English 738T, Spring 2015
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Author Archives: Amanda Gogarty

For my last blog post, I would like to examination the physical relationship between Molly and Case in William Gibson’s Neuromancer while keeping in mind Shelley Jackson’s “Stitch bitch” and Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto.”  I would also like to suggest that out of the few female characters in the novel, Molly appears to have the most agency.

Case and Molly have a few scenes that reminded me of Jackson and Haraway’s articles.  The first one is when they meet.  Case remembers the “silver lenses [that] seemed to grow from smooth pale skin” and that her nails look “artificial” (Gibson 24).  Immediately, Gibson’s language echoes Haraway’s, giving us the idea that Molly is not entirely human, and Case’s description of her invites the idea of her as a cyborg, which Haraway defines as a “cybernetic organism, a hybrid of a machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (291).  Molly definitely seems to fit this description, since she has parts that are both machine and human, and she seems to be much more comfortable situated in the technological world than Case is.

In a second scene between the two, Case asks Molly about her boss, Armitage, and she discloses that the “profile” he has of [Case] is so vivid that it’s as if she knows him, and that she “knows how he is wired” (30).  This can be viewed as an example of Molly’s female agency within the novel, since it seems as though she knows something about Case that he cannot yet know about himself.  Shortly following, Case undergoes an operation and is given a new pancreas, ridding him of his drug dependency.  He is in pain when he awakes, and the only thing that can ease it is having intercourse with Molly, almost as if she has become his new drug to be addicted to (32).  Case proceeds to initiates sex with Molly, an act by which he should gain agency, but this chance is lost when he touches her face and is met with an “unexpected hardness of [her] implanted lenses” (33).  She tells him to stop because she is afraid of “fingerprints” (33).  The word “fingerprints” here provides interesting parallel to Jackson’s discussion of bodies in “Stitch bitch.”  As Jackson states in her article, “We patch a phantom body together out of a cacophony of sense impressions, bright and partial views…the original body is dissociated, porous, and unbiased…the mind, on the other hand…has an almost catatonic obsession with stasis, centrality, and unity.”  Molly’s repeated obsession with bodies (both sexually and due to her prosthetics,) complements Jackson’s.  Whereas Jackson wishes to constantly merge, mutilate and create new bodies through her work with her readers, however, Molly seems reluctant to let Case leave his fingerprints on her.  It is also interesting that Case touches her face, which is presumably human flesh, but her surgically implanted eye lenses prevent her from showing him any emotion.  She can only order him to stop.

Although this is a brief synopsis of Molly’s potential agency in Neuromancer and of how we can read Gibson’s novel in relation to Jackson and Haraway’s articles, the comparisons between the two peaked my curiosity.  Do you think that Molly exhibits any agency in the text?  Does she fit Haraway’s description of a cyborg, or is she different in any way?  How about in relation to Jackson’s article?  Is it plausible to say that Molly’s sexual merging with Case (or refusal of emotion) in any way mirrors or deflects Jackson’s argument?

Reading our course content thus far really has me stuck on the questions of what, exactly, are language and technology.  A particular text that has especially provoked this strain of thinking for me is Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl.  One of the dictionary definitions of technology reads, “machinery and equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge,” and when considering Jackson’s work in terms of this definition, it becomes reasonable to see her hypertext novel as a kind of “machinery,” or, in other words, as a “technology” in itself.

By choosing a digital, hypertext format for her novel, Jackson gives her readers a certain amount of freedom to choose how they access the text.  The novel is “rewritten,” (or at least reconfigured each time it is read.)  This constant rewriting or reconfiguring of the text is consistent with how Jackson herself patches together Mary Shelley’s original work of Frankenstein with the stories of the female monster (who Victor created for his original monster, but destroyed) and with the stories of the various, deceased women whose body parts are used in PWG to reinvent the female monster.

In her article”Stitch Bitch: the patchwork girl”, Jackson makes a number of compelling statements about hypertext, however one particular point that caught my attention is when she states:

“I noticed in school that I could argue anything. I might find myself delivering conclusions I disagreed with because I had built such an irresistable machine for persuasion. The trick was to allow the reader only one way to read it, and to make the going smooth. To seal the machine, keep out grit. Such a machine can only do two things: convince or break down. Thought is made of leaps, but rhetoric conducts you across the gaps by a cute cobbled path, full of grey phrases like “therefore,” “extrapolating from,” “as we have seen,” giving you something to look at so you don’t look at the nothing on the side of the path.”

Here, Shelley herself seems to suggest that language is a kind of technology by referring to the arguments she herself used to build as “irresistible machine[s] for persuasion.”  Her notion that the kind of “machine” built from this kind of reasoning can only convince someone of something or completely fail  also tempts us to consider that there is a third option, which she describes as looking at the “nothing.”

Jackson later describes hypertext as “show[ing] the gamble that thought is.  She also views it as a medium that welcomes “criticism” and “refusal.”  One of the most interesting things she says about writing hypertext, however, is that any author of it must consider the fact that his or her reader may choose to stop reading at any point.  She then concludes that “the choice to go do something else might be the best outcome of a text.”

Jackson’s work (specifically PWG) seems to be a call to action to her readers; she constantly invites them to reconfigure and reinvent stories, and she sees writing as a communal, transient act through which stories should constantly be transformed and re-told.  If we re-visit the traditional definition of technology as “machinery or equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge” in conjunction with Jackson’s “Stitch bitch,” is it indeed easy to see PWG, hypertext, and writing itself as a kind of ever-developing technology that is based on a constant application of knowledge.  In Jackson’s hypertext, however, this knowledge comes from entering into a constant, written conversation that allows the reader to become the author and vice versa.  Like stories, reader/author roles are not permanent within these kinds of texts.  They are not only developed, but they are constantly developing.

Jumping off of our conversation from last Wednesday, the two sections of our Patchwork Girl project that i would be most interested in developing are the “Story” and “quilt” sections.

I think that the idea of a journal (which was mentioned in an earlier post) would be a really beneficial way to approach the story section (or at least part of it) and would be an interesting form to write in, since we would indeed have to make decisions about whose voice(s) to use and about which stories we want to tell, and to what end.  It would allow us to continue, intertwine, and/or retell narratives that we have already been presented with in a unique way.

I am most intrigued by the idea of the “quilt” section for its potential to extend our critical discussion of “ownership,” especially as it relates to today’s digital works that are more widely and instantly accessible than their print predecessors.  Although it would be interesting to interweave quotations from Shelley Jackson (about wanting piratical readers) and Eastgate (about its proprietary control, perhaps even citations of lawsuits it has filed,) I think we could modernize this discussion a take it a step further by incorporating some modern authors, critics, etc. who are concerned with digital ownership of the text (and who have written articles about it in the past couple of years.)  Incorporating some recently scholarly work into our project could make a conversation about PWG itself and about other digital texts more inviting for current and future scholars.