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Patchwork, biography as hypertext

Material Information

Title:
Patchwork, biography as hypertext exploring the problematics of biographical representation after poststructuralism
Creator:
Robitaille, Stephen
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
vi, 157 leaves : ; 29 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Biographers ( jstor )
Biography ( jstor )
Death ( jstor )
Discourse ( jstor )
Electronics ( jstor )
Poetry ( jstor )
Quilting ( jstor )
Quilts ( jstor )
Semiotic signs ( jstor )
Signification ( jstor )
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF ( lcsh )
English thesis, Ph.D ( lcsh )
City of Miami ( local )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 1998.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 153-156).
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Stephen Robitaille.

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University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
030039558 ( ALEPH )
41088996 ( OCLC )

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Full Text












PATCHWORK,
BIOGRAPHY AS HYPERTEXT:
EXPLORING THE PROBLEMATIC
OF BIOGRAPHICAL REPRESENTATION
AFTER POSTSTRUCTURALISM











By

STEPHEN ROBITAILLE


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1998














ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First, I would like to thank Professor Gregory Ulmer, who chaired my dissertation

from its original incarnation as a more traditional analysis into the methods of literary

biography to its final form as a truly experimental project. I am indebted both to his counsel

and scholarship, as well as to the many years of emotional support he generously provided. I

also owe a debt of thanks to the other members of the committee, Professors Alistair

Duckworth, Patricia Craddock and John Craig Freeman, who provided both intellectual

stimulation and welcomed infusions of confidence and support. Also, I would like to thank

Professor Paul Stacey, whose support during the writing of my masters thesis at the

University of Hartford was the original stimulus for this study.

To Miriam Patchen I extend a belated appreciation for waiting out the completion of

this study, so many years after the generous interviews, conversation and confidences.

Finally, I would like to extend my loving appreciation to my parents, Jean and Pauline

Robitaille, who introduced me to the love of literature and provided an atmosphere of

unquestionable emotional support. To my grandmother, Yvonne Daniel, I owe the gift of

faith. And I am grateful beyond words to my beloved wife, Julie, without whom this project

would lack both its jouissance and its conclusion.















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ... ........... ii

ABSTRACT ... ................... v

CHAPTERS

1 INTRODUCTION .................. ................ ..... 1

Convergences .................................... .. ...... .. 1
Theory ...................................... ..... .. .......... 3
M odels/P atches ........................ .................. ..... 6
M ethodology ........................ ............ .......... ..... 9
Im plications .......... .......... ......................... 13

2 CONTRAST: MANIFESTO FOR A NEW ACADEMIC WRITING ......... 21

Iro nies .. .. .. .. .......... .. 2 1
Plugging in Patchen .................. ......... ..... ....... 24
The Status of the "Author" and "Subject" Will Be Re-visited and Re-
Positioned in the Electronic .................................... 25
In the Electronic There Are No Origins and No Destinations and, Thus,
"Thesis," "Truth" and the "Real" Are Reconsidered and Repositioned .... 33
The New Electronic Academic Discourse Will Be Non-Totalizing ............. 36
Electronic Discourse Will Introduce Alternative Structures and Organizational
Patterns ...... .... ..... .... .. .... ..... .... 39
The Question of Ideology Must Be Revisited and Reconfigured in the
E electronic ............... ................... ......... .. 46

3 (A)NALOGY: QUILTING AS HOBBY THEORY ..................... 57

Quilts and M ourning ............................................. 62
Chaos Theory and the "Crazy" Text(ile) ............................... 66
From Citizen Kane to Citizen Patchen ................ ..... .......... 73
Other Models for Mystoriobiography ................................... 76
Figures Before the W all ............. ............. ............ 81
More Alternative Approaches ...................................... 83
Passage Through The Wall ................. ................. ..... 87
Assessing Patchworking Elements for Electronic Mystoriobiography .......... 95









4 (T )A R G E T .. ...... .... .......... ....... ......... .... .. ..... ..

Introduction .......... .. ............... ...... 99
Crash Sites ................ .... .......................... 102
C conclusion ................. ........... .. ................. 124

5 THE CATT(t)'S TALE/TAILLE .............. ............. .. 129

Introductory Screens ....... ........ .... .......... 129
Scene/Space One: The Bedroom ....... ........... ............ 130
Scene/Space Two: The Projection Room .......... ......... ... 135
Scene/Space Three: The Newsroom ....... ....... ....... 137
Scene/Space: Four: The Thatcher Memorial Library ...................... 142
Scene/Space Five: The Jazz Tent ............................. .. 143
Other Scenes/Other Spaces .............................. ...... 145
Final Scene/Space: The Cellar as Site of "das Ding" .... ... ...... 146
'das Ding': This Place 'Between Two Deaths' ............................ 149

REFERENCES ..................................................... 154

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................... ........ .. 158












Abstract of Dissertation to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

PATCHWORK,
BIOGRAPHY AS HYPERTEXT:
EXPLORING THE PROBLEMATIC
OF BIOGRAPHICAL REPRESENTATION
AFTER POSTSTRUCTURALISM

By

Stephen Robitaille

December 1998

Chairman: Gregory Ulmer
Major Department: English

The hypertext project, Patchwork, the subject of this study, is the result of a

convergence of critical theory and new modes of electronic media at a point in time when

artists and scholars continue to debate the impact of poststructuralist and postmodern thought

on the humanities. Patchwork is an examination into the problematic of biographical

representation as witnessed in the life and art of multimedia artist and poet, Kenneth Patchen

(1926-1972).

An examination of the vast array of oftentimes conflicting materials that compose

the Patchen archive reveals a decidedly cubist subject. This study has attempted to

stratagize an alternative, experimental biographical practice capable of re-presenting these

multiple perspectives. The possibility for such an approach was inspired by George Landow's

assertion that hypertext is an ideal laboratory for testing out certain tenants of critical theory.

Following this lead, research toward the development of Patchwork then turned to the









writings of Gregory Ulmer on applied grammatology and heuretics, which provided the

process of inventio which came to inform the aesthetics and design principles for the hypertext

mystoriobiography.

Employing Ulmer's heuretic of the CATT(t), the various stages and chapters of this

study serve as a manifesto for a new form of academic writing. Utilizing Ulmer's heuretical

concepts of hobby theory, mystery and the "popcycle," Patchwork, in turn, takes the form of

an electronic patchwork quilt in which the embedded material of both the biographer and

biographical subject are "stitched" into a remake, or detournment, of Citizen Kane. The

resulting CD-Rom becomes a virtual tour of Kane's "Xandu" here reconceptualized at Citizen

Patchen.

This attempt to experiment with an alternative, poststructuralist mystoriobiography

employs various practices introduced by critical theory which address the very elements of

biographical representation that traditionally problematize such an endeavor. This study

underscores that in the case of a subject such as Kenneth Patchen, whose life and art is fraught

with all sort of deconstructive tendencies, an experimental approach is not only justified, it

becomes, in fact, the more illuminating route to travel.















CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Convergences

The hypertext project, Patchwork, which is the subject of this dissertation is the

result of a convergence of critical theory and new modes of electronic media at a point in

time when artists and scholars continue to debate the impact of poststructuralist and

postmodern thought on the humanities. Nearly a decade ago, I began research into the life

and art of multimedia artist and poet, Kenneth Patchen (1926-1972), hoping to produce an

"authoritative" biography of my "subject." Long before that decade had concluded, it

would become fashionable to call into question the very notions of textual "authority" and

a representational, unified "subject."

My own questioning of such fundamental biographical imperatives arose directly

from my first plebeian forays into the realm of biographical research. After later reading

considerable literature on the biographical method, what I discovered was hardly

considered a trade secret: literary biography demanded one be a Jack-of-all-critical-trades

(historian, psychologist, sociologist, just to name a few) and be ultimately fated seldom to

be a master of any. And this at a time when the disciplines, such as those mentioned

above, were each being rendered problematic under the critical eye of poststructuralist

thought.

To make a dreadfully long story short, I soon became more consumed with the

problematic of biographical representation than in the writing of a "definitive" Patchen









biography. One of the many ironies inherent in my digression is the fact that Kenneth

Patchen, like numerous other complex individuals and artists, had left behind a minefield

of biographical and artistic conundrums waiting to explode in the smug face of any future

"truth" hound hoping to sniff out the essence of his life and work. I was soon engaged in

the classical struggle, inherent in such research, with how to re-present to my readers, not

simply the facts of a life, but rather, with a replication of the research process itself, with

all its labyrinthine, poststructuralist twists and turns.

While I never feared the warnings of those who predicted that such an approach

would render the biographical "author" dead, or reduce his works to indeterminable

"texts," I did fear the possibility that I would not be able to find a suitable format for

allowing the reader to determine his, or her, own reading of the life and works. And, more

importantly, would I be able to find the suitable format for allowing the reader's personal

engagement, not just with the materials of the text, but with the various problematic of

handling them? It was the emergence of hypertext which served to alleviate such fears.

There are two contemporary theorists whose works themselves have been the site

of significant convergences of post-critical thought, and to whom the Patchwork project is

largely indebted. First came the publication in 1985 of Gregory Ulmer's Applied

Grammatology, which introduced its readers to the "third" or "applied" phase of Jacques

Derrida's grammatology, and in so doing, outlined a new pedagogy for the humanities, and

in particular, a humanities now largely experienced in the era of audiovisual

communications. In his next book, Teletheory, published in 1989, Ulmer invents a genre,

called mystory, for the cognitive structures of the electronic culture.









Contemporaneous with Ulmer's theorizing toward a new electronic pedagogy was

the work of Brown University Professor, George Landow, on the development of a highly

interactive form of electronic text, called hypertext, which correctly proclaims to be the

ideal laboratory for the testing of various essential points of contemporary literary and

semiological theory. The results of this work were published in Hypertext: The

Covergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology in 1992. Of particular

interest to my investigation into the possibilities of biographical representation, for

example, are the ability of hypertext to embody Derrida's idea of "de-centering" and

Barthes's conception of the "readerly" versus the writerlyy" text.

In the balance of this introduction, let me briefly outline key elements of the work

by Ulmer and Landow, and suggest how these elements have shaped the methodology for

constructing Patchwork, an interactive biographical hypertext whose subject is the

problematic of constructing a subject we might call "Kenneth Patchen."

Theory

To begin, let us consider what Ulmer found of interest in Derrida that shaped, first,

his development of an "applied grammatology," and more recently, teletheory. Ulmer

points out that: "Writing, as Derrida practices it, is something other than deconstruction,

the latter being a mode of analysis, while the former is a mode of composition" (Applied

Grammatology xi). Identifying in Derrida's work the utilization of "three levels of

communication--images, puns, and discourse," Ulmer finds that what is most important for

his work" is the extent to which Derrida systematically explores the nondiscursive levels--

images and puns, or models and homophones--as an alternative mode of composition and

thought applicable to academic work, or rather, play" (xi). "This writing," Ulmer posits,







4

"is not a method of analysis or criticism but of invention" (xii). Ulmer then postulates that

this "new compositional model .. reflects a larger program that might be derived from

Derrida's deconstructivee] texts," a program Ulmer labels "grammatology" (xii). What is

significant for the purposes of my hypertextual project is Ulmer's insistence that:

"Grammatology as composition (Writing) is not confined to books and articles, but is

addressed more comprehensively to the needs of multichannel performance--in the

classroom and in video and film as well" (xii).

