Synopsis of Project
Section One: Theoretical Background and Methodology
Hermeneutics and Heuristics
I. Computers and Culture
II. Hypertext Theory
III. Myth Criticism
IV. The Terministic Screen
Section Two: Hypertext by Design
I. The Web Site as an Alternative Organizing Space
II. Principles of Navigation and Design
IV. Aspects of Design
Section Three: Post Production Report
I. Organizing the Web Site: Alternating Spaces
II. Navigation and Design
III. Variations on Theme
IV. Design: Text and analysis
Bibliography and Acknowledgements
A. ANTHROPOLOGY: Myth and Culture
Translation becomes the focus for scholars such as Scottish anthropologist Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough, and more specifically in his translation of Apollodorus: The Library. Frazer’s Apollodorus (1921) meticulously annotates the variety of ancient Greek and Roman sources that duplicate and contradict stories while incorporating a literal translation of the ancient Greek. The interpretive level at which Frazer shows his modern bias based on his experience as an anthropologist and linguist filters his reading. In an attempt to overcome such bias, Turner (1976) establishes a comprehensive anthropological study of rituals in the context of their social or cultural origins. Although we cannot know exactly how ancient Greeks participated in rituals and ceremonies, by looking at multiple artifacts that surround or present myths, we can learn a great deal from a study which looks at the differences between cultural contexts as well as similarities. Because attitude broaches new levels of complications, many scholars turn from interpretive to structural approaches to myth criticism.
B. STRUCTURE: Image and Text
Northrop Frye (1957), in The Anatomy of Criticism, establishes a comprehensive and systematic analysis of content and form, plot structure, and character definition of myth. “The structural principles of literature," he states, "[are] derived from archetypal and anagogic criticism, the only kinds that assume a larger context of literature as a whole…” (p. 123). Hence the structural principles of literature are as closely related to mythology and comparative religion as those of painting are to geometry. He goes on to establish a grammar of literary archetypes based on biblical and classical symbols and identifies cyclical movements in poetry. Myth is literary on the one hand, natural on the other, and in between lies the whole area of “romance,” according to Frye. The central principle of displacement is that what can be metaphorically identified in myth, in romance can be only linked by some form of simile: analogy, significant association, incidental accompanying imagery and the like. Frye’s analysis attempts to define myth, especially the narrative form attributed to myth, as the locus of desire. This draws further similarities to Joyce’s work on hypertext theory, which locates hypertext in a realm of “desire.” While Joyce’s term desire may not be synonymous with Frye’s term romance, a connection between their approaches to study emerges at the symbolic level.
Grimes (1976), in Symbol and Conquest, discusses symbolic representations of myth that reflect various cultural components. Like the examples of grain or crops that represent major sources of food and agriculture, or mother-and-child images that stand in for human relationship, a symbolic study of myth and ritual has a social function based on the performative. Mythic elements are enacted through rituals and drama, which enforces social conventions. These ceremonies reinforce the cultural practices behind the myth as well as the myth structure itself. To study the myth relations would be to study human relations, to get at the psychology behind basic human beliefs.
Lévi-Strauss, in “The Structural Study of Myth” (1963), critiques such an as being “psychologically oriented although not in a position to keep up with the progress of psychological research.” He considers such attempt naïve, succeeding only in reducing motive in myth to “inarticulate emotional drives,” (p.809). Instead, he argues for a structural method of organizing thematic elements of all mythology (mythemes) in order to strip away the layers of meaning involved in each myth. Lévi-Strauss sees inconsistencies in myth as a dialectic that occurs between layers of myth. The myth itself will provide elements that mediate the dialectical process, even a “chain of mediators” that not only help us interpret the myth, but also help us to “universally organize daily experience” (p.819). Thus, Lévi-Strauss offers a way of reading mythology while at the same time defining its role in our lives. Furthermore, “myth is an intermediary entity between a statistical aggregate of molecules and the molecule structure itself” (p. 819). The analogy of the molecule can readily apply to hypertext, but in terms that are more specific. A web site is an intermediary entity between a system of hardware and software and machinery all combined into the structure of human and computer relations.
C. LITERARY: Textual and Performative
While they have certain structural elements that make up narrative, myths are all products of plural authorship. Cixous, in The Laugh of the Medusa (1975), challenges women to write their bodies, to be multi-vocal. If women, especially scholars, are to develop a “uniquely feminine way of writing” then they must explore new forms of expression. Hypertext shows how ideas can exist simultaneously while offering the space to organize them in a linear way. The architecture of a web site involves precise linear thinking and organization, even as navigation places more responsibility on the part of the audience to engage with the text. As with hypertext theory, the interpretation of myth benefits from a post-structural approach that resists reading mythology as a cohesive body of knowledge.
