil that is in me?” (208). and to pray for me. Yet. Peter Brown claims that 51 . When he asks. all who share my joy and all who like me are doomed to die. Augustine of Hippo (1967). when they hear how close I have come to you by your grace. the reader recognizes the question as moot—the book has already been written. (209) St. For instance. I shall tell them what I am. some argue the work is in dialogue with potential readers. Augustine provides the answer to reassure and to persuade the reader that he understands that a confession to God alone will not reach the other. “Why then does it matter to me whether men should hear what I have to confess. when they hear how far I am set apart from you by the burden of my sins? If this is what they wish. Augustine uses the Socratic approach throughout Confessions to emphasize his ongoing dialogue with a personal God as well as to offer anticipatory answers to questions the reader has not yet asked. in St. St. Confessions is a clear manifestation of the author’s enormous ego and a blatant attempt to secure praise from his audience. (210) Some 28 have argued that behind St.path to salvation for would-be readers through his life narrative: But what good do they hope will be done if they listen to what I say? Is it that they wish to join with me in thanking you. Augustine’s transparent claims noted above. He must also write for his fellow “men” [sic]: But I confess not only to you but also to believers among men. whether they have gone before or are still to come or are with me as I make my way through life. all who are my fellows in your kingdom and all who accompany me on this pilgrimage.

The teleological leanings of Confessions are.g. Theresa) which often focused on the literal and metaphorical inspirational journeys of the author. Some 29 even consider Rousseau to be the inaugurator of the modern autobiography. we can only infer meaning. and to interpret the allegory and meaning behind Genesis. and perhaps their comments declare nothing more than the obvious—the autobiographical act is. however. Augustine's dramatis personae in the Confessions is "above all. Rousseau was a solitary original. any attempt to pin down St. apparent. Augustine’s motivation for writing his work is bound to be problematic. Beyond these intentions. essentially. enrich. Book I. and increase the church (body) of Christ. Regardless of his personal intent in writing Confessions.. By initiating a switch from personal religious works (e. the community of believers.e. he rejected the traditional Christian idea that “love of self and self-approval were the root of all evil” (Furbank xvii). i. As we read (in translation) Confessions over sixteen centuries after its original publication. An exercise in self-love that seeks the approval of the other through persuasion is. influenced by the dialogic. Augustine seldom deviates from the social act of attempting to fortify. Augustine’s Confessions” (1998) that St.. Of all the autobiographies generally assumed to be monological. unique 52 . Perhaps Brown and Asher are correct in their assertions. In his own words. an exercise in narcissism. Augustine’s “ego was of remarkable scope and stamina…” (231). Augustine and St. nonetheless. to show the sinful nature of humankind using himself as an example. St. The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau is perhaps in the best position to actually claim this label.St. to combat the flawed teaching of the Manichees. gloriously egocentric" (167) and Lyell Asher notes in “The Dangerous Fruit of St. St. We know his stated intentions: to illustrate the power of divine intervention.

I venture to believe that I am not made like any of those who are in existence. The Problem of Speech Genres 67). He may know his own “heart” as he “knows men. If. “speech is a necessary condition for reflection even in solitude” (Bakhtin.” but he is also acutely aware that he is always writing to be “read” (3). His audience awareness both consciously and unconsciously shapes and directs his choices of what to include as he writes. “‘I was better than that man’” upon finishing the text (3). (3) We can almost imagine Rousseau responding (loudly) with his now famous words in protest toward any claim that he has “no internal sovereign territory” and he is “for another. Rousseau concedes that it takes the other (through the act of reading) to “decide” whether his claims to originality are justified.Myself alone! I know the feelings of my heart. however. and through the other” (Bakhtin. and I know men. As an audience. could not be imitated: I am commencing an undertaking.among his fellow human beings. 53 . and which will never find an imitator…. So concerned is he about the reader’s impressions that he “dares” his audience to say. hitherto without precedent. we are encouraged by Rousseau to accept that these excerpts are written by a self in total isolation—the author alone with his thoughts without the influence of or concern for the other. can only be decided after I have been read” (3). I am not made like any of those I have seen. then Rousseau’s claim is unbalanced by an inherent contradiction that he unwittingly reveals with his own words: “Whether Nature has acted rightly or wrongly in destroying the mould [sic] in which she cast me. Augustine (whom he references through the use of his title) before him. Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics 287). and his work. Like St.

30 in The Confessions of… he feels he must justify his actions to society in a way we do not see in St. Whereas St. if you are guilty. Rousseau confesses to his audience in the hope that they will grant him credit for the “authentic” act of doing so. Augustine. however. or rather. when Rousseau relates the story of Marion. confess it to me. Rousseau’s approach to his autobiography. Though he repeatedly denigrates society and “men” in general throughout his works. he does so with qualification. he attributes blame to those who failed to offer him the “encouragement” he needed to confess: If I had been allowed to recover myself I should have assuredly confessed everything. But. of that I am perfectly certain. For instance. he blames Marion instead of confessing to the theft. I still was 54 . Paradoxically. If M. Augustine’s Confessions. I was little more than a child. which he is confident he already has: “I have little fear of dying without absolution” (91). exhibits a key difference from St. After a relatively worthless red and silver ribbon belonging to the recently deceased Mademoiselle Pontal turns up in Rousseau’s possession. a young girl with whom he was acquainted when he was in the service of Comtesse de Vercellis. Reflecting back on the theft. He desires love. Augustine confesses his sins to become closer to God. they only intimidated me…yet it is only fair to consider my age. but not the love of God.” I should have immediately thrown myself at his feet. he views the disclosure of his sins as a necessarily dialogical act.Rousseau declares that his purpose in “unveiling my inmost self” is to “present myself before the Sovereign Judge with this book in hand” (3). de la Roque had taken me aside and said to me: “Do not ruin this poor girl. when I needed encouragement. In other words. Rousseau wants the love of his fellow human beings.

if only the circumstances were more favorable for him. Rousseau also notes his young age as another extenuating factor for the audience to consider. His choice of details contributes to a lessening of the severity of his actions. the story of the theft of the ribbon serves a clear purpose for Rousseau—to shift the reader’s focus from the victim back to the confessor. In the main. thus. The example of the stolen ribbon demonstrates Rousseau’s stated purpose in writing The Confessions of… is to allow the reader to “know the inmost heart of the man” 55 . Rousseau notes that it is actually he who has suffered the most: If it is a crime that can be expiated. it must be expiated by all the unhappiness which has overwhelmed the last years of my life. In concluding his telling of the theft of the ribbon and subsequently bringing Book II of The Confessions of… to a close. he wronged Marion. He diminishes the importance of the theft by placing it in the context of the recent death of Mademoiselle Pontal (the owner of the stolen ribbon) as well as emphasizing the ribbon’s relative value. Rousseau imagines a sympathetic interlocutor—a reader who accepts his justifications and offers absolution. and poor Marion finds so many avengers in this world. Clearly. as I venture to believe. Rousseau would have done the honorable thing. by forty years of honourable [sic] and upright conduct in difficult circumstances. (91) He claims to have “behaved straightforwardly” in his confession and that “wicked intent was never further from me” (90).one. (91) Rousseau rationalizes as he confesses combining his revelations with self-justification. but his remorse and suffering again challenge the reader to judge him.

to experiment with a unique approach to writing. While St. However. while Stein plays with the idea of an autobiography. Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Despite potential claims to the contrary. there are many dialogical ruptures in the “self” that Rousseau presents. yet also serving as a general model of a great man. His self-portrayal as a unique man is shaped by his impression of himself as a truly original thinker—one who wants to free humanity from the constraints of society. At risk of stating the obvious. and to reflect upon her own genius. and Rousseau typifies an attempt at “authenticity” which readers expect from self-presentation. The Autobiography… is anything but what its title bluntly indicates—it is the work of Stein. it is not a “true” autobiography but rather a stylistic attempt by Stein to emulate the speaking style of her companion. Toklas (1933) would seem at first glance to contradict the audience’s notion of a prototypical autobiography. What action could be more monological than freeing an individual from social constraints? Yet. her exercise in writing actually conforms more 56 . Throughout The Confessions of… there is a constant tension between the opposite driving forces (and often selfish impulses) of being an individual. Augustine’s Confessions establishes what could be considered an archetypal example of what readers have come to expect from an autobiography by demonstrating a linear narrative. 31 In this sense.and to be “thoroughly acquainted with Jean Jacques Rousseau” (339). evidence of a sense of the other permeates Rousseau’s process of self-creation. for example. Contradictions inherent in his writing such as the ribbon incident give us an impression of an outsider who wants to be included in the society he rejects. The self constructed by Rousseau in The Confessions of… uses this tension to establish a dialogue with his audience. for example.

One of the aspects that contributed to her complexity was her “Soliere” complex— her ability to see great genius before anyone else did in art (a notion that she exploited quite often). though her playful imagination and often absurd boasting clouds the audience’s perception of the events in The Autobiography…. however. yet not to be acknowledged for her own “literary prowess. as relayed in the “voice” of Alice B. As she writes in The Autobiography. 33 Saying she possessed an enormous ego is.than it contradicts the audience’s assumptions about autobiography. And. Toklas. Stein worked hard to create the “genius” that she wanted the world to see. too easy a caricature of the complex person she was. For example. 57 .). particularly Hemingway and Joyce. progresses in a chronologically linear way from 1907 through 1932. the three geniuses of whom I wish to speak are Gertrude Stein. Man Ray.” Looking at the list of acknowledged greats that came through her atelier is bound to impress (Picasso.. Rousseau. noted this pronounced dichotomy: This attitude was carried to the extreme regarding other writers—they were all condemned: Hemingway. Pablo Picasso. her narrative. the Surrealists.. the Dadaists. 32 Just as Augustine strove to create the persona of a man awakened to his own spirituality through both his own sinful philandering and the grace of God. the events and characters are nonetheless verifiable. The prominent artist. Joyce. et al. “I may say that only three times in my life have I met a genius and each time a bell within me rang and I was not mistaken .. she seemed to recoil with bitterness from those she saw as usurping her right to recognized literary greatness.. Matisse. and Alfred Whitehead” (Stein 5).. yet in the tradition of letters. the year she submitted the manuscript for publication. Cézanne.

While most who visited her knew of “her great book” (Three Lives) as she often referred to it. all her unpublished manuscripts. et al. she was aware of how her failure to publish affected her: “Gertrude Stein was in those days a little bitter. In Simon. her friends. though not completely unacknowledged.. (as qtd. her enemies. as real as it is invented— certainly not an uncommon proposition among artists of the past and present. Throughout The Autobiography…. 34 Accordingly. Perhaps this punctuated envy. and no hope of publication or serious recognition” (Stein 197). her boasting often cloaked her frustration (Stein 56). a look beyond the surface of some of Stein's more boastful examples of self-promotion and bravado in The Autobiography. Stein’s frustration as a writer was paramount to understanding her both as she saw herself and as others saw her. Gertrude Stein Remembered 90-91) While she never admitted to any frustration caused by other writers’ fame. her work reveals a creation of self. as time has borne out. and promoting her genius-recognizing (emphasis mine) abilities. In this sense. transforming her place in the world.. For instance.” they felt her compelling enough to write at great lengths about her.with herself as the pioneer. Clearly.. contributed to her exaggerated sense of her own importance to the twentieth-century literary tradition. Her bitterness really showed up when the others got universal attention before she did. reveals a clear desire to reinvent herself by cloaking her past insecurities about her writing. feigned indifference or simply went along with the “Gertrude Stein Show. a similar truth is exposed—whether her visitors despised her. when juxtaposed with the diverse picture created in the collage of biographical sketches by her acquaintances. But her greatness is. worshipped her. she incessantly refers to both The Making 58 .

209). (Stein 216217) Stein believed that Hemingway could imitate her style as a “pupil. but alas he never will. At times.g.. she constantly discussed her influence. To compensate for this inability to achieve what she felt was deserved recognition. It was Hemingway who enjoyed the greater fame—to which Stein could only comment about how commercial Hemingway had become. a weakness…and that is Hemingway... and if no one else would tell the world. are when she attacks her past “friends:” Hemmingway was yellow…he is…a pupil who does it without understanding it. she would.” but that he did not understand it (216). She saw herself as the harbinger of the twentieth-century moderns.. and one he should tell himself. more fluid. “[S]he wrote the poetry that has so greatly influenced the younger generation” and made exaggerated claims about her literary predecessors. however. “I hate to look at Who’s Who in America [sic]. but to the novice reader it seems clear that Hemingway’s craft is much more polished. much like Rousseau. it seems Stein realized her vulnerability to her desires.. e. Investigation of his style does point toward some commonalities between the two authors. Stein offers the reader has a glimpse of the envy behind her words and thus a glimpse of a self that. desired social acceptance.of Americans and Three Lives as if trying to give the books the significance she thought was lacking.. “[T]he work of Henry James whom she considers quite definitely as her forerunner. when I see all those insignificant people and Gertrude’s name not in” (194-195). By doing so... Some of the most telling moments. She notes in The Autobiography. When her fame 59 ..” (Stein 78. But what a story that of the real Hem. e. however. he looks like a modern and he smells of the museums.g.

Hemingway notes that she was always a legend in her own narrative and that fame. and when any of one of the many visitors came to ask her a question she lifted herself up out of this chair and usually replied in french [sic]. Stein writes. she tries to portray herself as the humble observer who calmly receives visitors who offer her praise and ask for advice. as noted in Linda Simon’s Gertrude Stein Remembered. While many of the visitors to her atelier acknowledged her intellectual and artistic capacities. Hemingway mocked her literary pretensions 35 noting that every writer she dismissed was only dismissed for his character traits rather than his work (Hobhouse 167). stressing her nonchalant attitude towards the attention: “And everybody came and no one made any difference..finally arrives. as she chastised others for pursuing it... was an ultimate goal of hers.. Even 60 . At the beginning of The Autobiography. not once in twenty separate memoirs 36 does anyone portray her as “peaceful. except a french [sic] translation of the Ten Portraits [sic]. which was a matter of habit.(9). Perhaps surprisingly. Stein is clearly jubilant: “She had never seen a book of hers in a bookstore window before. this “childish delight” came as no surprise (243).. According to various testimonial accounts of those who were present at Stein’s salon during this period...This event gave Gertrude Stein a childish delight amounting almost to ecstasy” (243). In fact. Gertrude Stein sat peacefully in a chair and those who could did the same…” (124). Miss Stein sat near the stove in a lovely high-backed one and she peacefully let her legs hang. She reaffirms this image continually. many of her prominent guests in their memoirs remarked about her cantankerous nature and her violent temper.” calm and elegant.

a vacuum for attention and adulation. Confessions and autobiography in general. The persona of Gertrude Stein was a creation of Gertrude Stein—a symbolic representation of her “true” self. matriarch to the Parisian artists. part fiction. claimed.” she would be a matriarch to the artists and their craft—creating fertile ground for them to flourish at 27 rue de Fleures (Stein 81). Herein lies a family resemblance shared among The Autobiography…. Gertrude Stein: A Composite Portrait 28).). was successful in conveying a specific and likely “authentic truth 37 about Stein. Stein needed to be recognized as the discoverer of original talent. and the arbiter of a new style of writing. when writing her memoirs after Gertrude Stein’s death. the molder of that talent.Alice herself. If she would not be a wife and could not be a doctor because of “boredom. she was the story herself—part truth. 2) Stein found it necessary to “correct” an image she was aware of. part fantasy. etc. She was a frustrated author who wanted to see her book in the window.. Whichever possibility is the most accurate and whatever the element(s) of Stein’s persona embraced by the reader (aspiring writer. This pronounced dichotomy (one of many) between Stein’s view of herself and the view others have of her presents three possibilities of interpretation: 1) Stein wasn’t aware that others (including her partner) saw her in this way. “She was a vengeful goddess and I was afraid. frustrated genius. Just as Augustine needed to be recognized as a man who has accepted his God after much inner turmoil and external sin. it seems apparent that The Autobiography. I did not know what had happened or what was going to happen” (Simon. The untold story of her motivations provides an undercurrent of her “self” that the reader can access through her 61 . or 3) the others misinterpreted her demeanor and actions and were thus incorrect in their assessment of her character..

An enormous commercial and critical success. I Know…exhibits all the family resemblances of autobiography readers have come to expect. Rousseau. The Confessions of….e.. Angelou’s struggle with her identity in I Know Why… is both personal and consciously allegorical. i. As with In contrast to Stein’s posturing. She constructs her life-story up to the age of 16 instilling her 16 year-old self with the authority and presence of a much older woman (Angelou was approaching 40 when she began writing I Know Why…). pain. a chronologically progressive narrative based an actual events in the author’s life. Angelou clearly disagrees with the characterization of her work as a literary-novel and considers I Know… to be a genuine attempt to reveal the self of her childhood and adolescence. Her past self is charged with the anger. and The Autobiography…. i. not an 62 . bitterness. the general absence of any popular autobiographies from the perspective of African-American women. she did so reluctantly.. Angelou with the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). when Maya Angelou set out to write her autobiography.e. Another friend called Random House to suggest that Angelou's story would make a good autobiography and fill a vacuum in the genre. wisdom. paid off for Ms. joy. I Know… is considered by some to be a literary novel—not an autobiography. and tolerance of a woman of experience. And while Angelou’s narrative is unique. The persistence of her friends. of course. and Stein. her “path” to a symbolic truth shares similarities with both Augustine. A friend at a dinner party in New York City insisted that Angelou write about her childhood and adolescent experiences. Though she acknowledges the difficulty of keeping her voice consistent with the time represented in her autobiography.

the process of relaying her story transforms Angelou’s autobiography into an exercise in group identity—an inherently social act. In a manner reminiscent of the theft of the pears in Confessions. Angelou uses “personal history as an illustration of the troubles of an entire community” to “universalize in a socialist sense” the experience of “group identity” (Watts 125). Watt’s use of the term “universal” is certainly problematic for its limiting tendencies. First. Preparing for Easter Sunday services at church. she eyes the “once-was-purple throwaway” (2) dress that she believes will help her emerge from her black skin as a white girl. As Jane Watts 38 notes in Black Writers from South Africa (1989). In the first chapter of I Know…. Angelou uses her agency to represent the plight of young. Southern black women (particularly those who are painfully aware of their predicament as the “other”) before the age of desegregation and civil rights ushered in by Brown v. it allows her to channel the voice of the Southern black woman.. she speaks dialogically for the other to the other. it allows her to speak to the other (i. but her emphasis on the social nature of the “I” as it relates to the conditions of the “Other” is relevant for detecting dialogical elements in I Know Why…. Angelou introduces the reader to a girl struggling both with her appearance and with her racial identity. In short. Board of Education and Rosa Parks. it serves at least two purposes. Second.e.“innocent” teenager. For Angelou. a white audience) that she envisions as tolerant and understanding. Angelou skillfully uses this opening segment to present the audience with the beginnings of a metaphor that will be threaded through her autobiography: I knew that once I put it on I’d look like a movie star…I was going to look like one of the sweet little white girls who were everybody’s dream of 63 . as previously mentioned.

and my real hair. like Augustine before her. would take the place of the kinky mass that Momma wouldn’t let me straighten?. she uses this metaphor early in her autobiography to foreshadow events that will occur much later in her narrative—particularly the birth of her son. Angelou’s wish for acceptance through physical transformation rather than spiritual and emotional transformation shows that she has yet to go through the process necessary to discover her true self—one that can only come through experience. and black 64 .what was right with the world. so too does Angelou’s Easter Sunday experience indicate the transformation she must yet undergo in relation to the story of Christ’s resurrection. She conspicuously avoids referring to herself instead choosing to refer to the “Southern Black girl”—a pattern that Angelou will reiterate throughout her autobiography. Just as the theft of the pears reveals the depths of Augustine’s distance from God and acts as metaphor referring to the fall in the Garden of Eden. Angelou positions herself metaphorically among her peers searching for their identity in a world which places many limits upon them: “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl.Because I was really white (1-2).. yet imaginary.Wouldn’t they be surprised when one day I woke out of my black ugly dream. being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat” (3).. which was long and blond. white prejudice. physical metamorphosis in conjunction with the story of the resurrection of Christ. From the opening pages of I Know Why….. By placing this introductory “dress” story of her ideal. The image of a rusty razor at the throat of a generic black female prepares the reader for vivid descriptions of what Angelou calls the “tripartite” of forces (misogyny. And..

(87) In the selection above. she continues this dialogical pattern when she moves from generalized descriptions of Southern black girls to the conditions of black women in the South as mothers: The Black woman in the South who raises sons. her agency acts as a social voice for the oppressed not the individual voice of the self.e. She quickly. The use of the phrases “The Black woman” and “Southern Blacks” testify to Angelou’s dialogic self-construction. For example. While the imagined gallery of the other behind her nods in agreement. grandsons and nephews had her heartstrings tied to a hanging noose. when describing the deplorable educational conditions of “Negro girls in the South.” we can imagine a gallery of the other (i. Southern Blacks until the present generation could be counted among America’s arch conservatives. the white audience in front of her visualizes a portrait of a place and time that transcends the monological presence of the author. she forgoes the use of “we” in this excerpt. Southern black women) behind her nodding in collective agreement with Angelou’s description: [N]egro girls in small Southern towns. learning the mid-Victorian values with very little money to indulge them. For this reason. This exclusion hints to a more authoritative tone. reverts 65 . Angelou also makes it clear that she is speaking to her interlocutor. Later in I Know Why…. whether poverty-stricken or just munching along on a few of life’s necessities were given extensive and irrelevant preparations for adulthood…we were lagging behind. Notably..powerlessness) which colluded against all black women in 1930s and 1940s’ America (231). (95) Again. Any break from routine may herald for them unbearable news. however.

have made her more determined than ever—a determination she shares with other black women whose lives are also defined by hardship.. and most importantly..” Her struggles of self-identity are absorbed in the greater struggles of the collective other as they are set in opposition to the difference of the other. being “renamed” by a white woman. It was brutal to be young and already trained to sit quietly and listen to charges brought against my color with no chance of defense. i. (153) Relating her pain to that of all blacks. she achieves a remarkable measure of success—she becomes the first black 66 . living in the junkyard.. In this short chapter. These same the first person when referencing the other for whom she speaks: It was awful to be Negro and have no control over my life. getting molested. Mrs. being raped. however. herself. which refers directly to the knowledge that she shares with those like her who suffer or those who are oppressed. Angelou offers hope through the stories of many strong black women. I thought I should like to see us (emphasis mine) all dead. moving at least eight times before the age of sixteen. she knowingly moves from the singular “my” to the collective “we. e. etc. one on top of the other. This determination is particularly pronounced in Chapter 34. it is also a deliberately communal as is evident in her title. have made her feel both displaced and older than her years. In juxtaposition to the powerful forces set against the black woman. particularly those who are painfully aware of their predicament. Vivian Baxter. The metaphor represents the plight of southern black girls in general. Her numerous difficult experiences.g. While Angelou’s struggle with her identity in I Know… is personal.e. Bertha Flowers. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. We should all be dead. Momma.

who is white. Because Angelou has never had an experience with anyone like Miss Kirwin.conductor on the San Francisco streetcars (229). they are “survivors and deserve respect” (231). Angelou has an educational and emotional experience that opens her mind. she couples her success with that of black women as a whole. Used to adults (black and white) who condescend to children. moments in I Know…takes place before her employment success as a conductor in San Francisco. Her suffering. For the first time in her life. perversely) what give black women their strength of character—in her own words. greets each class with “Good day. Angelou is shocked when Miss Kirwin. Reflecting on a visit to Miss Kirwin as an adult with a modicum of fame. She comes to the realization that the powers aligned to prevent black women from moving forward are conversely (perhaps. Attending George Washington High School in San Francisco. is again placed in the context of many others. 67 . First. Perhaps one of the most revealing. In Chapter 27. Her interaction with Miss Kirwin reveals several truths about Angelou to the reader. ladies and gentlemen” and refers to her as “Miss Johnson” (183). associated with being black and female in America. she cannot understand how Miss Kirwin does not “seem to notice” that she is black. Now. actually inspires Angelou to learn more. Miss Kirwin’s clinical and methodical approach to learning. one devoid of sentiment or emotion. these passages allow the reader to see Angelou losing a bit of her absolute views about race in general and white people specifically. Again. however. she is enrolled in a “real school” where she meets a “rare educator” (Miss Kirwin) who is in “love with information” (182). the threat of the “razor” is not quite as ominous. Angelou wonders “if she knew she was the only teacher I remembered” (184). yet often overlooked.