Thus, grammatology offered the promise of a form of composition that would not

lure me with the same siren sounds of "truth" that doom most biographers to the rocks of

exegetical totalism or "subject" mongering. Rather, a grammatological approach might

allow me the means to invent a pedagogical apparatus that invited the reader of this

electronic text to explore the possibilities of the Patchen archive both as a field of

information and as a means of self-instruction in the possibilities and problematic of

biographical representation.

Such possibilities are elucidated by Ulmer in the Preface to Teletheory, where he

explains that his proposed genre of mystery "takes into account the new discursive and

conceptual ecology interrelating orality, literacy and videocy" (vii). Of particular relevance

to the impact of teletheory, and its specific genre, mystery, on the humanities is the fact

that it "brings into relationship the three levels of common sense--common, explanatory,

and expert--operating in the circulation of culture from "low" to "high" and back

again. ..," thus providing a "translation (or transduction) process researching

equivalencies among the discourses of science, popular culture, everyday life, and private

experience" (vii).







5

Ulmer's acknowledgment of the impact of his inventio on the humanities, and his

challenge to the discipline, is boldly stated as such:

The failure of the Humanities disciplines to communicate with the public
may be due in part to the fact that what separates specialized humanists from
laymen is not only our conceptual apparatus and the discourses of the academy,
but the very medium in which we work--the printed word. It is time for the
humanities disciplines to establish our cognitive jurisdiction over the
communications revolution. (viii)

The decision to translate my own disciplinary research into the biographical method

in general, and the biographical subject, Kenneth Patchen, in particular, into an electronic

hypertext, was doubly confirmed by Landow's own acknowledgment of Derrida via Ulmer

in the opening chapter to Hypertext. The convergence of Derrida/Ulmer/Landow with

Robitaille/Patchen appears in the form of a parallel between Derrida's deconstructive

enterprise and Patchen's lifelong attempt to explore and expand the possibilities of personal

expression through multimedia art. The following observation by Landow of Derrida may

be said to echo my own experiences with Patchen's work and with Patchen as subject of a

biographical hypertext. Writes Landow:

Derrida's groping for a way to foreground his recognition of the way text
operates in a print medium--he is, after all, the fierce advocate of writing as
against orality--shows the position, possibly the dilemma, of the thinker working
with print who sees its shortcomings but for all his brilliance cannot think
outside this mentalite. (Hypertext 9)

What I am trying to suggest here is that Derrida's "groping" and the subsequent new kinds

of text that he has created are recognized by theorists such as Ulmer and Landow as

providing both the theoretical underpinnings and numerous specific terms, models and

strategies which lend themselves ideally to the composition of hypertext. I would like now

to consider several of these terms, models and strategies and briefly outline how, in the









chapters to follow, they will be utilized in the design and operation of Patchwork. Finally,

I will consider some of the implications for the humanities that the creation of such a

hypertext biography might pose.

Models/Patches

A seminal point of convergence, one that both names and legitimizes my

Patchwork project, derives from Derrida, and after him, Ulmer's, employment of the

concept of homonymy, based on the

premise of applied grammatology that the cartouche principle of the signature,
directing the relation of the proper name to common nouns .. may be generalized
to include the process of concept formation--the relation of an abstract term to the
metaphors from which the term is "derived." (Applied Grammatology, 26)

For Derrida, the concept of homonymy allowed for the possibility of creating a text,

Signsponge, generated out of the poet's name, "Frances Ponge," in which, as Ulmer

describes it, "[Derrida] treats Ponge's oeuvre as if it were written in the key of'Ponge,'"

which Ulmer sees as "one way to generalize a rhizomatic relation to the world"

(Teletheory, 160).

Such an approach, suggests Ulmer, allows for the possibility of "celebrating what a

name founds, what may be found in a name" (161). This "signature procedure," more

importantly, "is not the naming of a determinism, but an invention, inventio, whose

purpose is to produce a text" (164). In employing such a procedure, I am following the

rhizomatic possibilities of the signature "Patchen" as it converges homonymically with the

textile metaphors of the "patch" as "patchwork," in both its square (printed), round

(electronic) and hobby (theory) senses. (I'll elaborate on Deleuze and Guatarri's use of

"rhizome" and Ulmer's concept of "theory hobby" in the handbook to follow.) Writing










thus, in what Derrida considers this third modality of the signature, one arrives at what

Ulmer, in his invention ofmystory, refers to as "metaphors or vehicles for a poetics of

invention, a memory system or mnemonics available for thinking about any matter

whatsoever" (165).

What I want to think about, therefore, are the following. For example, what would

a hypertextual biography look like if it functioned not only in the traditional sense, as a

repository of archival information concerning an artist's life and creative practices, as well

as an attempt to reconstruct some semblance of a "self' in the humanist sense of the word,

but rather, to use Ulmer's description of Signsponge, as a "theoretical elaboration of the

poetics of generating the text," a work, in other words, that is "at once the thing and the

model" (Teletheory 156-7). Identifying Derrida's project as otobiography, which "mixes

the modes of critique and fiction," Ulmer, in his incorporation of otobiography to his

genre, mystery, sets out to demonstrate, as in "Derrida at Little Big Horn: A Fragment,"

"the possibility of applying literary devices to the practice of academic discourse" (161).

How then, for example, might I incorporate into my hypertext, a mystorical

"patch" which brings into relation (via multichannel, hypermedia capabilities of this new

electronic medium) such mystorical levels of discourse as the "personal (autobiography),

popular (community stories, oral histories or popular culture), [and] expert (disciplines of

knowledge)" (Teletheorv 209)?

In Patchwork, for example, the personal, or autobiographical level would link,

again by way of homonymy, "Patch/Patchen" with "Robitaille/robe(text-tile) and

"taille"/tailor, thus generating various electronic webs, or rhizomatic linkages between my

familial association with the New England textile industry, exposure to my father's career









as an engraver of other persons' signatures and the translation of this autobiographical

link, with my "minor vita," as Ulmer calls it "(alluding to Deleuze and Guatarri's minor

literature, minor science)," into the present context of electronic biographical

"patchworking" (Strategies 17). Additional autobiographical links would include my first

traumatic awareness of death via electronic transmission of certain images over my

grandmother's television, and the resurfacing of this memory as a recurrent phenomenon in

my problematic relationship with biographical representation in general (i.e., explication as

annihilation) and in my fetishistic relationship with the subject "Kenneth Patchen," in

particular (e.g., Patchen's own preoccupation with death, the disaster of his sister's fatal

accident, his violent art and his own association with the 'death of language and the author'

phenomenon). In trying to understand the relevance of Patchen's "story" to my own

cultural formation, such factors need to be reckoned with, for it is in this mystorical

convergence of disasters that the reader/co-author of my hypertext discovers that

exploring an author's corpus is, in the present instance, to enter an electronic crypt, where

the Freudian theory of melancholia and mourning results, as Derrida suggests of Nietzsche

in Glas, with Nietzsche's unsuccessful mourning, and the deferral of his signature (Derrida,

The Ear of the Other, 56-59).

How, similarly, might the reader/re-creator of this hypertext generate his or her

own mystery in such a fashion as to consider the following relationships and

convergences: a) the archival material available for the construction of "Kenneth Patchen"

as a biographical subject, b) a miming of Patchen's own poetics and avant-garde practices

as a means by which to compose a critical literary biography of his life. Step C would then

combine "a" and "b" with the three levels of discourse inherent in mystery to create an









open ended "Patchwork" conceived of not as a "text of justification," (the biographical

urge to codify a life), but rather, one "of discovery" intended to "help the composer

articulate the ground of invention" (Ulmer, Applied Grammatology, 211).

In positing the link between postructuralist thought and hypertext, Landow cites

the work of a diverse range of theorists whose concepts are embodied in both the design

and application of this new electronic medium. From Barthes's "galaxy of signifiers" to

Foucault's notion that the "'frontiers of a book are never clear-cut,"' the parallels between

computer hypertext and critical theory are many and significant. For the purposes of

Patchwork, it is my intention to create an electronic crazy quilt, where individual

electronic "patches" whose signatures read Derrida, Barthes, Ulmer, Foucault, Lacan,

Kristeva, Deleuze, Guatarri, Robitaille et al. (the Patchwork quilt is, like Borges's

labyrinth, infinite in size) will, in a manner of speaking, be woven into the larger quilt, each

"patch" representing a "reading" into the problematic of transforming the infinite and

chaotic galaxy of signifiers that might signify "Kenneth Patchen," into that which, in the

manner of Lacan's objet petite a, is marked by a "lack" that renders it always something

both more and less than wholecloth.

Methodology

In linking my project to that of Ulmer's and Landow's theoretical explorations in

hypertext, I wish to further extend an experiment which Ulmer states in his Introduction to

Heuretics "derived from Hayden White's challenge to contemporary historians to reinvent

historiography using the arts and sciences of today as models in the same way that the

nineteenth century historiographers drew upon the models available to them in their









period" (xii). My objective, then, is to reinvent biographical methodology using a model

provided by Ulmer in Heuretics.

Heuretics, which Ulmer defines as "the branch of logic that treats the art of

discovery or invention," has as its goal "not only to reproduce historical inventions" but

"also to invent new poetics" (xii). In introducing his analysis of the "story of invention."

Ulmer cites the significant contributions of major figures whose theories and practice have

shaped a long "tradition of the discourse on method" (8). The list includes among others:

Freud and Marx, Dziga-Vertov and Eisenstein, Wittgenstein and Barthes. Ulmer singles

out for special consideration, "Andre Breton's invention of surrealism as a sample of the

generative approach to writing theory" (5). Given Patchen's role as a central figure in

American surrealist and avant-garde literature and art, I am drawn to Ulmer's extension of

surrealism, and his inquiry into how "might an invention such as surrealism, rooted in a

particular historical and cultural moment, be simulated in the heuretic experiment?" (6).

Robert Ray, crediting Ulmer's influence, provides an excellent series of examples of the

application of surrealist strategies for the purpose of doing theory. These strategies will

inform the creation of Patchwork.

In addressing the question of surrealism's re-simulation in the heuretic experiment,

Ulmer identifies Breton's "The Manifesto of Surrealism" as "belong[ing] to the tradition of

the discursive method." Furthermore, explains Ulmer

A comparison of Breton's manifesto with the various classics of method
reveal that they tend to include a common list of elements, which are
presentable for mnemonic reference by the acronym CATTt (Ulmer,
1991b). The CATTt includes the following operations:
C = Contrast (opposition, inversion, differentiation)
A = Analogy (figuration, displacement)
T = Theory (repetition, literalization)









T = Target (application, purpose)
t = Tale (secondary elaboration, representability) (8)

In Heuretics, Ulmer considers how the above operations are manifested in Plato's

Phaedrus. In summarizing Ulmer's explication ofCATTt in Plato, I will briefly outline, by

analogy, how I will employ the CATTt in the construction of the hypertext, Patchwork.

Indeed, Ulmer's CATTt is to serve as the blueprint for my hypertext project, which has as

its objective testing out this invention (CATTt) on the subject of biography. Thus, each of

the chapters to follow will focus on the five elements of the CATTt.