An evolution toward the aesthetic approach to myth shows inherent similarities between myth and hypertext. Critics such as Bryson, Barkan and Bal all recommend models for reading myth that recognize its origins. The artifacts that, when combined, make up the substance of a particular myth, must be looked at as fragments pulled from an unknowable context. By placing a fragment into knowable contexts, we can know the text only in and of itself. Since we cannot know from what context the original derives, our focus turns to examining what the myth can tell us about ourselves.
In Bryson’s (1995) “Philostratus and the Imaginary Museum” he draws upon a mnemonic device the “memory palace” or a way of constructing a narrative that moves sequentially through the “rooms” of the text, assigning specific features of characters to each room in order to organize and divide information into more familiar areas. Paintings can also be read as memory palaces by dividing the canvas into areas that represent functional spaces. This model of interpretation relies on spatial metaphors, which attempt to locate myth with a specific context.
On the other hand, Barkan (1986) presents his textual analyses of myth as “largely divorced from questions of historical evolution” in The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism. In Chapter One, Barkan views Ovid and the myths depicted in the Metamorphosis as metaphors for the way the universe is constructed, and “metamorphosis [as] the vehicle whereby individuals are transported among the layers [of the text],” (p.2). The stories create a tapestry that requires the fitting together of many individual stitches, the whole of which is greater that the sum of its parts. Readers make texts more meaningful when they bring with them a chain of associations from historical to local contexts.
Both Bryson’s and Barkan’s models overlook the reliance on visual information in the study of myth. A question emerges: how can we read images of mythological sequences? In Narratology, Bal (1985) argues that an image can be read through a narrative sequence based on cultural signifiers and a cultural understanding of how a story progresses. Images can be characterized as “non-linguistic sign systems” that carry meaning on their own. The field of semiotics systematically searches out meaning for cultural codes and symbols. In Narratology, Bal develops a method of looking at the narrative of images on three levels: 1) Fabula, the structural elements or characteristics unique to the narrative; 2) Story, the narrative's structure, focus and point of view; and 3) Text, the actual language used to describe the relationships between narrative elements. Like many critics of myth, hypertext theorists tend to reflect on textual analysis of their objects of study. Bal’s connection between visuality and narrative takes into consideration a larger interpretive field.
Greek mythological stories are interconnected within a complex network with little hierarchical organization and no recognizable center. They consist of a cloud of stories: they enter into and depart from each other; the contact points of story with story include objects, characters, places, and plot-structures. Each of these elements runs parallel, if not perpendicular, to other stories. Locally, a myth might also make subtle allusions to other myths. Different 'media' present the content of what we call Greek myth: song and poem; sculpture and mosaic; pottery and urn. The Medusa myth varies dramatically with each depiction. The text, even before layers of interpretation begin to accumulate, is radically open—it cannot be closed, by virtue of the properties of the myth-system. Beyond the classical representations of mythology, numerous artistic and literary depictions of myth abound. Myth is a lens through which we can read past and present, even future versions of culture and humanity.
Section Three: POST PRODUCTION REPORT
Within the "Acknowledgements" page, I have also included a link to a
Statement of Fair Use, to encourage readers to practice conscientious behavior
with regard to crediting artists and web developers with the work that
they have done.
MIRROR or "the power of reflection"
· Image: Midouse photograph by Pierre et Gilles.
· Texts: Lacan, Silverman, Plath, Rossetti
This first thread updates the Medusa myth with one of its most contemporary
readings, a photo by fashion photographers "Pierre et Gilles" (1990).
The question addressed here is how new media expresses old content; how
Medusa, once a monster, becomes established as a femme fatale (illustrated
by juxtapositions of poet Sylvia Plath and the contemporary artist De Genevieve).
Next, the tension between gender roles is played out through "looking"
in a variety of ways through Lacanian theory. The mirror is also
an instructional device, dramatized in the dialogue between Dante Gabriel
Rossetti's poem "Aspecta Medusa," and Edward Burne-Jones' painting The
Baleful Head, where Perseus actually shows Andromeda the head of Medusa,
reflected in a well.
Text from "mirror" main page:
The Mirror in the Medusa myth is an account of the story through various lenses: the photographer's vision to the eye of critical feminist film criticism, specifically with regard to Lacan's mirror stage. The image to the left: Midouse shows a Medusa that is beautiful and seductive, unlike classical Greek counterpart whose power came from ugliness. This modern Medusa connotes the image of the Femme Fatale, a character who, in cinematic terms, becomes the receptacle of the male anxiety that drives the narrative plot of the film. Such a reading of the Medusa myth would attribute Perseus, not with heroic courage to face an evil demon, but with the desire to master the body of another. In his quest to redeem his mother's honor, Perseus is led into the dark cave, to look upon the monster who represents the culmination of his own fears of women. Medusa portrayed as a beautiful seductress rewrites the threat of the stone making enemy, and shows how looking at someone can be harmful. Perseus reduces her to a reflection--her humanity becomes a mere flicker of light on glass. In the end, it is not flesh the sword tears, but an image of Perseus’ own projected desire. His gaze confirms the subject’s identity, but it is not responsible for the form which that identity assumes; it is merely the imaginary apparatus through which light is projected--a camera.
