We are in the midst of a revolution. We are learning how to speak a new language. All around us our world is making the quiet technological shift from analogue to digital forms, causing text and image to realign themselves in relation to each other and to the world. The revolutionary potential for art and language in this transformation is immeasurable. This new language is what media oracle Marshall McLuhan called an "uttering (outering) of all our senses at once" (McLuhan 83):
And of women.
Out of this new (interactive) relationship between text and image comes the growing importance of hypertext as a language, art form and mode of thought, especially for women. It is a spatial form, rooted in the timelessness or the "weightlessness" (McLuhan 84) of indeterminacy. It has a reader-defined, fluid textual aesthetic, operating through linkages and associational logic, that is at its essence polylingual, multidimensional and potentially revolutionary. It embodies subversive potential for many reasons, among them the fact that it is anti-authoritarian, inclusive, collective and 'unspeakable.' It exists outside of the word because it is interactive and collective. Because hypertext operates on a sensory level, it makes more sense to show how it works rather than to speak about it, just as Isadora Duncan remarked, "If I could explain it, I wouldn't have to dance it" (qtd, McDaid, 455). The hypertext dance embodies the hum of the hive of our times.
Many of the first practitioners to join their voices to this hum have been women who have brought with them feminist sensibilities, poststructuralist theory and political projects for change. Hypertext has lent itself particularly well to translating these concerns into a political honeycombing, an undermining of mainstream discourse, a 'patterning of the senses' to speak with centrality from the margins. Crucial to literary hypertext is its intertextual focus: intertextuality invites other voices in and, "in doing so," Jacques Derrida says, "it can break with every given context, engendering an infinity of new contexts in a manner which is absolutely illimitable" (qtd, Landow, 8). Hypertextual honeycombs indeed.
My own perspective is from the margins, as a Canadian, a poet and a feminist working in avant-garde literary forms in an English Department in academia. Canada has always occupied a unique position outside the hive of the American perspective and has at least partly as a result generated a host of cultural critics (from Marshall McLuhan to Arthur and Marilouise Kroker), just as we supply America with so many comedians and comediennes--showing that there is but a small gap perhaps between irony and criticism. Feminists by definition, of course, are in opposition to patriarchal institutions, no matter how much we might try to work within them. You will find no answers here for I can only speak from such a gap, out of this rupture in the sensuous fabric of thinking that is the associational space of hypertext. What you will find is a multidimensional map of some of the prevailing winds of current feminist electronic thought.
This hypertext is intended to be a gathering. I have clustered together in one hive a chorus of widely diverse Canadian and American women's hypertextual voices. I point towards (some of) the connections between them. No doubt there are many worthy souls that I have missed, but I have tried to be as inclusive and comprehensive as possible (to avoid being prescriptive). At the same time, I also gesture in the direction of some of the guiding lights, artists that I identify as--to continue my controlling metaphor--the Queen Bees of their own honeycomb of discourses. This is simply a first step towards talking about what women are collectively doing in literary hypertext and about the commonalities their widely divergent projects share. For, as Carolyn Guyer, one of the mothers of feminist hypertext, says in her novel Quibbling: "surely it's better for the girls to know the connections between what they do here and what's been done elsewhere."