The Rationale of Hypertext

  • Jerome McGann


Lofty reflections on the cultural significance of information technology are commonplace now. ‘Tedious as they can be, they serve an important social function. Some distribute general knowledge to society at large, some send it to particular groups whose professional history makes information about information an important and perhaps problematic issue.1


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  1. 2.
    The simplest definition of hypertext is Theodore Nelson’s “nonsequential writing” (Literary Machines [Sausalito, CA: Mindful, 1990], sec. 5,2).Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    This revaluation of Dickinson studies was sparked by the great facsimile edition of the poet’s original fascicles, edited by R. W Franklin, The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson. Since then the work of Susan Howe and her students has been only slightly less significant, especially the edition of Dickinson’s fragments edited by Marta Werner (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2000) and the essay by Jeanne Holland, “Scraps, Stamps, and Cutouts.” Howe’s seminal essay is indispensable: “These Flames and Generosities of the Heart.” See also Paula Bennett, “By a Mouth that Cannot Speak: Spectral Presence in Emily Dickinson’s Letters,” The Emily Dickinson Journal 1 (1992): 76–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 6.
    See Andrew Boyle, An Index to the Annuals, vol. I (vol. II never printed) (London: privately printed by Andrew Boyle, 1967)Google Scholar
  4. F. W. Faxon, Literary Annuals and Gift Books: A Bibliography 1823—1903 (1912, reprinted Boston: Pinner, Private Libraries Assoc, 1973)Google Scholar
  5. Anne Renier, Friendship’s Offering. An Essay on the Annuals and Gift Books of the 19th Century (London: Private Libraries Assoc, 1964)Google Scholar
  6. Alison Adburgham, Silver Fork Society. Fashionable Life and Literature from 1814 to 1840 (London: Constable, 1983).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Arthur Henry Hallam, “On Some of the Characteristics of Modern Poetry, and on the Lyrical Poems of Alfred Tennyson,” reprinted from the Englishman’s Magazine (August 1931) in The Writings of Arthur Hallam, ed. T. H. Vail Motter (New York and London: Modern Language Assoc, of America, 1943), 182–197.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    For discussion of the structure of hypertext (and a critique of rather loose representations of its decentralized form) see Ross Atkinson, “Networks, Hypertext, and Academic Information Services: Some Longer Range Implications,” College & Research Libraries 54, no. 3 (May 1993): 199–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Jerome McGann 2001

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  • Jerome McGann

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