Reflections on my Thesis Progress…

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This weekend and upcoming week I’m designating time out of my day to do research for my literature review. As I quickly learned in Research and Methodologies, this is no easy feat. The literature review is the nucleus of our thesis project. I have a lot of work ahead of me but I’m looking forward to it. I actually enjoyed the literature review process last spring, it started out as a complete headache but ended up with me finding some amazing resources, that helped solidify my research and findings. My first step is to take Craig’s advice (how cool is he?) and play around with the Kean Library resources online. After that I plan to read some memoirs to help familiarize myself with the genre. I got a jumpstart in creative non fiction this past spring, which focused on the genre of memoir. Heartberries is one of my all time favorite memoirs. I love, love, love Terese Mailhot! Her writing speaks and breaths life into my soul! I hope and pray I can write as beautifully and as eloquently as she does one day. Her memoir was a scorcher, which dealt with so many important themes from: race, sexism, social injustice, substance abuse, violence and most of all the effects of mental illness. I could relate to this touching story of her life in so many ways. I also love that the ending is triumphant, as it is in my thesis project. She inspires me and I will read her book again, just for fun, and also find other works related to OCD in particular and see what I can learn and use as a resource from there. I’ve done extensive research on OCD as a disorder, especially when I was first diagnosed and in the throws of it. But I mostly focused on the medical, more clinical side, which is not what I want my thesis to focus on. So my next steps is to find more memoir based stories about people suffering from OCD. I’m excited and oh so ready to explore! Bring it on!

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Lastly, I’ll say I’m planning on doing a lot of reflective writing to help generate more ideas and to re surge old memories of mine. My memoir is based largely on my memories. Some darker then others, all very important to my overall true story. The hardest part of this non fiction thesis journey for me, is to re live many experiences in my past that I wish to forget. But if I’ve learned anything throughout this long journey through my mental illness, is that burying the problems, the fears and the uncomfortable times, will only exacerbate my symptoms. I’ve learned through many years of blood, sweat and tears that embracing and surrendering (next tattoo in script) to the pain and anxiety is the only way to overcome it. So for me reflective writing proves to be both cathartic and informative for my thesis development. I enjoy this process because I’m a very introspective type of person. Always in my head, and in my feelings, as the kids say these days. So it feels natural for me to sit down in a quiet space, getting lost in my, imagination, in my writing and reflecting on what is and what is still to come. The actual process of adding more chapters to my thesis doesn’t intimidate me. This project is such a passion of mine, that the words just flow from my mind, to my heart, through my soul and onto the paper. I can’t even put into words, although I probably should, as to what it has been like to write the fifty plus pages I have so far, it’s been magical. Each section, which will soon be turned into small chapters, with one or two word titles, has been easy thus far. At first I questioned myself, why is it so easy? should it be? Then I soon realized the reason it felt so natural to tell my story, is because it is my story to tell. Xo

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Analyzing: High Muck a Muck

Before taking a dive into High Muck a Muck, I took a brief minute to go over the statement of the piece, which gave me insight into what I needed to expect. At first I was deciding on just jumping in, but in my experiences with artists talks at galleries, it helps to look at the intention of the artist so that I might think of their choices as I read and come up with my own. I wanted my opinions to coincide along with the author’s intention to help unify my thoughts better.

Upon entering, I was greeted with a small poem (which I didn’t get to read fully as I was distracted for a second), but I chose not to reset because I took it along with my own experience. I clicked on a character which illuminated the page, and after a few seconds it took me to a map. It made me wonder if all the passages work out this way. Do they all lead to the same map or are each link associated with an entirely different geographical location? Several more links had me faced with a video of an elderly man looking at me, zooming in with each passing moment. I stopped to think about what his eyes say to me. They invoke a sense of kindness, gentle in its gaze. Those eyes must have seen a lot in their years, and I can’t help wonder what those memories were. I could assume, but would that be the whole story, or my own opinions superimposed into my need to find a narrative? When the video transitioned into the pupil of an infant, part of me wanted to say it was a message on life and age. I thought back into the statement, and I wondered if the author wanted to imply this with a sort of sentiment expressed during the struggles of Chinese immigrants. Is this the way I’m supposed to think about it? How similar or different can I say of my experiences in life with this man and child? While this might be the intention (I’m highly assuming), I didn’t think of that in my mind. What I saw were eyes of two living beings.