The process of Angelou’s spiritual and emotional growth through personal experience begun in Chapter 1 of I Know…. Kirwin serves both as a catalyst to motivate Angelou to change. Third. culminates in Chapters 35-36. This harsh reality pushes her to accept this fact that she “had to be certain about all my facts before I dared to call attention to myself” (182). etc. I plunged. insecure about her sexuality and questioning her sexual orientation. Kirwin’s class shows her that she is far from “the most brilliant or even nearly the most brilliant student” (182). Angelou. drama. ‘Would you like to have a sexual intercourse with me?’” (239). and so necessary to the development of the self she presents. determines the best way to prove to herself that she is not a lesbian—sleep with a man: “I planned a chart for seduction with surprise as my opening ploy… I put the plan into action. Angelou introduces a transforming figure (Mrs. this exposure leads her to embrace education on a deeper level. dance. Second.she is exposed to someone who does not call attention to her color in either a positive or a negative way. Kirwin) who illuminates certain weaknesses in the character of the self being presented. the “brother [she] had chosen” was gone and she was pregnant. her interactions with Miss Kirwin serve as a catalyst stimulating her curiosity about the world and motivating her to expand her knowledge though new experiences. Like Rousseau and Augustine before her. and as a literary device within the narrative that illustrates the further development of the self Angelou presents. Once sex was consummated. While Angelou’s description of the moments before the sexual act and the act itself present the audience with the usual humor and candor typical of much of Angelou’s writing. Only 16 years old. this brief interlude serves mostly to introduce her “immaculate pregnancy” (245) 68 .

g. “For eons.g.and new son—seminal events that Angelou uses to offer her audience a sense of closure. e. Angelou presents us with a mother-to-be going through the usual physical transformations. Like Augustine. how will this naïve and frightened young girl face the enormous task of raising another human being? As a reader. Rousseau and Stein before her. sentimentalizes... like Augustine. like pancakes fried on an unoiled skillet” (242). “I grew more buxom. the symbolic self created from her imperfect memory represents a truth about the 69 . exaggerates. If we remind ourselves at the end that the subject is 16 and not 40. Yet. As an autobiographical subject. however. but this time I had to face the fact that I had brought my new catastrophe upon myself” (241). In juxtaposition to her external. And again. she has much of her life ahead of her (she is only 16). e. and Stein before her. She editorializes.. embellishes. we might be left to wonder. it is tempting to forget that it is the adult version of Maya Angelou presenting us with a confident persona who has the strength to overcome difficulties and realize her full potential. Angelou creates her persona from the privileged position of the present tense. is no indication of the legitimacy or the illegitimacy of the version presented in I Know….. She must put another human being before herself. put-upon victim of fate and the Furies. and a more self-reflective and maturing young woman. Rousseau. and my brown skin smoothed and tightpored. I had accepted my plight as the hapless. it seemed. the audience has the impression that she is a fully-formed self at the conclusion of I Know. physical transformation at the beginning of I Know… on Easter Sunday.. omits. The “lapse” between her present and past selves. The eventual birth of her son symbolizes her development into a young woman—she understands she can no longer be self-absorbed and childish. etc.

however. autobiography (as a written representation of an individual life) enjoys a continuing popularity across social demographics.e. “listen closely. and The Autobiography of…. As each author dealt with the respective social and ideological influences of the era in which they respectively lived (i. is always conscious that she is part of a community of the outsiders (“we”). to a lesser degree). The self that Rousseau attempts to construct in The Confessions of… is essentially that of an isolated individual constrained by the oppositional forces of society—“Myself alone!” (3). A glance at The New York Times Best Seller list quickly reveals the continuing attractiveness of the genre to readers. The Confessions of….. She seems to say. Among these institutions. takes the dialogical relationship to a different level. and Stein [the Modernism of the post WWI period]). Despite these significant influences. however. I Know Why… exhibits similar tensions between the individual and society witnessed in Confessions. Rousseau [the Enlightenment]. African-American scholars would also correctly note that Augustine and Rousseau wrote from a position of power as part of an intellectual and social elite—a status not possible for Angelou (or Angelou reflected upon her past self through the microscope of a contemporary social context that signified her status as the other—her place as a black woman in the South after the Civil Rights Movement. her story intentionally resembles the story of many other young black women during this time. Angelou. for what I relate here is not only my story—it is the story of all southern black girls. Angelou. 70 . and while her path may be unique. I speak for you and with you” The history of the West privileges the concept of the individual (a self unique among others) as central to the development of many of its contemporary institutions. Augustine [the growing power of Christianity].

and rap music and film star.Authors including tennis great. have all recently penned their “lives” for public consumption. language is never completely personal— never for the individual alone. international soccer star. I have provided evidence of the dialogical essence of historical print autobiographies through the use of excerpts from four representative works. it is because of the supremacy of the individual in Western culture that boundaries between the self and the social have been confused and conflated. As Bakhtin illustrates. 71 . the medium (language) by which these individuals communicate their self-representation is always social. In this chapter. In Chapter Three. Conceivably. David Beckham. whether written or spoken. Though often interpreted as an individual endeavor. my hope is to illustrate how the subtle dialogic leanings evident in print autobiography become considerably more conspicuous in hypertext media. Language serves one purpose—to communicate from one to another. Andre Agassi. Queen Latifah.

Writing Space In Chapter Three. Hypertext 3. Landow. In order to demonstrate how these features transform the text.. In The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962). McLuhan’s protégé and eventual critic. there is no reason to give it the same conceptual unity as the printed book…. augmentation (editing and revising capabilities). textual. I examine two digital hypertext versions of a traditional print autobiography. and searchable databases. I contend that the medium of hypertext has introduced features that have the potential to alter the relationship between the author and the audience. meticulously detailed by Elizabeth Eisenstein in The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (1980). And the shift from the handwritten manuscripts of the Middle Ages to the mechanically produced printed books of the fifteenth century. effected widespread cultural changes 72 .. Augustine’s Confessions. audio and visual capabilities (hypermedia options).0 An electronic text is not a physical artifact.CHAPTER THREE: TECHNOLOGICAL TRANSFORMATIONS OF THE TEXT In some distant. asynchronous and synchronous communication. noted in Orality and Literacy (1982). St. and speech affects the expression of thought through language. Jay David Bolter. These features include but are not limited to linking (hyperlinking). Walter Ong. Marshall McLuhan observed that every communication medium or technology including alphabets. future all individual texts will electronically link to one another. printing presses.. or not-so-distant. George P. the transformation from speech to writing that took place several thousand years ago removed text from the world of sound and “reconstituted the originally oral spoken word in visual space” (121).

but the literacy of print. according to Jay David Bolter among others. for electronic technology offers us a new kind of book and new ways to write and read…. is already finished as a primary form of media—it has been replaced by electronic writing which alters the relationship between the writer and the audience: Print will no longer define the organization and presentation of knowledge. As language gravitated first from the spoken word to crude stone tablets. from stone tablets to papyrus scrolls. What will be lost is not literacy itself. and eventually from codex manuscript to the printed book. The migration of text from print to a digital format is the latest of these textual transformations. (Writing Space 2-3) In other words. the accumulation of information.including the preservation of knowledge. from papyrus scrolls to the handwritten codex. he notes. technological transformations of text are not new phenomena exclusive to the current age of digital media. and the widespread dissemination of ideas in a cheap and efficient manner. Bolter claims that literacy itself will be redefined by the transformation of text from print to digital media. as it has for the past five centuries…. Electronic writing emphasizes the impermanence and changeability of text. Digital media. and it tends to reduce the distance between author and reader by turning the reader into an author. Print. Certainly. each successive “technologizing” 39 of the word altered the relationship between the speaker (writer) and the audience (reader). What was formally an active event (reading) becomes a reactive one (responding). privileges a different type of relationship between the writer and the reader—one that anticipates writer-reader 73 .

interaction. While the replacement of print by digital media may be the next evolutionary step, this step is different as Kathleen Blake Yancey 40 argues. The blurring of readerauthor roles as digital media replace (and displace) print that Bolter describes is further complicated by a disconnect that exists between how writing is taught at the university and how it is practiced in the public forum. Yancey argues that this moment in time is unparalleled in the history of writing: “Never before have the technologies of writing contributed so quickly to the creation of new genres…never before has the proliferation of writings outside the academy so counterpointed the composition inside” (298). As with previous technological developments that affect communication, the movement from printed to digital media has and will continue to have myriad effects upon the language and culture. Because our proximity is close to the current and ongoing shift to digital media, many of the resulting cultural effects of the shift cannot yet be perceived or properly analyzed, though Bolter, Yancey, George Landow, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Kathleen Hayles, et al. have certainly established a strong base by theorizing the effects of digital technology on literacy. I do not attempt here to catalogue or analyze all the various ethnological (i.e., cultural) effects of technology. Instead, this chapter provides the following: 1) a brief overview of the historical developments in technology that made digital media (e.g., streaming video, synchronous communication, et. al) possible, 2) definitions of and elaboration on the features of digital hypertexts, 3) a short examination of two digital versions of a traditional print autobiography, and 4) speculation about what the changing relationship between the writer and the reader might mean for hypertext autobiography. This knowledge base allows us to approach online autobiography with


some fundamental principles and potentialities of digital media in mind. Understanding these fundamentals is crucial to theorizing how the digital writer presents a “self” to an audience and how the audience can potentially read, interpret, react, and affect the self presented by the writer.

Origins of Digital Hypertext: From Theoretical Abstraction to Operational Computer Program Over 60 years ago a well-known scientist and electrical engineer, Vannevar Bush, came up with a remarkable idea while working with various US government agencies. In a 1945 41 article (“As We May Think”) published in the Atlantic Monthly, Bush proposed the creation of a device he called the “Memex.” This microfilm-based device was designed to allow an individual to store personal information (e.g., books, recordings, images, communication, et. al.) in a mechanized manner that would make data easily accessible to the individual and, if so desired, to the greater society. Bush asserted that the system of related links in the Memex was a much closer approximation to how we write and how we read in a natural state. His assertion was based on the intuitive observation that we do not think in a linear fashion. The human brain, he concluded, does “[n]ot work that way. It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain” (Bush 32). Thus, according to Bush, in both the reading and writing of text we digress, we welcome diversion, and we are affected by the involuntary synaptic connections in our brains. Perhaps, as Bush implies, “digress” and “diversion” are not even appropriate terms. If all associations are


systematic in the brain, a linear way of thinking would be a deviation or “diversion” from the norm. Thus, Bush’s Memex rejects some linear organizing principles, e.g., alphabetizing, chronology, et al. as absolutes. Though never created, Bush’s Memex established a base of ideas essential to the future development of hypertext and the Internet. 42 Extending Bush’s conceptualization of an associative method of connecting divergent texts, Theodor H. Nelson set out to create a working version of a Memex-type program in the early 1960s. It is difficult to define hypertext without first considering the Nelson’s pioneering work, Literary Machines (1981). 43 In Literary Machines, Nelson defines hypertext 44 as “non-sequential writing—text that branches and allows choices for the reader, best read at an interactive screen. As popularly conceived, this is a series of text chunks connected by links which offer the reader different pathways” (2). While Nelson clearly relies upon Bush’s ideas in “As We May Think,” he was the first to coin the term hypertext and the first to attempt to create a literal, working version of hypertext by founding Project Xanadu in 1960. Project Xanadu was Nelson’s attempt to construct a version of Bush’s Memex by establishing a computer network with a user-interface that would allow users to transmit information electronically over long distances. In addition, Nelson’s Project Xanadu could utilize a hypertext-like database from which the user could link multiple, divergent files. Though Nelson’s Project Xanadu took 38 years to be released (and then only in an incomplete form of the planned computer program), it was the first literal realization of the concept of hypertext. Around the same period of time that Nelson was developing Project Xanadu in the 1960s, the United States military was also developing a system of exchanging


information electronically. The system they created in conjunction with Bell Labs and other research agencies was called the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). A precursor to the Internet, by the early 1970s ARPANET provided many of the digital services that are now in commonplace public use including email, voice traffic, and file transfers. However, as revolutionary as ARPANET was, it was closed to general public access and designed for a technical audience. Specifically, it was designed during the Cold War to allow scientists at research universities and think tanks to communicate quickly and easily across great distances. Moreover, it lacked Nelson’s implementation of hypertext as an organizing principle in digital communication. Almost two decades later, Tim Berners-Lee created the first true “web” browser (World Wide Web or www)—an Internet-based hypermedia format designed to facilitate global information sharing. Berners-Lee’s invention was instrumental in removing the Internet from military control (ARPANET) and placing it at the public’s fingertips. The user-friendly system allowed for the use of embedded hyperlinks and largely employed the theoretical concept of the Memex articulated by Bush in “As We May Think.” The World Wide Web allowed websites to make use of a “hosting” system where the core or main website employed a label or domain name that utilized the prefix “www” before its Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or its Internet “address.” The www prefix allowed the user entry into the Internet and when combined with the URL the user could view a “homesite” or a source’s main website. A further system of organization was provided by the addition of a suffix (e.g., .gov, .edu, .com, et al.) at the end of the web address that identified the type of institution being accessed. By simply changing the Internet domain name (the word or phrase between the prefix and suffix) and the suffix and keeping the


www prefix, the user could quickly access any organization or individual that established a URL or web address. All that was needed to use the World Wide Web was a computer with an active modem and a telephone line to access a URL from anywhere at any time. With the invention of the World Wide Web, digital communication became a reality for mainstream users and hypertext entered into common usage. In recent history, Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web has been retroactively renamed “Web 1.0.” The moniker is supposed to highlight the differences between the pre “dotcom bubble” version of the Internet that existed prior to 2001 and the current “Web 2.0” version of the Internet that came into use after 2001. Darcy DiNucci coined the term Web 2.0 in 1999 and wrote in glowing terms of its potential: The web will be understood not as screenfuls of text and graphics but as a transport mechanism, the ether through which interactivity happens. It will still appear on your computer screen transformed by the video and other dynamic media made possible by the speedy connection technologies now coming down the pike. It will also appear, in different guises, on your TV set (interactive content woven seamlessly into programming and commercials), your car dashboard (maps, yellow pages, and other traveler info), your cell phone (news, stock quotes, flight info), hand-held game machines (linking players with competitors over the Net), maybe even your microwave oven (automatically finding cooking times for the latest products)…. The lesson is inescapable: Web development— Web design, programming, and production—will split into fragments mirroring the fragmented Web appliance scene. (32)


DiNucci’s words describe several fundamental differences between Web 2.0 and Web 1.0. For instance, while Web 1.0 was about static content delivery primarily through text and simple graphics, Web 2.0 would be dynamic and multimodal. Animation, video and audio options would now be possible. Web 2.0 would be released from its place on the desktop computer and become accessible through mobile devices expanding the frequency and quantity of electronic transmissions. Moreover, whereas Web 1.0 mostly mimicked the top-down hierarchal, one-way transmission of information employed by broadcast communication media including newspapers, radio, and television, Web 2.0 would encourage sharing by the information users as well as the traditional producers of information. Content could now be created by the user because of the expanded interactive communication options, i.e., blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, social-networking sites, et al. 45 Modification of existing content created by others (an option typically not possible in Web 1.0 personal websites) is essential to the function of certain Web 2.0 staples, particularly wikis. Of course, all of the Web 2.0 features DeNucci lists are now common, but the moniker Web 2.0 is, perhaps, confusing and misleading. Web 2.0 is not a new version of a computer program as the “2.0” implies. Rather, Web 2.0 is a term describing a cultural shift. Berners-Lee himself pejoratively refers to the term as a “piece of jargon…nobody really knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that is what the Web was supposed to be all along” (“Podcast Interviews”). Regardless of its accuracy as a defining term, Web 2.0 symbolizes an important shift in the development of the technology of the Internet. It represents increases in bandwidth, program availability, multimedia options, user-friendly websites, as well as the number of


0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization (1992) 46 . George P. Romantic sense of an individual creator without outside influence. In his canonical work. Landow notes the unique merging of literary critical theory and computer software design. i. the codes it mobilizes extend as far as the eye can reach. they are indeterminable. we gain access to it by several entrances.” and whether or not a text could be said to have an “author” in the historical. Barthes outlines his vision for an ideal form of text that is remarkably similar to Bush’s Memex and Nelson’s Project Xanadu: In this ideal text the networks are many and interact. several critical theorists explored related ideas about textual design. without any one of them being able to surpass the rest. not a structure of signifieds.the technologically savvy Internet users. Web 2.. Hypertext 2. (Barthes 5-6) Landow notes that Barthes “precisely matches that which has come to be called computer 80 . The structure and delivery mechanisms were not the only source of debate.0.e. it is reversible. it has no beginning. in essence. Michel Foucault. In S/Z. can be considered the realization of Bush’s Memex. none of which can be authoritatively declared the main one. A decade or so after Nelson began work on Project Xanadu and just a few years after Berners-Lee released the World Wide Web. what it meant to call something a “text. Theorists as diverse as Roland Barthes. and Jacques Derrida questioned conventional notions of boundaries between texts. Barthes was particularly concerned with an ideal text that might allow the reader to engage a text in a way that was more organic. this text is a galaxy of signifiers. that was much closer to the way our brains make connections between various bits of stored information.

g. Hypertext 3.hypertext—text composed of blocks of words (or images) linked electronically by multiple paths.g.0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization. a born-digital text created in HTML coded hypertext). Noting the relative ease with which various forms of media merge in online environments. a printed text that is transferred [scanned] to a PDF file and becomes digital) and a decentered text (e.. or trails in an open-ended.. Hypertext restructures our conceptualization of how a text should progress. is replaced with a type of de-centered text identified by Derrida in Of Grammatology. according to Landow. p. 47 Figure 1. Landow further builds upon Bush’s Memex and Nelson’s definition of hypertext by including Figure 1: Axial versus network structure in hypertext Source: Landow. chains. perpetually unfinished textuality” (2).0 illustrates the differences between a linear text (e. 71 81 . Linearity.

et al: [H]ypertext… links one passage of verbal discourse to images. even axiomatic.. animation. hypertext 48 allows the writer to join separate written texts. audio. animation. e. Perhaps because of our general understanding of hypertext as well as the ubiquitous public use of the Internet. maps. web addresses) in this brief history of the development of hypertext and of the Internet might seem elements beyond written text. For the purposes of this study.” (3) The presence of these interactive links is also often associated with the cultural shift from Web 1. I employ a definition of hypertext based upon Landow’s classification. audio.0.g. diagrams. Yet.. research topics that might seem exhausted may upon further review reveal enormous gaps in academic scholarship: What were some of the most important consequences of the shift from script to print? Anticipating a strenuous effort to master a large and 82 . video.g. As Elizabeth Eisenstein aptly noted when undertaking an exploration of the effects of the printing press upon fifteenth-century European culture in The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (1980). video. Simply put. commonplace use of a new communication technology does not indicate a commonplace understanding of its origins or the developing ramifications of such technology—nor does the level of a new technology’s penetration into a culture point toward a level of scholarly inquiry worthy of such a seismic shift. and sound as easily as to another verbal passage—[thus] Hypertext denotes an information medium that links verbal and non-verbal information. and other forms of media through the use of hyperlinks (links). images.0 to Web 2. some of the elements described (e.

or even sizeable article which attempted to survey the consequences of the fifteenth-century communication shift. it is difficult to objectively analyze technological change as it happens: I am keenly aware that I am myself involved in the technological civilization. Yet. and the method objective. I began to investigate what had been written on this obviously important subject. I may be compared rather with a physician or physicist who is describing a group situation in which he [sic] is himself [sic] involved. Indeed. have discussed how the text has been transformed by new media and what this transformation might signify for society. the physicist exposed to radioactivity: in such situations the mind may remain cold and lucid. To be certain. and that its history is also my own. …there was not even a small literature available for consultation. (xi) Of course. Bolter. The aforementioned authors Landow. I could not find a single book. we are “involved in the technological civilization” facilitated in part by the expansion of digital media. (xxvii) Like Ellul. The physician in an epidemic. but there is inevitably a profound tension of the whole being. neither the brief history of the Internet provided on these pages nor a foundational definition of hypertext is sufficient to grasp how 83 . the literature covering the more recent shift from print media to digital media is a bit more comprehensive than Eisenstein encountered in her research on the history of print (though much of it is celebratory in nature 49 ). as Jacques Ellul notes in the foreword to The Technological Society. And there is an undeniable tension as text undergoes this mammoth transformation.. et al.mushrooming literature.