Key to links:
"Lacan": links to mirror1a.html
The Medusa myth relates to theories that arise out of a psychoanalytic tradition in the area of feminist film criticism. The image: Midouse shows a Medusa that is beautiful and seductive. She connotes the image of the Femme Fatale, a character who, classically, becomes the receptacle of the male anxiety that drives the narrative plot of the film. Such a reading of the Medusa myth would attribute Perseus, not with heroic courage, but with a need to overcome a nagging doubt. Perhaps it is through fighting to redeem his mother’s honor he is led into the cave to face his fears, to look upon the monster that is the culmination of his own fears of women. If Medusa turns out to be a beautiful seductress, he must protect himself from looking at her directly. Projected through a shield of vanity, he sees only the reflection of her essence and can distance himself from her, thus, reducing her humanity to a mere flicker of light on glass. It is not flesh his sword tears, but an image of Perseus’ own projected desire.
"Lacan's mirror stage describes a moment of psychological development of the child when, as an infant, he assumes that the object he looks upon (usually the face of the mother) is a reflection of the self….
…Medusa's power to turn man to stone is an obvious danger, but the female gaze that masquerades as beauty is perhaps an even more dangerous phenomenon. The stony look is replaced by the power of seduction…"
Lacan links to lacan.com
Mask links to mask1.html
Anxiety links to laugh3.html
"Midouse": links to mirror1b.html
Details the photograph, its model, genre and emblem of Medusa as an emblem of the avant-garde. Links included: photographers, model and gallery.
"femme fatale": links to mirror2.html
Plath's poem gives a scathing rendition of her vision of Medusa. It is paired with an image (by contemporary artist De Genevieve) of a lonely monster looking over a garden of stone suitors/murderers. The image is a fitting match to the content of the poem because of its emphasis on the mournful face of Medusa. A link to entire text of the poem is included.
"look upon the monsters" links to mirror3.html
This link pairs Rossetti's poem Aspecta Medusa with Burne-Jones' portrait of The Baleful Head:
Andromeda, by Perseus saved and wed,
Hankered each day to see the Gorgon's head…
"looking" links to mirror1c.html
Medusa as an emblem for the concerns of Feminist Film critic Kaja Silverman (1989) and her analysis of Lacan's concept of the "mirror stage". The concept of the mirror is critical to the Medusa myth especially concerning a web site because in the myth the mirror is the bit of technology that makes Perseus’ quest possible. He must look at Medusa without using his eyes. Computer pixels complicate this relationship because the screen (projection) does not hold the projection from one point of light, but is itself several points of light.
An extrapolation of Silverman’s (1989) main arguments enlighten a feminist reading of Medusa from the film critic's point of view. Silverman points out that "masks" also take the form of: photos, ads, arts manikins, dolls, or anything that can be played with. This idea of play gets at how “man, in effect, knows how to play with the mask as that beyond which is the gaze. The screen is here the locus of mediation.” (through this subjects are constituted and differentiated)…
"camera" links to mirror4.html
Contemporary photographic images of Medusa by Frank Baresel-Bofinger. Details include "blood" made of ribbons running down the model's neck.
STONE or "labyrinth through history"
· Image: Mosaic de la Medusa, Museu Arqueològic de Tarragona
· Texts from: Ovid, Apollodorus (Frazer and Hard)
The mosaic is a collection of stones arranged to reflect an image; it
is an early model for the pixel, the bits of light reflected back on the
screen. Stone, or cultivated rock, is also important to the myth
to describe the threat Medusa poses. Her gaze turns men to stone,
and whether this notion is taken literally or figuratively, her power is
permanent. Her fate, too, is "written in stone" as the historical
Medusa appears again and again as an art object remembered in stone.
Text from "Stone" title page:
Stone:  cultivated or polished rock;  to castrate;  to polish or sharpen with a stone.
This thread addresses the way history is constructed, as if it were written in stone. Since mythology is fractal by nature, the mosaic illustrates a more accurate picture of how history is constructed. Many small bits of information are combined to create a whole and comprehensive picture. Still, many traditions seek to maintain the rigid structure of history as if we could freeze time the way Medusa freezes her victims. Milton (1634), in "Comus," explains how Medusa's "rigid looks of chaste austerity...wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone." Ironically, Medusa's severed head becomes the emblem that represents her as if she too is frozen in time. We forget her life before when she was a beautiful mortal. Instead, she becomes a sorrowful subject of loss. The loss of Medusa's life is Athena's gain as the severed head is placed on the shield, thus co-opting Medusa's power for her own. According to Hard (1997), some "say that Medusa lost her head because of Athene -- for they say that the Gorgon had claimed to rival the goddess in beauty.” Medusa is further depicted in stone in a variety of architectural and ornamental ways.