"The theorist," explains Ulmer, "begins by pushing away from an undesirable

example or prototype, whose features provide an inventory of qualities for an alternative

method" (8). In Plato's case, he "defines his own position in opposition to that of the

Sophists" (8). In Chapter 2, "Contrast," the undesirable example or prototype is the

traditional methodologies employed in the composition of the literary biography with its

attendant qualities of verisimilitude, linearity, teleology, logocentrism and theories of

authorship and subjectivity, to name a few.

In his discussion of analogy, Ulmer (citing Buchler) states: "Method becomes

invention when it relies on analogy and chance" (8). Adds Ulmer, "If methods tend to be

practiced as algorithms, their invention is heuristic ."(9). Plato's analogy for inventing

the dialectic is "between proper rhetoric and medicine" (9). In the case of Patchwork, as

discussed in Chapter 3, "Analogy," the analogy will be between the theory and craft of

quilt-making and the application of critical theory to a hypertext biography.

The "theory" component of the CATTt requires that "the theorist generates] a

new theory based on the authority of another theory whose argument is accepted as literal







12

rather than a figurative analogy" (9). In each case, according to Ulmer, a "new theory will

include in one register a literal repetition of a prior theory, modified, of course, by its

interaction with the other elements of the CATTt" (9). In Chapter 4 I will import various

elements of post-structuralist theory, particularly as they have informed Ulmer's

grammatalogical extension of critical theory into the realm of electronic media. More

specifically, as mentioned earlier, I wish to experiment with Ulmer's concept of theory

craft as the means to join the theory component (T) with Analogy (A)/Quilt-making and

Tale(t)/hypertext biography.

Since it is the intention of the theorist to have "in mind an area of application that

the new method is designed to address" and since this target "is often identified in terms of

an institution whose needs have motivated the search for the method" (9), I would like to

target the flourishing institution of literary biography, whose received conventions and

traditional methodology have only, of late, begun to be deconstructed and problematized.

As Ulmer summarizes, "Target supplies an inventory out of what is lacking or missing, or

out of the excess of a new situation for which no practices yet exist" (9). Thus, in Chapter

5, "Target," I will speak to that inventory of what would appear to be lacking or missing

in terms of present institutional practices and suggest how, through the incorporation of

mystery, the CATTt's tail/tale (linking homonymically to Robi-taille, French for

tailor/stitcher/text-tile worker) provides out of the excess of this situation, a new practice

of biographical writing and research.

Finally, according to Ulmer's CATTt, "the invention, the new method, must itself

be represented in some genre," ideally, perhaps, in the form of "a dramatization of the

theory of knowledge appropriate for the human subject envisioned by or presumed by) the










Theory" (9). Since, in the case of Plato's dialogues, his "discourse on method did what it

said (was a showing as well as a telling," in Chapter 6 I will perform an experiment that

presents a series of such parallel gestures. I will explore Landow's premise that hypertext

is the ideal laboratory for testing out certain tenets of post-structuralist theory. By

extension, I will employ Ulmer's practice of theory craft and mystery as the means by

which to test out the theory (T) of what becomes of biography when written in this new

discourse and medium.

Implications

Many scholars continue to agree with biographer Leon Edel's assertion that

biography "has not yet articulated a 'methodology'" (Edel 4-5). Others, such as Hugh

Brogan, insist that the attempt to construct a ". cubist biography would be impossible,

for it would too patently impose the writer's design on the subject's life" (Brogan 104).

Implicit in the concerns expressed in, say, a review of the year's New York Times' reviews

of biographies, is the implicit notion that were a methodology to be discovered and agreed

upon, it would fulfill what Brogan asserts is the "aim at accuracy of detail and

completeness of outline," and would avoid at all costs "the ingenuities of deconstructing

critics" (104, 110).

What those of us who have begun to explore the possibilities of collaborative

writing have discovered, and there is much here for literary biographers to consider, is

that, to quote Barthes's S/Z: "this 'I' which approaches the text is already itself a plurality

of other texts, of codes which are infinite (Barthes 10). In thus conceptualizing the

Patchwork hypertext as an electronic quilt, whose nodes of intersection recast our notion

of'self as, in Jean-Francois Lyotard's terms, "a fabric of relations that is now more









complex and mobile than ever before" (15), abandoned is the central executive authority

whose signature "author-izes" a reading of the "subject."

In short, one of the major implications of this study is to respond to the assertion

that a non-traditional, post-structuralist hypertext literary biography must be, by virtue of

its definition, devoid of "meaning" and incapable of bringing the reader into some

significant and relevant awareness of both the literary "subject" and the means by which

that "subject" might, in fact, be "constructed." In addition, this project explores the

possibility that such new methodologies, operating as a generative, rather than merely

analytical and hermeneutic, force are, thus, capable of producing "readings" of a life and a

body of literature which, albeit untethered from the leash of an author-izing agent, thesis

or theme, are, nonetheless, rich in their conveyance of the scents (if not "sense") and

traces (if not "truths") of the literary "subject."

Even as I write these introductory remarks, an article in this month's Harper's

(June 1996) by Paul Roberts entitled "Virtual Grub Street" is mounting the same critical

attack on hypertext as a medium as Brogan has made against the potentialities of a

"cubist" or deconstructive biography. I welcome the timely appearance of this article as it

makes the sort of no-holds-barred critique the implications of which the Patchwork project

is intended to address. Appearing as it does in a widely read and respected magazine,

Roberts's article will no doubt confirm the suspicions and fears shared by many who see

critical theory's sinister affinity with hypertext as a further assault on literacy and

knowledge. Thus, 1 would like to quote at length from Roberts's article and suggest, in

advance, how the Patchwork handbook to follow will take into consideration his various

concerns.









In what amounts to the confessions of a guilt-ridden and over-paid free-lance

writer of "info-nuggets" and "pap" for CD-ROM companies, Roberts begins by concluding

that: "Brevity and blandness: these are the elements of the next literary style" (71).

Regrettably, it would seem, Roberts has yet to encounter some of the evocatively poetic

hypertexts represented say by the Eastgate catalog of writers, to mention one obvious

source. As to the charge of brevity, Roberts makes it clear that his measure is that which

he, in quotes, refers to as "normal" writing, in which "the writer uses the paragraph as a

bridge between specific points" (75). The problem, which remains surprisingly out of

Roberts's view throughout his critique, is that his assignments have been largely info-based

encyclopedic CD-ROMS which, by design, are caption oriented, and do not ask of the

composer to invent new syntactical and rhetorical strategies in which each page, or "link,"

can be imaginatively juxtaposed with other pages to constitute, not the "expendability"

Roberts laments, but a plurality of readings resulting from a plentitude of perspectives and

a logic which seems to leave Roberts out in the cold.

A key paragraph in Roberts's article links the pitfalls of hypertext to academe,

critical theory, and the writers of avant-garde literature. Since it serves as a sort of

compendium of the sources I will cite as positive influences on the creative use of this new

medium, I cite it in full:

Nonlinearity might seem like little more than channel surfing, but its proponents--
ranging from wealthy software gurus to tenured English professors--champion it
as an authentic yet functional postmodern form, a critical break from the age-old,
rigidly linear format of the printed page. Nonlinearity, we're told, redistributes
narrative power to readers. It undermines the tyranny of the Author. Its branching
"intertextuality" is a much closer match to the brain's own networks. Indeed,
advocates believe that the nonlinear text, or hypertext, literature can at last give
full expression to the kinds of unconventional discursive impulses that folks like
Joyce and Barthes were forced to convey via the grotesquely obsolete linear









format. For that matter, non-linearity provides a kind of running critique of the
linear format, laying open the myth that "stories" can be told only one way, in only
one direction, and toward only one conclusion: toward "closure." With
nonlinearity, as with thought itself, there is no closure, only additional links. Thus
nonlinearity, to its proponents, is the beginning of a new, more honest and
complex literature--and, perhaps, the beginning of the end of an old one. "The
printed book seems destined to move to the margin of our literate culture,"
writes Jay David Bolter, a Georgia Tech professor of communication and one of
the more articulate exponents of electronic texts. "Print will no longer define the
organization and presentation of knowledge, as it has for the past five centuries."
(73)

This paragraph, like the article as whole, is itself deserving of some deconstruction.

For example, "that stories can be told only one way" is not a myth, nor is it an accurate

reading of the historical record. As we will observe in a later chapter, there is considerable

precedent for nonlinearity and lack of closure in the print tradition, the midrash of

rabbinical exegesis serving as just one prime example. More fundamentally, while the

human inclination for narrative closure is indeed a persistent one, its ubiquitousness is

matched only by the equally human urge to defy borders, to resist interpretation, to recoil

against too easy a sounding of one's "story," as does Hamlet in this most proto-typical of

self-deconstructing texts. Consider Borges, with his labyrinthine narratives, as further

evidence that a period does not sign the close of a narrative, however linear its path may

seem to be.

Neither Joyce nor Barthes, despite their "unconventional discursive impulses," can

be credited with the limitations Roberts claims are inherent in the style of CD-ROM

composition. The worlds they have created and the delight their texts have brought to

legions of readers, recommend their work as models for writers of hypertext.

I am particularly delighted by one of Roberts's most revealing statements, one that

concludes, ironically enough, with a textile metaphor, thus "linking" hypertextually and by









way of negative example, Roberts's hypertextual endeavors to my own. He begins by

underscoring the virtue and intellectual vigor of his preferred writing practice with the

apparently mindless and conspicuously feminine ("knitting") craft of hypertext:

Conventional, linear writing can be a gruesome task. Beyond the lame pay and the
feast-or-famine job cycle, the pounding of disparate facts and feelings into a tightly
structured narrative is like digging a ditch across a concrete parking lot. By
contrast, squirting out blurbs is a cakewalk, a lower-order process managed, I'm
sure, by the same lobe that handles heart rate and knitting. (75)

Roberts's statement, aside from the sour grapes and occupational anxiety

associated with his having harnessed his literacy skills to shifting paradigms, is replete with

damning evidence of the very sort of unified, complexity reducing, singularly plotted

narrative toward which literary biographers occasionally set forth and from whose siren-

sounded waters few return unhaunted and deconstructed. Indeed, should the biographer

set his or herself a "conventional, linear" path, the going will indeed be "gruesome,"

though this hardly serves as a valorization of the chosen path. One wonders how the facts

(not to, mention the reader) suffer at the hands of so much "pounding." As to the

metaphor of "digging a ditch across a concrete parking lot," I am reminded of a Zen koan

which raises the puzzle: how to extricate a rare, last of its species bird who has grown too

large to be removed from the Ming-quality vase into which it had earlier been placed? The

answer: "Poofl It's out!" In other words, to research the record of conundrums which the

subjects of literary biography, via their behaviors and artistic work, have left behind, not to

mention those conundrums imposed apriori by the ideological bent of the biographer, is to

watch so many birds be placed in so many vases, thus setting into play the necessary

violence, the "pounding" of the interpretive pick-ax.









As regards Roberts's "knitting" reference, the parallel he would appear to be

drawing is that between the sadly commercialized and mundane encyclopedic CD-ROM

assemblages represented by the dreary sample entries he provides on marine science facts

and, say, knitting in its most basic, wool-mitten manifestation. Circumstances have not

permitted Roberts to become the Melville of cyberspace, and 'suppressed of voice' he is

reduced to a "blurbmeister," unable to create his "extended symphonic rhythms" (75).

