In Balpe’s “Principles and Processes of Generative Literature,” after establishing that generative texts abandon traditional linear narrative logic, and have an infinite variety, he goes on to discuss the impact this form of writing has on a reader:
“…when a reader obtains a text, he obtains that text at a certain moment of his reading but he has no idea of what other text he could obtain at the same moment of another reading. He cannot tell if the text is directly related to the previous or the next one (in terms of reading time).
In that case — and this certainly is one of the reasons why generative texts disturb our reading habits — the reader loses all the usual markers relating to the diegetic axis and has to find or invent other kinds of references. The narrative is not totally built in advance … Each new reading … creates its own diegesis which is not a predetermined but an undetermined diegetic axis. That really means: Any reader A needs to develop a unique hypothesis which gives him an idea of the narrative which is different from that of any reader B.”
For today’s peer workshop, you likely are facing a text that doesn’t make traditional sense, or certainly doesn’t follow the diagetic axis, as Balpe describes it. What I’d like to focus our responses on, then, are your own “unique hypotheses.”
For each of the four pieces you’ve been assigned to read and respond to, I’d like you to write a 1-2 paragraph response that discusses what kinds of references or hypotheses you have naturally made when encountering the text. You don’t need to discuss or imagine the process of the authoring system. We only care about your reaction and response as a reader.
In other words: What does the text mean to you?
This is an imaginative exercise. There truly is no wrong answer, because the only answer we are looking for is the one you naturally come up with. When, as a reader, you are faced with a set of words arranged into sequence, what meaning to you find there when you have no access to the author’s vision, intention, or process? What’s the story of the text, as you see it? Are their characters? What does it remind you of? What connection do you make between this text and your own experiences, or to other texts? What does it make you think of? How does it make you feel? What sense do you make of it?
In this Google doc, I’d like you all to copy and paste a link to your own piece, and to include your email address. Your respondents will be sending you their feedback directly (so that they aren’t influenced by each others readings and reactions). In the same document, you can also find the pieces you’ve been assigned to read and respond to.As always, use the questions in this post to help you generate your response.
Try to be as detailed and specific as possible. Above all, speak from your own experience: for perhaps the first time, I don’t want you to guess at the author’s intention. I want you to tell us what you think and feel.
Remember, too, that generative literature “…wants to reconcile the literary activity with that of play and game,” so don’t be afraid to take the text less seriously than you might normally. Be thoughtful and detailed in your response, but let it be an organic response, born of your own reaction to the reading.