Key to links:
"Traditions" links to Stone1aa.html
This page organizes links to Ovid, Frazer and Hard for readers who want the fullest versions of the myth from primary sources.
"Sorrowful Subject" links to Stone2.html
Berman and Ovid: Before we have Medusa, there is the origin of Perseus before he came to slay her. Like Atlas, Berman's depiction of Medusa shows a creature who has been reduced to stone. Ironically, Medusa herself seems to be made of stone:
…At that, he turned his back to Atlas--and
Held up Medusa's head with his left hand.
Great Atlas now became a mountain-mass…
"Shield": links to stone3.html
With a stone shield of Medusa paired with following text:
One of the details often left out of the stories is that Perseus was wearing a cap that made him invisible. According to Ovid Perseus also attacked in the night while the Gorgons slept. Also, he reports that the Gorgons had heads twined about with the scales of dragons, and great tusks like swine's, and brazen hands, and golden wings, by which they flew; and they turned stone such as beheld them. Meaning that they could turn themselves into stone.
"Architecture and Ornamentation": links to stone4.html
This page riffs on the ways stone is uses in the construction of historical artifacts
A. Gargoyle: grotesque human or animal figure, and projected from a gutter to carry rainwater clear of a wall. [Old French: from garoguille, gargoul, "throat"].
B. Stone Garden (disco): In the 21st century the spirit of the Gorgon goddess is celebrated with dancing in this outdoor disco.
C. Ovid on Ornamentation: Jove's daughter turned aside chaste eyes: the goddess hid her face behind her aegis -- but she made Medusa pay: she changed that Gorgon's hair to horrid snakes. To this day, Minerva, to dismay And terrify her foes, wears on her breast The very snakes that she herself had set-- As punishment--upon Medusa's head.
SHIELD or "Casting Images"
· Image: Caravaggio's The Head of Medusa
· Text: Ovid, Milton, sacred source.com
Caravaggio's depiction of Medusa is of a shield, most likely Athena’s, which she would have used to turn enemies to stone with the same power Medusa had while she was alive. The general them of this link is co-optation of power.
Text from "Shield" title page:
(Excerpt from Ovid):
And terrify her foes, wears on her breast
The very snakes that she herself had set --
As punishment -- upon Medusa's head.
Caravaggio's Medusa is perhaps the most recognizable depictions of the head of Medusa. In the painting, the severed head is fused onto a bronze shield, most likely belonging to Athena. Caravaggio’s Medusa is also a self-portrait, Caravaggio himself projected onto a shield, a self-protective presentation. The painting suggests Perseus’ power over Medusa, the power she had turned against others, is like the painter's power over the viewer. Conventionally the self-portrait is a self-reflection, a projection of identity onto the viewer. The painting represents the dangers of looking in many ways just as Medusa represents a role that is bound up with looking: she kills by looking, she is killed after seeing her own reflection, that reflection as a weapon. In this sense Medusa represents a captured subject, the severed head, which had the power of turning into stone all who looked upon it but that no longer can see for itself. Capturing that power is analogous to the conquering of nations, one set of values replaced by another, the identifying art objects reinterpreted. Perseus uses Medusa's head against his enemies, Caravaggio uses this power to conquer his own self-image, an image that is then projected onto the audience.
Key to links:
"Ovid" links to stone1a.html for a fuller version of Ovid's text.
"Bronze shield" links to shield2.html. The image here is paired with Milton (Oxford Milton, 1990), "Comus:"
"What thus snaky-headed Gorgon-shield
That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin,
Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone,
But rigid looks of chaste austerity,
And noble grace that dashed brute violence
With sudden adoration and blank awe!"
This bronze shield resembles Caravaggio's Medusa, but is this the face of Medusa, or how Perseus saw himself reflected back?
"conquering of nations" links to shield3.html and sacred source.com.
Before there was Medusa, there was the Gorgon Goddess of Righteous Wrath. Unlike Caravaggio’s Medusa, this statue is the fully embodied form of a warrior goddess, unconquered and armed for battle, she and her lion guard the temple at Coru. She represents the wisdom of the Anatolian sun goddess, a Crone, or the dark destroyer: Egyptian goddess Nieth. This strong female power is also represented by the African goddess An-Ath, or an allomorph of Kali, or a Libyan serpent goddess of the Amazons. The Gorgon represents the primitive cult of the goddess conquered by the Greeks and replaced by Athena, goddess of war and wisdom.
"Embodied" links to laugh2.html
LAUGH or "languages of expression"
· Image: The Head of Medusa by Peter Paul Rubens
· Texts from: Hesiod, Ovid, Cixous, Freud, Clayton
Text from "Laugh" main page:
Medusa's beauty is described in Mandelbaum (1993) Ovid's Metamorphoses:
Medusa was astonishingly fair;
She was desired and contended for--
So many jealous suitors hoped to win her.