Knitting, however, when employed in the craft of quilt-making, is no "lower order

process" but a craft, as we shall see below, with a rich signifying tradition and a

significant body of theoretical discussion. Quilt-making's multimedia content employs a

diverse range of text and visually based literacies and, like hypertext, is storied in nonlinear

"patches" that are often linked associationally with little emphasis on a narrative thread or

closure.

Roberts fear of the lack of control extends beyond his subject matter to that which

he can exert over his readers. "I realize," he writes, "I can't make my "linear" readers read

what I write in the order that I write it." Sadly, he is forced to admit: "Linear readers skim.

They jump ahead, looking for interesting parts, then refer back for context--behaving, in

some respects, like the multimedia user." One can hear exasperations of the parental

rebuke directed at potential (mis)behaving readers. Such lack of trust is magnified in the

closing lines of the paragraph:

But the nonlinear interactive process undeniably accelerates this haphazardness.
The nexus of creativity is shifted from the writer to either the producers, who lay
out the text links, or the readers, who make use of those links. (77)







19

Several issues are suggested by this passage. First, were Roberts the producer here, could

he envision a reconfiguration of the subject matter (i.e. links) that would allow him to

utilize the unique attributes of this medium in a creative and expressive way? Second,

might Roberts allow for the development of a poetics that invites reader response, which,

while not determined by a controlling narrative or thesis, nonetheless generates reader

interaction, intrigue and interpretive impulses?

Feminists have argued with considerable force of proof and conviction that such

rage for control is a masculine trait. Further evidence presents itself in the New York

Times Book Review (June 9, 1996), where Molly Haskell writes in praise of Barbara

Grizzuti Harrison's An Accidental Autobiography. In contrast to Roberts's anxiety over

the "haphazard" element in composition, Molly Haskell cites as praiseworthy

compositional strategies based on nonlinear pathways to communication and knowledge.

Writes Haskell, "This pattern of recurrence and repetition, this sense of memory as a

Heraclitean river in which each step is both familiar and new, is the guiding principle for

Barbara Gurizzuti Harrision ." (9). Drawing specific attention to Harrison's use of

nonhierarchicalal'" associations of memory," Haskell describes the author's inclusion of a

"vast number of subjects .. in chapters arranged alphabetically," a strategy similar,

perhaps intentionally so, to that employed by Roland Barthes in his own autobiography,

Roland Barthes. Since Barthes's work serves as one of the models for Patchwork that I

will discuss below, I read with interest Haskell's congenial response to Harrison's text:

This strategy rejects straightforward developmental biography for something akin
to the more relaxed tone of the personal essay, but without even the topical or
thematic unity that genre usually has--and to which Ms. Harrison, a past master, is
no stranger. The nearest literary convention would be the commonplace book, or
what she describes as a scrapbook with "different photographs of the same









emotional memories." In fact, her book is like a collage or a mosaic: clusters of
language portraits so richly detailed, and palpable with color, fabric and texture,
that they are closer to the visual arts than to conventional prose narrative. (9)


One does, indeed, envision such a text as a CD-ROM, In the hands of another

writer and hypertext artist such as Michael Joyce, such biographical material would be so

configured as I will discuss below. Hypertext, conceived of as an electronic patchwork

quilt, as a text(of)tile(s), is a mosaic or collage of multimedia material whose patches are

juxtaposed into patterns suggested by the memories storied in the patchwork-materials in

concert with unique responses and "readings" of these materials by the quilt-

maker/hypertext reader into whose hands these materials land.

Should you one day find yourself weaving your way through however many

"patches" then constitute my Patchwork quilt, my hope is that you will discover for

yourself, in the archive's endless dissemination of words, paintings, recordings, interviews,

interpretations, reviews, assaults, castigations, deconstructions, and mysteries, some node

of intersection, or to paraphrase Robert Coover, "the allure of the blank spaces of [my]

fabulous network" (Landow 105). And having arrived, as only whoever you think you are

could have arrived, you will discover the eerie sensation, the biographer's nightmare, as

feverishly declared in Patchen's Journal of Albion Moonlight: "You have read many books.

This book is reading you" (202).















CHAPTER 2
CONTRAST: MANIFESTO FOR A NEW ACADEMIC WRITING

The alphabet is euphoric: no more anguish of "schema"," no more rhetoric
of "development," no more twisted logic, no more dissertations!
-Roland Barthes in Roland Barthes

Strength lies in improvisation. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.
-Walter Benjamin in "One Way Street"

The question must be: What are the equivalents at the level of institutional
practices and personal behavior of the convergence of electronic technologies?
-Gregory Ulmer in "One Video Theory"

Ironies

We begin our journey to the CATTt's (t)ale, the hypertext quilting of a post-

structuralist anti-biography of Kenneth Patchen with a consideration of those elements of

traditional literary discourse against which this project is to be contrasted. In Chapter 5 we

will (T)arget literary biography principally as that institutional practice which our

experiment in hobby theory is attempting re-create.

While the resulting Patchwork antibiography will be ahistorical in a Foucautean

sense, there is indeed a history to the emergence of hypertext and to its status, in

Landow's terms, as the ideal laboratory for testing out certain formulations of post-

structuralist literary theory. As we will discuss throughout and witness in the resulting

(t)ale or de-monstration, Patchwork, the life and art of Kenneth Patchen provides, by way

of homophony and the play of the signature effect, an analogy to the problematic of

historiography, biography and representation, which have emerged out of the history of









communication from the oral tradition to what Ong refers to as the present period of

secondary orality or the post-literate, electronic age.

We will examine certain "effects" of Patchen's writing practice that include a

significant compendium of issues raised by the emergence of new discourses now taking

shape in cyberspace via hypertext and CD-Rom computer generated technologies.

Implicated here are the relationship between these technologies and post-structuralist

theories that have influenced and shaped them and that may be further extended and

explored by virtue of their invention.

A central irony that frames this enterprise lies at the heart of the mystorical thread

that links my auto-biography to that ofPatchen's bio-graphy. As we will later note,

Patchen's anti-novelistic prose, his explorations in concrete poetry, poetry-jazz,

experimental type and graphology, and collaborations with John Cage and other avant-

garde artists, embodied as an artistic corpus the very sorts of deconstructive practices

which marked the scars, wounds, gaps and fissures that plagued his physical body and

psyche for most of his life. These deconstructive elements return, like the Freudian

repressed, or the Lacanian objet petit a, as that which haunts my present attempt to re-

present this art and life.

Additional ironies abound. Patchen's anti-art, with its carnivalesque collaging of

hybrid discourses, and its schizoid meeting of ideological and social practices, resulted in

mixed and oftentimes conflicted reviews. And his long-standing impulse not to be

"named" (despite, paradoxically, the ubiquitous presence of his trademark signature), or to

be categorized as "Beat" or "proletarian," or any other such typology, as well as his

general disdain for the academic critical enterprise of literary interpretation, has virtually









erased his name from the literary register and the indexes of contemporary anthologies.

Nonetheless, as I will both argue and hope to de-monstrate in Patchwork, that which is

represented by a 'virtually' endless chain of signification, by the floating signifier of

"Kenneth Patchen" as woven in multiple patchwork variations at the site of a "great

quilting," as Nietszche's site of "multiple exits and entrances," constitutes the "living-on"

of the subject in a manner fitting the boundless nature of the consciousnesses that are

patched together in his name.

And yet the reality of Patchen's legacy continues to haunt my present work in the

form of the devalued currency which the name "Kenneth Patchen" represents to academic

research and publishing. I pursue an interest in a marginalized subject and 1 desire to do

so, following Derrida in Signsponge, in the key of Patchen, which is to say, represent the

play of Patchen's signature in the form of a new academic writing that links the effects of

his signature to the deconstructive elements potentialized in hypertext and multimedia.

We proceed, then, left-handedly toward the CATTt's tale by first reviewing

Landow's claim for hypertext as a laboratory for an experiment such as Patchwork.

Having established the basis for legitimizing hypertext as a valid and useful inventio for an

alternative academic discourse, I will extend the argument specifically to literary

biography-as-hypertext in Chapter 5 ("Target"). In the two bridge chapters, we will

examine the importation of quilting as the hobby theory of choice for our experiment

(Chapter 3, "Analogy") and the extension of the 'quilt' metaphor into the realm of

electronic 'quilting', or hypertexting (Chapter 4, "Theory").









Plugging in Patchen

What the Patchwork project represents is an argument by way of de-monstration

for a new form of academic writing. The groundwork for this project has its roots,

rhizometrically speaking, in the past and in the future. Indeed, we might suggest that this

endeavor marks a return from the future anticipated by the past.

The problems of biographical representation which I began to consider in the early

stages of my research on the life and art of Kenneth Patchen included a vast compendium

of issues which have long plagued those disciplines and discourses which attempt to deal

with such notions as "representation," "fact," "truth," "origin," "subject," "author," and the

like. Historiography, anthropology, linguistics and literary theory, not to mention the

sciences themselves, have all been scrutinized and re-considered in light of the shifting

paradigms and new technologies of this century. It should come as no surprise, therefore,

that biographical method should be similarly interrogated and that institutional discourses

in literary biography should not likewise be re-considered and potentially re-configured.

While later chapters will consider the impact directly upon literary biography

theory and practice, what I would like to review in this chapter are some of the essential

concepts listed above ("representation," "fact," etc.) and how these concepts might be

taken up and re-positioned in a post-alphabetic, electronically based literacy. In short,

what aspects of my work on the Kenneth Patchen "archive" and its translation into a post-

structuralist multimedia biography are most directly impacted by critical theory" And how

might what Ulmer and others refer to as electronic thinking, or "videocy," the cognitive

domain of Ong's period of "secondary orality," inform the shaping of this new academic

discourse. If, as Landow suggests in Hypertext, multimedia and computer based texts are









the ideal lab for testing out certain aspects of critical theory, how, uniquely, might the

generative powers embodied homonymically in the subject "Patchen," provide a tutor

corpus (I use this term to reference both the literary and physical bodies of my "subject")

for such a study?

The manifesto to emerge from this chapter is thus constructed as a series of

contrasts to traditional academic discourse as practiced in the dissertation, the gate-

keeping discourse, if you will, for the profession. I wish to highlight specifically those

elements of this discourse which are relevant to Kenneth Patchen, my "subject" (the term

itself an issue here), and to consider how these elements are impacted by the importation

of this "subject" into the realm of the electronic.

The Status of the "Author" and "Subject"
Will Be Re-visited and Re-Positioned in the Electronic

The details of Kenneth Patchen's art and life are an exemplar, if you will, of a long

record of discussion concerning the nature of the subject in relationship to writing that

dates back to antiquity My interest in Patchen, virtually from my first encounter with his

work, the anti-novel, The Journal of Albion Moonlight (1941 ), stemmed from the meta-

levels of his hybrid discourse, what in Bahktinean terms would be its carnivalesque or

dialogic qualities and in a Deleuzean sense, the schizoid nature of its narrative. "You have

read many books," Albion tells us at one point in the randomly structured journal, "But

this book is reading you" (xxx). While I can appreciate the levels at which this comment

might have been directed toward his readers (or, as I will later argue, himself), the

ramifications of such a line in terms of a signifying "play" of meaning both in his work and

life are significant, I believe, beyond even the conscious intention of its scriptor.