Prominent technological features of hypertext include. These examples will help illustrate how 84 . 5. but I believe these features have the most significant effects on the relationship between the writer and the audience. I offer brief. but are not limited to linking (hyperlinking). augmentation (editing and revising capabilities). textual. Definitions of the associated terminology and its technological applications will be key to my analysis in this chapter and in my analysis of the evolution of autobiographical websites in chapters 4. and more generally. A review of these characteristics provides an idea of the qualities that may affect the construction and delivery of a text as a device for self-representation. this list is neither exhaustive nor complete. and searchable databases. fundamental definitions of selected hypertext features to provide a guide to understanding the technological terminology. Since I previously examined a printed version of St. Features of Hypertext: Hypertext offers many features that differentiate it from print media in observable ways. it is necessary to review the various qualities of hypertext as they are applied in digital texts. self-representation. asynchronous and synchronous communication. audio and visual capabilities (hypermedia options). In order to understand how technology has transformed the concept of a text.autobiography. Augustine’s Confessions in Chapter 2. I will provide examples from generalized digitized versions of this text for the sake of continuity. is affected by this relatively new medium. These attributes primarily affect the way the author creates her text and the reader (viewer) engages the text. and 6. Of course. Before examining how the various hypertext qualities affect both the literal format of the book as well as the idea of what it means to call something a text.

1480). Linking also provides the ability to connect to media other than texts. Augustine’s Confessions. Sir Ian Murray McKellen. Book 1. Verse 3. Links can be single-directional or bi-directional. for instance. an image of Augustine as depicted by Botticelli (c. Links can provide the ability of the reader to leave a text entirely. Links or hyperlinks are digital connections between texts. Linking (hyperlinking) Linking. Chapter 1. 50 A bi-directional link allows the user to easily go back to their original location in the text (or move to a new 85 . Augustine was using in a particular book and chapter. For example. the user would not be able to return to the main text of Confessions without using the web browser back button or the “history” application located in the browser’s pull-down menu. an audio reading of a passage from Confessions by the acclaimed English actor.hypertext features are applied in some digital texts while presenting a useful contrast to the printed version. Chapter 145. if the user accessing the online version of Confessions clicked on a link referencing a biblical verse St. could link to a map of his home town (Thagaste) in present day Algeria. which also contained a highlighted link. in a hypertext format and came across a reference to biblical book of Psalms. For example. if the reader was reading St. so the text of St. Moreover. is arguably the most fundamental technological feature of hypertext. Augustine’s Confessions. the reader would merely have to engage the link to leave Confessions and view the corresponding text in Psalms. a link is both a technology and a signal—a signal to the reader that there is an association made by the author. or hyperlinking. A single-directional link does not allow the user to “click” back to the previous page or to new pages. et al.

texts can also be downloaded (placed on one’s own computer or other external storage device) as files. the user may have linked access to downloadable files (e.g.” In addition to the virtual text in encoded HTML 51 on the website itself. or they may access an audio file such as a speech (e. Audio and Visual File Capabilities Dynamic websites are often multimodal.location) without accessing an application that is external to the website.g. An effective use of a PDF file in an online version of Confessions might be a scanned version of one of the codex scrolls written by Augustine or an early printed version of the text to allow for a quick comparison of historical manuscripts. E-books.doc.g. meaning they engage in delivery or presentation of text in multiple modes. For an audio component. e. For an image.. Links have the ability to link to material internally (within the website) or externally (throughout the Internet). templates. BMP file format [Windows bitmap]. the user may have linked access to a Wave file or an MP3 file (downloadable files that can be played at the listener’s discretion without a live Internet connection). et. Hypermedia: Text. forms. JPEGs [Joint Photographic Experts Group]. et al. this text is a Microsoft Word document file identified by the suffix “.. PDFs allow easy viewing of text and images in a two-dimensional format across computer operating systems. scanned documents.. All hypermedia file formats are typically identified by their suffixes after a file name. 86 . Sir Ian Murray McKellen) that might play automatically (this is called streaming audio). can all be posted directly on any website as PDF (Portable Document Format) attachments. reading of a passage from Confessions by the acclaimed English actor. GIFs [Graphics Interchange Format].

often simultaneously. Images may also be uploaded (placed on a website from a personal storage device) or downloaded as a PDF..). While any print version of Confessions might include a selection of images in the text. MOV (for use with QuickTime video viewer from Apple. Inc. Similar to audio. or view a recorded lecture by the late Joseph Campbell on the role St. et al. and MPEG and MPEG-2 program streams (a standard for digital broadcasting which contains multiple video and audio streams. if the owner of the image prevents digitized image files might offer higher photographic resolution. 87 . and an electronic program guide). but the most common are DVR-MS (Microsoft Digital Video Recording). change the contrast. and the ability to save a digitized copy of the image that could be duplicated in print or sent electronically. Like the previously mentioned audio files.e.). Augustine lived. in short. the ability to alter the photograph (i. Video may also be downloaded and saved as a file or viewed in a streaming format. these formats may be downloaded onto a remote computer or viewed (not saved) in a separate window. the host site author chooses the availability of the video file (downloadable or streaming “viewable”) for the viewer. Hypertexts. Augustine played in the development of Christian myth. often engage the reader on multiple sensory levels. color scheme.). The image file type primarily determines two characteristics: pixel density (determines the sharpness of the image) and format compatibility (determines the computer program in which the image may be viewed). size. watch interviews with experts on Confessions. There are many video file formats. A viewer of Confessions as an online text might be able to view the various cities where St.

audio. chat room or chat classroom. 55 and instant messenger. blog postings. Depending on the motivations for reading the text. RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication—a group of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated material. 52 Asynchronous forms of communication transmit data intermittently rather than in a steady stream. blog entries. Synchronous communication options include but are not limited to. Asynchronous and synchronous communication offer the online reader of Confessions many opportunities for direct communication with the original author of the posting. and video). or required too much bandwidth. Asynchronous communication options include email.0) such as Justin Allyn Hall’s “Justin's Links from the Underground—autobio” employ email and discussion thread options. were cost prohibitive. most social-networking sites associated with the Web 2.0) including Facebook and MySpace employ nearly all of these asynchronous options. Synchronous forms of communication transmit data in a continuous stream where the sender and receivers’ time is synchronized (both reader(s) and author(s) are present simultaneously).Asynchronous and Synchronous Communication Commonly embedded within webpages are hyperlinked asynchronous and synchronous forms of communication. a web telephone conversation (via Skype 54 or similar service). Yet.0 “movement” employ some form of these synchronous options.g. discussion threads.. and wiki 53 capabilities. the audience could contact the editors asynchronously for feedback on a project. seek out a spiritual community to 88 . while more recent social-networking sites (Web 2. news headlines. Early autobiographical websites (Web 1. Early autobiographical websites rarely offered these options as they typically were not available. e.

permits all users to edit encyclopedia entries at any time. HTML code can be altered directly using webauthoring programs including ColdFusion and Dreamweaver. upon the writings of St. recently recovered translations of his work prior to Confessions. et al. Augmentation (Editing and Revising Capabilities) In contrast to printed text that is permanent once the typeset begins its run at a printer’s shop. cut and paste. Because such digital texts are layered 56 documents. Hyperlinked wiki-sites 57 with Confessions as a discussion topic will continuously update content to reflect contemporary scholarship and developments including the discovery of new historical evidence. hypertext is never fixed. video. Augustine will not be revising digital versions of Confessions. another user can open it up. an open source site. e.. and cutting and pasting is common. image. increasing digital access to rare primary sources. For example. Perhaps separate group chat sessions might discuss the influence of competing religions. a site such as Wikipedia. Of course. take it apart. and repost it in a repackaged manner. post a blog comment anonymously. e. the editors of the hosting website might respond to viewer requests to improve the site by updating scholarship links. This activity is sometimes encouraged by the original creator. 89 .g.. the Manichees. However.g. Augustine. Synchronous communication opportunities might include attending a live classroom discussion early Christian theologians or the influence of Roman Empire upon early Christian life and teachings.discuss issues of faith addressed in Confessions. Once a webpage. or simply changing the formatting of the site to make it more user-friendly. or audio file is posted on the Internet. St.

it does not provide the means of accessing the source directly. “search” functions which separate (or combine) internal and external searches 58 are now common additions to many websites that host collections of digital texts.Searchable Databases Printed texts often include a table of contents. For example. the footnotes/endnotes. In contrast. An in-text searchable database with internal and external capabilities could access the primary text. OR and NOT to further specify the search query. hyperlinked sources. indexes. Some search engines provide an advanced feature called proximity search which allows users to define the distance between keywords. searchable databases provide the reader options for further inquiry not possible in print. Augustine explores the problems associated with human memory. Working on the principle of linking. A search for “memory in autobiography. While the bibliography provides the necessary information for the readers should they choose to investigate the sources further on their own. nor can it link other related (if not directly cited) sources to the primary text. a scholar interested in the text of Confessions from the perspective of memory in autobiography could employ a searchable database using hypertext in a relatively similar way to a printed index. In addition to the convenience of accessing both external and internal databases. and source bibliographies to allow the reader to perform internal subject searches more easily.” might simply locate particular passages from Book 10. Chapter 8 in Confessions where St. and/or a general search engine using tags and key words or phrases. these databases provide helpful search ideas based upon previous searches as well as library search method standards such as Boolean operators AND. 90 . a particular university and its libraries (or any of the universities partner institution which share access to primary sources).

Augustine’s Confessions. scanned translations of rare texts. To expand the definition of technology. And transparency can lead to a deterministic and uncritical mindset—a situation aptly noted by Heidegger in The Question Concerning Technology. Because Confessions initially existed only in print. a useful comparison can be made between print and online versions. put up with it. or Peter Brown’s discussion of St. Augustine: Two Hypertext Versions of a Traditional Print Autobiography and Implications for Born Digital Autobiography I have selected two separate digital versions of St. Augustine’s analysis of the process of memory and its reliability in Augustine of Hippo: A Biography. we think the answer to the problem(s) of technology is more technology. But as our use of technology becomes more routine it also becomes more transparent. 59 Defining the features of hypertext is only a necessary first step.However. I turn to a specific comparison of two digital versions of St. Augustine’s Confessions: “The Christian Classics Ethereal Library” and “New Advent. we must first understand that the essence of something is not the same thing as the thing itself.” My intention in choosing these 91 . Using these brief categories as background or the essence of hypertextual autobiography. Digitizing St. or evade it” (288). To some degree these descriptions of the properties of hypertext may seem perfunctory—many of us currently use these features with frequency and skill. a more sophisticated searchable database in a digital text might access definitions of the network theory of memory. Heidegger notes. “[W]e shall never experience our relationship to the essence of technology so long as we merely conceive and push forward the technological. Because of this limited view.

specific websites is to provide textual examples of two religiously affiliated sites from two different ideological viewpoints. “The Christian Classics Ethereal Library” approaches Confessions from a protestant, Calvinist perspective, and “New Advent” is sponsored and updated by Kevin Knight, an independent Catholic parishioner. Certainly, there are limitations to what this approach might reveal. For instance, the composer/publisher of a digital version of Confessions would likely make textual decisions far removed from the judgment of the original author. Yet, the decisions of the digital composer/publisher should be viewed in the context of the countless historic decisions that have been made regarding Confessions over the centuries. Translators made judgments as did the scribes. Later, printers made key formatting decisions, and theologians and religious scholars (especially after the Reformation and Counterreformations) made decisions based upon the dogma of their religious sects. While these judgments no doubt influenced the text we read today, no one discounts Augustine’s authorial intentions based upon the arbitrary decisions of a particular publisher. It is important to be mindful of these judgments as we analyze the digital version. Examining digital versions of Confessions reveals qualities specific to hypertext exposing the dialogic possibilities presented through digital media. It should also be noted that there is a distinct difference between a digital book and a hypertext. A digital book or text is essentially a text originally created for print that has been transferred to a digital format, e.g., PDF. A digital hypertext employs hyperlinks and hypermedia. In the pages that follow, I will describe how these two distinct websites use (or do not use) technological features specific to digital hypertext versions of St. Augustine’s Confessions.


“The Christian Classics Ethereal Library” The digital version of Confessions hosted by The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) employs all of the five previously mentioned features of hypertext: linking (hyperlinking), textual, audio and visual capabilities (hypermedia options), asynchronous and synchronous communication, augmentation (editing and revising capabilities), and searchable databases. CCEL offers four textual options to the reader: HTML (web-based copy with graphics), PDF (a downloadable, digital copy identical to print version), plain text (a stripped down, text-only online version), or a digital audio book (see Figure 2: Christian Classics Ethereal Library…). The user who wants to engage

Figure 2: Christian Classics Ethereal Library: St. Augustine's Confessions homepage Source: “Christian Classics Ethereal Library” (

hypertext properties must select the HTML version. Hyperlinking is omnipresent in the HTML version of Confessions. For instance, all in-text references (numerical endnotes) are hyperlinked. While shortened versions of the notes appear automatically in the left margins next to the reference, the full reference appears in a separate text box that opens


next the corresponding passage once the link is engaged. All internal references to biblical passages are also hyperlinked. When the hyperlinked biblical passages are engaged, The King James New Version (KJNV) version of the biblical passage appears next to the cited verse and chapter. The KJNV acts as the default version of the Bible; however, the default can easily be adjusted through the use of a multipurpose toolbar that “floats” at the base of the text as the reader scrolls through CCEL’s Confessions. The toolbar allows the reader to change versions of the text from the KJNV to the New International Version (NIV), American Standard Version (ASV), and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). This toolbar option also allows the reader to disable access to a hyperlinked Bible entirely. There is also a text box that allows the reader to create personal tag names for customized references of individual pages. In other words, the reader can use personalized markers that will trigger future database searches for these words or phrases. Another button provides a convenient internal 60 dictionary for theological terms. This can be accessed by highlighting the term and clicking the button. By registering with the CCEL (there is no charge for registration) the user can access a number of additional functions, most of which are also free of charge. Once registration is established, a simple username and password allows the user to utilize these functions and access their own customized version of the text saved on the server. For example, there are several annotation options that including personal highlighting, cutting and pasting functions, inserting margin entries, and hyperlinking. In other words, the user can create an entirely customized version of Confessions with all the notes and links that the individual deems important. Basic functions such as expanding the font size or changing the font can be accessed. One inch scrolling banner advertisements 61 line the


At the top of the left hand margin there is a button which provides the viewer with access to a downloadable and savable version of the entire text in PDF if the reader prefers 63 to read the text offline. The community link provided both a forum that list all ongoing discussion threads as well as related blogs. While it is a common feature for most 95 . Content help can be accessed via email on the contact link. In the right hand margin are the login/logout links as well as a register button for visitors. Outler”—this link takes the reader back to the home page for this text. In addition to a plea for funding. authors. and reminds them that many other texts available for viewing in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. A standard help button allows for the typical prewritten response to queries about function rather than help with content. A search bar labeled “Search within book” can be found in the left margin. to an expanded bolded and shaded text in maroon offering the reader an easy reminder of their location. scriptures or customize their search with tags. In addition to the toolbar the viewer can advance to the next page or go back to the previous page at the top of the page with the classic “blue” hyperlinks. a link “Confessions and Enchiridion. The support link is not for support with a technical or content problem but rather an opportunity of the reader to get involved with the site. When a book is selected it changes from the standard blue hyperlink color. definitions. Immediately below the pull down menus at the top of the page.left and the right margins of the page. 62 there is a request to “Volunteer some of your time:” Each book and section of confessions can be accessed via hyperlink in the left margins. A more comprehensive search tool is provided in the pull down menu at the top of the page. newly translated and edited by Albert C. Titled “Search Within Books” this advanced search engine provides internal and external options as well as tabs which allows the reader to chooses specific texts.

Engaging the verse hyperlinks also triggers the entire hypertext Bible (divided into linked chapters) to appear in the left margin. Throughout the text. when Augustine refers to “madness” in Book II. Chapter 2 the hyperlink over 96 . and usability of the sites are remarkably similar. Bible quotations are hyperlinked. the definition covers more than meaning and etymology—it covers historical. The option to choose from various interpretations of the Bible does not exist— Roman Catholic doctrine limits readers to the Latin Vulgate 64 version of the Bible translated by St.0: New Advent).” In all. these hyperlinks open up a dictionary reference to the selection. the layout. However. While New Advent offers most of the same hypertext capabilities that can be found in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library version. When engaged. interaction with site creators. For instance. various features have been changed. the CCEL simply notes that it “[M]akes important Christian literature available to millions of users a year across 120 countries. Jerome. social and cultural background of the selection. they are inserted after the passage in the text (see Figure 3. this version of Confessions exhibits many of the classic features of hypertext such as associative linking. functions. For example. and visual tools such as maps despite its simultaneous existence as a canonical print text. key phrases and words (those italicized in print versions of Confessions) are hyperlinked. “New Advent” also employs all five hypertext features. “The New Advent” Aside for the obvious theological and dogmatic differences in these two approaches to Confessions.sites to have counters to track visitors. but instead of floating in a moveable textbox when the hyperlink is engaged.

febrile delirium. There is a borderland between the two states which is not easily identified as belonging certainly to either. The dividing line between sanity and insanity.Figure 3: New Advent: The Confessions (Book I) Source: New Advent (http://www. like the line that distinguishes a man of average height from a tall man. can be described only in terms of a moral estimate. These embedded links to commentary by site creators may have been created to 97 . Hence a definition that aims at rigorous comprehensiveness is liable to include such non-insane conditions as hysteria. (“New Advent”) or perverted passions….newadvent. the New Advent version may have another agenda in posting Confessions online.htm) the word “madness” reveals a discourse more than a definition: All writers on this subject confess their inability to frame a strictly logical or a completely satisfactory definition.

to prosthelytize. a PDF version of a print text contains no hypertext. the two versions described here allow the reader to create a relationship with the original text that is unique. The brief comparison offered here between these two hypertext versions of a traditional.stimulate debate among viewers. some sites such as the Fordham University site and “The Confessions of Augustine: An Electronic Edition” hosted by the Stoa Consortium only host a plain text version or a PDF of the original text.). the linear progression 98 . these hypertext versions of Confessions resemble the readerly text Barthes espoused in S/Z. In print. cuts and pastes of sections into new texts. in both versions. it is linear and is essentially read the same way as an offline print object such as a book. the three texts working together. and canonical. autobiography in print illustrate more specifically how the characteristics of hypertext operate. as the reader constructs a reading based on selecting links of his or her choice in any order desired. as the reader can actually change the text through annotations. interactive and unstable. the audience response. In short. First. The hypertext is not only layered in technological structure. For example. in Book when Augustine hears the girl’s voice in garden telling him to “Take it and read” the reader of the printed version usually 65 arrives at this point in the narrative after reading all or most of the text that precedes this passage. and physically. The text is created both virtually. While some plain text versions allow for a minimum of hyperlinked footnotes. In contrast. highlights. etc. For example. but may also contain several ideological layers (the initial text. the digitally customizable text literally allows the reader to “create” a personalized and new version of Confessions based upon Augustine’s original writing. etc. etc. It should be noted that not all versions of Confessions online share all of these interactive features. the commentary.

e. The print reader arrives at this point in time understanding the significance of the event. a database search.allowed the reader to develop an understanding of the character and events that have led to this cathartic turning point in Confessions. nothing prevents the reader of the hypertext version form reading in the same manner as the printed version. it was not uncommon for one to 99 . This cathartic moment in Confessions may be deemphasized or even lost on the reader of hypertext who may not have read or viewed enough to grasp the significance. composed in a digital environment with no print origins? o How is the reader-author relationship affected when the author is active and managing or nurturing the site as an anthropomorphic extension of their body? These questions have deep implications for digital autobiography. a linked footnote.. But the reader who engages the features of hypertext may have gotten to this point in the text through a hyperlinked scripture passage. they are limited by the lack of relation and contact to the original author. Before the age of the Memex-inspired Internet. specifically the hypertext potential of online autobiography. i. The remaining chapters explore two primary questions that arise: o What happens when an autobiography is born digital. the comparison between the canonical print Confessions and its digital counterparts does pose some useful starting questions for investigation in the remaining chapters. Confessions is a printed text that has been transferred to an online environment. Certainly. Still. a definition. Though the versions represented here are indeed hypertextual versions and useful for structural comparison. or many other variations of internal or external hyperlinks. ignoring all hypertextual elements in the digital text in favor of the familiar linear format. an indexed link.

MySpace) as the increased availability of access to the web 68 has provided a convenient medium for autobiographers to tell their story. Millions partake in autobiographical activities through the use of weblogs (blogs). Facebook. of course. Various elements of selfpresentation (e.” 67 a new venue for sharing personal information previously envisioned by Bush. The technological affordances of hypertext allow authors to update diary writings daily—in short. and autobiographical “fragments” is ubiquitous. the discrete unit of a fixed print autobiography does not exist online as no one representation of a self can be fixed. Today. YouTube. wiki-sites. While the reader of 100 . or pen a life-story. and canonical autobiographies can be seamlessly blended with new text from a new author. The self can be repeatedly re-imagined or repackaged online for viewers and is exposed to consultation. and the “World Wide Web. The author’s “work” was. these contracts were based upon the perceived importance and/or fame of the author as determined by the publisher and based upon the projections of sales of the author’s work. when the genre began to flourish.. write a memoir. criticism. personal photographs.) can be found on websites such as Picasa. 66 Coincidentally. LinkedIn. In turn. the online presence of traditional print autobiographies. and revision by viewers who interact with the author in previously unforeseen ways. resumes.g. and Blogger. personal videos. These activities were largely solitary endeavors that were brought into the public realm only if the author had a contract with a publisher. always in the form of a printed text.keep a diary or a journal. the rise in the popularity of autobiography coincided with the advent of the Internet. blogs. et al.. born digital autobiography. and social networking venues (e. and the number of autobiographies in print was relatively insignificant until the late twentieth century.g.

contributing to his blog threads. Online users often maintain multiple “profiles” on multiple websites that contain vast amounts of personal data. devoid of any possibility of intervening in the narrative.a print autobiography may be “condemned to passivity. This transformation suggests that social networking sites are natural extensions of early online autobiographies described in Chapter Four and Chapter Five. 101 .” the online viewer is encouraged to respond to the author through commenting on his photographs. What for most was an intensely private enterprise prior to the advent of the Internet has now become a public undertaking. posting on his bulletin board. and contacting him directly through email or chat (Lusebrink).