Her form was graced by many splendors, yet
There was no other beauty she possessed
That could surpass the splendor of her hair--
Medusa's beautiful flowing hair "strewn with flowers" is replaced by deadly snakes. In Rubens' depiction of the head of Medusa some of her original hair makes its way into the painting. Her gaze is haunted, but looks away, perhaps at Perseus' shadow before he picks up her head to be used as a weapon itself. Rubens' interpretation tells the story by what the painting leaves out: there is no Perseus, no Pegasus springing forth from the blood of her head, no body at all. The life force that surrounds her decapitated head makes it clear that, although decapitated, her power lives on.
For the Renaissance viewer, the decapitated head might represent the triumph of the mind or intellect over evil and impiety, especially of the body. Since the story engages the nature of vision, the viewer is also implicated in any reading. Rubens' painting is an invitation to read the Head of Medusa from a variety of perspectives. She is the rich subject of art because of all the nuances to her story. A feminist reading finds Medusa an emblem of male power over female threat. Going one level deeper, the psychological implications and violence of the Medusa myth tells us about ourselves. Medusa is a literary figure, subject to a multitude of readings, including readings that push the boundaries of technology.
Key to links:
"Ovid": Links to stone1a.html for a fuller version of Ovid on Medusa.
"Art": Links to laugh1a.html
Percy Shelly (1819): "On the Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci in the Florentine
Gallery" assembled by Mary Shelly in her edition of her husband's Posthumous
Poems (1824). Original poem and image. "ON THE MEDUSA OF LEONARDO
DA VINCI, IN THE FLORENTINE GALLERY"
"Feminist": Links to laugh2.html
Synopsis of Hélène Cixous' essay The Laugh of the Medusa, juxtaposed with the image "Gorgon Goddess of Righteous Path," a laughing Medusa which predates Hellenic versions of the myth, and which Cixous evokes in her essay. This image represents the laughing medusa Cixous (1975) evokes in "The Laugh of the Medusa."
Cixous (1975) calls women to rethink the traditions by which they are defined sexually. These traditions are rooted in exclusionary practices of patriarchal rhetoric, Freudian and Lacanian psychology, and other discourses of desire. Cixous urges women to claim their role in history by writing, for: "By writing her self, woman will return to the body which has been more than confiscated from her, which has been turned into the uncanny stranger on display…a woman without a body, dumb, blind…"
Cixous continues to say that as a "subject for history, woman always occurs simultaneously in several places." Since this presents a problem for those who value the illusion of order, woman has herself become the emblem of chaos. This chaos presents fear, "Freud and his followers are consumed by a fear of being a woman!" Psychoanalysis as a model for masculine sexuality necessarily represses feminine sexuality. "Here we encounter the inevitable man-with-rock, standing erect in his of Freudian realm" to which women "have no reason to pledge allegiance."
In Cixous (1981) she argues for a connection between male sexuality as "castration complex" and female sexuality as simply "decapitation" saying that becoming sexualize as a woman is a result of an "education that consists of trying to make a soldier of the feminine by force, the force history keeps reserved for woman, the "capital" force that is effectively decapitation." Further, "Women have no choice other than to be decapitated and in any case the moral is that if they don't actually lose their heads by the sword, they only keep them on condition that they lose them--lose them, that is, to complete silence, turned into automatons. [emphasis original]."
The source of this force of education comes from an allegiance to Freud's notion of the castration complex, explained through his reading of the medusa myth. Cixous (1975) refers to Freud's sexualization of Medusa which she refutes as one of many "theories anchored in the dogma of castration" and the notion of woman as a Dark Continent, or a hysteric. Female sexuality, she argues, is "neither dark nor unexplorable" but has been riveted "between the Medusa and the abyss."
Cixous (1981) elaborates on this connection in "Castration and Decapitation" in the context of French psychoanalytic theory, specifically as in "Freud/Lacan, woman is said to be "outside the Symbolic" that is outside language" [sic]. Meaning that knowledge and understanding are based in language, and since a mastery of language is a direct result of successfully having gone through the castration complex, women are excluded. So, "because she lacks any relation to the phallus…the body is not sexed, does not recognize itself as, say female or male without having gone through the castration complex." Cixous finds this conclusion ridiculous as she muses that if it were true "that would be enough to set half the world laughing.” Instead, Cixous argues for the rearticulation of women's role in language.
Kuhn (1981) explains that "Cixous' own work offers an écriture
-- a practice of writing -- that aims to do this by posing plurality against
unity; multitudes of meanings against single, fixed meanings; diffuseness
against instrumentality; openness against closure.” But if there
is no closure to women, Cixous offers closure for women as Kuhn says, "if
"Castration and Decapitation" says no to fathers, then the next move must
be a positive approach to the mothers." Cixous (1981) herself offers
a nearly audible claim that, "laughter that breaks out, overflows,
a humor no one would expect to find in women…'she who laughs last.'