26

If one adds to the self-consciousness of such lines, other qualities of the text, such

as the use of parallel discourses printed in the margins of the book, the constant shifting of

genre in the novel from Albion's tale, to journal entries, direct address to the reader,

concrete poetry and the use of visual images as an element of the text's graphical structure

and mnemonics, one begins to appreciate how this work, like others in the Patchen

oeuvre, are linked both to the emergence of the book out of a pre-alphabetic tradition and

to the return of the illuminated text as an electronic hypertext and multimedia.

What is essential to the premise of the Patchwork project is the critical linking of

such aesthetic issues as the appearance and structure of the work with the formation of the

"self," the "subject-who-writes," of the "author." The scattering effect of Patchen's

Moonlight has implications not just for the schizoid narrator, but also for he who signs the

book, the biographical Kenneth Patchen, as well as he who signs the book in his name, the

reader of the text. That was the message in the bottle that surfaced in the fomenting

waters of this biographer's dreams and ruminations. Just how is it that the 'floating

signifier, "Kenneth Patchen," inscribed as a ludic play of multimedia impressions,

typographies, drawings, jazz poems, etc., not to mention, from the biographer's

perspective, the free-play of associations witnessed in his nonfiction writings and the

proliferation of his image as a pop icon--contributes to the determination of meaning one

might attach to the writer's name or signature?

In his letter dated February 5, 1930, written during his freshman year at the

Andrew Micklejohn Experimental College to Isabel Stein, a former member of his high

school poetry club, Patchen muses on the arbitrary nature of the alphabet and toys with

the notion of randomly reassigning the designation of these signs. Having failed to cross a









"t," Patchen begins a reverie in which he decides, "I will use my own letters," and

substitutes hieroglyphic like signs as an alternative code of communication All the while,

Patchen has been juxtaposing a parallel reverie in which he questions the status of the

"snow" outside his window: "If you know what that means ["that" referring to his

hieroglyphics] you could explain to me why it must snow on the ground today in order to

have the ground covered with snow while the ground was covered with snow yesterday

and it did not snow." The snow imagery here is reminiscent of the snowy flight into

solipsism in Conrad Aiken's "Silent Snow, Secret Snow." Patchen closes by suggesting to

Isabel: "Perhaps some day I will make a study of snow."

As I will later explore in the mystorical patch of the Patchwork quilt, Patchen's

"snow" may be linked by way of the mnemonic system of Patchwork with the snow scene

in Citizen Kane, in which snow functions as a moment of erasure for our twin subjects,

Patchen/Kane. Earlier evidence for Patchen's anxiety about a life committed to language as

a means of escaping a depressed youth can be found in his October 4, 1929, letter to

Isabel in which he speculates with some fear and trepidation at the implications of

dedicating himself to the possible self-destructive, or self-deconstructive, task of

depending on language as the means by which to express, indeed, to create a less pained

self He informs Isabel that

Because of illness I did not start to school until 1 was eight years old and it was
while I was sick that I had things read to me. I lived in an imaginary world and I
believe sometimes that I never really left that world. ("Letters")

Aware of critical nature of his decision, Patchen writes, "But say I shut out

everything in my life but the pursuit of creative poetry and in the end find that it does not

satisfy me then I'd feel that I had ruined my life for a silly whim As we will explore by









way of the inter-textual weave of Patchwork, Patchen's concerns were well-founded, as

indeed, there would be no borders between the "inside/outside" of his physical/literary

corpus. The moment of prophecy arrives in the same letter, when Patchen reveals: "There

is and has been something lacking in my life and I can't place it, I hate sentimental things

and modern poetry seems to be nothing else and I'm at a loss."

That Patchen would establish himself as a writer of some of the mid-century's most

popular love poems, while winning similar acclaim for his dark, surrealist anti-novels and

absurdist prose, may be viewed less as a point of irony, but rather, as an expression of the

carnivalesque, schizoid nature of a multifaceted subject-in-language, a "self' more written

upon than written whose scattered patches we will "assemble edit" and re-edit via the

apparatus of our biographical hypertext.

These early letters, with their strange markings, their phantasms of snow and

shadow, their prescient foreshadowings of a haunting lack which no manner of expression

could suture, could make whole, these "dead letters" are the ghost in our machine. Indeed,

I would make the claim they are the ghost which our hypertext lab (if Landow and others

are correct) is best suited to negatively re-present by way of the de-centered, fragmented,

non-totalizing, disseminating qualities of the medium. In fact, "medium" here might be said

to operate in its more "occult" "left-handed" fashion as that which marks a "lack," the

"traces" of a subject conceived of as that which we invent as much out of desire, as out of

a need to logically explain.

These letters are an heraldic moment in the poet's lifelong series of etchings on the

mind's wall. I believe they reenact at the personal level what Havelock and Ong have

charted in their writings as that critical passing from mythology to philosophy, from an







29

oral to a written culture. As Ulmer reminds us of this moment, the texts ofJacque Derrida

"similarly already reflect an internalization of the electronic media, thus marking what is

already at stake in the debate surrounding the closure of Western metaphysics" (Ulmer,

Applied 303). While, according to Ulmer, Derrida's program "represents a deliberate

choice to accept the new paradigm," in Patchen's case, I would argue the choice was less

willed, less intentional, but certainly no less productive of a 'body' of work that is at once

deconstructive, marginalized and pre-electronic.

And central to this program is the issue of the "signature" as a prominent feature of

Patchen's art, the effects of which "signature" are to be related to the notion of the

displaced or dis-remembered 'self, particularly as the 'self or 'subject' might be displaced in

the electronic paradigm.

The self as "an invention of Socratic vocabulary" becomes "textualized" by Plato

and thus there emerges the "personality" of the person using the language, and this

language, suggests Havelock, becomes "that level of theoretical discourse denoted by

logos (Havelock, 1964). It is at this critical moment, argues Havelock that "a cleavage

opened up, between theoretical discourse and the rhythmic narrative of oralism: the

philosopher against the poets" (114). The conclusions which Havelock draws from this

critical moment are central to the formation of my manifesto. Havelock writes,

The linguistic symptoms of this radical shift away from oralism, which has ever
since underlain all European consciousness, occurred in a proliferation of terms,
notions, and thoughts and thinking, for knowledge and knowing, for
understanding, investigating, research, inquiry. (115)

The "symptoms" may be said to be largely felt in traditional academic discourse. It

may also be said to characterize the life and work of Kenneth Patchen, seen as a valiant









explorer into the realm of this cleavage, and as a "potentiality," or doubly victimized

"subject" of a research method (i.e., literary biography) itself contaminated by these very

symptoms.

Our strategy for acknowledging the "linguistic symptoms" to which Havelock

refers, for avoiding an academic apparatus that according to Derrida "consists of a mouth

speaking--lecturing--an ear listening, in a literal way, a hand writing--the cultural machine

of note-taking," is to change the apparatus (Ulmer, Teletheory, 160). Ulmer's contribution

here is to propose extending "the intellectual senses--hearing and sight, knowledge from a

distance--by means of audio-visual technologies" (Ulmer, Applied, 160). Ulmer cites

Derrida's practice of otobiography, a "mixing of the modes of critique and fiction," as

"demonstrating the possibility of applying literary devices to the practice of academic

discourse" (160). Citing Derrida's Signsponge, a text "in which [Derrida] treats Ponge's

oeuvre as if it were generated in the key of Ponge," Ulmer explains how such an

experiment "includes one way to generalize a rhizomatic relation of the text to the world"

(160). The existence of a "Patchen Homepage" on the web, consisting in July 1998 of

some 110 links, or "threads" to use the textile metaphor associated with our hobby theory,

suggests that the Patchwork quilters are already at work, the web already expanding

rhizomatically in cyberspace. What will it mean to try and find "Patchen" in this endless

chain ofsignifiers? What will it mean to "quilt" biographically with these "patches," in this

space, collaboratively?

What Derrida finds in Ponge's discovery of the "science" of the signature is a

production that celebrates "what a name founds, what may be found in a name" (161)

Such a discovery leads Derrida to the conclusion that simply affixing a signature to the









end of a book does not constitute a "signing." The proper name "survives, lives-on," by

virtue of a "transformation from singular reference to general concept." It is the proper

name's "aleatoriness," its randomness and iterability, that interests Derrida. The proper

name "becomes meaning once again, of limited range, once it is invested with semantic

content. It starts to reenter the framework of a general science that governs the effects of

the alea" (118,120). In our case, the proper name "Patchen" renters through the

framework of the hypertext quilt, a Derridean sifter of endlessly disseminating material.

The mystorical thread here links, via puncept, Derrida's alea, which he finds "in the wing

(aile) of "Hegel" to Robit-aille, two who may be said to have refused to sign. While Ponge

singles out Hegel as a philosopher who refuses to sign, Ulmer, in Teletheory, suggests "he

may stand in for academic writing as well" (163 T). What remains consistent throughout

the employment of Derrida's signature procedure "is not the naming of a determinism, but

an invention, inventio, whose purpose is to produce a text" (164).

Ulmer concludes his discussion on this subject with a paragraph that so

comprehensively and succinctly summarizes the protocol for the Patchwork project that I

cite it in full:

The places of memory in mystery, appropriating the signature, are organized into
an alternative way to gather materials into a set--a sweep through the encyclopedia
following the rhizome of the proper name as inventio. The signature may be a
direct transposition of the proper name into a common noun (antonomasia), or it
may be indirect, marked by a rhythm, a cadence, a fragmented image, a partial
scene, a phrase, that repeats in the discourse, relating words to things and resulting
in an intelligible collection. The story resulting from this series of juxtapositions
constitutes a writing machine. The things generated in the third modality of the
signature, that is, represent the model, the metaphors or vehicles for a poetics of
invention, a memory system or mnemonics available for thinking about any matter
whatsoever. The signature helps find the images of wide scope that make up the
imagination (the image-repertoire) of the subject of knowledge, to be used in
further research. (Teletheory 165)







32

What Ulmer presents here is an invention for conducting and composing research in

hypertext using the logic of the electronic. In the case of Patchwork, the proper noun

"Patchen" is transposed into the common noun "patch" or "patching," terms shared by

both the craft of patchwork quilting and the electronic "patch" of editing. Other

connotations become available to the biographical/mystorical enterprise such as to "patch"

a tear or rip in a garment, or to cover with a patch, either to conceal or mend. "Robitaille"

is similarly linked, "rob(e)" suggesting the possibility of a "garment" or a "thief', and

"taille," a reference to "tailor," to one who works with text(ile) materials, to a tax

(collector?) Or, possibly, the reference might be to "tale" or "tail," reminding the

biographer, thus, to cover his tail/tale, check his flanks, to be aware of a tale that is text-

ualized, composed of many threads, "patched" from seemingly unrelated materials. I will

discuss the relevance of the textile metaphor at length in Chapter Three ("Analogy") as it

relates to quilting as hobby theory.