. And often the ones they do accept are picked because the story is exceptional or the writer is well known” (Bezant). and a live Internet connection to post her digital autobiography. and a searchable database. Digital versions of autobiography on the Internet. are not bound to the editorial discretion of established publishing houses. By making use of these hypertext features. a word-processing program. Justin Allyn Hall) uses hypertext to create a born digital autobiography. but I got old messages… Justin Allyn Hall. of course. augmentation. “[F]ew autobiographies are printed by traditional publishing houses.e.0 autobiographer (i. But Not Necessarily Your Autobiography (2002) Elizabeth Bezant noted. asynchronous communication. “Justin's Links…” illustrates how hypertext can compromise authorial control by introducing reified elements (texts not of the author’s creation) of other authors through hyperlinks. A writer needs only a computer. 69 In “Justin's Links from the Underground—autobio. But as Bezant’s title 102 . Hall provides a dynamic text that allows for an interactive relationship with his audience. In Writing Your Life Story. I examine how an early Web 1. Texts like “Justin's Links…” demonstrate how the figurative dialogical process of self-presentation apparent in traditional print autobiographies becomes considerably more literal in hypertext. “Justin's Links from the Underground” In this chapter. Nor are online “personal homepages” 70 constrained by the costs associated with print or the problems of distribution.” Hall actively employs the features of hypertext outlined in Chapter 3 including hyperlinking.CHAPTER FOUR— CYBERPIONEER: JUSTIN ALLYN HALL AND THE BEGINNINGS OF ONLINE AUTOBIOGRAPHY This may be a new medium. audio and video capabilities.

e. Now a 34 year-old living in San Francisco. Hall began writing his personal web “homepage” online in January 1994 as a Swarthmore College student at the age of 19 when the general public had little access to the Internet and little knowledge of the potential of hypertext. he declares. Hall describes himself as “writ[ing] and speak[ing] on years of personal experience with digital culture and electronic entertainment” and “search[ing] for intimacy and stimulation in technology” (Hall). “All of information space is a 103 . if answering the question. 72 I rely upon Jonathan Culler’s definition in The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics.the autonomy of texts is a misleading notion…. Already aware of the dialogical essence of constructing a self online.’ but as intertextual (emphasis mine) constructs: sequences which have meaning in relation to other texts which they take up. Hypertext. cite. 103). writing a life story as opposed to an autobiography). A text can be read only in relation to other texts…. introduces many dynamic qualities not found in print including intertextuality. Literature. parody. “What is autobiography?” 71 remains problematic for scholars of print autobiography. refute. Deconstruction (1981): Literary works are to be considered not as autonomous entities. For instance. California. In defining intertextuality. ‘organic wholes. as previously discussed in Chapter 3. the intertextual nature of hypertext complicates the matter further. One such early online autobiography that exemplifies the inclusion of intertextual hypertext elements is Justin Allyn Hall’s (see Figure 4) “Justin's Links from the Underground—autobio.implies (i.” (38..” A pioneer of web logging (blogging) and perhaps even its “founding father” according to Jeffrey Rosen of The New York Times (2004). digital media presents new challenges for the potential autobiographer. or generally transform.

com/photos/joi/2659889468/) shared multiplayer adventure” (Hall). Facebook. a Twitter account. and numerous additional active websites. ca 2008 Source: Justin Hall’s flickr account (http://www. MyBlogLog. a professional networking site (Linkedin). 104 .Figure 4: Justin Allyn just in teractive) an image sharing account (flickr). Friendster).0) authors of online autobiography incorporate hypertext elements in their writing. Though he has recently shifted his creative energies away from his autobiography to a process he calls passively multiplayer online gaming (PMOG). While Hall claims to have retired from writing his autobiography in 2005. he still maintains a prodigious online presence (as of July 2009) with no less than three social networking sites (MySpace. 73 Hall’s original website “Justin's Links from the Underground—autobio” serves as an archetypal example of the ways in which early (pre Web 2. a company website ( three weblogs (Justinhall.

We interact in the real world. it is about utilizing unprecedented sharing. course syllabi... but when you sit down to craft your page. cover letters. Augustine himself—“Why put details about your personal life online?” His answer reveals both an early if perhaps utopian understanding of the Internet’s potential: What would you rather read? A pamphlet? Or a heartfelt tale. “why [sic] the web?” Hall asks a question so familiar to the history of the autobiographical impulse that could have been uttered by St. reflected in cyberspace. resumes. could the two genres be easily separated? In “Justin’s Links…. or do we want an easier mall? Not that both won't exist. certainly blurs the boundaries between these autobiographical “fragments” and the autobiographical narrative. an appropriate answer to his last rhetorical question might be yet another question: Could you tell the difference between the resume and autobiography.In a hyperlinked webpage under the subheader. So why is Hall a “cyberpioneer”? What makes Hall relevant to this study is not 105 ..” Hall’s incorporation of so-called “work-related” genres. and we use cyberspace to collaborate and share and conjure new possibilities. i.e. et al. take into account which you'd rather see…. letters of recommendation. joys and sorrows. Do we want to see ourselves. Putting our lives online does not mean leading our lives online. or your autobiography (emphasis mine)? (Hall) Using Hall’s autobiographical homepage as a prototypical example. or personal perspective? The web will reflect humanity if we put our lives online.e. i. audio files and written transcripts of professional speeches. Would you rather they read your resume.

Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. drawing on personal memories. Herein lies one of seminal differences between early hypertext autobiographies like “Justin’s Links. Hall’s work encompasses Landow’s notion that “Full hypertextuality…depends …on the multisequentiality and the reader choices created not only by attaching multiple links to a single lexia but by attaching them to a single anchor or site within a single lexia” (Landow 15). an author typically writes in isolation..g.. Rather.. Simply put. he continually searches for new ways that emerging technologies might enhance his ability to connect with others.that he was the first to post a hypertext autobiography (though “Justin's Links…” was certainly among the earliest autobiographies online). not a social endeavor. the literal act of writing is a private. as Hall notes. but fostering social relationships with strangers is not usually listed among intended reasons for writing. While the author may engage in an imaginary dialogue with his audience.” and historical print autobiographies. varied and diverse. With print autobiography. Hall understands that hypertext changes the relationship between the writer and reader by offering the reader options not possible in print. a prime motivating force for online autobiographers and one he actively encourages in his readers: Individuals and community groups should post their perspectives… At my site. Contrarily. I encourage personal publishing… I've been publishing and recieving [sic] feedback since January 1994…What's got me pumped is 106 . These hypertextual possibilities consume Hall. The motivation for writing one’s print autobiography is. He does not simply post his life story on a personal home page for others to read. of course. social interaction is. it is his unique understanding of the technological and social potentials of hypertext 74 as it applies to telling one’s self-life story. e. Instead.

and alter his site based upon the suggestions of others.. Sharing stories gives guidance. Here is family.e. permanent or constructed in isolation from others. 4) he assumes a role of educator of a new technology and offers hypertext instruction to the audience. hyperlinks to other websites. 3) beyond written text. Here are my mentors…You gotta share it.” resembles Bush’s Memex and represents a new form of textuality and writing..”: 1) “Justin’s Links. Hall reveals the following traits in “Justin’s Links... and 6) he is highly reflective of the process of constructing a self in an online environment. here are my friends.. e. he incorporates diverse and multiple media elements (i. With these traits intact..g. cuz it’s you! You should be flattered that folks’d want to read it! (Hall) In particular. e..” is one of the first autobiographies to realize and actively employ the properties of hypertext. autobio. 2) he is one of the first to actively solicit feedback from others on his site. 5) he recognizes autobiography as an evolving social process—not one that is fixed. You can't forget to link up your life. respond in writing to these parties.). photos. scanned documents. 107 . he includes a syllabus for a course he taught at Swarthmore that discusses the problem of writing a narrative in online environments.g. animation. et al. Hall’s “Justin’s Links. tellin’ stories about my life. on his home site. artwork. He recognizes that those new to online texts may have difficulty orienting themselves. One of the first things the reader notices about Hall’s autobiographical home page (see Figure 5) is how cognizant Hall is of his viewers and their “reading” needs. The web structure encourages you to say—Here’s where I came from.. he understands how a historical understanding of genres in print may be challenged by the possibilities of hypertext..

Figure 5: “Justin Links...autobio” homepage 75 Source: Justin Hall <>

understanding what Robert Coover notes in “End of Books:” “(when) confronted with hyperspace…all comforting structures have been erased” (24). For example, at the top of


the homepage of “Justin’s Links...” under the link “autobio,” he offers readers two versions of his autobiography: a truncated, chronologically linear version and “au natural” (a more intuitive version that takes advantage of the features of hypertext). These two options show that he is aware of potential audience discomfort with reading his autobiography in hypertext form versus print. Noting that the chronological version is “as close as you get to a [sic] early 1996 table of contents for my non-linear life story,” like many autobiographies in print, Hall relies upon “life-changing” or cathartic events in constructing a self (Hall). Yet unlike many of the early autobiographies on the Internet (e.g., Zilpha Keatley-Snyder’s “Autobiography” (see Figure 6), Cyrilla Williams’ “My Life Story,” et al.), Hall not only makes use of the features of hypertext, he reflects upon how hypertext features might shape his self-presentation. A quick glance at the live version of Snyder’s “Autobiography,” for example, reveals that she does not employ any hyperlinks (external or internal) nor does she utilize any of the other features of hypertext discussed in Chapter Three. In short, her autobiography resembles a PDF—a static document that is digital but not hypertextual. The potential of the new medium in Snyder’s “Autobiography” is not discussed and not realized. By reflecting on the ways hypertext might affect his self-presentation, however, Hall’s work resembles St. Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine reflects that we are, at any moment, “what you [sic] want to remember…that which I wish to see stands out clearly and emerges into sight from its hiding place” (214). In doing so, he acknowledges the ability of memory to select and refine the past and that what we write and thus “capture” today might not reflect what we remember tomorrow—a condition Hall contends becomes a moving target considering the possibility of audience reciprocity in online


Figure 6: Zilpha Keatley Snyder “Autobiography” (July 2007) Source:


not living..” 76 Most readers in print would not expect an author to continually digress from the main storyline to enter into expansive biographic details about each relation in the author’s life.environments and the variable and temporal nature of hypertext: “as you. By engaging “mom” or any subject hyperlink either when it is first introduced or when it appears on any of the various pages within the website.” he is treated to Joan Marie Hall’s biography including audio files of her voice. interesting” (Hall). yet his active employment of hyperlinks for every character or event in his life story provides the reader with possibilities that are not possible in print autobiography. or your business changes. et al. If the reader remains in the subordinate webpage “mom. Each subject Hall discusses as his narrative progresses. Of course. brother..) to his various love interests. girlhood pictures of her. contains successive hyperlinks that allow the reader to side-step the main “Justin’s Links. we enter into a new web site filled with biographical information about his mother. These “subordinate” texts have the potential to create new texts based upon reader choice rather than authorial control—an approximation of Barthes’ “writerly text” or Derrida’s “assemblage. cousins. Hall is the author of these hyperlinked subject webpages. from his family (including his father. and external hyperlinks to organizations of which she is a part. step-father. we are removed from the chronological progression and placed in a new hypertextual environment that contains a vast assortment of details about Hall’s mother (Joan Marie Hall). if we click on the hyperlink for “mom” when it is first introduced in the main narrative. step-siblings. The main autobiographical narrative would become too fractured to sustain a forward momentum if interrupted by 111 . For example. mother.” narrative. so does the online manifestion [sic] thereof otherwise it is like a pamphlet .

In this context. bad. The current world of blogging and its reliance on pre-packaged web “template” programs such as those found on Blogger 112 . the viewer has left Hall’s narrative. the reader expects the possibility of reading along a path that diverges from the main narrative in hypertext. bizarre.eliciting a response is fun!).” takes the viewer away from Hall’s point of view entirely. Oftentimes clicking on a hyperlink in “Justin’s Links. As an early innovator of online autobiography. …In addition. once inside this new website.e... even the poetical . he also posted suggestions to improve his site and acted upon the advice of his viewers. email response chain) of his interaction with his commenting audience that allows the viewer to read the comments in the context in which they were given. analogues. This interactive correspondence between the author and audience is common today and thus may seem unexceptional. I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to the people who make suggestions and corrections to my pages. For example. While “Umami Tsunami” also links back to Hall’s current blog. In contrast. They are better for your efforts” (Hall). For example. and traditions than…printed text” (Landow 45).. Occasionally. one can easily see how “the presence of multiple reading paths” in hypertext autobiography can “shift the balance between the reader and writer…creat[ing] a text far less independent of commentary. ugly. clicking on the link for “Jane” takes the viewer to the “Umami Tsunami”—a website/blog hosted by one of Hall’s previous girlfriends. Hall actively sought out feedback from visitors to his website and encouraged a reciprocal relationship as he responded to reader comments via email. Hyperlinks like “Jane” offer the opportunity for the reader to completely leave the author’s text. Hall notes that he is “pleased to get comments (good.frequent and persistent digressions. He also posts a threaded discussion (i.

Typically.” (his father’s suicide) stands out as a useful example from which to illustrate how reified elements of subjects other than the author enter into the process of self-construction in hypertext. texting. A dynamic not possible in print emerges.0. did not exist when Hall was writing “Justin’s Links…. In the short 113 . a chess match between them. the contemporary reader does not critique the content or the design of the site itself. In has made this type of online relationship ubiquitous. Hall’s autobiography was created entirely from HTML and UNIX code. games of gin rummy. Moreover.blogger. this is especially the case since current blog “sites” are almost universally created from the aforementioned pre-packaged web program templates now possible in Web 2. blogs tend to be topical or thematic in nature and readers respond to views expressed by the author of the blog. sensitive man…also an intolerant spiteful bastard” and cataloguing moments they shared. Twitter. Wesley Gibson Hall (see Figure 6). however..(www. One particular event in “Justin’s Links. When Hall arrives at the day of his father’s death. this means that Hall both wrote the text and designed many of the graphical elements of his autobiographical homesite. In a hyperlinked webpage separate from the homepage of “Justin’s Links…” and under a link titled “autobio. however. the contemporary relationship between writer and reader is also enhanced by services like Twitter 77 and texting that allow for instantaneous feedback via mobile technologies. he recognizes both the necessity of explaining the significance of the event in his own life as well as the need to include “independent” artifacts that represent his father. 78 Quite simply..g.” Also. and blogs. as “a wry. e.” Hall relays the story of his father’s suicide. and nightly readings of the Hardy Boys (Hall). He begins by briefly describing his father.. humanistic.

He left a note and an obituary. A family friend.links.Figure 7: Justin Hall’s Father--Wesley Gibson Hall Source: Justin Hall. and more poems influenced by his father’s 114 . an obituary published in the Chicago Tribune. Some of my most potent writing is about him. “Justin’s Links…” <http://www. but I still dream about him. we are treated respectively to an audio wave file from Hall’s grandmother. an original poem (“mistguided”) written by Hall about his father’s death. a description of a dream about his> span of the three sentences. wrote a eulogy that probably describes him better than I can. I can't really remember his voice. General Dynamics sent us a foot tall majestic porcelain fighting eagle. a transcript of the eulogy written by a colleague of his father’s. a copy of his father’s handwritten suicide note. Hall includes seven successive hyperlinks to external documents related to his father’s suicide: 79 Gramma says I was the last one to talk with him. John Tucker. (Hall) If we engage these hyperlinks.

net/vita/> Reading his father’s suicide note not only allows us to diverge from Hall’s self narrative. For example. Hall’s chosen artifacts combine genres outside of the autobiography (i. we are encouraged to consider his father’s final words (“note”) in his own handwriting: There's a divinity that shapes our ends Rough hew them though we may.. and the eulogy). The paths of glory lead but to the grave 80 Figure 8: Wesley Gibson Hall’s Handwritten Suicide Note Source: Justin Hall.suicide. We are confronted with a learned man. but it also impels us to interpret meaning in Wesley Hall’s final words— meaning we cannot derive from Hall’s narrative alone. the suicide note [see Figure 7]. these documents simultaneously augment and encroach upon the boundaries of the constructed self. Collectively.e. poetry) as well as independent documents representing the other (i.e. but we are also perhaps struck by the aloof nature of the quotations—his last words to his family 115 .links.. the Chicago Tribune obituary. one who is able to quote an amalgam of Shakespeare and Thomas Gray. “Justin’s Links…” <http://www.

hyperlinks such as the ones for Wesley Hall act as reified elements of subjects other than the author and introduce divergent media that serve to disrupt the chronologically linear narrative so often associated with historical print autobiography. In research on how people read websites we found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across. When the online reader engages a link. instead. Stuart Card. the possibility of reader 116 .contain nothing personal. This pattern of reading runs contrary to the linear succession more typical in print autobiography. The inclusion of Gray’s “paths to glory” might reveal an egotistical man. picking out individual words and sentences. we can certainly choose to avoid accessing these external. we may also be aware of a dialogic irony within the suicide note: the blending of two prominent literary texts into a new creation—a synthesized (plagiarized?) text within a text within a text. 81 and Jakob Nielsen 82 have referred to the process of reading online as information foraging. for example. As a reader. she has chosen her own reading path that could not be anticipated by or controlled by the author. In addition. only 16 percent read word-by-word” (Nielsen). or simply one who never fulfilled his personal ambitions. they scan the page. readers of online material do not read in straight lines—they scan for information: “People rarely read Web pages word by word. hyperlinked artifacts and read the document in a similar fashion to printed text by following the primary narrative. Simply put. Wesley Hall’s suicide note. As noted earlier. Yet. this seems unlikely considering the intuitive nature of online readers. Online usability theorists including Peter Pirolli. The hyperlinks embedded by the author are typically engaged by a reader scanning for particular information and only selecting items of interest. Possibly.

. I was free.” Another life event described by Hall illustrates a similar pattern. the opening of networks. Genus. unlike most of the other 280 protestors…. detained for 19 hours. inciting a riot. I was strip searched. be considered an isolated case in “autobio.. plasticized by some singular system (Ideology.” Hall details his arrest and trial for protesting the death penalty of Mumia Abu-Jamal 83 in San Francisco. Hall’s multimodal depiction of his father’s suicide should not.All because I was taking notes too close to a rowdy 117 . Under a hyperlink titled “arrested.” Hall challenges the reader to engage divergent texts and possibly come to “read” his life with “an understanding that is dialogic in nature” (Voloshinov 102). As with his father’s suicide. by inserting hyperlinks into his autobiography which contain artifacts that represent his father’s “voice. the writerly text is ourselves writing. however. “Justin’s Links. Problems of… 188). intersected.choice makes literal Barthes idea of a writerly text—a text in which the illusion of the writer’s control over the reader is challenged: The writerly text is a perpetual present. upon which no consequent language (which would inevitably make it past) can be superimposed. stopped. before the infinite play of the world (the world as function) is traversed. Hall gives the reader background information and his impressions of the event: I was arrested and charged with felony attempted arson. (S/Z 5) Moreover.” is “one instance of a dialogic interrelationship among directly signifying discourses within the limits of a single context” (Bakhtin. My step-brother posted $5000 bail. and jaywalking. Criticism) which reduces the plurality of entrances. the infinity of languages. put in a cell.

we are encouraged to actively question the author’s position by carefully examining primary source documents related Figure 9: Arrest Identification Card Source: Justin Hall. she has engaged a new voice distinct from the author of the autobiography. I have filed a complaint. and even a lawsuit. and to read his deposition among other documents. 118 . Hall offers the audience the opportunity to learn about Mumia AbuJamal. “Justin’s Links…” <http://www.links. Each of these links augments his narrative by going beyond his words. where i [sic] got a chance to jerk the chain of the city! In the space of a few sentences the reader is offered a total of nine active hyperlinks. He comically notes that his visit to “Cook County Jail in Chicago in August '93. Also. Through these links. to read the court> to the event. When Hall uses the phrase “All because I was taking notes…” to persuade us that he is an innocent victim. Needless to say.demonstration to prevent the death penalizing of Mumia Abu-Jamal. turned out to be good practice” (see Figure 8). When the viewer leaves the main narrative to read the lengthy transcript of the court deposition. the presentation of these independent artifacts offers the viewer a chance to gain a more detailed description of the arrest than if Hall was simply writing from memory.

