Fun da mentals : Rhetorical Devices for Electronic Literature

This Sentence is False: Contradiction in multiple voices


Experiment: On Your Own
Exchange: Share Your Creations

Student works {None yet} Share your work


In print literature, there is usually a single voice. In fiction, this is usually the narrator of the story (Joey learned to hate the group that killed his mother. They were only lawless terrorists and one could not listen to their demands for food, clean water, freedom to choose their leaders or their religion. Terrorists who killed themselves to kill his mother could not be granted anything. ) or the story can be told in first person (I listened to my teachers at school, to the newspapers, to the rants. All of it was a complex, interwoven mess. The only thing I knew for certain was that my mother would never hold me again.). In nonfiction, this may be a single author expressing a viewpoint or it may be multiple authors explaining a subject. Very rarely will the story or explanation or thought process allow for multiple voices, multiple interpretations, within the same text.

Electronic literature, on the other hand, easily embodies multiple voices within a single piece. These voices can be shown differently (set off with a different font or a different color or a different placement on the screen). Or these voices may be more subtly distinguished--only after careful reading does a reader see that the nodes come from different "authors" or narrators or sources. Dissenting voices may even be hidden within the text--either as a secret node or as a series of nodes accessible by certain links or paths only.

A piece can portray many voices at once--and it may not be clear who is speaking when. This plurality of voices can also lead to a single piece proclaiming contradictions. As text can be hidden and unhidden, readers can discover one thing and then discover its opposite in the piece as well.


Exercise: This Sentence is False

Set up a work (using any electronic literature tool) where the first sentence in the pair is displayed, and the user can click on that to get the opposite.

Experiment: On Your Own


Flipping positions
  1. Get some index cards or a deck of cards
  2. Write a positive statement on the front and a corresponding negative one on the back of each one.
  3. Arrange cards randomly or in a structured placement.
Through other voices
  1. Find a variety of different opinions on one subject that interests you (these can be blogs, newspaper articles, school papers, etc.) You can also use corresponding images.
  2. Cut each out and glue it to a hard backing or place these on a posterboard.
  3. Cut out thin paper strips (you can use different colors to represent different themes)
  4. Use these strips as connectors--place them between the texts. On each strip, write the connection between the two texts.

Team sport

Point and counterpoint

  1. Have everyone write on the same thing (a situation, an image, a sound, an object, a recent incident in the news, etc.) for 10 minutes.
  2. Switch cards with everyone, so everyone has a different card. Write a response to this new card for 10 minutes.
  3. Switch cards as a set again, so everyone has a set of first card and second card responses. Write a response to both cards for 10 minutes.
  4. Arrange the cards on a poster board and use connectors (as in the links experiment) as a series of voices.

Party (adapted from Mark Bernstein)

Here's an exercise: write a Storyspace hypertext that describes a party. For example, you might place dialogue in the nodes, and use
links to move either in time or across space (as one might experience a party while wandering throught the room.

Now, start over and write an account of the *same* party, with the same people and events, but with a completely different approach to
the use of links. Some alternatives you might consider:

Exchange: Share Your Creations

Share your work in person
Take a few readers through your piece--ask which voices or opinions or statements they agree with. Use this as a starting point for a discussion of your issues or stories.

Share your work online

We'd love to show your work--either send it or send a URL for your work here to be a part of this site.

Fun da mentals: Links / Images / Sounds / Multiple voices / Node paths / Spatial placement/ Collage and layering / Fonts / Secrets / Random / Glossary / Tools / Teacher's Guide