in the Age of Media, Computers, and Internet
LITERARY EDUCATION IN THE AGE OF HYPERTEXTUAL AND NETWORKED COMMUNICATION: STRATEGIES FOR AN INTERACTIVE CRITICAL PEDAGOGY
Drawing on the author's experience of teaching literature with electronic modes of reading/writing, this paper argues the advantages of hypertextual and networked modes of criticism in literary education. Hypertextual and collaborative on-line criticism fulfill many of the tasks set forth by reader-oriented criticism, as pioneered by Wolfgang Iser's work. They emphasize process criticism, multilevel (rather than linear) reading and writing, and a strong interaction between reader, text/intertext, and culture. The paper also considers some of the limitations of electronic reading and writing: hypertextual reading/writing provides the pleasure of open-ended discoveries but no lasting resolution; the virtual space of an electronic criticism classroom encourages intercultural conversation but also disembodies cultural agents, removing (especially in anonymous electronic conversation), "accents," gender or ethnic bacground. Interrogating these limitations, the author proposes a version of networked criticism that counters the friction-reducing effects of technology with the friction-producing differences of a multicultural critical dialogue. Moving away from a simplified understanding of reader response and identity politics which has allowed students to operate as "monadic individuals" from the position of "that's my personal opinion," the author argues for a use of electronic technologies that enables, in David Caroll's words, "the possibility of links and relationships to others and to alterity that are not rooted in or dependent on any . . . essence of self to itself." Hypertextual and networked criticism are called upon to provide the "intersticial space" that can allow links between "differentiated subjects" to emerge (Molly Abel Travis), encouraging them to a careful intercultural reading and listening.