Hall also uses his autobiographical homepage to situate himself as an instructor of hypertext. When a writer employs hypertext. Whether or not Hall was simply “taking notes” is an unknown and not essential to our search for the dialogic. Similar sentiments were echoed in the June 27. the reader has entered a new text that is often independent of authorial control.And if we question the veracity of his story. settlement transcripts.. and “objective” news reports of the protest—all public documents. he provides step-be-step procedures 119 . 1995 edition of the San Francisco Examiner. Beyond simply showing his audience the possibilities of hypertext by example. The Examiner referred to the event as “A raucous Mission District demonstration in which dumpsters were set ablaze and car tires slashed” (Lewis and Delgado). the constructed self is always at risk of being permeated by the independent voice of another. Conspicuously absent from “Justin’s Links. 1995 article that the crowd was part of a “rowdy two-hour march…which…overturned trash cans. Hall’s hypertext homepage is not constrained by either the finite limits of the printed text or the arbitrary decisions of an editor or a publisher. once these links are activated. the ability to access documents “two clicks away” alters our understanding of his constructed self.” are the arrest record. Aside from the elements of his personal life.. Unlike print autobiography. Hall invites us to use a search engine (Google is included on each one of his web pages) to further investigate. In fact. set fire to two trash bins and burned a couch in the middle of Valencia Street” the crowd was “unruly…with lit torches” (Walker A–13). External texts can be hyperlinked ad infinitum. as Hall notes himself. However. Perhaps Hall also tells us as much about this event by what he leaves out. Moreover. the San Francisco Chronicle noted in a June 28.

because there are no expectations. or Christ (Augustine 29). i. Augustine ultimately felt would serve to introduce the reader to the teacher within. St.e. and you don't have to be there to see it. the secrets of his heart” (3).” Hall actually walks viewers through the creation of a personal webpage in a section labeled “Publish Yo’ Self” (see Figure 9). you can forge your site in your own image. autobiography has always contained elements of a teacher-student relationship. Of course. He wants his readers to adopt his religion—posting their life online: The web is the first semi-permanent unlimited world wide [sic] exhibition space. Because web pages encompass any existing media. (Hall) To facilitate the creation of these “personal perspectives. challenging the reader directly to “let each of them reveal. Yet. Rousseau includes obvious references to his philosophies of life and education borrowing from his discussion of childhood education and the social contract in Discourse on Inequality and E’mile. engaging in teaching is preparation for understanding. with the same frankness. he notes that he learns by self study and assumes his audience 120 . the teacher-student relationship Hall establishes (although often quite literal) is not that different in motivation from Augustine. The relationship St. In The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.. and he advises his audience against confusing knowledge with understanding. for example. Hall is seeking conversions. Interestingly. Throughout Confessions. Augustine establishes with the reader as a teacher is filled with metaphor. Think of it as a neverending [sic] world's fair. but not to Christianity. Augustine shows the reader by his example a path to redemption.for writing on the web. The web is an opportunity to make good [sic] our fifteen megabytes of fame. which St. where anyone can set up a booth. You can be unique.

a lot and often if you expect people to do the same…with more work. it is never a> finished—it evolves with the insight of “people” and reciprocity is expected. His comments show recognition of how the traditional dynamic between the author-reader has been altered by the reciprocal nature of the hypertext format: “people respond to energy! Put some into your pages. An autobiographical home page is in a continual state of temporality. Hall also uses his online autobiography as a 121 . The digital autobiography. Hall notes.will be able to do the same. Here Hall implies that the social process of writing on the web is never quite Figure 10: “Publish Yo’ Self” Source: Justin Hall. He notes that “it’s like word processing in public” and “Nothing to make you change your pages like some feedback on incomplete work” (Hall).links. fixed published work. Not unlike historical autobiographies. your site will come to closer approximate you as a person” (Hall). “Justin’s Links…” <http://www. is a continually updated “approximate” version of “you as a person” (Hall). contrary to print autobiographies.

community…[by] sharing stories online. e. he must sell it: “Storytelling is cathartic in any medium. And I tell it so that I and all who read my words may realize the depths from which we are to cry to you. In order to expand the dialectic possibilities of the new venue. I must now carry my thoughts back to the abominable things I did for you in those days. the sins of the flesh which defiled my soul…. he seeks converts to the new interactive medium of the Internet and wants everyone to share in his utopian experience. my God. (Augustine 43. but in your presence I tell it to my own kind. 45) Whether it is to convert souls to Christianity or to persuade readers that creating a “cyberpresence” is a social necessity. Early Autobiographical Websites— Old Wine in New Bottles or a Genre Redefined? When asked to speak on the new conventions of reading and communicating online at the News Industries & Journalism/Preparing for 2010: New Directions for News Conference in 1995 to a group of those in the media industry. Augustine’s Confessions. both authors desire a social action from the reader—not individual passivity. The web offers widespread communication. we can pool our experience and memory to ease our pain and expand our horizons. Hall emphasized a 122 . his work once again. In others words. however few.I need not tell all this to to action—as a manifesto. Not content with simply posting his life online. (Hall) By doing so. recalls St. who may perhaps pick up this book. to those other men.g. the autobiographical impulse in these cases desires more than recognition—it desires both comprehension and a change in behavior of the reader..

television. they want it to be vibrant and heartfelt… Personal web pages merge content provision and human connection. While this passage is typical of Hall’s utopian flourishes concerning the future potential of the web.fundamental shift in how new media must be approached when considering the reader/viewer: What’s the point of doing the same old in this new medium? …Big deal…When people can browse through a site in a matter of seconds. radio. if they are going to read something. and leave for an independent operator in a single bound. it does underscore a basic principle—the decentralizing and interconnected qualities of the Internet challenge and reconfigure the power of traditional relationships between broadcast mediums (print. I’m telling stories. People want to talk to eachother [sic]. historic publishers were absorbed by media conglomerates. and ultimately for my own satisfaction…This is journalism of the future. the rules are changed…This technology promotes decentralization. we see the beginnings of the 123 . And both the enormous public popularity of “Justin’s Links from the Underground—autobio” and the documented evidence of audience interaction with its author testified to the veracity of his claims long before marquee print newspapers 84 were closing their doors.) and the receiving audience of these mediums. 85 With Hall. et al. and social-networking websites like MySpace and Facebook had a combined world membership of nearly 500 million subscribers. Force feeding the net public heaping spoonfuls of what you think is tasty will fail—even if people have a choice of spoons. but they’re human.

True. his autobiography is an exception to the rule—an anomalous text used to 124 . Since Barthes spent his life fighting conformism and the status quo. Barthes intersperses them randomly throughout his text. Running contrary to publisher’s desires to relegate subject photographs to the middle of the text or place them in an addendum. while Barthes’ humorous take on the conventions of autobiography serves to illustrate the difficulties writers face when they attempt to capture their lives in text. Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes 86 (1975) is an obvious example of a print autobiography that plays with genre conventions including. into a social-networking model phenomenally popular in contemporary American culture.evolution of the personal webpage. online autobiography. While writing one’s autobiography was never simply an inwardly-focused reflection performed by an individual self. there are a few examples of print autobiography that deviate from the norm. 87 In his so-called autobiography. most print versions tend to model familiar genre conventions. the photographs Barthes chooses follow no particular pattern—chronologically or otherwise.e. In this manner. Hall’s photographic selections tend to progress chronologically with few exceptions. However. characters and places in the photographs. Barthes situates himself as a text and in doing so sets himself up as an object of interrogation.. i. he approaches his autobiography from an unconventional third person point-of-view and uses photographs from his youth to string together a disconnected commentary on the actions. the chronological progression of time (the subject’s lifeline) and the readers’ expectation of a “storystructure” or narrative framework to give order to the events described by the author. Yet. Hall’s hypertext autobiography is similar to Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes.

The process of writing. which cannot belong to us” (2).. By employing the capabilities of hypertext. The hypertext writing situation is such that a social voice penetrates the construction of the text. i. After viewing “Justin's Links from the Underground—autobio” and similar early online autobiographies. of any classification by genre. the writer himself comes undone. reciprocity and external hyperlinked texts that deviate from the primary text. but rather a myriad of textual possibilities 125 . remaining only as devices within the text…we must surrender our individuality whenever we enter language. in general. Barthes’ criticism of the conventions of textual selfconstruction in print is validated by the possibilities of hypertext. As Hall illustrates. hypertextual writing always has the potential to reconfigure the direction of relationships within the traditional rhetorical triangle by introducing temporality. “[I]n writing a text. the end products of early online autobiographical impulses resemble not a linear text written by a solitary writer. Moreover. it is no longer possible to claim that self-life writing is a mirror that simply reflects an autobiographical image. notes Barthes. And while the Romantic notion of the individual self may obscure the reality of social activity. Hall’s autobiographical homepage begins to make literal what was previously theoretical. Barthes’ hypothetical writerly text (a text which alters the balance between writer and reader by creating the presence of multiple reading paths) is made real. I have already argued that writing an autobiography has always been a social act and the product of self-reflection reveals this.e. is always social. any text.demonstrate the limitations of the genre of autobiography and the idea. Hall’s work both captures the autobiographical impulse and self-effaces it by using the technological possibilities of hypertext to stretch the boundaries of the genre.

Which path the reader eventually decides to take may reveal a life-story quite different from authorial intentions. I contend “Documented Life” establishes a web “template” that social networking sites co-opt.compiled by an assembler. Miles Hochstein. In Chapter Five. In doing so. “Documented Life. emphasizes the photographic image over written text in the telling of his life story online.” evolves from its early manifestation in 2000 as a photographic life story with limited written text into a personal hypertext media database cataloguing Hochstein’s habits of media consumption by 2009. I also note how Hochstein’s website. I examine how one web author. 126 . Hochstein eliminates most of the traditional narrative expository associated with traditional autobiographies.

I define “template” loosely as a planned web-design format that introduces a set of conventions to personal webpages. textual. augmentation (editing and revising capabilities). pull-down menu bars at the top of the homepage. each other….g.e. e. e. and searchable databases) to expand the dynamic relationship with the audience begun in Web 1.e. roll over menus and graphics including pictures and animation in the center of the screen. audio and visual capabilities (hypermedia options). I examine the online autobiography of Miles Hochstein (“Documented Life”).0 TEMPLATE FOR SELFPRESENTATION—MILES HOCHSTEIN’S “DOCUMENTED LIFE: AN AUTODOCUMENTARY” AND BEYOND Our new environment compels commitment and participation. We have become irrevocably involved with. The Medium is the Massage (1967) In this chapter.0 authors create templates for self-presentation that order and compartmentalize both static media and hypermedia (i.0 versions of autobiography.g... hyperlinked media). We have to shift our stress of attention from action to reaction.. “Justin's Links from the Underground—autobio. and responsible for.. linking (hyperlinking). Marshall McLuhan.CHAPTER FIVE: ESTABLISHING A WEB 2. “Documented Life” provides an early illustration of how Web 2. I also show how Hochstein’s autobiography employs the technological features of hypertext discussed in Chapter 3 (i. asynchronous and synchronous communication.” “Documented Life” is a useful case study because the relationship between author and reader is further redefined by the pervasive 127 . Besides claiming that Hochstein creates a web template that is (eventually) closely imitated by social networking websites including facebook and MySpace. hyperlinked columns for media categories.

g. used HTML encoded text to create their dynamic personal websites. books.. As I illustrate. by necessity. social interaction and heavy dependence on hyperlinking become essential to the development of the website and each of these elements presents challenges to the idea of what it means to tell one’s life story. Web 2. technology and memory restrictions had formerly limited digital autobiographers.0 allows for advanced audio and visual applications not previously available to web authors. Accordingly. films. webpages.presence of external hyperlinks that allow the audience to choose a course of textual interaction beyond authorial control.0. social networking websites. had a general knowledge of HTML code and an understanding of its limitations. including Justin Allyn Hall (“Justin's Links from the Underground”). Visual media.0 authors. In Web 1. et al. These early Web 1. Hochstein’s website is significant because it illustrates a purposeful increase in the reliance on visual media rather than written text to tell a self-life story. the template Hochstein develops is also an archetype for personal homepage content. bandwidth. e. and who constructs a personal website have been affected significantly since Web 1. In this sense. As writers of online autobiographies adopted Web 2.. Authors. the look of a website. therefore. reviewed by the author.” we witness the narrative structure typically found in historical print autobiographies being replaced by a digital media database that catalogs the author’s cultural and social interests. 88 they began to realize the new media possibilities available to them. “Documented Life” evolves from an original focus on a self-life story relayed through selected photographs to a collection of media. websites like “Documented Life” foreshadow changes introduced by weblogs (blogs) and more particularly. 128 . In “Documented Life.0. the process of constructing a website.0.

For example. he must type the following HTML code: <html> <body> <h1>Justin’s Self Reflection </h1> <font size=“2” face=“Times New Roman”> <p><b> Justin is bold</b></p> <p><big> Justin is big</big></p> <font size=“2” face=“Times New Roman”> <p> Justin is<sub> subscript</sub> and <sup>superscript</sup></p> </body> </html> Since “WYSIWYG” (what you see is what you get) web-authoring programs including Dreamweaver do not exist in January 1994. imagine a web author like Hall writing his digital autobiography in January 1994 before web-design computer programs such as Adobe Dreamweaver were available. Hall decides that he wants a simple webpage—a header and three short sentences to appear on the computer monitor as follows: Justin’s Self Reflection Justin is bold Justin is big Justin is under and over In order to make the text above appear on a “live” webpage (a webpage accessible anywhere via the Internet) with the formatting he has chosen. everything Hall writes has to be manually 129 .

0 author who utilizes many of these advanced media applications is Miles Hochstein. and “</body> </html>” to finish the page. including the previously mentioned Dreamweaver. Hochstein’s “Documented Life: An Autodocumentary” (see Figure 10: Documented Life Homepage [July 2009]) is one of the more exhaustive early Web 2. Time New Roman font. made the process of web authoring much more user-friendly. “<font size=“2” face=“Times New Roman”>” to use 12 point.0 technological features after the year 2000. The increasing availability of Web 2.0 authors assume are transparent and seamless were part of a laborious web authoring process that acted to discourage the less committed and less technologically savvy autobiographers. these programs replicate the basic functions of universally popular word processing programs like Microsoft Word allowing for a transfer of skills from one well-known computer program (Word) to a lesser-known computer program (Dreamweaver). In other words. “<p><b> Justin is bold</b></p>” to place the text in bold. If he wants just the words “Justin is bold” on his webpage. he has to type “<html> <body>” to begin his page. 130 . all of the basic formatting functions Web 2. A prime example of an early Web 2.coded.0 autobiographical websites in its breadth and scope as Hochstein has maintained this site since 2000. In some ways. however. Sophisticated web-design programs. Hochstein’s work is particularly relevant to this study for two primary reasons. These features provided online autobiographers with an opportunity to circumvent coding in HTML if they wished. with their convenient screen templates and relatively easy learning curves encouraged more people to consider constructing their own pages because knowledge of HTML coding was no longer a prerequisite skill.

Figure 11: Documented Life homepage (July 2009) Source: 131 .

But it is not a message that the author wishes simply to be read without a re-active response from his audience. Hochstein clearly recognizes that “Documented Life” is but one of thousands of personal websites available to the audience. the potential 132 . In an early version of “Documented Life” (2001).” If it encourages you in your own effort to represent yourself. to yourself or to the world. Hochstein initially seeks to interact with readers in a dynamic fashion where his autobiography is a work in progress potentially influenced by reader feedback. whether in cyberspace or in meat-space.First. that would make me happy. Hochstein craves an active discourse on what it means to create a representation of one’s life online. this “autodocumentary. (Hochstein. whether on-line or in-life. Like Hall before him. “Welcome”) The image of his autodocumentary floating on the sea in a glass bottle is analogous to finding his website among thousands of similar sites on the web. Both dialogue and emulation are sought by Hochstein—the reader is enticed to become a writer who converses with Hochstein and one who creates his or her own autobiographical website as a mimetic activity. like Hall. Sending me email is the step that completes the communication loop. maybe that means you have found the bottle you were meant to find. but also. This site is a message in a bottle. and his message must vie similarly for the attention of the reader with thousands of others. he frankly noted this desire in a welcome letter 89 to his audience: You . Reciprocity means not only the potential of literal contact with him. (Emphasis mine) What was your response to Documented Life? Or how's the weather? Let me know.I hope that you enjoy this exercise in the representation of identity. If you are reading these words.

an imagined dialogical relationship between the author and the audience has always been a part of the process of selfpresentation through a written autobiography. An audience was imagined by Augustine and the reader presumably “assum[ed] a responsive attitude toward” the utterance as they read (Bakhtin 76). (Bolter 158) 133 . plainly invites such a response. becomes literally true in the electronic medium. The text is not complete until it is experienced by the reader…. and he attempted to persuade his audience to seek out God within themselves as the only path to salvation.for the readers to engage in their own online self-representation taking his vision in “Documented Life” as their inspiration. St. Augustine actively conversed with his God as he wrote. With “Documented Life. Bolter best captures this reification of the writer-reader relationship in digital texts in Writing Space: A computer text is never stable and never detached from the changing contexts that readers bring to it…. Hochstein. but the autobiographer. There is no single unequivocal text apart from the reader…. The new medium reifies the metaphor…the reader participates in the making of the text as a sequence of words (emphasis mine). the reader must call them up and determine the order of presentation by the choices made or commands issued. What was only figuratively true in the case of print. Even if the author has written all the words. in this case.” the dialogic relationship between the author and the reader that was previously only metaphorical now has the possibility of becoming incarnate—literal and observable—because not only does the technology enable an exchange of information. As noted in Chapter Two of this dissertation.

.In many ways. They may receive prompt and enduring feedback from their audience and such feedback always has the potential to become part of the autobiography. From simple collected data such as a numerical registry of the number of website visitors to “Documented Life” to email correspondence and synchronous communication through chat (which can be recorded) or to site-embedded threaded discussions. original “text. he noted that visitors to his website often wrote to express approval of his work and to note that “Documented Life” inspired them to create their own websites: “Over the years…people did write me and some did say they were inspired by my site. In my email correspondence with Hochstein (see Appendix B for a full transcript of my email conversations with Hochstein). he feels that a dialogue between the viewing audience and those self-life writers like him “may even begin to give meaning to the idea of global village-hood” (Hochstein.” i. Autobiography. he posits. agreement. sympathy. phone. but it is also an invitation to a virtual community. “Welcome”).’ Other online autobiographers sent me links to their own efforts” (Hochstein). either as a whole. With social engagement. execution…” from his audience (Bakhtin 69-76). Web authors like Hochstein are privileged by the communicative possibilities inherent in the digital environment. a transcript of the actual email. or chat session. objection. the contemporary author of a digital autobiography has the 134 . If the “first and foremost criterion for the finalization of the [speech] utterance is the possibility of responding to it. is not merely a record of self-reflection. particularly at the time it was ‘Yahoo Site of the Day.e. “Documented Life” is a literal manifestation of what Bakhtin referred to as dialogism.” then Hochstein plainly expects his speech utterance to elicit “response. or more indirectly through changes to the site motivated by comments made by the viewers.

Second. an interpretive narrative record of personal events and the meaning of those events to the subject) to cataloguing the media they consume on a daily basis. meaning the viewer never leaves the host website. While Justin Allyn Hall certainly discussed personal topics in a manner somewhat removed from the standard narrative structure of a traditional print autobiography in “autobio. Though Hall eventually moves away from his “autobio” to create a much larger web presence.e. et al. The author (in this case. 90 Most of the links in Hall’s “autobio” all relate in deliberate ways to the telling of his life-story. scanned handwritten notes. when Hall relates the story of his father’s suicide. His personal website gradually morphs from being a pictorial version of autobiography (see Figure 11: Documented Life Homepage—Initial Version [2000]) into a compendium of links to outside material in 2009. “Documented Life” approximates and foreshadows developments to come in social networking sites by merging the narcissistic tendencies of the autobiographical impulse with the desire for immediate and continuous social contact. and he largely separates his hypertext autobiography from his online hobbies by separating the web portals (entry points).. For example.. newspaper clippings. Hochstein is among the first online autobiographers who change his approach to self-presentation from being strictly autobiographical (i. In essence. photographs. Hall) writes and controls the web architecture since most of the media content is contained within the author’s website.” he did not use external websites copiously in his original autobiography. are all accessed through embedded hyperlinks.g. all of the media elements included. The phrase “outside material” refers to media content created by parties other than the author. e.opportunity to engage in real and immediate dialogue with the audience.. his original hypertext 135 .

Figure 12: Documented Life homepage—initial version (2001) Source:*/ 136 .archive.

In my personal email correspondence with Hochstein. (Hochstein) In this passage. and I have often (recently) considered taking it down and putting it in a book for my children and grandchildren.e. the most recent manifestation of “Documented Life”): The site is a very low priority to me.” Initially.. external links dominate his personal website. In contrast to my face. hence the current front page of my site. but as his website grows to include the massive collection of his media viewing habits visible in the 2009 version of his site.. Interestingly.e. he reveals his awareness of a switch in his narcissistic tendencies from overt self-presentation (i. There is no reason to have it online anymore. I’m just not that into me! And I don’t want people to think I am that in to me. Hochstein follows Hall’s example in the original manifestation of his website. Hochstein openly acknowledges that his intention is to have his collection of carefully selected media in “Documented Life” serve as a loosely associated self-life narrative constructed through a digital medium. I really am interested in the media that I consume…An ordinary life leaving a little trail of cultural consumption behind it.autobiography remains intact as a separate digital text—it is never blended with a larger collection of the author’s various media interests as we witness in “Documented Life. which is the main downside to having it there… I decided that the way I wanted to record my life was by keeping a public list of the content of the media that I consumed (emphasis mine). he seems to privilege 137 . the original “Documented Life” portion of his site now labeled “biophilia” [see Figure 12: “biophila” 2009]) to associative self-construction via external hyperlinks (i.

org/web/*/http://documentedlife.Figure 13: “biophila” (2009) Source: 138 .archive.

. As a result of these changes. he largely leaves it up to the viewer to determine what his media consumption might say about his life. Outside media gradually become more important to “Documented Life. In the main.” and the column devoted to his “biophilia” (pictorial autobiography) becomes less significant.e.printed text by suggesting that the autobiographical segment of his current website (“biophilia”) be placed in a book. “Documented Life” serves as a prototype for what becomes a common pattern of behavior in social networking websites—posting external media hyperlinks as associative representations of the self. movies. With the exception of the occasional brief explanation or caption. websites. categorizing media consumption habits according to media formats [books. “Who is Miles?” is a “nexus of multiple streams of culture… representations of what I see. the way Hochstein chooses to represent himself through “Documented Life” evolves to replace the narrative structure typically found in historical print autobiography with a continually updated “nexus of multiple streams of culture” (Hochstein). 91 As is visible in the organizing principle of his web template (i. rather than of how I was seen or how I appear” (Hochstein). the design of Hochstein’s web template comes to reflect his evolution from online autobiographer to online personal database manager. “Documented Life” has transformed from an autobiography with personal images as its focal point. to a hypertext compilation of the author’s ongoing media consumption—a life habit rather than a life narrative. In this sense. it has been marginalized in its importance as just another 139 .]). Hochstein insists that the answer to the autobiographical question. et al. While it still receives placement in the center column of his homesite in the most recent manifestation (see Figure 10).

might mean in terms of presenting his life story online. 92 The screen space Hochstein devotes to the renamed “biophilia” (see Figure 12) is reduced. From Personal Images to Digital Breadcrumbs: Documenting a Life Lived Online Images have long played a role in traditional print autobiographies. the viewer must sift through a continually updated collection of the author’s interests. sketches. etc. is now simply another facet of his autodocumentary—not the core purpose or mission of the website.element of “Documented Life” as it is now only accessible through a thumbnail. taken as a whole.0 digital autobiographies.e. engravings.. and much has been written about the role images (i. but now the outside media he consumes becomes the focal point for his musings—not his ruminations on pivotal or cathartic episodes in his day-to-day life that often provide a narrative structure for both historical print autobiography and some Web 1. readers not only choose their own reading path. this latest arrangement would imply. Without a traditional narrative structure to guide his reader. discuss. pictures. they may draw their own conclusions about the subject presented in the autobiography independent of authorial intentions. “Documented Life” illustrates a density of media content that requires large amounts of free time to post. the pictorial narrative. And while he offers little in the way of reflection on what his media habits.” In other words.) play in both 140 . the brief autobiographical details combined with a catalogue of selected media suggest a more associative reading of the latest manifestation of “Documented Life. and update. He is still the “author” of the website posting the occasional picture or two with brief commentary. The self presented in “Documented Life” is a work in progress characterized by the action of its viewer’s habits—not by seminal personal events.

all observation is also invention” (5). composes. Rudolf Arnheim claims that all thinking is essentially perceptual (and particularly visual) in nature. Much has also been written about both the social impact of images in the media 93 and the history of images (particularly the photograph). the traditional divide between both perception and reason and seeing and thinking is inaccurate: “all perceiving is also thinking. Surprisingly. 94 and thinkers such as Walter Benjamin 95 have approached photography. specifically from a meta-level. comparatively little has been written about the role images play both in crafting autobiography in print and hypertext. but rather the idea of photographs as representations. dances. and John Palmer discuss “digital life-writing” in great detail but pay little attention to the specific influence of hypertext images on the construction of the autobiographical self 141 . few authors have discussed the role of images as they pertain to the construction of the self in print. become “a form of reasoning. Arnheim argued. Aside from Linda Haverty Rugg’s Picturing Ourselves: Photography and Autobiography (1997). Where hypertext is concerned. Laura Sullivan. Linda Warley.print and in electronic environments. Helen Buss. Rather. all reasoning is also intuition. All artistic expressions including writing. in which perceiving and thinking are indivisibly intertwined.…thinks with his senses” (Art and Visual Perception… 5). claims Arnheim. In Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye (1974). “the remarkable mechanisms by which the senses understand the environment are all but identical with the operations described by the psychology of thinking” (Visual Thinking v). To Arnheim. For digital texts which depend heavily upon the image. Arnheim’s ideas have many ramifications. A person who paints. scholars including Sherry Turkle. exploring not photographs. writes.

