© 2009 Zachary McCune portrait_de_dante

The Dante Experiments

True post-structuralism needs post-structural forms, or at the very least, forms that re-imagine structure so as to call attention to its artifice. I find it offensive (and ironic) that a full generation of academics have written about and developed ideas for post-structuralism that rely upon writing- an inherently sequential and therefore structural form- to attempt to imagine that beyond structure. Of couse we cannot truly understand post-structuralism until we actually overthrow the discursive forms (i.e. the essay) that perpetuate them.

This project, entitled “The Dante Experiements” attempts to consider new forms for discourse by taking an existing text and re-imagining it. For this purpose, I have selected Canto I of Dante’s Inferno, a text people may be familiar with, but it doesn’t matter, because this project will create permuations of the poem through various flash interfaces. I am interested in what will happen to the poem as I consider this alternative forms. If nothing else, this electronic literature project investigates how form matters in the perception of content. Expect MORE!

This first permutation is very straight-forward. It imagines a digital translation of canto I that generally perserves (albeit abstractly) the sequential ordering of Dante’s poem. By “reading” (clicking) on the dots from left to right, the user can navigate Dante’s poem as one would navigate text generally, from left to right.

The second permuation attempts to articulate the poem’s narrative overlay (perhaps a symbolic overlay) by breaking the sequence of the dots into a progression of symbols. Again, we would suspect that the reader/user would still navigate left to right as with another text, but the difference here is that the user has a second channel of information that parses and differentiates the stanza-dots. In many ways, this draws attention to the fact that because the dots look all the same there is little to differentiate them in the first permutation save order. Now that the dots are grouped under terms, a user may read the groupings as a new layer in the poem, but a layer that was not as explicitly present in Dante’s original.

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