I glanced at the corner of the screen and saw the same tablet from earlier, and I clicked on something called ‘Pacific’. It was exactly as I imagined, I was presented with an illustration of a body of water. Hovering my mouse over, I found some points of interest but chose the boats (as I love naval aesthetic). Another video. I’m happy knowing there aren’t a lot of words to interact with, it lets me come up with my own ideas without being guided too much. Static noise of some sort, it made me feel off, like an outsider looking in, but at the same time it was calming. More words appeared, but I couldn’t make out the words. I didn’t bother trying to decode them, I was more entranced with their ‘flowing’ motion and what those can mean. It reminds me of word poetry. I saw a boat sail by and I wondered of where it might be going, but I knew I would never find out. The music transitioned into a collage of sounds and music, and it made me think of a scenario of people travelling to a new nation, but having their culture intersect with the new one, with the latter overcoming the former and thus, a complete takeover. What happened to the music I heard earlier? It made me think of my culture and where it stands with the American traditions I grew up with. I felt uneasy, hoping that I never shed the heritage that my parents brought over. Is this what the author wanted me to feel?

Another link took me to Victoria, and I was faced with a few drawings of a place and people. The music brought me back to comfort, and I glanced around to choose my next destination. I didn’t yet. I chose to sit back down and reflect on what happened so far, and what it means for me having ‘read’ it. The music droned on and it created a sense of anticipation. I wanted to choose the man with a camera to relate it with my own background of photography, but I was more captivated with person sitting all alone in the back. It made me feel sad, but I honestly related to that person and it made me reflect on memories of sitting alone as a child. Part of me wants to think of them as bad experiences that stemmed from isolation and fear, but was it really bad if I appreciate the tranquility of quiet as an adult? Why am I thinking of sad memories as calming? I clicked on.

“Shanzai lingers on our pillow / while we sigh for foolish things / don’t they remind you of you” I had to Google Shanzai. Is it even allowed for a reader to branch out into the internet while reading electronic literature? It felt like cheating. It means stone fortress. But wait, now that word means imitation. Thinking again, I assumed it was about an ‘imitation’ of culture from Asian immigrants living in America, but if their feelings and passion for their country were there, are they really imitations? The location is different but the traditions weren’t. Aren’t they valid? I could be overlooking this, but a part of me couldn’t help think this way.

Why am I even thinking of my own life experiences? This isn’t about what I think, it’s about the struggles of Chinese immigrants. But isn’t it natural to think this way when I haven’t lived their lives? Again, I’m an outsider looking in so perhaps I’m thinking this way to make the feelings and connections with the emotions in this literary piece feel more organic and impactful. I want to feel what the author is feeling, I really want to learn more.

Author? Authors? I took a quick look at the main page and found there were eleven writers. Reading Fred Wah’s life with the mixing of two cultures reminded me of the way I lived. I glanced over the other contributors but always found myself going back to Wah’s, his story felt the most similar to mine. That’s not to disvalue the others, but reading this made me think back to my experiences and created a bridge from my world into this one.

I’m going to continue reading on in my own pace and mind, this piece struck a huge chord with me and it felt sentimental as it did informative. It made me think of an entire generation of people and their struggles, and my own life as a whole.