2) including photographs in a separate appendices.(Warley 26). Hochstein is interested in much more than relaying a chronological narrative in hypertext. like Hall. 96 Therefore. and in the process he reflects deeply upon the act of creating an autobiography. images tend to move with the text in a chronologically linear fashion. 3) offering “grouped” pictures at various intervals that catalog a certain stage in the life of the narrator. In most instances in print. but as Margaretta Jolly notes in her review of hundreds of print autobiographies in the Encyclopedia of Life Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms (2001). There are exceptions in obvious cases such as Barthes by Barthes and Nabakov’s Speak Memory where the authors intentionally play with the notion of a chronological trajectory of photographs. Of course printed editions of autobiography vary tremendously by publisher. in most print autobiography. but it is safe to say that even a cursory observation of texts in print reveals some generalizations about the state of images in printed versions of autobiographies. the linear limitations of printed text noted by Bolter in Writing Space. he includes great detail about his life and events. Like Justin Allyn Hall. photographic images. like text. And. autobiography in print approaches images in one of three ways: 1) placing all the selected pictures as a group at roughly the mid-way point in the text. While Hochstein continues to maintain his digital photographic autobiography begun in 2000. As previously noted in 142 . follow through to photographs. are chosen by the author or editor to illustrate the progression of an author’s life. his photographic autobiography is only one part of his greater autobiographical online presence in his “Documented Life” project. Typically.

Then. Sites like facebook. a summary and analysis is given. In this sense. contemporary social networking sites function in much the same way. Hochstein meticulously catalogues his life as much by the external media he consumes as by his own written words and personal pictures. he reviewed Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer (see Figure 10. after each book title. “book” (books he has read). for example.” While a life-narrative is present. “talkie” (films and television shows he has viewed). and “netkill” (websites he has viewed). Commentary is encouraged and uploading and hyperlinking are systematized as methods 143 . et al. Like Hochstein’s site. In a recent update (August 2009) of his site. “Documented Life: An Autodocumentary” could perhaps be characterized as a personal. “book” column). the subheadings on “Documented Life” (see Figure 10) are clearly patterned after the media he absorbs: “photon” (photos he has taken). Hochstein’s approach to online self-presentation differs from Web 1. “I list each book I read and every book I can remember reading in my 48 years of life” (Hochstein). For example. Taken together these “slices” or catalogs of individual activity and media consumption create an associative autobiography. encourage personal profile “authors” to document all of their actions through their own content or the media content of others. “biophilia” (a linear timeline in photos of his life to date). customized database in addition to being labeled an online autobiography. the traditional narrative drive associated with print autobiography is not the focal point for the website.0 versions of online autobiography such as “Justin’s Links…. Under “book” he notes frankly. In essence.this chapter. “Documented Life” shares strong family resemblances with the template formats of the most popular current social networking sites including but not limited to facebook and MySpace.

It is neither a typical blog. the traditional autobiographical contract between the reader and the writer breaks down. nor is it an autobiography in the archetypal sense—it is an amalgam of both and more. In “Documented Life. and the text undertakes to refer to people.” the construction of the self becomes decidedly more communal. Considering the extent of Hochstein’s website. As Judith Coullie notes in “Not Quite Fiction: The Challenges of Poststructuralism to the Reading of Contemporary Autobiography. However. places and events which had material existence” (226). While “true” references do not necessarily infer that there is a pure mimetic correlation between real life and the written self. Therefore. the title “Documented Life” is perhaps more apropos than the term autobiography. the text becomes increasingly ephemeral. in large part.of self-presentation established in many of today’s social networking sites similar to Hochstein’s later manifestations of “Documented Life. and the historically privileged author becomes considerably less privileged.” the relationship that exists between the writer and the reader has been driven historically by a “presumed” contract between both parties: “Autobiography usually expressly invokes a contractual agreement with the reader: the reader reads the references as true. be a compendium of external hyperlinks with only brief textual explanations of each link. this autobiographical contract 144 . “Documented Life” is so dense and so multimodal in nature that viewers are now challenged in their efforts to determine what is Hochstein’s “material” and what has been created by another person. The reader’s role is much more reactive in determining what to make of the website’s author as they must interpret what the media choices of the author say about Hochstein. the idea of a contract with the reader intimates a dialogic creative process.” The user’s profile may.

Accessing the hyperlink “biophilia” or a hyperlinked thumbnail of his pictorial timeline in the center column of the “Documented Life” home page reveals a linear progression of photographs that moves horizontally from left to right in groups of seven. however. no formal narrative exposition. Hochstein notes in his original.. the textual narrative expository does not exist in a traditional sense. “Other”).to tell a visually meaningful story” (Hochstein. Years to come are indicated only by a question mark (?). the indication is that text will be subordinate: “Words are fine. it reveals several more photos from the selected year. Often. 2001 version of “Documented Life” that he will rely heavily on images to create his online autobiography. He assumes he will live to be 90. but I'm interested in the images. and he occasionally offers additional textual interpretation of the people and events pictured. There is.” in all of its incarnations. “Documented Life” privileges photographic self-representation. From 1959 to 2009.that draws upon Lejeune’s le pact autobiographique discussed at length in Chapter One also presumes the author will provide a narrative framework to give order to the events described in the autobiography. He usually offers captions to clarify the place and time captured by the photograph. the lack of textual information surrounding the events and people in the pictures invites (demands?) the 145 .. Similar to many contemporary online autobiographies and autobiographical websites. since his pictorial time line ends with that age. Whereas Hall used pictures to augment his hypertext autobiography. All of the photos are hyperlinked and when a linked photo is engaged. Yet “Documented Life. Hochstein’s photographs dominate his selfpresentation in effect creating an associative visual narrative. each picture in the link “An Autodocumentary” can be clicked on to reveal more pictures from that year.

2006 (see Figure 14: Leora and Miles Hochstein. Leora. December 2006 Source: http://documentedlife. Besides this rudimentary information and without analyzing the images through the lens of a theoretical framework. For example. on December 3. a quick review of the pictorial link for 2006 reveals pictures of Hochstein and his wife. not much more can be deduced from these photos. There are no names identifying them (I recognized them Figure 14: Leora and Miles Hochstein. The poses are informal and non-descript. December 2006).com/log/ from other hyperlinks) and no captions to indicate why these pictures were taken. Both appear to be drinking something. Are they at home? What time of day is it? Are they at breakfast? Drinking coffee? Why do their faces appear to be sullen? Why did they take the photos? Who took the photos? Were the photos taken specifically for the autodocumentary? If so. is it supposed to reveal 146 .reader to interpret the images without guidance from a traditional textual narrative framework present in most historical print autobiographies.

really. The reader must make inferences. what I've done here has been done by many other people in many different 147 . some names are excluded to protect the privacy of his family. 2006) and the information he divulges in the captions continues a vague pattern. Now I no longer include much biographical information here because.” Hochstein presents the reader with pictures of his entire “Portland Oregon nuclear family” (see Figure 15: Hochstein Family Pictures. And these inferences allow readers to create their own narrative explanations for the events and people they view. which Hochstein seems to encourage actively. Since I first published this site back in the early 2000s. Of course. Occasionally. it’s not very interesting and I feel no need to do so. we cannot answer these questions. and the one I've created may cover an unusually long time span as these things go. Hochstein explains how his approach to providing information on his collected images has evolved since the original manifestation of “Documented Life” on a separate webpage: Documented Life started back around 2001 as a photodocumentary of my life. Then it became more biographical because I felt the pictures required some kind of explanation. and have not felt that need for a long time (emphasis mine)…. However.. a little game to see if I could find one picture from each year of my life. he offers names or specific places. but rarely both.e. I do like the idea of a life-long photographic record of one life.something to the viewer? Without more information. Continuing further into the 2006 photo hyperlinks in the section now called “biophilla. his children and the children of his extended family and friends are never referred to by their given names or by their nicknames. i.

Figure 14: Hochstein Family Pictures. 2006 Source: 148 .

including the boring ones” (Hochstein).There ought to be SOME advantages to aging. he understands profoundly that any 149 . dedicated to getting the facts right. Illustrated Life Stories and Autodocumentaries. as he notes himself in “Critical Criteria for Reading Online Visual Autobiography.” As Hochstein notes himself: “I have tried to make a documentary film.. images ring more truthful when they are not given arbitrary captions. but are viewed as part of a progressive “advance” of a life.. He notes that good “site(s) convey the sweep of a person's life. Hochstein seems to assume that his reader will follow this pattern from beginning to end and thus not need the redundancy of multiple captions. Perhaps.stop action daily photo journals.ways . and acquiring a history worth illustrating is surely one of them” (Hochstein). Yet. we learn most of our information about Hochstein if we follow a linear chronological progression through the images. Hochstein goes beyond simply challenging assumptions about autobiography by blurring genre boundaries and this includes his approach to the role images should play when juxtaposed with textual elements (albeit minimal). Along these lines. and much more… (Hochstein) Nevertheless. even in cataloguing “everything” one still makes judgments.0 makes Hochstein’s process of aging more organic and evolutionary as he can actually manipulate how the images advance in time and continue to update the site indefinitely.” lack of textual information is sometimes the point of the autodocumentarian. He does not distinguish among the myriad of tangible items that represent a life in the way many historical autobiographers have by putting on a so-called “best face. In the main. Web 2. Photographic Autobiography. Hochstein contends. Of course.the process of change over time…. life-casting.

path. Augustine in Confessions. in the age of Photoshop.. a reasonable person. Although my purpose is documentary (and I would derive no personal satisfaction from my autodocumentary unless I believed in its factitudinal nature). and I believe myself to both be.representation of one’s self is bound to be presented with the age-old problems of truth— even a representation based on images: I have used photographs to create a kind of text. because the amount of effort needed to misrepresent my own life would be vastly greater than any reasonable person would want to bother with. link. His statement indicates that he may not completely understand the possibilities of unintentional misrepresentation and the limited point of view of the narrator that can affect the construction of the self. web. This vision anticipated how these decentered 150 . network.e. matrix. deserve any privileged status as a representation of historical reality? …perhaps it does. nonetheless the reader is left with a puzzle. George Landow applied key terms used by Roland Barthes. Michel Foucault. his self-reflection reminds us of similar questions about the nature of “truthful” self-representation that have historically troubled autobiographers all the way back to St. But at the limits of the possible. Does the photograph. fictions can be created with images too. etc. and with sufficient budget and determination. interweaving.) to convey a vision of the decentered text. he argued that these French theorists and Mikhail Bakhtin used rhetorical terms (i. and seem to be. Nevertheless. and interconnectedness.0. As I noted in Chapter Three of this dissertation. and Jacques Derrida to hypertext. Text is not the only way to create a fiction. In Hypertext 2.

97 Hochstein represents only a token sample of hundreds of thousands of personal Hochstein’s example suggests. 151 .. The vast array of media and content at the author’s control serve to establish a more dynamic version of self-presentation than can be found in print autobiography. chat.g. Hyperlinking would allow readers to actively engage the text—to produce meaning. perhaps. Zilpha Keatley-Snyder’s “Autobiography” [see Figure 6]).texts would exist in a non-hierarchical system of relations similar to the current operating mechanism of hypertextual systems (23-25). but representative websites like “Documented Life” reveal how the incorporation of Web 2.g. et al. links etc. Landow remarked that “hypertext creates an almost embarrassingly literal embodiment” of both Barthes’ writerly texts and Derrida’s decentered text (33-34).) that makes the dialogical relationship more literal in nature is also the technology that offers increased media options at the author’s disposal...0 elements further establishes the potential for a literal dialogical relationship between the author and the reader. even as they deconstruct it. message boards. rupture the author’s voice with intrusions. which Barthes associated with writerly texts. And authors who post their self-life writing online do not necessarily have to incorporate the interactive elements inherent in hypertext (e. the audience receives a more thoroughly developed selfpresentation (self-absorption?) of the author’s life than with text alone. is that as the technology (e. they also reinforce the position of the monological author by illustrating in depth the author’s private world. Sounding jubilant at the idea of what he perceived to be the material manifestation of the decentered text. While the pictures. email. The irony. These new tools can be used to reinforce the solipsistic monological self in many ways.

his use of coded HTML makes his narrative appear much less rigid in its system of organization. Here we see Eakin’s notion that the process of self-discovery is not fixed and stable. allows the online autobiographer to establish a persona through his or her personal tastes. Whereas Hall proceeded chronologically. the tendency toward order seems prevalent. the narrative progress (the forward movement of the story) is always apparent. Hochstein assumes that he will continue “writing” his autobiography as he ages. and “back buttons” are not immediately apparent. Hall’s autobiography is much less schematic. these hypertext selves seem to be radically different from their print cousins. Contrary to much of the discourse concerning the non-linear nature of hypertext in general. Text does not follow rigid borders. are surprisingly linear. By posting from his present age of 50 to his future age of 90 in 2049. Categories are abundant. its development takes shape organically as he adds new information. the template Hochstein creates in the most recent manifestation of his website introduces the idea of media assemblage as an associative representation of a self. This online “collage” approach that has become commonplace thanks to facebook and MySpace. Hochstein develops a familiar pattern to autobiography that is chronological and sequential. to use Hochstein’s term. rather than relying only upon a narrative with carefully selected pictures. Hochstein depends upon the frames and templates to shape the visual appearance of his page and to draw clear boundaries between what is part of the 152 . In fact. things move along chronologically and in general. In all. Rather than relying on a narrative structure. the sequencing of these “autodocumented” lives. Hochstein illustrates that hyperlinking to one’s interests can reveal substantive characteristics of the author.Moreover. At first glance. hyperlinks are pervasive.

org). but his site has evolved into a collage of his interests. has evolved into a now familiar template in website design. tag clouds and sound bite summary clips of information. Yet.pbs. Like Hall before him. The information is divided into columns and the main page scrolls downward at some length before it terminates. in short.“autodocumentary” and what isn’t. he has embraced the multimodal possibilities of Web 2. The main website gradually develops a recognizable look that could easily be confused with any standard online news sources (e. Hochstein’s website. To facilitate his switch from documenting personal images to documenting personal online habits.e.0. if “autobiography is…a revelation of the present situation” and not a window to the past self. It relies on RSS feeds. his new work (multiplayer online games) is far more interactive and socially constructed than his online autobiography. to call these precursors to social networking sites by Hall 153 . Hochstein still updates a few token photos for his autodocumentary each year. www. however... In some ways. then perhaps a good way to reveal the present situation of the subject is to continually document one’s cultural interests in addition to including updated versions of one’s image (Pascal 11). neatly divided into their respective media and suggestive of the structures of social networking. And while Hall still maintains his original version of “autobio” as a nod to his past work in Web 1. his “likes”) are visually compartmentalized away from his autobiographical pictorial progression.g. Hochstein makes a deliberate move away from a central focus on his catalog of photographs as his media consumptive habits (i. Hochstein is moving away from his autobiographical pictorial as the core of his personal webpage. As of 2009.0.

Hochstein acknowledges this fact himself: Back when I created this site. They have been transported to a new voice. In digital texts. They are literally not viewing the authors work. Certainly. Since then Facebook [sic] and others figured that problem out in a much deeper sense (emphasis mine). Once a link is engaged. The construction of a profile is an essential part of social networking. pioneers like Hochstein established Web 2. FB encourages media assemblage as representative of a self. Before blogs and social networking sites became commonplace. I thought it would be fun to see if it would somehow be connected to personalizing and socializing the web—living online in some great world community. the boundary between the public and the private in websites like Hochstein’s “Documented Life” has been blurred.and Hochstein “collage” in the print sense of the word is both limiting and inaccurate. the viewer has effectively left the author’s site free to wander possibly never returning to the author’s home site. that sense of authorial control is lost. But there is always the sense that the assemblage is controlled or shaped by a guiding vision of the assembler. In this sense. When readers skim through a collage in print. they view or read texts assembled from many voices. The imitation Hochstein sought is now systematized in a computer program owned and run by a for profit company. Hochstein’s mass accumulation of media and his desire for social engagement are benchmarks of popular social networking site like Facebook. (Hochstein) The focus on media consumption and downplay of reflective thought and narrative drive 154 . and the universal human community on the internet [sic] is still emerging.0 templates for self-presentation.

I briefly touch upon how popular social networking sites have adopted a web template that looks and functions in ways that directly resemble “Documented Life.” In the Epilogue that follows. in practice. 155 .illustrate how “Documented Life” establishes a template that will later appear in emerging social networking sites and blogs.” I describe some the more interesting features of websites such as facebook and conclude with some potential ramifications of online autobiography as it is manifested in social networking sites. when contemporary social networking sites encourage the users to elaborate in a personal “profile” on many aspects of their lives. the user’s profile becomes secondary to the social engagement facilitated by the “wall. For example.

facebook Slogan I link. Katie Hafner In “The Virtual Self: Self-Representation and Self-Knowledge on the Internet” Eugene Gorny claims that online self presentation (autobiography) “offers the subject not as an isolated individual. Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life. 98 At the core of this translation and definition is the notion of one person who writes to present an individual self. with alternating perspectives. therefore I am. Justin Allyn Hall. Yet. According to this framework. internal 156 . he/she does so divorced from the corruptive influences of outside voices—he/she follows only the precepts of an isolated. Please use this page as a place to share your unique stories. autobiography as “an intricate social network” is far removed from the Greek origins of the term autobiography. but a part of an intricate societal network” (Gorny). autobiography means “self-lifewriting” or auto (self) + bios (life) + graphe (writing). Translated literally from Greek. “autobio” Facebook users represent one of the biggest communities in the world — digital or otherwise…. the Enlightenment ideal of the individual has been the center for establishing a framework that has driven our understanding of the self as separate and distinct from the community. For most of the last 400 years of Western history. we would have an endless human storybook. when the autobiographer writes his/her life story.AN EPILOGUE: COMMUNAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY? SOME BRIEF THOUGHTS ON SELF PRESENTATION IN SOCIAL NETWORKING ENVIRONMENTS If everyone was to tell their stories on the web.

With Hall. we witnessed the extensive use of hyperlinking to reified elements of the human subjects that were a part of his autobiography. We also noted Hall’s reliance on multiple forms of media to tell his story. Historically. Hall did indeed hyperlink to external websites hosted by subjects (e. These reified elements of others could be static artifacts such as a photograph or a public document. web authors Hall and Hochstein’s attempts to develop online autobiographies offered a merging of this “solitary” activity with the communal nature of the Internet.g..e. permanent product—a written print text that represented the sum of the author’s efforts to both catalogue his/her life and bring meaning to it through interpretation. past girlfriends) integral to his autobiography. e. we became aware of a conscious movement away from written 157 .. or they could be dynamic elements. through his latent exhibitionism and through his own words.. however. And we became acutely aware. print autobiography (as its name implies) has been considered a solitary. Hall’s “autobio” illustrated the possibilities of a literal dialogic relationship between the author and the audience through online autobiography as demonstrated by the actual communication he received from visitors to his site and by the actions taken by many of those readers to create their own personal websites in reaction to Hall’s work. With Hochstein. his desire to read and respond to other’s life stories.voice. of Hall’s need for social contact—for feedback and reciprocity. As described in Chapters Four and Five. In some instances.g. These external hyperlinks challenged his control of the viewing habits of his reader—a situation he openly welcomed and encouraged. a hypertext website created by someone other than the author. He considered his autobiography a success if others emulated his impulse to selfrepresent. i. individual activity that produced a static.

text as a device for self-representation. His systematic compartmentalization of media formats that are presented as a way to record “a life lived online” are a clear nod to the Web 2. the “distance” between author and reader is collapsed in hyperspace. First. to add or alter some content areas (e. MySpace and facebook. they can be used to illustrate several emerging trends in autobiography. video sharing.g. creating a more associative representation of a self than we witnessed with Hall. including but not limited to. to post personal messages on bulletin boards within the profile. Again. Though social networking sites are a relatively new phenomenon.. Genre Problems Revisited—Are Social Networking Sites “Really” Autobiography? As their titles indicate. social networking sites such as MySpace and facebook were conceived to allow the individual to establish a distinctive personal profile that is interconnected to a larger community of profiles. Photographic images became the primary means of telling his life story. with Hochstein we noted the evolution of the autobiographical website from a self-life story to a personal database of media interests. This merging of the social with the individual has created a phenomenon not previously available to autobiographers. More importantly. the visitor to “Documented Life” is left to infer what the author’s collection of media reveals about the life of the author. we noted that Hochstein created a web template that compartmentalizes his interests according to media format. Because the reader now has the ability to comment specifically on content in a personal digital profile. Additionally. music 158 . and the loss of a narrative exposition required the reader to infer much of the detail of the autobiography from these images.0 templates that later co-opt his website layout—social networking sites.

The “news feed” becomes an 159 . The user engages the “news feed” (see Figure 16: Ron Tulley’s facebook “home” (a.k. social networking sites illustrate that online hypertext autobiography (or at least this particular offshoot) has moved to an explicitly dialogic construction where the author can never be read without the mediating influences of a participatory audience. In fact.a. Moreover.. as we witnessed in “Documented Life.e. This does not mean that these social-networking “autobiographies” have a broader audience or a more engaged readership merely because. The author no longer has absolute control over how the material is presented after the initial construction of the personal profile in the template.a. in theory.k. and to contact the author directly via message (either private or “wall” posts). barriers between writer and reader have been renegotiated.” in facebook the personal profile becomes an afterthought. “Home” is not the personal profile but rather the communal space. Secondly.uploads).. “Home”) becomes the default page (the webpage which the program automatically opens after the user logs in). chat room or email. Additionally. Ironically. The personal profile is relegated to status as a button in a pull-down menu at the top of the default webpage.. the “news feed”) (August 2009) as a public space. because the medium allows the viewer to become an author of sorts (i. in social networking sites the news feed (a. The news feed also dominates the user’s physical space. if not eliminated. Instead. by choosing to access media links in random order or by clicking on links outside the autobiography) the relationship between the reader and the author is now dynamic in nature. anyone with access can view their websites. the reader or viewer of the author’s digital profile can uncover details about the author through links to the author’s friends or previous comments by other viewers.