Ulmer's observation that the signature procedure, and the "models," "metaphors,"

and "vehicles" author-ized by this procedure constitute a "poetics," and that the resulting

"collection" of items, signs, and materials that cluster in the subject's name are

"intelligible," is a claim which I hope to confirm in Patchwork. Hypertext, whether in the

context of CD-Rom multimedia or a Homepage on the WWW, does not have to be

vacuous, the empty set that Roberts decries in his confessional article. Those who come to

the "Patchwork quilt" and follow its threads, will, I believe, reflect upon the implications

of the "patches" in their various juxtapositions, patterns and ludic associations, thus

extending the possibilities of literary biography beyond the mere archiving of facts in a

linear progression along a singular narrative and teleological path. Here they are more









likely to encounter the delirium, the madness that haunts a life, any life, and to enter the

blissence, the carnilvalesque and schizoid nature of "realty" in which the "truth" of the life

becomes less important than workings of desire, ofjouissance, of "living-on" in a

cyberspacee beyond borders, in the "between" of the folds of a fabric of traces.

In the Electronic There Are No Origins and No Destinations and, Thus,
"Thesis," "Truth" and the "Real" Are Reconsidered and Repositioned

The new academic discourse based on electronic logic is to be contrasted with a

more traditional system of exclusion whose "will to truth," argues Foucault, "rests on an

institutional support: it is both reinforced and renewed by whole strata of practices, such

as pedagogy, of course; and the system of books, libraries, learned societies in the past and

laboratories now" (55 Y). How do I escape the snares of this 'willed truth, the "obscenity

of questioning" which, as Slavoj Zizek notes, "lays open, exposes, denudes its

addressee invades his sphere of intimacy" (179). It is a fear, as I will illustrate in my

examination of the methodology and problematic of literary biography (Chapter 5,

Target) with which every biographer, every author of a thesis-bound dissertation, must

reckon.

Zizek, in his study on The Sublime Obiect of Ideology, turns to Lacan for a

response to this issue. In his summary of Lacanian thinking, Zizek writes of this "'object in

subject' which causes the presumptive knowledge" that, indeed, in Lacanian terms, "the

Real cannot be inscribed, but we can inscribe this impossibility itself, we can locate its

place: a traumatic place which causes a series of failures" (172). In terms of our translation

of this understanding into the realm of the electronic, a "web" site which serves both as a

Derridean 'sifter' of disseminating traces and of the Lacanian Real, we should, suggests









Zizek, be able to "encircle the void place of the subject through the failure of his

symbolization, because the subject is nothing but the failure point of the process of his

symbolic representation" (173).

In his commentary, Zizek draws a distinction between the Foucaultian notion of

the subject "conceived as an effect of a fundamentally non-subjective process" and on

Foucault's informed analysis of the "different modes by which individuals assume their

subject-positions" and Lacan's notion of the subject. In the Lacanian perspective, explains

Zizek,

.. if we subtract all the richness of the different modes of subjectivity, all the
fullness of experience present in the way individuals are "living" their subject
positions, what remains is an empty place which was filled out with this richness,
this original void, this lack of symbolic structure, is the subject, the subject of the
signifier. (175)

What is critical for the purpose of "quilting" a Patchen Patchwork is an

appreciation that "any surplus of signification masks a fundamental lack" (175). As we try

to re-construct our subject out of the numerous and diverse materials left in the wake of

our subject's passing into and through our shared constellation of'floating signifiers, a

constellation of material with which we are now signing in his name, we will be reminded

by the logic of our electronic "quilt" that any such signifying practice is a failure and what

inevitably remains is "a lack," a "void opened up by the failure is the subject of the

signifier" (175).

The happy paradox as Zizek sees it, and which is relevant to the "productive"

nature of our enterprise, is "how this negative, disruptive power, menacing our identity, is

simultaneously a positive condition of it" (176). Zizek provides as an example of the

'negative of the negative, that of the Jew "experienced as the embodiment of negativity, as









the force disrupting stable social identity ..." (176). But the 'truth' of anti-Semitism,"

explains Zizek,

is, of course, that the very identity of our position is structured through a negative
relationship to this traumatic figure of the Jew. Without reference to the Jew who
is corroding the social fabric, the social fabric itself would be dissolved. In other
words, all my positive consistency is a kind of "reaction formation" to a certain
antagonistic, traumatic kernel: If I lose this impossible point of reference my very
identity dissolves. (176)

Just who is reading this text, and to whose peril and dissolution? As I shall expand

upon in later chapters, the implications of Zizek's reading of Lacan are critical to the

restructuration of new academic discourse on the 'impossible' subject, Kenneth Patchen,

seen as a de-monstration of the corrosive effect of a social fabric woven in the form of an

electronic quilt. Such a "quilt" will be, by virtue of its unique logic and construction, a text

in which antagonism is always a kind of opening, a hole in the field of the symbolic

Other, a void," writes Zizek, "of an unanswered, unresolved question ..." (177).

In my later examination of various "patches" in the Patchen archive, we will note

how our bio-graphical "subject" shared the status of the Jew, the antagonistic and

problematic Other. In categories ranging from anti-novelist to anti-American, from the

agency of disorder in art to self-deconstructive back patient, attempts to locate the "Real"

nature of Patchen's tortured corpus have resulted in his being delegated to the status of a

Jew wandering in the margins of contemporary art and literature. The truth of the "Real"

which Patchwork attempts both to acknowledge and incorporate as its poetics is the

possibility of a double victimization which a more traditional academic discourse on such a

life would engender. For as Zizek points out: ... as soon as the subject is caught in the

radically external signifying network, he is mortified, dismembered, divided" (173). Were I







36

to follow the lead of those who have previously attempted to 'formulate' my "subject," like

Eliot's Prufrock "stuck upon a pin," I would nail the same nails into the same "sign" of his

cross.

Writes Zizek, "The subject is always fastened, pinned, to a signifier which

represents him for the other, and through this pinning he is loaded with a symbolic

mandate, he is given a place in the subjective network of symbolic relations" (113). Such a

network is the thesis-framed, linear narrative of the traditional literary biography. The

question before us is what happens when that network becomes a CD-Rom hypertext with

a World Wide Web interface, a text without closure or singular author-ship sensitive to

the effects of chaotic "strange attractors" whose seemingly minor and unpredictable inputs

can yield equally unpredictable and often significant outputs?

The New Electronic Academic Discourse Will Be Non-Totalizing

Patchen's open-ended anti-novel, The Journal of Albion Moonlight, 'concludes'

with the lines: "There is no way to end this book. No way to begin" (313). Lacking the

close punctuation of a period, the structure of this text, with its multiple discourses,

beginnings and endings, repeats a pattern found throughout the Patchen corpus, in which

both the art and the physical person of the author resisted totalization, unification. From

the refusal to assume a singular identity in a specific artistic niche (e.g. "Beat poet") or

political (e.g., "Socialist") stance, to the surgery defying attempts to fuse his fissured

spine, every aspect of the "corpus" is marked by lines of fracture and scarification.

In writing of Bahktin's relationship to Joyce, Brandon Kershner suggests: "Bahktin

is not, except in patches (my underline), systematic" (20). In composing Patchwork in the

'key of Patchen, the attempt is to engage the subject by way of de-monstration, by









employing the systematics of electronic logic which is constructed in patches. The

resulting text, like Patchen's Moonlight, has no end and fulfills the Bahktinian promise of

an 'outlaw language' (20). Adds Kershner, ". .. the thrust of [Bahktin's] ideas is generally

to deny the desirability or even the possibility of erecting totalizing systems. For him, there

is no 'last word'" (20).

We find another precedent for such resistance to finality in the tradition of

rabbinical interpretation. In her chapter on "Some Philosophical Aspects of the Rabbinical

Interpretive System" in The Slavers of Moses, Susan Handleman outlines a tradition of the

open, non-totalizing text the practice of Rabbinical interpretation and midrash, to the work

of Barthes and "Reb" Derrida. In so doing, she cites Edward Said's Beginnings in which

Said discusses four "conventions" to be found in Freud's Interpretation of Dreams where

the psychoanalyst "avoided certain specific textual conventions which the classical novel

had employed" (78 Handleman). Handleman employs Said's analysis "as a way of

contrasting Rabbinical concepts of narrative and interpretation with classical notions (78).

Handleman notes of Said's analysis of Freud, that Freud's "non-mimetic

approach .. does not follow linear progression but leads to multiple and endless

interpretations," a characteristic that Handleman finds is also "true of Rabbinical

interpretation" (79). Handleman observes in the "colloquy of voices in the Midrash or

Talmud" that the "interpretive process is collective" and she acknowledges the extension

of this tradition in the work of Barthes and Derrida. She cites the following lines from

Barthes's The Pleasure of the Text, lines that echo those cited earlier from Patchen's

Moonlight. "The text," writes Barthes, "is a fetish object, and this fetish desires me" (23).









"This book is reading you," writes Patchen, a line that haunts the biographer and

implicates the reader in the "production" rather than the "representation" of its meaning.

Again, I cite Handleman's analysis of Barthes, since the language quoted here is so

suggestive of the logic and structures of electronic discourse and of Patchwork :

In Barthes's view, reading should be in the nature of a step-by-step commentary, a
process of "decomposition" of the text, a "systematic use of digression," "a cutting
of the text into contiguous fragments,"manhandling the text, interrupting it": that is
to say, playing with its infinite possibilities. (80)

Such, of course, is Barthes's practice in S/Z, his "decomposition" of Balzac's Sarrasine. It

has also been Derrida's practice, as, for example, in Glas, where the influence of chance

and necessity produced by homophony or homonymy, result in a similarly non-totalizing

paradigm that, as Ulmer suggests, "automatically locates all equivocality" (47 AG).

In its critique of Derrida's deconstructive practice, Ulmer's analysis is attentive to

concepts and terminology which reference the electronic dimension of Derrida's discourse,

and, by way of extension, to the textile metaphor which "patches" Derrida to Patchen to

Robitaille. Derrida's differencee," a "sameness which is not identical" is characterized as a

"movement" that is "virtual," like the "moire effect in op writing" (47 AG). In Glas,

Derrida writes, "Each cited word gives an index card or a grid [grille] which enables you

to survey the text. It is accompanied by a diagram which you ought to be able to verify at

each occurrence" (Glas, 223). Ulmer notes that Derrida names this movement in Glas 'la

navette' (shuttle, referring to the 'to and fro' motion which bears this name in weaving,

sewing, and transportation)" (47). I will discuss in further detail the relationship of

Derrida's language and practice as it relates to Patchwork in Chapter 3 (ANALOGY). In

brief, what interests me here is Derrida's productive employment of the textile metaphor







39

seen as "the interlacing stitching of sewing" (47). The invention that is thus generated by

the signature "Patchen" informs the design of a new discourse written in the 'key' of his

name, one that takes on the problematic of inside-outside, of totalization, of traditional

academic discourse, representation and the very certainty of one's own name.

Electronic Discourse Will Introduce
Alternative Structures and Organizational Patterns

It has already become apparent that organizational structures associated with print

and the 'square' versus the 'round' book are being replaced by structures informed and

shaped by the logic of emerging computer technologies. This moment has not arrived

without its critics and legitimate grounds for concern. Paul Roberts's expressions of

concern cited in my Introduction, the fear that the navigable structures of hyper-media are

controlling and reductive, are widely felt. Such paths, writes media theorist, David

Rokeby, "range from the latticework of a regular and highly interconnected network, to

the single serial path of a narrative" (138). Metaphors for these paths range from that of

the "map" to the "labyrinth." But the merits of following such hyper-media pathways can

be viewed as both liberating and constraining. As Rokeby warns his readers,

It's a mistake to conclude that by presenting a variety of perspectives, the artist is
being objective and disinterested. Through the selection of the specific points of
view offered, how they are linked together, and the design of the method of
navigation, the artist holds significant power, which is enhanced by this apparent
objectivity. (140)

The challenge, therefore, of Patchwork, an investigation into the problematic of

biographical representation after post-structuralism, is to identify structural models that

incorporate, as part of their invention, something other than the limited and dictatorial

paths from factotum to factotum that characterize most commercial and many









academically based CD-Roms. Such models should not be a mere replication of the

teleologically influenced maps which guide the viewer through an information field

towards certain thesis-centered and authorized "truths."