And her first laugh is at herself." One way to reclaim this voice
is to reclaim the Medusa. Cixous (1975) insists that in fact "you
only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she's
not deadly, She's beautiful and she's laughing."
Rhetoric: links to: laugh3a.html
Freudian links to: laught3.html
Lacanian links to: mirror1a.html
Hysteric links to: laugh4.html
"Psychology": Links to laugh3.html
This page pairs a comic image of Medusa that distorts her head in relation
to Perseus, with Freud's essay “Medusa's Head” (1963), written in 1922,
apparently as a sketch for a much more extensive work, and published posthumously
only in 1940. Freud, S. (1963) Sexuality and the Psychology of Love.
NY: Collier. (pp. 212-213). ["Das Medusenhaupt." First
published Int. Z. Psychoanal. Imago, 25 (1940), 105; reprinted Ges. W.,
17,47. Translation by James Strachey, reprinted from International
Journal of Psychoanalysis 22 (1941), 69].
Links to: laugh3.html and laugh1.html
"Rhetoric": Links to laugh3a.html
This page allows me to include a reference to a conference paper from
which this project itself was sprung: The Second Biennial Feminism(s)
and Rhetoric(s) Conference: "Challenging Rhetorics: Cross-Disciplinary
Sites of Feminist Discourse.” Investigating the Connection: Cixous's
Medusa and Other Female Images of Rhetoric. A link to the complete
bibliography is included, as well as to specific references to scholarship
on Medusa and Rhetoric. In particular, Biesecker (1982) who argues
that "The Laugh of the Medusa" is a rhetoric because "it posits what can
and must be done by women if they are to intervene effectively in the public
sphere through written and oral discourse -- we can enrich both rhetorical
and feminist theory and criticism.” She describes the essay as Cixous'
"boldest attempt to articulate a philosophically rigorous concept of écriture
féminine or "feminine writing." Biesecker reasons that although
the article "seems an unlikely beginning point for revising and reconstructing
rhetorical theory…[it is] a treatise that seeks and strategically intervene
in the public sphere…a call to women to discursively intervene in the public
"Literary": Links to an outside web site that explores the literary history of Medusa, including and essay on the writer Camile Dumolié:
"Technology": Links to laugh4.html
This page connects the Medusa Myth with technology with a synopsis of Jay Clayton's (1996) essay, "Concealed Circuits: Frankenstein's Monster, the Medusa, and the Cyborg" which launches a series of connections between the post-modern and the romantic, women and monsters, Medusa and Frankenstein's Monster.
The cyborg is a simulacrum, a copy of copy with no real referent. Like Medusa, the cyborg is more than a literal body or even a body of text; the cyborg sets off a discourse through which we frame bodies strategically and politically. Clayton (1996) looks "at the relation of postmodern theory to the history that makes it possible." He argues that "postmodern theory is enabled by the exclusion of one set of historical connections and reliance on another, very different set of historical links. The circuits that make this theoretical creature go, so to speak, are not the only circuits etched in the recent past.” Clayton proceeds to illustrate connections between Shelley's (1818) Frankenstein (an emblem of Romanticism), Medusa (Cixous' (1975) touchstone for psychoanalytic feminism), and Haraway's (1985) cyborg. Each of these figures is a "monster that makes us turn our eyes away. One has to turn aside to look at the unknown." Ultimately, Clayton argues that "all periods might justly be compared to artificial life forms" that is, a period of literary history can only be understood after we have constructed it as such.
Clayton (1996) explains how Mary Shelley's (1818) monster connects with Percy Bysshe Shelley's (1819) poem who "transforms Medusa into a symbol of revolutionary power"…P. Shelley's "portrait of Medusa appears to comment on his wife's vision of monstrosity, "an uncreated creature"…"like M. Shelley Cixous unsettles the relationship between monstrosity and vision. Cixous challenges men to gaze directly at the monster they fear, thus mocking the familiar Freudian reading, which sees Medusa a representing men's fear of castration."
Cixous (1981) in "Decapitation and Castration talks about a creature she calls "The Hysteric" who is a "divine spirit…the unorganizable feminine construct, whose power of producing the other is a power that never returns to her… She is given images that don't belong to her, and she forces herself, as we've all done, to resemble them." In other words, a simulacrum. This marks the origin of the Sphinx, and as Clayton says, "the current flows strong between Frankenstein's monster and Cixous' Medusa. Their laughter crackles along a circuit…"
By contrast Donna Haraway (1985) (as cited in: Clayton (1996) argues "that women should be embraced the monstrous identity of the cyborg as an ironic political strategy for dislodging traditional images of the feminine. Making this gesture would require a willingness to explore one's complicity with technology, one's implication in acknowledging the fragmented, partial, constructed nature not only of one's identity but also of one's very body."