Figure 16: Ron Tulley’s facebook “home” ( 160 .facebook. the “news feed”) (August 2009) Source: http://www..

oxymoron—a sort of communal autobiography where auto becomes poly and the continuous stream of communal information absorbs and subsumes the individual commentary. The author’s linear narrative is supplanted by a hypertext that catalogs and organizes according to media labels (e. For example. a simple chronology of important events will not do. “photos” “newfeeds”) rather than according to a chronological timeline. While the organizing principle of the narrative structure is not totally suppressed—date and time stamps still exist— the autobiography develops discursively and a narrative point of view comes about through the community’s linguistic selections versus authorial choices. He may remove the post. if John replies to Sid that he “likes” or “doesn’t like” his friends post. is somewhat askew in cyberspace. respond back to Sid. For instance. middle and end that Aristotle defined in Poetics. middle and end to the autobiography written in hypertext because while digital texts have entry points. 161 . change the post. The coherent beginning. The apparent pattern in social networking is circular—there is no beginning. the finite “completion” of the written self through a progression of personal events that has a clear beginning and an end as can be witnessed in traditional print autobiography does not exist because a digital text has no “beginning” or “end”—it can be augmented continuously.g. However. Social-networking hypertext databases also defy many conventions of print autobiography outlined in Lejeune’s le pact autobiographique. Sid may react in demonstrable ways. they do not possess the fixed beginning or end points found in print. block John as a friend. like the fragmented nature of the hypertext that websites like facebook use. or choose a myriad of other possibilities.. chat in real time with John.

php?ref=profile 162 17: Ron Tulley’s facebook “profile” (August 2009) Source: http://www.

polished narrative structure in which the author has carefully selected the details and events and left out much of what might be considered irrelevant. McLuhan is. quizzes. is the modus operandi of social networking sites (see Figure 17: Ron Tulley’s facebook “profile” [August 2009] for an example of information listing in a facebook profile]. perhaps. posting pictures. information. 163 . are there substantive individual distinctions apart from the facebook application that most users employ. And some scholars contend that activities including playing games. what is the point of self-representation online? If social networks absorb and blend millions of personal lifenarratives.Moreover. I argue that in many ways the personal activity that takes place in a social-networking site approximates the self-in-process and gets closer to the metaphor of the self Olney embraced. and daily postings may reveal something more “authentic” than the traditional narrative found in print in the sense that they do not rely on expository but rather on the vicissitudes of personal favorites and media habits.. “viral” videos. While the potential for fabrication always exits in the telling of one’s autobiography. online quizzes all disclose a more “real” version of a person than a contrived. et al.? As posting “borrowed” media replaces the narrative expository and images become more prominent than text in the telling of one’s life. e. mundane or inappropriate. media usage patterns “tell” a story about the website author that is easily verifiable. not necessarily specific personal context. As much information as possible is listed. But if everyone produces a digital “self” in a similar manner with a similar template and if they subsequently dismiss their personal profiles (much in the way Hochstein is dismissing his) as only a gateway to social connectivity. the specter in the creation of these sites—the medium is the message.g. 164 .Figure 18: 314’s MySpace “profile” (August 2009) Source: http://www.

1) a generally factual account of the subject’s life. The communal text of the news feed becomes the focus for the social networking participant. I contend 165 . the Internet was designed to facilitate a communication—to create community.e. In practice.. the “news feed” and the “wall” make it difficult to establish clear boundaries between the self and the other. Perhaps we must return again to ask the deceptively simple question that scholars of autobiography have struggled to answer: what is autobiography? In the present situation. i. we might also add an addendum to this question: what is autobiography in the new medium? To answer this new question.. a social networking profile becomes secondary to the wall. both the networking aspect of sites like facebook and the individual autobiographical profile may exist as separate entities—accessible through separate links. And they both understood the transformative power of the Internet and specifically hypertext. to them. Social networking sites by their very name as well as their mission statements state openly that they serve as a social conduit. 2) a linear chronological progression of time (the subject’s lifeline).e. It is not a broadcast medium which relies upon hierarchical control. They strove to encourage contact and imitation. and 3) a “story-structure” or narrative framework to give order to the events described by the author (13-16).Early online autobiographers like Hall and Hochstein sought out social interaction—they both openly declared reciprocity as one of their key motivating factors in producing their websites. we must return to a loose interpretation of Lejeune’s three basic aspects of the writer/reader agreement as outlined in Le pacte autobiographique. Their sites incorporated opportunities for feedback. Quite literally. But though the two functions have not been completely merged. the infinite dialogue trumps the life story. i. In theory.

fulfills the autobiographical pact between the audience and the reader in all of these ways despite challenges to the form of the text. The default function on social networking sites is set to allow for the most current information to be placed first. I contend the story structure is retained in a relative. it is actually more difficult in many ways to lie online than it is in print. Second.” Third. While the possibility of a false self-portrayal always exists. posting. links. one’s autobiography is always constructed in conversation (internally or externally) with others.) against the information in school databases and removes falsified posts. First. and that the unified “self” in any autobiography. facebook checks the basic information (e. student/alumni status. In fact. email address. is essentially a fiction.that we will find that digital autobiography. as well as the narrative that creates it. name. While an autobiographer such as Rousseau may have had difficulty recollecting accurate time and place information. social networking sites contain generally factual elements of the subject’s life. as manifested in social networking sites. messages... etc. are now recorded with an automatic date and time stamp. it could be argued that social networking sites approximate a more organic conception of the self as hyperlinks are associative and random. all entries for photos.g. however. associative way in contemporary social networking sites including facebook and MySpace. this default can also be adjusted to reverse this order to allow for authorial reflection upon these events and for the audience to read the events in chronological “order. facebook can easily check the accuracy of this statement by cross-checking the veracity of this claim with the school’s records. If I claim I am an alumnae from Case Western Reserve University. the chronological progression of time is now part of the template. While social 166 . et al. For instance.

The personal database acts to supplant the traditional narrative expository.g. I do these activities. to broaden the scope of these three delimiting characteristics. their templates generally discourage this approach by supplanting the narrative with symbolic reified elements of others (e. Online autobiographical acts exist in social networking sites as personal databases—virtual spaces where templates encourage uploading and downloading of personal and external media files that an author posts to present an image of himself/herself. photos. commentary.g. the social influences that were always intrinsic to print self-representation have become 167 . I have this education. we find that the multimodal and interactive nature of hypertext has both sustained the historical features of self-presentation found in print autobiography. This database is composed of lists that inform the audience (e... audio comments. et al.networking sites offer the writer an opportunity to include a traditional chronological narrative.) and provide the audience with an opportunity to “create” a narrative of their own (see Figure 18: 314’s MySpace “profile” [August 2009] for evidence of a database of linked “lists”). yet it can also act to reinforce what a narrative exposition does to the reader if the reader interprets what these links may mean. If we rely upon Wittgenstein’s “family resemblances.” however. Out of these databases. Yet. videos. I know these people. I look like this. This mosaic communicates a representation of the subject that is in many ways beyond the control of the author. template backgrounds) and providing a template for downloading a personal database of artifacts. I like these things. The third characteristic outlined in the autobiographical pact (narrative structure) is the most problematic as the web templates found in digital environments challenge traditional definitions of narrative structure in print. a mosaic develops from the combination of disparate types of media.

168 .conspicuously visible through the possibilities of hypertext. commentary from viewers.g. et al. Through a process of autobiographical creation that is inherently social in nature and deeply influenced by the outside voices (e.. social-networking websites have merged a historically individual undertaking (autobiography) with a communal environment (interconnected “personal” profiles) creating the opportunity for a radical transformation of the presented self.). an autobiographical subject emerges as an amalgam of internal and external voices. media not created by the author. In short.

7 Interestingly. Maitreyi>) on 10/01/2008. <http://zimbabwe. and Amazon <www. Barnes and Nobles <www.poetry internationalweb. Asja Lacis. 169 . Simone de Beavoir. Cf. Several of these women wrote under pseudonyms (Simone du Beavoir) and a few (Nadezhda Mandel’shtam and Romola Nijinsky) reveals their own lives through writings about their famous husbands (the Russian poet. and Romola>. Samuel Ishmael Raditlhalo’s Who Am I?: The Construction of Identity in Twentiethcentury South African Autobiographical Writings in English (2003). praise poetry is defined as “poetry that developed as a way of preserving the history of a clan by narrating how it was founded and what its outstanding achievements were. Wu and Ch’i ling wrote their “autobiographies” in the third person. The praises centered on the leader of the clan. According to the “Poetry International Web” website.borders. Osip and the ballet dancer. 4 In Zarathustra’s Sisters: Women’s Autobiography and the Shaping of Cultural History (2003). the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Nadezha Mandel’shtam. included no titles for any of the twelve poems included. I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child.NOTES 1 Cf. Song of Myself was later mistakenly titled based upon the first line in the poem and its subsequent content (Cowley x). in which Song of Myself was published. “To call any modernist work ‘autobiographical’ is merely to utter a tautology” (168). I went to the websites of the three largest book sellers (Borders <www. Susan Ingram examines the works of six prominent historical women: Lou Andreas-Salome’.php?obj_id=5750>. 9 8 To test this theory. As the clans grew into tribes. it was the leader of the tribe who became prominent and hence his praises were sung” (par. She was especially critical of the metaphor of the self theory asserted by Olney. Dickens notes in the preface to David Copperfield: “It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent to every child of my fancy. like many fond parents. Nijinsky) 6 5 Lang was highly critical of the nebulous definitions of autobiography proffered by Olney and Spengeman.barnesandnoble. 2). 2 3 Spengemann is aware of this problem as well when he>. And his name is David Copperfield” (2).amazon. and that no one can ever love that family as dearly as I love them.

Known simply as Confessions. Cf. Rene Descartes’ Discourse on the Method (1637) and Meditations on the First Philosophy: In Which the Existence of God and the Distinction between Mind and Body are Demonstrated (1642). and a rope. more doubts by far (even of its existence) than certainties” (5). six blind men feel only one part of an elephant and come to argue that it is similar to a wall. a spear. From Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography (44-45) and Spengemann. According to the 2009 New York Times Almanac. In other words. 19 18 20 See Pascal. Design and Truth in Autobiography (21). There is a bit of disagreement as to why Augustine includes these last three chapters. 16 15 Cf.10 In Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography. Mary Helen Washington’s Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women 1860-1960 (1987). 11 12 From the poem. 17 Rousseau names his autobiography. 14 Linda Warley alludes to this point in “Reading the Autobiographical in Personal Home Pages”: “[I]t is clear that autobiography theory must stretch if it is to address digital life writing” (Warley 32). Olney.4 million users in 2008 making them the two most popular social networking websites in the United States. a tree. Others (see Pierre Courcelle’s Recherches sur les Confessions de Saint Augustin) maintain that Augustine planned to write a complete exposition of the texts in the Bible. but he found this plan to be to exhaustive and gave it up after the first chapter of Genesis. a fan. MySpace claimed 73 million users in 2008 and Facebook claimed 41. Scene II. 22 21 The original translation is “Thou. Augustine. respectively. The Forms of Autobiography: Episodes in the History of a Literary Genre (50-74).” but was changed to you. 13 Cf. James Olney notes a similar conundrum: “[T]he subject of autobiography produces more questions than answers." written by John Godfrey Saxe. In this poem. a snake. Spengemann’s The Forms of Autobiography: Episodes in the History of a Literary Genre (1980). Act ii. 170 . The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau to distance himself from The Confessions of St. Lines 43-44. "The Blindmen and the Elephant. each man comes to a completely different conclusion of what an elephant is like. Some maintain that the first chapters (I-IX) address Augustine’s quest for truth and the last three chapters (XI-XIII) focus on his thoughts upon truth’s meaning.

and VII discussing how he accepted. In order to properly discuss the implication of the Manichees on Augustine’s thought. perhaps. Saul Padover. challenged and then broke with the Manichean doctrine. Cf. argue that all autobiographies are indeed “confessional” in nature as they all reveal a personal narrative to their audience. James O'Donnell concludes “Few proponents of Christian humility have obtruded themselves on the attention of their public with the insistence (to say nothing of the effectiveness) that marks this work. it would be necessary to consider the historical context of Confessions. 25 24 23 Augustine attempts to address what he knows are gaps in his life story: “I shall therefore confess both what I know of myself and what I do not know” (211). Jean Starobinski’s Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and Obstruction (1988). Peter France’s Rousseau. Augustine spends the greater part of Books III. In keeping with the focus of this essay on the creation of the symbolic self. it is difficult from a contemporary mindset to imagine a world where Christianity was simply one of many fledgling religions competing for dominance. Additionally. Confessions and Self-Portraits: 4600 Years of Autobiography. I have chosen to avoid delving too deeply into the complex belief system of the Manichees. though they are a motivating factor for Augustine. and William Spengemann’s The Forms of Autobiography (1980) among others. he likens his situation to St. Augustine was often unable to refrain from calling attention to himself” (1: xii). Confessions (1986). Antony’s conversion upon hearing Matthew 19:21--St. Though I do not believe the distinction between confessional autobiographies and autobiographies to be simply a semantic one. Because Western thought has long been influenced by Christian ideology. I would assert that the confessional autobiography is particularly wellsuited to exposing the dialogic ruptures in the text.To make the importance of this event clear to the reader. 27 26 One could. and an audience of readers who would mirror back to him their esteem” (65). His would be a confession to God and to humans at the same time. Elizabeth De Mijolla’s 28 29 171 . Volney Gay's “Augustine: The Reader as Selfobject” (1986) notes. His impetus to convince his readers of the one true Christian faith is manifest in his thoughts on the Manichees. Cf. public confessions…. VI. It would gain him God's forgiveness and so union with Him. in his translation of Confessions (1992). “Confessions was Augustine's solution to his culture's denunciation of narcissistic needs…(u)niversal needs to feel esteemed and loved by a wholly good object re-emerged in his theology and in his grand. For a man who felt acutely the pressure of others’ eyes and thoughts. Antony is immediately convinced to give up his worldly career and devote himself to God. V. Karl Weintraub’s The Value of the Individual: Self and Circumstance in Autobiography (1978).

In Emile. “She had such a personality that when she wished to win anyone over to her side she would not be resisted. in spite of our many fine works on morality. there is but art and mummery in even honour [sic]. so that he seems to receive the feeling of his own existence only from the judgement [sic] of others concerning him. in Simon. honour [sic] without virtue. Janet Hobhouse. In Discourse… he chastises the civilized. she takes a “tongue-in-cheek” approach to the act of writing an autobiography—in many ways this is simply a literary exercise for her. the difference is. to some extent. and pleasure without happiness” (237). and never daring to ask ourselves in the midst of so much philosophy. and Wordsworth (1994) among others.Autobiographical Quests: Augustine. politeness. 34 35 Cf. And. as is apparent in the memoirs of others who visited her during her Paris years. to show. reason without wisdom. Rousseau. Stein is being facetious when she says this. virtue. Gertrude Stein: A Composite Portrait 65). friendship. I am going to write it for you…And she has and this is it” (252).. Montaigne. it does not look to me as if you were ever going to write that autobiography. how abject we are. everything degenerates in the hands of man” (3). or to show how. Hemingway writes in A Moveable Feast (his own “autobiography”). we have nothing to show for ourselves but a frivolous and deceitful appearance. in short. Everybody Who Was Anybody (1975) and Linda Simon. and critics who met her and saw her pictures took on trust writing of hers that they could not understand because of their enthusiasm for her as a person. However. Gertrude Stein: A Composite Portrait (1974). 31 30 It seems unlikely that anyone might think otherwise since Stein even notes this point herself at the end of the text: “About six weeks ago Gertrude Stein said. and of such sublime codes of morality. that the savage lives within himself while social man lives outside himself and can only live in the opinion of others. ed. 32 Cf. Linda Simon. 172 . You know what I am going to do. benevolence.. (1974)... and often vice itself. Gertrude Stein: A Composite Portrait. 33 To some degree. I am thinking specifically of two of Rousseau’s works: Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men (1754) and Emile (1762). “social man” for thinking himself above the savage: “In reality. we need look no further than his opening lines: “Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things. everything being reduced to appearances. of which we at length learn the secret of boasting. It is not to my present purpose to insist on the indifference to good and evil which arises from this disposition. a more conscientious and less lazy writer would have put much of her work in the waste basket” (as qtd. Gertrude Stein Remembered 83). her personality clearly shows through any attempt to “coyly disguise…through the foil of Miss Toklas” (Simon. ed.

. and photographers Carl Van Vechten and Cecil Beaton. Among the memoirists are novelists Sherwood Anderson and Thornton Wilder. <http://hyperland. Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (1982). According to S. (So far. Landow has updated this version with the release of Hypertext 3. It should not to be conflated with the term hypertext. Stein’s “truth” is confirmed by her contemporaries. Cf.. “She always liked knowing a lot of people and being mixed up in a lot of stories. she was a friend if you sang her praises and incorrigible if you contradicted her. Therese Bonney.36 Cf. Kathleen Blake Yancey’s “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key” CCC 56. On his homepage.” (81). Cf. 45 46 173 .0. “In 1960 I had a vision of a world-wide system of electronic publishing.html> Last accessed 2/20/2009. I define these terms (i.e. bookseller Sylvia Beach. blogs. “Ted Nelson's home page” he notes. and social-networking sites) in the section titled “Asynchronous and Synchronous Communication” in Chapter 3. where anyone could publish anything and anyone could read it. I now call this “deep electronic literature” instead of “hypertext. See footnote 4 for more detail. Notably. and she wanted to be part of “the story” as she said in The Autobiography…. sounds like the web..0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization (2006). Russian painter Pavel Tchelitchew. Chapter One of this dissertation for more explicit detail on Watts. Most of the memoirists included in Linda Simon’s Gertrude Stein Remembered (1994) note several consistencies—she was a struggling writer who longed for fame. Matthews.” since people now think hypertext means the web” (Nelson).2. Though Nelson published Literary Machines in 1981. 44 43 42 41 It is important to note that Nelson has since abandoned the term (hypertext) he created. 38 39 40 37 Cf. includes a collection of memoirs by twenty people. annotation. 2004: 297-328.. RSS feeds. wikis. journalists T. The Internet is a media conduit for hypertext and hypermedia.) But my approach is about literary depth—including side-by-side intercomparison. (1994). Gertrude Stein Remembered. and a unique copyright proposal.. and Eric Sevareid. Linda Simon. anarchic and populist. ed. This third edition of the text addresses changes brought about by the developments characterized by Web 2. he was developing and writing about hypertext in the late 1950s and early 1960s. the article was written in 1936 but kept in his desk drawer until he submitted it to the Atlantic Monthly in 1945.

When we write in hypertext. 55 54 53 Chat classrooms differ from standard chat rooms in noticeable ways. 50 When links connect to an uploaded media form such as a PDF. we use a keyboard which sends signals to a word processing 174 56 . 48 49 Cf. though not often employed in autobiographical webpages. Howard Rheingold’s The Virtual Community (1995). 51 HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. Landow notes that he uses the terms hypertext and hypermedia interchangeably. a text in which the logocentric writer guides the reader in a linear fashion is contradictory and false: “The concept of centered structure – although it represents coherence itself – is contradictorily coherent. When we type hypertext on a computer. in effect. Contrarily. And as always coherence in contradiction expresses the force of a desire” (“Structure.47 In Of Grammatology and in “Structure. and Richard Lanham’s The Electronic Word (1993). employ wiki software to allow for the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked webpages. Class chat rooms typically have a moderator or instructor who controls various technological features of the setting including access. Derrida defined some of the basic tenets of deconstruction including the de-centered text. Skype is a communication service company that provides a software application (also called Skype) that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. Wiki websites are more commonly used to create collaborative websites that allow for the free exchange of ideas. we undergo a complex. John Perry Barlow’s “The Economy of Ideas: Selling Wine without Bottles on the Global Net” (1995).com or . the media file often opens up in a separate window thereby creating. keeps shifting its center as the reader pursues various links and trains of thought. a de-centered text. It is the primary computer language used in the design of webpages. invisible process. He contended that a centered text. 52 Asynchronous forms of communication including email are typically found in “contact” buttons on most websites. Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” among other texts. I discuss HTML in detail in Chapter Four. Synchronous forms of communication including instant messenger (IM) are commonly used in commercial operations (. Wikis. They employ “WYSIWYG” (What You See Is What You Get) text editors within the web browser. a de facto form of a singledirectional link. like hypertext. Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” 171).net) which require convenient customer service options. It includes options for video streaming which enables both parties to see each other via webcam as they converse.

Sirach. but this unlikely. The CPU then decodes the source code into binary language (a series of 1s and 0s). which represents what we know as letters on a screen. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. which in turn uses its source code to send electronic signals to a motherboard or central processing unit (CPU). 58 Search function should not be confused with commercial search engines like Google which are solely external programs. 65 Of course the reader could have read this passage in print before reading the writing that preceded it. binary is turned back into source code. 57 Wiki-sites would presumably have links to the full-text version of St. a typical reader would read from page 1 onward. For a more in-depth discussion of how our modern society came to think of technology as a concept referring to the tools of progress divorced from social ramifications and impacts. see Ronald Tulley’s “Is There Techne in My Logos? On the Origins and Evolution of the Ideographic Term—Technology. All of these layers take place in a nanosecond. Cf. 2 Maccabees. I discuss issues of financing websites beginning in Chapter Five. Many websites use commercial search engines for external searches and provide convenient links to such sites on their homepages.” The International Journal of Technology. 2008. al) is another feature of hypertext. Text is actually encoded HTML which in turn is layered over the binary code. Plain Text. 64 The Latin Vulgate version of the bible includes the so-called “deuterocanonical books” which are not recognized as biblical texts by Protestants. “Internal” means that the dictionary is hosted by the CCEL not an external website. I do not include it as one of my five significant features of hypertext since choosing a version of the text that can be read in an offline environment eliminates all other features of the hypertext. Jerome Hamilton Buckley’s The Turning Key: Autobiography and the Subjective Impulse Since 1800. These seven books are Tobit. 1 Maccabees. and Baruch. Judith. A live version is required to employ the properties of a hypertext. 66 175 . Wisdom. 93-104. 4:1. 1984. Advertisements have become a “feature” of hypertext. et. Augustine’s Confessions. Knowledge and Society. 59 60 61 I discuss commercial influences upon online autobiography beginning in Chapter Five. Unless the reader randomly opened this page or accessed an index for a specific section.program or web authoring program. the CPU interprets binary language as yes and no responses to questions in the word-processing program. 62 63 Choice of format (PDF. Then.