Rather, we should be identifying those metaphors, models and strategies which

Landow argues are inherently linked to post-structuralist thought and which render hyper-

media an ideal lab for their exploration. This means, frankly, extending invention beyond

that demonstrated by such Landow inspired projects as the Dickens Web, which functions

largely as a open-ended compendium of Dickensonia, and which does not, by way of its

design or poetics, either radically reposition its "subject," or transform its subject into an

agent for the production of a new text written, say, in the "key of Dickens."

I have already referred to a number of such structures that date from antiquity and

of the development of the illuminated texts of medieval tradition. To appreciate the

relationship of these texts to the logic and organization of electronic discourse is to

recognize the centrality of memorial, the power and functioning of memory, in these

textual systems.

In The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (1990), Mary

Carruthers writes that "Memoria meant, at that time, trained memory, educated and

disciplined according to a well developed pedagogy that was part of the elementary

language arts--grammar, logic, and rhetoric" (7). In this discipline material was

"divided into pieces short enough to be recalled in single units and to key them into

some sort of rigid, easily reconstructable order" (7). Carruthers reports that such discipline

depended upon what Hugh of St. Victor, writing in the early twelfth century, identified as

"the mnemonic utility of manuscript page layout and decoration" (9).







41

Patchen's multimedia art has been variously recognized and praised for celebrating

the spirit and poetics of the "illuminated text," or, to use Patchen's own term, an "art of

engagement." To which I would add, to "engage" the senses in a variety of discourses and

artistic media. From the attention to typographic detail in the early prose and poetry, to

the later "painted poems," concrete poetry, silk-screens, and poetry jazz, whatever one

deemed to be the "subject" of Patchen's discourse, this "subject" found expression in a

multi-form and polyvocal corpus, further evidence, if you will, of Patchen's unbounded

signifying practice.

Writing of the diversity of such a signifying practice in medieval literature,

Carruthers comments,

I want to distinguish very carefully here between pictorial" and "visual." Memories
could be marked by pictorial means; the ancient system described in Rhetorica ad
Herennium was precisely that. But pictures are not the only sorts of objects we can
see. We also see written words and numbers, punctuation marks, and blotches of
color; if we read music, we can see it as the notes on the staff if we play the piano
by ear, we can see music as the position of our fingers. Moreover, we can
manipulate such information in ways that make it possible to bring together or
separate in a variety of ways, to collate, classify, compose, and sort it in order to
create new ideas and deconstruct old ones. (18-19)

Carruther's above description of information "manipulation" and composition

production is strikingly similar to that of hypermedia, and to the poetics and electronic

logic to be utilized in Patchwork. Carruther's research shares with Gregory Ulmer's

"applied grammatology" the understanding that, to quote Carruthers: "All mnemonic

organizational schemes are heuristic in nature. They are retrieval schemes, for the purpose

of inventio or 'finding'"(20).

To employ such an inventio in the context of an electronic post-structuralist

hypermedia biography will be the extended subject of the chapters to follow. It is here, in









this chapter's manifesto for a new electronic academic discourse, that I wish to establish

the historical basis for such a project. And Curruther's commentary, particularly her

opening chapter on "Models for the Memory," assists us in tracing these roots.

Among the other observations she makes relevant to this study are the following.

Memory images, recalling Aristotle's analysis, can function "like an imprint in us [and] can

also cause us to remember 'what is not present'" (23). With regard to the issue of totality

and representation, Carruthers points out that: "Partialness is also a characteristic of

memory" (25). Concerning the role of homophony, she adds, "The earliest Greek memory

test we possess, a pre-Socratic fragment called Dialexis, relies upon a sort of visualized

homophony, in its advice about memorizing for both 'words and things'" (28).

And in a critical passage, Carruthers links the remembering process to that of

computer based technologies "The ancients and their medieval heir," suggests Carruthers,

"thought that each 'bit' of knowledge was remembered in a particular place in the

memory .. ." (28). She adds that

The words tops, and locus used in writings on logic and rhetoric as well as on
mnemonics, refer fundamentally to physical locations in the brain, which are made
accessible by means of an orderly system that functions somewhat like a cross
between the routing systems used by programs to store, retrieve, merge, and
distinguish the information in a computer's memory, and postal addresses or library
shelf-marks. (29)

Until recently there has been no serious attempt to import the logic, rhetoric and

grammar of the electronic into the realm of nonfiction and academic discourses. It has

been the hybrid discourses of Derrida, Foucault and Barthes, for example, that have

inspired tele-theorists such as Gregory Ulmer, in a series of works beginning with Applied

Grammatologv, and more recently in Teletheory and Heuretics, to mine the possibilities of









critical theory as the source for a new poetics for hypermedia. Two of Ulmer's major

inventions, mystory and the CATTt, referred to in my Introduction, serve as structural

agents for Patchwork.

Robert Ray, Ulmer's colleague in the Media Studies Program at the University of

Florida, has recently published The Avant-Garde Finds Andy Hardy (Harvard, 1995), a

work that provides, perhaps, the best and most thorough attempt to redefine and rewrite

academic discourse--in this case, by "reinventing film studies." In declaring that "film

studies is dead," Ray postulates that he is "not," in fact, "against the application of

sophisticated semiotic, ideological and psychoanalytic methods" in academic writing, but,

argues Ray, We know in advance where such analysis will lead, and thus even the most

skilled of such efforts will achieve very little 'information'" (6). Ray's corrective to the

"automatic pilot" of such discourses is "to consider, as an alternative practice, "that branch

of the humanities which, since the nineteenth century, has functioned as the equivalent of

science's pure research: the avant-garde" (10). Citing the examples of Apollinaire, Walter

Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Marcel Duchamp, Andre Breton, John Cage and others, Ray

builds upon a rich historical precedent for "evidence of the avant-garde-as-research" (13).

Of equal significance for my study is Ray's linkage of the avant-garde-as-research

to the work of Jacques Derrida, by way of Eric Havelock, Jack Goody and Walter Ong,

whose works examine the transition from "the alphabetic to 'cinematic' or 'electronic'"

(14). Ray's stated purpose for 'writing' about Andy Hardy is "to provide a means for

bringing film criticism into some sort of relationship with communications technologies

revolutionizing everyday life." Ray emphatically adds, ". far from being useless, the

experimental arts amount to a 'workshop for potential criticism'" (16).









What Ray proposes for film criticism is analogous to that which Patchwork

proposes for biographical criticism as another form of academic discourse.

Acknowledging that "artists don't have to explain what they do," Ray argues that

"although Andy Hardy must at first give way to the theoretical accounts which will re-

present him ... experiments involving the Hardy movies bring him increasingly forward"

(17). This is a significant claim and one I would similarly make for Patchwork. In the latter

case, the materials include those of literary biography as applied to a multimedia artist.

Thus, my experiments, such as testing out Ulmer's "CATTt," (itself an avant-garde

intervention cited by Ray in his own study), involve the application of the avant-garde-as-

research to the full range of the biographical archive: prose, poetry, multimedia art,

correspondence, reviews, scholarship, etc. In so doing, Patchen, the biographical

"subject," is brought forward, not in the traditional sense of "unified" or "Real," but,

rather, as the agency of a production author-ized by the circulation of his signature

through a series of electronic "patches."

Structurally, Ray serves up a range of forms, the fragment, "writing's equivalent of

the photograph," being the most recurrent. Using models of the fragment, such as

Barthes's anecdotal Roland Barthes, and John Cage's experimental (and anecdotal)

lectures, Ray organizes his text in such a fashion, recognizing, as he does, say, with Cage,

that this structure's "determined discontinuity, non-teleological structure, and obvious

strangeness ... represents its subject matter" (22). Patchen's own collaboration with Cage

in the 1942 Columbia Radio Workshop production of Patchen's "The City Wears a Slouch

Hat" provides this project a more immediate legitimization for the importation of Cagian

poetics into the Patchwork design.







45

Other surrealist interventions with the Andy Hardy material include the reliance on

recombination and juxtaposition, and, after Benjamin, "the flaneur's ... preference for

drifting" (43). From Barthes, Ray imports the use of a fragmented structure in the form of

lexias, "arbitrary blocks" that I will call "patches" in my quilt. These, suggests Ray,

function as "mini-essays ('divigations')" and result in "a new kind of critical writing" (97).

What Ray finds so interesting about, say, Breton's surrealist Manifesto, or

Barthes's S/Z, is "how ill prepared most academics are to deal with departures from the

conventional essay" (98). To demonstrate his point, Ray models Chapter Six, "The

Alphabet," after Roland Barthes, Barthes's auto-biography consisting of a series of

alphabetized fragments. What Ray adopts from Barthes, Barthes, we are told, found in

Netzsch's "aphoristic books" which, Ray observes, are "so perfectly adapted to what Gilles

Deleuze has called 'nomad thought'" and which is structured in the mode of a "digression"

(121).

Nomadic thought, of course, "anticipates the nature of cyberspace," and for Ray,

this becomes yet another justification for its importation into film studies. Is this not, Ray

argues by way of illustration, the poetics of Godard's Two Or Three Things I Know About

Her? Such "poetic thinking [which]...regards every object as a potential metaphor" is

familiar to every user of computer software. And yet, laments Ray, "film criticism has been

slow to adopt to this method" (123). Ray, however, is not so reluctant, and thus he

develops his chapter with a series of such digressive entries.

If one conceives, therefore, of a crazy quilt composed in such a fashion, woven of

"patches" of materials circulating nomadically through the cyber-archive, being sifted

through the Derridean dissemination machine, coming under the influence of"strange







46

attractors," and endlessly recombining into new quilts bearing the signature effect of their

"subject," one begins to imagine how such a textual practice might depart from the

structure of the traditional academic essay.

That such works should be viewed by their critics as lacking structure, as

exhibiting a troublesome disorder, would come as no surprise to this writer, after

examining the record provided by the Patchen archive. For as we will note below, the

archive contains sufficient evidence of the extent to which Patchen's critics either often

dismissed his seemingly disordered art out of hand, or, as in the case of his supporter and

lifelong publisher, James Laughlin, attempted, for the good of some supposed "order," to

rewrite The Journal of Albion Moonlight, Patchen's most deliberately disordered and

acclaimed work.

Thus, before concluding this chapter's manifesto for a new academic writing, let us

examine one further dimension of our alternative discourse, that being the relationship

between structure, disorder and ideology. To write in the "key of Patchen" will necessitate

that we incorporate into the composition of our "quilt," recognition of the manner in

which the "order" claimed for, or demanded of, the works "signed" by the "subject" of a

literary biography are, to quote Machery, "merely an imagined order, projected on to

disorder, the fictive resolution of ideological conflicts, a resolution so precarious that it is

obvious in the very letter of the text where incoherence and incompleteness burst forth"

(Machery 194).