New Ways to Read

Our last class was the beginning of a semester-long conversation about literature, reading, writing, new forms of literacy.  As I think back to what we covered together, there really is so much to consider when thinking about the act of reading in our lives.  This quote from Jessica Pressman’s early article entitled “Navigating Electronic Literature” makes us all think further about how the act of reading might be changing: “Electronic Literature demonstrates how navigation is not only a central characteristic of the digital literary work and it’s aesthetic but also a primary source of its signification.”  Where is the source of meaning produced when we read?  How is the role of the reader changing?  Can a reader also be a part-author of text?  How so? I decided to have you all read Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue in tandem with Pressman’s article as a way to build an early foundation for our journey into the world of electronic literature, and as a way to signal new experiences in reading and writing. Your shared and collaborative notes on Twelve Blue and Pressman’s article are full of insight regarding these difficult questions.  

New ways to read…

I want to share that I am impressed with you all. You are willing to share your earnest impression of new ideas and new experiences …..and you have even expressed fear, anxiety, and discomfort. Your openness is a good sign. Learning is often linked to forms of vulnerability.  And so your admittance of these unforeseen experiences in reading (at the start of our journey) is a sign that we are in for a great deal of authentic learning together in #elitclass!

Our class slides:


everything can be read, every surface, every silence, every breath, every vacancy, every eddy, every current, every body, every absence, every darkness, every light……

Some ideas to consider from our discussion last Wednesday:

Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue = a reading experience; a conceptual exploration.

Many expressed frustration, and many felt a sense of exploration and discovery emerge after some more time spent with the text.  Perhaps we could claim that the piece was “writerly” but the story was never compelling because there was no cohesion.  You observed a lack of any discernible pathway to reading.   You also admitted that a lack of any identifiable closure was unsettling.

Themes/Motifs: reading & flowing; water- upstream/downstream, stillness & turbulence, being submerged, fluid and changing; memory; color; nature/seasons; traces; generations (young vs. more mature); history; perception (looking); multiple paths/multiple meanings; “skyways” (routes, infrastructure, mobility); self-referencial elements

Character, plot and relationships: there are relationship “networks” but there was definitely some confusion – some readers knew some characters, other readers knew others, some of our knowledge of the text overlapped, some did not, etc.

Reading strategies:   Some click on threads or the hyperlinks within the text randomly, some readers decide to stick consistently by a certain thread color, while others might discover the titles for each of the lexia tabs and use this as an attempt to “frame” possible meanings.  Some readers think about the number 12 as a clue to a reading strategy, while some attempt  basic “note taking” and/or “mapping” in an attempt to discern patterns or meanings.

Assessment: 12 Blue reminds us all of the active role of the reader in creation – we are “navigators” beyond just readers;   There is an underlying structure that cannot necessarily be apprehended but is determined by the code of the work. (This is the central illusion – that readers have agency through navigation, but still, the world is a closed design determined by the underlying code).

I think the idea of an illusion will be a keyword for us to consider throughout our exploration of #elit.  With Twelve Blue, we struggled to apprehend an ending, but perhaps there is beauty in the fragments.

Some critical/review articles

These articles give you an idea of how critics/scholars write about a text like 12 Blue (this is optional reading, but thought it might be interesting for you:

12 Strange, Blue Rains: Touch Evocations in Elit via Kathi Inman Berens

Selected Bibliography of Hypertext Criticism:

Postmodern Culture, Volume 8, Number 1, September 1997

Don’t Believe the Hype: Rereading Michael Joyce’s Afternoon and Twelve Blue by Anthony Enns (2001 in Currents in Electronic Literature)

Some follow up planning issues:

All of you have selected a date for your presentation.   A few of you still need to tell me what text you will present.

The first presentation for your E-lit Reviews will start next week – thanks to Patricia for volunteering to kick this part of class off.

All of you should be syndicated into the course website by now, under the Student Blogs tab of this site.  Please remember that your blog post for each week must be published BEFORE CLASS by each Tuesday morning.

Also, a reminder to tweet your blog posts to the class hashtag #elitclass each week and any other #elit reflections that you think are worthy of public notice.

For next week:

Thanks for a great start to the semester #eitclass….

See you next week!

Dr. Zamora

My Reflections on High Muck A Muck & QueerSkins.

