Thinking about George Landow’s observation that, 

One might claim to see a parallel between the dotcom bust and the general loss of academic standing by critical theory….

and

[Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, and other critical theorists’] approach to textuality remains very helpful in understanding our experiece of hypermedia. And vice versa. *

 in connection with my recent piece on long-form historical narrative. The context of these comments comes with Landow’s admission that poststructuralism waned in the academy, even as the read-write world of Web 2.0 exploded. He’s right in his contention that poststructuralists provide excellent analytical tools for understanding hypertext and the read-write web. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect example of Deluezian/Foucaultian emergence than the explosion of hypertextual writing in the post-dotcom era, materially manifest in the LAMP stack (linux, apache, mysql, php), and served to the world through the well-masked control of Protocol

Historiography always maintained a tenuous relationship to poststructuralism. And the demise of the latter has been celebrated by many Historians if only in continued silence and a smug sense of having “correctly” ignored it all along.  

Historians, to generalize to a ridiculous extent, simply struggle to incorporate theoretical challenges that simultaneously lack historicity AND that set out to undermine narrativity.  

Which brings me back to my discontent with current options for long-form narrative online. Is my discontent related to the theoretical implications of hypertextuality itself?

 

*George Landow, Hypertext 3.0 (Johns Hopkins Press, 2006):xiv.

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Associate Professor of Early Latin America Department of History University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Posted in Digital History

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Chad Black

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I, your humble contributor, am Chad Black. You can also find me on the web here.
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