Examples of data: web sites visited. according to the methodology used by The Statistical Abstract of the United States. Certainly. the number climbs to over 65 percent. personal webpage. contents of email or messaging. homepage. It is designed to be a service that allows a user to view a webpage that runs on the Internet. universities. For a definition of born digital. The Internet is a greater global communication conduit for data upon which the World Wide Web relies.” It is important to note that Hall’s proficiency with HTML (the computer language used for basic web authoring) is essential to the development of his website. hypertext autobiography. i. These resulting avatars can be viewed online. this question is still problematic. digital images. nearly 113 million American adults (age 18 and up) had access to the Internet at home or work. When those under the age of eighteen are factored in. a user and their unique history. libraries. Using computer and mobile phone surveillance. it is a topic that has largely “been theorized out of existence” along with the idea of the ontological self (9). and personal website when referring to online autobiography. see Chapter Three. video game moves. According to Justin Allyn Hall. “Internet Access and Usage and Online Service Usage” section of The Statistical Abstract of the United States (2007). Passively Multiplayer Online Gaming or PMOG “is a system for turning user data into ongoing play. For a critique of intertextuality. I address this question specifically in Chapter One.” The World Wide Web was created by Tim BernersLee in 1992. email addresses. these terms refer to the autobiographical texts in online environments. 90. p. digital video. contents of word processed documents. Prior to Web 2. By 2000. While having multiple terms may present problems of referentiality. but as Susanna Egan notes in Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography (1999). chat handles.The “World Wide Web” is a term that is often confused both with hypertext (see Nelson) and with the term “Internet. 68 67 Cf. The 113 million who had access comprised approximately 57 percent of the adult American population. for more information on the concept of intertextuality see also Julia Kristeva’s Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art (1980) and Gunhild Agger’s Intertextuality Revisited: Dialogues and Negotiations in Media Studies (1999).0 176 74 73 .. these numbers do not account for less formal Internet access points. 72 71 In addition to Culler. Moreover. etc. and digital autobiography. The World Wide Web can be recognized by the designation “www” before Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) more commonly known as web addresses. 69 70 The phrase “personal homepages” is used interchangeably in popular culture with the terms homesite. see William Irwin’s “Against Intertextuality” (2004).e. and they interact with other avatars online.

” UNIX is a computer operating system originally developed in 1969 by a group of AT&T employees at Bell Labs. frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” Twitter can be activated through any device including computers and most mobile technologies. educated users of programs like Dreamweaver may still see the code “behind” the template. 75 The screen capture used on page 6 is a truncated version of the homepage “Justin's Links from the Underground—autobio.and so called “WYSIWYG” (What You See Is What You Get) programs. 76 77 According to the Twitter website. Act 5. they may revise the code “by hand. Pennsylvania. “coding” in HTML was the only way to create a website. While sentenced to death for murder. Nielsen.links. For an in-depth discussion of these concepts. sophisticated computer programs including but not limited to Dreamweaver allow the author of a website to avoid having to use HTML code to create design elements and text by embedded HTML in a template. Twitter 1 March 2009. However. Source code makes the software function.html>. he is currently serving an undefined sentence at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution near Waynesburg. who was convicted for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. Peter and Stuart K. and if they know HTML. <http://www. and the last line is from Stanza 9 of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Mumia Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther Party activist from Philadelphia.” See <http://www. alertbox/20030630. Today. 20 March 2009. It is the primary language used in the design of webpages. 79 80 78 The hyperlink “Gramma” is no longer active as of 10/15/2007. see Chapter Three. Pennsylvania. “Twitter is a service for friends. a web author would have to understand HTML thoroughly to create a dynamic website like Hall’s. <http://twitter. 20 March 2009. In the early days of the web.useit.” Hall points this out himself in a separate hyperlink. In short.” Psychological Review 106.” Alertbox 30 June 2003. His 83 82 177 . family. Jakob. HTML and UNIX are known as source codes. “Information>. The first two lines are from> for the complete hypertext version. Card. it is the “invisible” layer of instructions underneath what the user sees. The reader may recognize these words as an amalgam of two literary works. Cf. HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. “Information Foraging: Why Google Makes People Leave Your Site Faster.4 (1999): 643-67. 81 Cf. and co– workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick. Scene 2.

00. that he never states this plainly in any of his versions of personal website. three major historic urban newspapers have discontinued operations: Seattle Post-Intelligencer. which owns the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. Both works were published posthumously. The Tribune Company. or even a website. Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes). Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988) and Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda (1997). Michael Ann Holly. 09 March 2009 <http://www. Thumbnails are small graphical representations of larger images. Cf. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967). Illuminations (1969) Ed. Noam Chomsky. 87 88 89 For more on the historical genre conventions.time. Marshal McLuhan. It should be noted. Thumbnails are used to maximize screen space while maintaining a representation of an original image. Hall does do this today on many of his websites. 85 86 84 As of July 2009. A thumbnail can represent a picture. Cf. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964). For more on the ongoing problem of print newspaper solvency. see also “The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America” Time Magazine.8599.. 90 91 Of course. is in bankruptcy. a graphic.1883785. but particularly. Alan Trachtenberg. Norman Bryson. Hannah Arendt and “A Short History of Photography” in Classical Essays on Photography (1980) Ed. Reading American Photographs: Images as History. The Language of New Media (2001). Mathew Brady to Walker Evans (1989) and Visual Culture: Images and Interpretations (1994) Eds. See Chapter Three for a discussion of Web 2. however. see Chapter One. Hochstein’s welcome letter does not appear in the 2009 version of “Documented Life” (as of July 2009). and Verbi-Voco-Visual Explorations (1964).0. a number of works.death sentence was quashed in December 2001 by a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Rocky Mountain New.html>. Alan Trachtenberg. Lev Manovich. 178 95 94 93 92 . In 2009 alone. Keith Moxey and James Elkins “Art History and Images That Are Not Art” (1995). Ann Arbor News. Originally published in French and translated into English (en francais.

Vladimir Nabakov’s Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (1947). 179 .96 97 Cf. “The Death of an Author” (1967). Cf.

). from early “cyber> pioneers” including you--Justin Allyn Hall (“autobio”) and Miles > Hochstein (“Documented Life: An Autodocumentary”) to the present day > proliferation of social networking sites (e. If I am right. Specifically. i. 2009. I am particularly interested in the ways digital > self-life writing approximates many conventional aspects of > autobiography. > Bibo. Facebook. I am an English professor at a medium-sized > private school in the Midwest (see profiles here > <http://www. Principally.findlay.findlay.. MySpace. Ronald J. > so mea culpa if I am wrong in this presumption. and some replies in-line: > On Feb 7. my basic contention is that > hypertext autobiography mimics the “self-in-process” that scholars of > autobiography have claimed cannot be accurately recorded in print. the inclusion of verifiable events in the subject’s > life. I am concerned with how the > digital autobiography reproduces the archetypal characteristics of > narrative drive. you seem like a person who would encourage this. at 08:00. I am in the > final stages of writing my dissertation at Case Western Reserve > University on the evolution of autobiography. > Without all the scholarly legerdemain.g. My dissertation > examines the ways that autobiography has been influenced by the > multimodal realm of the I was wondering if you would be > willing to answer a few quick questions for me? > > Did you actively incorporate feedback from outside parties into your 180 .htm> > if you're interested--NOTE: my profile is very dated). and the finite > limits of what can be included within the printed text.e. a strong tendency towards a linear chronology. Tulley wrote: > Hi Justin: > > Before I begin let me apologize both for the length of my email and > the impromptu contact.htm> > and here <http://www.APPENDIX A—EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE WITH JUSTIN ALLYN HALL Hi Ronald! Here is your original email. I trace online > (digital) autobiography from its infancy. > please indulge me. I like your line of thinking! > Now that you know what I am doing. > > My name is Ron et al. Judging by all that I have read from your > various postings.

net/ in the summer of 1994 and haven't looked back. I encouraged other people to write their own web pages. In the case of the web.links. and also other future blog points to the same site. I definitely confirmed that. I might tell them. like I was reporting on my life . If there was someone I profiled or interviewed or felt a strong passion for the writing I'd done in response to our conversation or something they shared with me. I've had four web hosts in the last 15 years . At one point some of the folks commenting on my blog proposed that I had been faking some of the contents.sccs. if someone said "You never write about X" and I later wrote about X. managing edits for other people who had pages on my page was crazy to imagine.links.> revisions of “autobio”? Yes. For a while I had comments on my daily postings. So my autobiography has been redacted by outside parties. So I wrote two posts in the third person."please remove X story about me from your web site" I believe I have always ultimately complied (even if it took me a little while). then meet someone else over here" otherwise.that was a direct response to their allegations of falsehood. justin. Some of the most memorable feedback was about boundary transgression .edu/jahall/ then moved to http://links.html > Did you notify them of such changes if you did or did you assume > that they would simply note the revisions w/o your help? if someone requested a redaction. especially as I incorporated a wide range of relationships in my That definitely provoked responses some times. So that was a sort of ready dialog .I can list them if you're interested.html http://www. and I would hand it to other people and suggest they write something somewhere. http://www.swarthmore. I used to carry around a paper journal."meet me online. and then I would link to their web page from my 181 . I might mention them. > Have you switched your “web-host” over the years or has the primary > URL always been the same? I started off at http://raptor.

diverse viewpoints. a palimpcest layers of information. at the time you were writing "autobio" > that would be nice to know too. et al. a lot of people around me were looking at the world this way. I always said that I taught people to tell their stories online so they could claim their own story and extend the 182 . When I saw the structure of the web. until the burden became too great and I stopped writing about other people and then I didn't have much to write about. > Did certain people contact you to take their information off of your > site? Absolutely. I had written autobiographical short stories. postmodern literary theory. > Bakhtin. I think I read some of the post-structuralists. dissolving the self into a multitude of identity pieces that are constantly recontextualized according to relationships of power. So I think I learned to talk about myself. Barthes. I thought it made a ton of sense as a place to build a networked biography. In college I took a class on Proust. I'm not sure I understand "self-in-process" as you mean it here juxtaposed? I'd been in psychotherapy for many years in grade school. but not as important. For a few brief years I was excited to write non-linear non-chronological memories. Life fortunately defies categorization. > Were you conscious of an evolving “self-in-process” that you were > creating online as juxtaposed to a fixed-print version of your > autobiography? If you had any knowledge of the theories of Derrida. and process my thoughts there. I guess that's to be expected with thousands of information scraps posted over eleven years or so. linked pages.> Did you get permission (legal or other) from the parties you posted > online? Increasingly. The self as a pastiche. Even with a database you need some categories. I get a few requests a year.I started before databases and I tried to hand order a massive heirarchy of life taxonomy. I remember having some debates with people about the act of writing about someone as an act of claiming them for your story. cultural studies folks. His wandering memoir style seemed like a nice match for non-linear web linked life telling. It was really the file structure that killed it . So everyone ends up using time as the default organizing principle..

. I like having a home on the web that shows me and my work and thoughts. > Will you continue to maintain (host) the original site for the > foreseeable future? Sure yeah although it's been having technical difficulties. etc. It means my web site has gotten more boring! > Would you ever consider revamping the original site and > incorporating into a new site of your creation (i. Thank you Ron . or social-networking type site)? When I was 19 I thought I'd write long essays or free verse poems about my life constantly online forever until I died.overall range of voices online. > Your work inspires me. I have a professional life anchored in group identity . blog. > Ron > 183 . I hope that you can answer my questions in > the spirit they're intended and offer me new perspectives I haven’t > yet considered. I have been open minded about what I might ever do with what is on my links. I'm not writing my identity in order to find out who I am. I hope my answers here help your work some! Cheers. But I had to hold my own sometimes. So yeah I was exposed to some theory. not a pre> packaged template.I don't have a professional life anchored in my individuality. and a husband to my wife and co-founder. It has been integral to my research > for the last two CEO of a small business. So I have a lot of focus. Justin > Best. I'm so busy making something new (a game incorporated with online life called The Nethernet http://thenethernet. Justin.I appreciate your questions and patience.e. and I actively sought some out in classes. Since I abandoned those ) . > You obviously were ahead of your time and continue to be in terms of > your knowledge and understanding of the potential of the Internet. because it seemed like if you absorbed enough of those ideas it would be very hard to author yourself with much conviction.

Ohio 45840 > (419) 434-4608 184 . Tulley > Director of Technical Communication > Assistant Professor of English > The University of Findlay > 1000 N. Main Street > Findlay.> Ronald J.

edu/directory/facstaff/T/rtulley. Nor do I feel that today. >My dissertation examines the ways that autobiography has been influenced by the >multimodal realm of the Internet. See below. >I am particularly interested in the ways digital self-life writing approximates many >conventional aspects of autobiography. I was a little scared about it. facebook. I trace online (digital) autobiography >from its infancy.. My wife and I talked about the implications of going public in 2001 and 2002. my basic contention is that hypertext >autobiography mimics the “self-in-process” that scholars of autobiography have claimed >cannot be accurately recorded in print. I am concerned with how the digital >autobiography reproduces the archetypal characteristics of narrative drive. Principally. so I don't know how to escape the linear nature of time! One thing that I think I tried to avoid was any implicit argument that my life was "leading up to" something.. but I certainly didn't feel as if I had one. Now that you know what I am doing.g.htm> if you're interested--NOTE: >my profile is very dated). It was relatively rare at that time.APPENDIX B—EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE WITH MILES HOCHSTEIN Miles Hochstein wrote: Ronald. If I am right.e.findlay. but I 185 . I'm an historian and empiricist at heart. Did you >actively incorporate feedback from outside parties into your revisions of “Documented >Life”? I sought no feedback. MySpace. i. I was >wondering if you would be willing to answer a few quick questions for me. My name is Ron Tulley. so mea culpa if I am wrong in this >presumption. I am an English >professor at a medium sized private school in the Midwest (see profiles here ><http://www. or headed to a destination. Specifically. a strong tendency towards a linear chronology. >and the finite limits of what can be included within the printed text. >et al. please indulge me. Tulley wrote: >Hi Miles: Before I begin let me apologize both for the length of my email and the >impromptu contact. Bibo. Judging by all that I have read from your various postings. >Without all the scholarly ledgerdemain.findlay. you >seem like a person who would encourage this. Not sure exactly what you mean by narrative drive.htm> and here ><http://www.). from early “cyber-pioneers” including Justin Allyn Hall >(“autobio”) and (you) Miles Hochstein (“Documented Life: An Autodocumentary”) to >the present day proliferation of social networking sites (e. Happy to try to respond. I am in the final stages (I will defend this semester) of writing >my dissertation at Case Western Reserve University on the evolution of autobiography. Ronald J. the inclusion >of verifiable events in the subject’s

A way to shout out to the world. Throw it out there and see what happens. Maybe we'll discover that we are living right next door to each other. after all. and there is no way to "unsay" something on the internet. Have others notified you that you inspired them to write their >own story? Have you developed an online "community" of sorts that was (is) initiated >by your site? Yes. so I sometimes change the site to reflect my preferred rendering of reality. Did anyone? Facebook and places like that begin to look like community. I chose it because I had a lot of pieces of paper and photos. would care? I've always (or at least for a long time) been aware of google cache and "the way back machine" so I know that earlier versions are out there. that seems very clear. but not linked.. or maybe they found me after they started their efforts . because in some areas the things that I want to say have changed. After a while it got old and I lost interest. I didn't know what the internet was in 2001. It is still there. I had saved all these old driver's licenses.. Who knows? I didn't know. Cool! 186 . Other online autobiographers sent me links to their own efforts. Maybe we'll all email each other. I don't think I knew how putting my story online would matter in 2001 or 2002. For a while I maintained the "otherpeople.I don't know. if they bother to take the time at all. My site with static pages is laughable in that context .. That was in the period that I was researching most heavily other people doing what I was doing. Now that we have real community sites.thought it would be fun.. particularly at the time it was "Yahoo Site of the Day". Who.htm" page.. The people who were developing interactive web 2. >Part of your inspiration according to your site was to encourage others to create their >own life stories online. I'm here and WE are here on planet earth. It was just an adventure. Behosting. >Did you notify them of such changes if you did or did you assume that they would >simply note the revisions w/o your help? As I have revised the site I have never notified anyone. The idea of "online community" was an idealistic thought. and obviously could not create community. really) people did write me and some did say they were inspired by my site. I did say that didn't I? Over the years (not in recent years. see the current version.. Domain name has remained the same. Maybe they were inspired by me.0 sites had a much better idea than me! >Have you switched your “web-host” over the years or has the primary URL always been >the same? It has never changed... I figure that for most readers. recommended by someone I met online (owner of "inflatablesheep").it has not created community. Maybe lots of folks will do it. which I consider to be somewhat unfortunate. but that's life. a passing thought. I thought of the photos and paper as "documentary evidence" of the reality of the past. they will.

as a photographer and a scientist. I believe that the stories we write create reality. reality is the text. points to the empirical bent which initiated the project. photographs are themselves. But still. et al. anyone as influenced by Jewish mysticism and deconstruction as I am couldn't help but be aware of the flip side of that. and in particular perhaps trying to write a past that I could live with. No one has ever said "take it down. I was at the time I was writing and creating the site. I >assume) you posted online? Nope. I was also creating a version of it that I could live with publicly. a version that I wouldn't 187 . is itself a creative act. the world is secondary. not things that created reality. So I was always caught between the understanding that the words I wrote were creating the story of my life as I (if no one else) would then have to live it. >Did certain people contact you to take their information off of your site? No. Trying to pin it down. Yet.. but the photographs were (as I understood it and still do) creations. I usually just threw it up there and then eventually shared the url with them. If they had asked I certainly would have removed them. an artifact that is secondary to the physical and "actual" world. In a few cases I worried about using the picture of an old girlfriend or friend. symbols. but also trying to tame it. which I view as "evidence" about reality. they maintain for me that status. but I'm not sure how that affected the project. Bakhtin. never happened. a process of creating reality. (Life is much better now!) So the site was an escape and a bit of therapy too. going through a process of therapy and considerable unhappiness in my work life. etc.. and no matter how I present them. and as I understand them. If God speaks differently the world is created differently. at the time you were writing >"Documented Life" that would be nice to know too. but not as important. or even "documents". Etc. I was very influenced by Derrida and Barthes. However. I viewed their images as part of my life. a version that was emotionally tamped down. But I don't think I ever really asked.. God speaks and the world is created. Barthes.. in which deploying words. Obviously.>Did you get permission (legal or other) from the parties (not your family members. >Were you conscious of an evolving “self-in-process” that you were creating online as >juxtaposed to a fixed-print version of your autobiography? If you had any knowledge of >the theories of Derrida. I have a different (not necessarily reconcilable) view of images. the very name of the site "documented" life." I thought about it a little. but there never seemed an overwhelming reason not to put an image up. So what to do with this dual understanding? Certainly you could argue that HOW you arrange photographs is an editorial decision. fixed traces of what really was. In both a Jewish kabbalistic sense and a Derrida-ian sense. I mean.. as I treat them. In that sense I was writing a self for myself. To me a photograph is a trace of reality.

or future employers. I felt this. little windows into a world so spectacular that the imagination (my imagination) just boggles. So it had to be a big lie . photographs) seriously. Creating truths out of whole cloth holds little interest to me. I'm just not that into me! And I don't want people to think I am that in to me.. But I know that writing history and biography requires an "entrained imagination". But in the end. and I find it difficult.mind sharing with my parents (they would read it. and they are what make the story worth reading. and sometimes I've gone back and rewritten the more recent material. I enjoy reading biography and history.. (I know that the 1995 page was the first. or future friends. the feelings.the kind of lie that all of life in human society is. I peer into old photos (not just my own) and I'm stunned by the thought of how wholly real and wholly vanished the world they portray really is. I was there. we must take the facts (documents. or with old girlfriends. for me. There is no reason to have it online anymore... my wedding.. For the last few years I've just put up a few yearly photographs. and I have often (recently) considered taking it down and putting it in a book for my children and grandchildren. I assumed). or perhaps as the past grows freeer. as the past grows more dead. 188 . the facts. I do believe. mostly. Most of the writing probably was in the 2001 2003 period. I may take it down in the next few years. purged of pain and self pity and unhappiness and rage and anger . and perhaps in some sense we even create realities (in a Derridian sense) by how we arrange and frame the facts.. a zone less fixed by memory and facts. I felt that... People have said I revealed a lot. just because if it is going to be online that it ought to be minimally up to date. but there is a creative spark that makes them live. and remains the relationship between the time when the story was written and the time it describes. documents and photographs. naturally. and thus more open to being created in a version that pleases me. One very strange aspect of creating the site was... A fact. Not the names and places and outlines.. or my spouse or friends. but if the truth were known I have concealed much as well. I can't get enough of those windows into the reality of the past. I could write an agonized scream of an autobiography.just the dry facts. symbolized by the photographs. but.) Since then I have been engaged in low intensity journaling (I update photos a little. are real. change a text here or there). Old photographs are magic time machines. perhaps. I've tried writing fiction. but this site was consciously about not doing that. or with my children. has a beauty that no fiction can really approach. while telling the truth at the same time. I was here... nothing more. transforming a journal into a autobiography. >Will you continue to maintain the site for the foreseeable future? The site is a very low priority to me. and more fixable as a story. and perhaps one day I will. which is the main downside to having it there..

Since then Facebook and others figured that problem out in a >much deeper sense. just ask again. I thought it would be fun to see if it would >somehow be connected to personalizing and socializing the web . Miles 189 . >Best. You are very kind.>I know you may have answered many of these questions both directly and indirectly on >your site in its various manifestations. Ohio 45840 (419) 434-4608 Ron. Thank you. If I've left a question unanswered.I'll enjoy seeing what you make of it. You note.-) Your work inspires online in some >great world community. Tulley >Director of Technical Communication >Assistant Professor of English >The University of Findlay >1000 N. It has been integral to my research for the >last two years. You obviously were ahead of your time and >continue to be in terms of your knowledge and understanding of the potential of Web >2. and the universal human community on the internet is still >emerging. Facebook and >social networking in general owe a good deal of gratitude to you and those pioneers like >you who produced their life online in an organic and evolving manner and in doing so >provided models for a template that has now become commonplace--at least that is what >I contend ." While there can be no doubt that the Internet is still emerging. Main Street >Findlay. "Back when I created this site. I hope that you can answer my questions in the spirit they're intended and >perhaps offer me new perspectives I haven’t yet considered. Miles. If you publish on any of this please do send me a link to your work . I sincerely appreciate your time in articulating >your responses again in those cases. >Ron >Ronald J.0.

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