This challenges Cixous' manifesto which Clayton (1996) claims "assimilates women into a universal female subject," unlike Haraway (1985) who "opposes the search for an essential unity.” Further, "the cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world." Clayton concludes, that the "fact that Haraway's cyborg is not a direct descendent of Cixous' Medusa point toward the value of attending to the multiple histories that intersect in a writer such as Shelley."
Clayton links to Jay Clayton, Simulacrum links to website exploring
Cixous links to laugh2.html, Shelley's links to laugh1a.html
Constructed links to mirror4.html, Link to complete bibliography
WINGS or "flight of the hero"
· Image: Greek Urn with winged Perseus' and Medusa's winged
· Text: Calvino, Pindar
In keeping with Calvino's concept of "lightness," this is the most stripped of all the threads. Flight is an important concept for Cixous' (1976) essay. She equates women's writing to the power of flight. Calvino's essay on lightness reviews Ovid's Metamorphoses, in which figures are continually transformed. Lastly, Perseus, the horse with wings, is born out of Medusa's blood.
Text from "Wings" main page:
This vase depicts the headless body of Medusa; only a bit of her head peeks out of Perseus’ bag.
From Ovid's Metamorphoses:
And when deep sleep had overtaken her,
Together with the snakes that wreathed her hair,
He cut that Gorgon's head off from the neck;
And from Medusa's blood two sons sprang up:
Chrysaor and the wingèd Pegasus.
Key to links:
"Perseus" links to: wings3.html, Cellini's Statue of Perseus and Pindar's victory songs:
Pindar: Pythian Ode 12: Most radiant of mortal cities, ...
Perseus, her son, who they say was sired
In a shower of streaming gold…
When one desire will succeed, but another will fail.
"Ovid" links to: stone1a.html for fuller sample of Ovid's text
"Wingèd" links to: synopsis of Calvino's (1988) essay on "Lightness."
In Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Calvino (1988) begins this book of essays with a discussion on the virtues of "lightness." By this he means to evoke a method of writing fiction that is largely subtractive, as if carving away to create a sculpture. Calvino considers the subtraction of weight from the structure of a story, and from language itself, offering a vision of entering the new millennium on the back of Pegasus: "I have come to consider lightness a value rather than a defect;…I recognize my ideal of lightness…as I project into the future."
Calvino's focus on the future is based on his view that the world, at times, was like stone, "as if no one could escape the inexorable stare of Medusa." He reminds us that Perseus flies with winged sandals, "the very lightest of things" and is the only hero able to conquer Medusa. Perseus uses his shield to avert the eyes of Medusa and "to cut off Medusa's head without being turned to stone." In fact, Perseus' actions set forth a series of events: The blood from Medusa's severed head does not petrify, but "gives birth to a winged horse, Pegasus--the heaviness of stone is transformed into its opposite," especially when "with one low of his hoof…Pegasus makes a spring gush forth, where the Muses drink." Another transformation takes place when Perseus makes a bed of seaweed upon which he rests Medusa's head: "the most unexpected this is the miracle that follows: when they touch Medusa, the little marine plants turn into coral and the nymphs, in order to have coral for adornment, rush to bring sprigs of seaweed to the terrible head." Eventually, Perseus rescues Andromeda.
For Calvino, "Perseus succeeds in mastering that horrendous face by keeping it hidden," in fact, "Perseus' strength always lies in a refusal to look directly, but not in a refusal of the reality in which he is fated.” Calvino considers Perseus an agile hero who "raises himself above the weight of the world, showing that with all his gravity he has the secret of lightness.” And a hero who can transform worldly weight into lightness "makes possible a flight into a realm where every need is magically fulfilled," including the possibility of flight.
Sculpture links to wings3.html, Hero links to stone1b.html
Shield links to shield1.html, Adornment links to stone4.html
Andromeda links to mirror4.html, Transform links to stone1a.html
Mask or "self-representation"
· Image: Giancinto Calandrucci "Head of Medusa"
· Text: Derrida's Memoirs of the Blind
Inspired almost entirely by Derrida's essay, this is the only title
page of any thread that contains links to other pages. Because it
is the last of pages, and fits together with so many other threads, I have
included links to "shield" and "mirror" to generate a sense of connectedness
to the other pages. Further analysis of concepts behind this thread
is developed in the text of its title page:
Text from "mask" title page:
To look at the self, we need both a mirror and a mask. The mirror
to see our own reflection, and to recognize that the self can never be
seen unmasked--the reflection is itself a layer of protection from the
reality of existence. To see oneself is death, or at best, blindness.
Derrida's (1993) Memoirs of the Blind addresses issues of vision, blindness,
and self-representation in relation to drawing. This print by Calandrucci,
found at the Louvre, is a lesser-known work that challenges the notion
of the self-portrait because the artist casts himself as Medusa.