Chinese Lantern

I honestly don’t know where to begin. I’m currently thinking of various adjectives to use to describe this piece and my experience with it. Powerful, poignant, compelling and POTENT, come to mind. I thoroughly enjoyed this e literature adventure. The minute I clicked on that first page, I was intrigued and mesmerized by each image that popped up on my screen. I didn’t want to blink in fear that I would miss something. As I clicked around I started to imagine what it must have been like for my Italian and Yugoslavian ancestors, who made the long harrowing journey to the United States. I then closed my eyes and imagined my very first trip to Ellis Island as a small girl. Still too young to realize or appreciate what the Statue of Liberty represented for me and the generations of my family before me. However, I do vividly remember finding some of my ancestors names among the thousands of ornate plaques that adorned the halls and walkways. My long Italian last name spelt just a little differently. Again, I was unsure of the real significance of this, but when we found the names, I felt something awaken deep within me, a burning curiosity.

That feeling stayed with me as I grew older and asked more probing questions. I learned more details about my great grandparents, grandparents and my parents own journey in life. The stories and memories that were told to me brought my ancestors to life, colorful and bright, just like this piece of deeply moving electronic literature. I found the sounds soothing, the images and drawings haunting, the text and story was poetry that flowed throughout each new page. I found this piece much easier to navigate and dissect then I did Twelve Blue. I found it much more user friendly, if that even makes sense. Also relating to it on a personal level most definitely enhanced the experience for me. I just found it absolutely breathtaking and beautiful. As I write this blog post I have the music still playing in the background. Also because e lit is so very interactive, it just adds a deeper layer of connection and cohesion. Every time I discover a new piece of electronic literature I feel like I’m a vital part of the story and dialogue, which makes the experience invaluable. If I had the talent and a team of people around me who were knowledgeable in creating electronic literature I would love to create something based off of my own family tree. This was truly inspiring. Thanks for this awesome adventure Dr. Zamora. I’m ready for the next trippy trip! Xo

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Although every person’s story is unique, the experience of love and loss is universally and quintessentially human.” I chose to start my response with this quote from QueerSkins. Another forceful, powerhouse example of electronic literature. I must say I didn’t think I would be this excited or captivated by e lit, but I mean I just can’t look away. Both of these pieces almost brought me to tears. The subject matter is different, yet the same between the two stories. What we all want out of our short time in this world is pretty much the same things: love, acceptance, happiness and peace. QueerSkins made me reflect on my own life and journey thus far. What matters most to me? What would my cardboard box contain? What remnants of Nives would be left behind long after I’m gone? I found this piece harder to navigate then I did the first. I found myself switching back and forth between different pages. Once I got the hang of it and made sure I wasn’t missing anything, I came upon the videos. The first one was the backseat video, where you hear Sebastian’s parents talking about him, it was an intimate look at a conversation between two heartbroken yet ambivalent parents of a homosexual son who died of AIDS. Very compelling, deeply touching. I felt their angst in the air.

The second video I came upon was the one between the two lovers dancing and frolicking on the beach. It was also very moving, and beautiful. I felt like I was right there with them, I could feel the love between them both, it was palpable. I think what struck me most was the scene of the diary excerpts and various videos of different sights and sounds. You can also hear his Mother’s voice in the background, which added a haunting layer. I was truly moved, I sat back and watched as each short video played. I hurriedly read each diary excerpt which looked like it was from a torn page. I hung on to every word. Lastly, the real life images of people who brought a personal item with them that represents their heart ache and pain was just the icing on the cake. I clicked on each image carefully. Again, e lit makes me feel fully immersed in what I’m reading and experiencing. These two works and being able to physically interact and having no choice but to navigate my own way through it, makes it all the more meaningful. I’m looking forward to immersing myself even further into this world of electronic literature. I also can’t wait to see P’s presentation and interpretation of this. That’s what makes e lit so poignant, we all go into it and bring our own unique experiences along with us, yet each coming out of the adventure with a different perspective on life.

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