Like Caravaggio, this self-representation is a self in drag, imagining
the artist as a monster, commenting on the ways we perceive ourselves.
Derrida reminds us that Athena turns the Gorgon Medusa into a snake headed
monster because she is offended by the nakedness (Poseidon's rape of Medusa
took place in Athena's sacred grove). Perseus must slay her,
but essentially "go in blind" because if he looks at her, he will be turned
to stone. Athena makes the task possible by giving him a shield that
he uses as a mirror, to see Medusa without looking on her with his own
eyes. Perseus' own identity is masked with the cap he wears, making
him invisible to the Gorgon sisters.
Perseus has the experience of the gaze without suffering the fate of vision, a concept represented by the French word: médusante, or the threat of a petrifying vision. It would be impossible for the artist to render and image of himself with out a mirror, likewise, self-reflection requires the acknowledgement of a degree of self-blindness. For Derrida, to know the self is to remove the mask of identity we wear that protects us from our vulnerability to being made a mere object of the gaze. In drawing the self, we must use the mirror like Perseus, to remove the mask that veils our identity, yet to do so brings about the "Medusa" effect: "the mask shows the eyes in a carved face without coming face to face with a petrified objectivity, with death or blindness."
Derrida explains that, "[e]ach time one wears a mask, each time one shows or draws a mask, one repeats Perseus' heroic deed. At one's own risk or peril...each time [the mask] is shown, exhibited, objectified, or designated, it is Perseus who is put to the test of drawing.” Consequently, he explains, "the story of this heroic son does not only give rise to the narrative of an event" but it also defines the structure of the event. "Without directly facing the fatal gaze of Medusa, facing only its reflection in the bronze shield polished like a mirror, Perseus sees without being seen. He looks to the side when he decapitates the monster and when he exhibits her head to his enemies in order to make them flee with the threat of being petrified." Thus, Perseus in a rather oblique way is able to harness the power and the threat of the gaze. "A ruse that consists in the sidestepping rather than meeting head-on the death that comes through the eyes."
Key to links:
"Mirror" links to mirror.html to show the connections between these two threads.
"Derrida" links to www.derrida.com, a site dedicated to Derrida full of information.
"Louvre" links to www.louvre.fr, the official museum web site.
"Caravaggio" links to shield1.html and the image and analysis of Caravaggio's Medusa.
"Gorgon" links to shield3.html, the Gorgon Goddess that represents local goddesses.
"carved face" links to mask2.html, to the animated character Hexadecimal, a virtual Medusa:
Hexadecimal: each time one wears a mask, he repeats Perseus' heroic deed. In contemporary culture an interesting site of such a heroic deed emerges out of the digital world with "RE: boot's" villain "Hexadecimal." She represents a computer virus, a trickster figure who must be dealt with, but is never destroyed, by the other characters of the series In this cyber-comic book world, she changes masks to express emotion, never revealing her true self.
"vision" links to shield3.html, an original experimental piece created
for this web site.
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Artifact from Greek Urn:
Baresel-Bofinger, F. (Photographer) (2000). Medusa. in Talent in Motion Vol. III, Issue 2, Ingram Periodicals. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Berman, E. (Painter) (1930). Dark Medusa at Sunset, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Marriner S. Eccles, Acc. 1971.
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Callendrucci, G. (painter) (1646-1707?). The Head of Medusa. Louvre Museum, Paris. Also cited in: Derrida. (1993) Memoirs of the Blind.
Caravaggio (painter) (1598-99). Medusa; Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
Cellini, B. (Sculptor) (date). Perseo; in bronze, Logia dei Lanzia, Dallerian delgli Uffizi, Italy. <http://www.bluffton.edu/homepages/facstaff/sullivanm/lanzi/lanzi.html>
Da Vinci, L. (Painter) The Medusa. Florentine Gallery. <http://www.otal.umd.edu/~eshevlin/figA.html>
Dame Rhetoric: Margarita Philosophica 1515.
De Genevieve, B. (photographer, multi-media) Laugh of the Medusa, Cliche Verre. <ezellgarrely.com>
Francot, M. (Painter)(1999). Medusa.
"Gargoyle" detail from: Cellini, B. (Sculptor) (date). Perseo ; in bronze, Logia dei Lanzia, Dallerian delgli Uffizi, Italy. <http://www.bluffton.edu/homepages/facstaff/sullivanm/lanzi/lanzi.html>
"Hexadecimal" (1995). ReBoot, Irwin Toy Limited.
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Medusa in bronze. (date). <http://www.perseus.ch/>
Medusa Frieze of the Temple of Apollo in Didyma, Turkey. <http://www.medusadisco.com/portal/medusa.html>
Medusa Gorgon (1999). Sacred Source, Jai Bhagavan. <http://sacredsource.com>
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