The Question of Ideology Must Be Revisited and Reconfigured in the Electronic

Among the many factors that recommend Kenneth Patchen as a tutor subject for

the purposes of a deconstructive anti-biography are the circumstances that serve as a case







47

study of what Althusser calls the Ideological State Apparatus (ISA). The influence of the

ISA begins with "an academic or schooling practice which defines both the conditions for

the consumption of literature and the very conditions of its production also" (Balibar 84)

From cradle to grave, Patchen was enmeshed in the workings of the ISA.

Patchen, the noted "poet-of-the-steelworks," was, from his first youthful days of

reading, a regular patron of the Warren, Ohio Library, built, ironically, with funding from

the Carnegie steel empire. It was here that the young writer sought his escape from the

depressing conditions of his steeltown existence, conditions caustically recalled in his

poetic recounting of the soot-covered fate of his "Orange Bear" (Collected Poems 384).

Sequestered in the halls that industry built, Patchen read his Blake and began to view his

slag infested environs through the industrial haze of Blake's "London".

By the time Patchen had reached Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a new poetic voice

in the late 20's, he had already become one of the recognized representatives of American

proletarian verse. At Random House, publisher Bennett Cerf was looking to publish just

such a poet and Patchen was offered his first book contract. That first collection of poems,

Before The Brave (1933), with its symbolic "red" cover, included the poet's most

ideologically conspicuous language, a veritable lexicon of socialist jargon, which the poet

immediately attempted to distance himself from, together with the tags and reputation

associated with being a poster boy for leftist political causes.

We will return to this and other of Patchen's ideologically influenced works in

more detail below. What I wish to note here is why the question of ideology is important

to a post-structuralist biography and how the treatment of the ideological component of

such a biography will be reconfigured and repositioned in an electronic discourse. For









what I wish to avoid here is the hermeneutic trap of trying to "fix" my subject in a given

ideological position or category. Given that Patchen was the victim of such analytical

dissection in life, I do not wish to once again resurrect his corpus, only to further assign

him away to the taxonomies provided by disciplinary authority. And so I search for models

of alternative approaches to this subject of knowledge. Specifically, I search for models

that can be adopted to the structures and logic of an electronic "patchworking"

I will introduce four such theorists and their models here that will later be

amplified and de-monstrated in the chapters below. These models include Althusser's ISA,

Bahktin's notions ofdialogism, polyphony, carnival and ideologemes, Ulmer's teletheory

and its representation in mystory, and Zizek's ideological quilt.

From Althusser's writings in "Freud and Lacan" comes the suggestion "that the

human subject is decentered, constituted by a structure which has no 'center' either, except

in the ideological formulations in which it recognizes itself' (Kershner 188-89).

Surrounded as he was by warring ideological forces trying to lay claim for "Patchen" in

their name, Patchen, like so many other victims of literary biography, has always been at

the mercy of, to use Althusser's term, the "unconscious." Which is to say "unconscious" to

the fact that their conception of the "subject" arrives in the form of "structures" of the

unconscious which are seldom understood as such, but which nevertheless shape their

minds and their attempts to anchor the floating signifier, say "Kenneth Patchen," at some

fixed point along its path of circulation.

As Althusser points out in his essay, "Ideology and the Ideological State

Apparatus," this process works in its "disguised" and "symbolic" form through popular

forms of electronic communications such as radio and television, usually with the effect of









valorizing the dominant ideology in control of these very technologies. Thus, our goal is

to redirect these technologies, to effect a detournment in which the potentials of

deconstruction and dissemination inherent in hypermedia and cyber-discourse, unravel the

weave of our collected "patches" and expose the manner in which their variously

ideological and "structured" meanings may have been "knotted" by other patch-workers

up and down the signifying chain.

Thus, Althusser's understanding of how various repressive apparatus are complicit

in the ideological formation of the subject, and of the linkage of this process to popular

communications technologies, underlies the present study, in that one of the aims of this

experimental anti-biography is to expose, like the undraped Oz, the workings of this

apparatus. In so doing, we will explore the ability of new, computer-based discourses to

demystify ideological content and reveal the workings of the "political unconscious."

The importance of the works ofM.M. Bakhtin for this study derive from his

concepts of diologism and carnilvalization. In importing Bakhtin for this project, I am

following the lead ofR. B. Kershner, whose study, Joyce, Bakhtin, and Popular Literature

(University of North Carolina Press, 1989) has shed considerable light on the use of

popular literature in Joyce's works. While I would not claim for Patchen the significance

and influence which Joyce represents for this century, I would argue that the usefulness of

the theoretical approach provided by Bakhtin, and the similarity of stylistic and ideological

elements in the works of Joyce and Patchen, recommend a Bakhtinian approach to our

study.

Like Joyce, Patchen's prose and poetry exhibits what Kershner, citing Bakhtin,

describes as "a great variety of conflicting variants--languages of officialdom, vernacular,









occupational jargon, technical, literary, and sub-literary, all polyphonically resounding"

(15). Identifying "heteroglossia" as the "condition of our existence," "dialogism," suggests

Kershner, "is the necessary mode of knowledge in such a world, a form of relationship

between or among different languages that, like dialectics, defines a sort of logic" (16).

The logic identified here may be said to be found in electronic, hypertext discourse

and in the collaborative composition potentialized in hypertext and cyberspace. The novel,

and particularly the sort of anti-novel represented by Patchen's The Journal of Albion

Moonlight, fulfills the description of "metagenre" that, explains Kershner, "overtakes (or

'novelizes') such other genre as romantic poetic narrative, because it is dialogical can take

no final shape, but is in a process of continuous metamorphosis" (17). To write, thus, of

Patchen in the 'key of Patchen' would be to import such a poetics--a poetics already

anticipated by, and inherent in, electronic multimedia discourse.

And there is, as suggested earlier, an ideological component to Bakhtin's thought.

In "Marxism and the Philosophy of Images" Bakhtin writes that: "The logic of

consciousness is the logic of ideological communication, of semiotic interaction of a social

group. If we deprive consciousness of its semiotic, ideological content, it would have

absolutely nothing left" (Bakhtin 13). If we take this notion into consideration in the

context of literary biography, particularly that woven as a patchwork of juxtaposed and

polyphonous, fragmentary voices, the resulting text would be less the mirroring of a

univocal or "dominant voice," but rather, as Kershner so ascribes to Bakhtin, "a polyphony

of voices of opposition, voices of local dominance and local opposition, voices inserted at

odd angles to the major debates .. ." (21). In short, a crazy quilt--anti-biography as

hypertext.







51

If Althusser provides us with a model of the ideological apparatus from which our

post-structuralist biographical subject is to be freed, and Bakhtin a model for the

biographical subject conceived as a dialogic, polyphonous voice speaking in

"ideologemes" from the pages of carnivalesque texts, where might we now turn to situate

such conceptions in an electronically configured logic and discourse? Gregory Ulmer's

development of teletheory, which he refers to as "the application of grammatology to

television in the context of schooling," has led to his invention of the mystory, a "specific

genre ... designed to do the work of schooling and popularization in a way that takes into

account the new discursive and conceptual ecology interrelating orality, literacy and

videocy" (Teletheory, vii). Within mystery, the question of ideology becomes the subject

of both investigation and exposure. Ulmer cites a number of influential sources whose

focus has been "the emotional dimension of comprehension" (109). Ulmer refers to

several theorists whose writings underscore the role of "narrative pleasure" seen as "one

way to locate the pleasure-in-recognition central to the maintenance and persistence of

ideological formation" (106). He points to the work of film theorist Bill Nichols which

explores the diegetic effect of film narrative, an effect that causes us to "see through the

perceptual habit and the image's construction to an already meaningful world (without, in

this case, 'seeing through' the deception that is involved, the actual production of

fabrication of meaning" (Nichols, 1981: 38). Citing Wittgenstein's The Brown Book as a

mystorical model, Ulmer claims the function of mystery as a new form of pedagogy is "to

teach this elusive illusion upon which is based the misrecognition 'that traps us within an

imaginary realm of identity and opposition governed by desire to be what we are not and

to possess what cannot be 'had'"(42). The significance here to an anti-biography-as-









hypertext, is that in contrast to the traditional practice of the biographical essay, with its

dependence on solving the problem of explaining away the "truth" of a "subject" in the

form of an argument, or thesis, the mystery, as Ulmer asserts with a nod to Wittgenstein "

makes thinkable the possibility of a writerly essay that could reason in the absence of

argument and problem" (109).

Such a turn in the direction of a writerlyy" biographical narrative, would constitute

for biography the parallel status of "alternative historiography" which Ulmer claims for

mystery. Calling The Brown Book "a kind of film" and Barthes's use of "poses" in The

Lover's Discourse: Fragments, a "new rhetoric that reflects cinematic thinking," Ulmer

points to the use of the punctum as a "mnemonic technique" whose "sting" is an emotional

response to certain details "expressed in an image" (110). The crucial element here is that

the "referent of this story cannot be denoted, but only connoted" (111). And, thus, in

contrast to the usual mandate to revive the past as it actually was, memory, that moment

of recognition triggered by the sting of the punctum is 'seized', suggests Walter Benjamin

in his "Theses on the Philosophy of History," as it "flashes up at a moment of danger"

(111). What follows in mystery, explains Ulmer, is that this "punctum of emotional

recognition is put to work in the service of invention, bringing to bear on disciplinary

problems the images and stories of autobiography" (1 11).

The mystery that shapes Patchwork will be developed at length in Chapter 6:

(t)ale. It is a mystery that links its cosigners, Patchen/Robitaille, both homonymically by

way of the puncept, but also by way of the punctum, and the sting of co-mingled memory.

Indeed, the triggering device is the scene of two catastrophes, two deaths. For Patchen, it

is the return of the repressed memory of his beloved sister's untimely death when struck by









an automobile. For Robitaille, it is haunting memory of his first recollected exposure to

death, in the form of a televised skit on NBC's Today program, in which host Dave

Garraway is "seemingly" flattened by a steam roller on the streets of New York. The

amplification effect of these memories, the perpetual sting of their punctum, becomes one

of the threads woven through the fabric of the Patchwork quilt. As Ulmer describes this

process: "Mystory attempts to be the genre of transmission, which comes into proper

perspective in relating catastrophic time to the time of invention" (112). The "patches" of

my quilt, like Barthes's "poses" or album "snapshots," become the juxtaposed fragments by

which the crafter of the quilt directs his attention not at the object of knowledge, but at the

"subject," the anti-biographer whose "double inscription," in Lacanian terms, allows the

quilter to take into his account his own desire, the erotic pleasure he takes-- Barthes's

fetishistic lover "mutilating" his beloved. My desire for "knowledge" of Patchen is not

unassociated with my own fantasy life, and in this sense the act of quilting becomes the

scene of a transference, an element usually repressed in academic literary biography but

made manifest in the mnemonic autoportrait that is mystery.

As our bridge to Chapter Three, "(A)nalogy," which will examine the parallels

between the theory and craft of patchwork quilting and "quilting" as a metaphor for doing

theory, let us consider the last of our models for re-positioning ideolovg in the electronic:

Slavoj Zizek's analysis of the "The Ideological 'Quilt'" in The Sublime Object of Ideology

(Verso, 1989).

Zizek begins his discussion of the "ideological 'quilt'" with a question of

considerable interest to this study: "What creates and sustains the identity of a given









ideological field beyond all possible variations of its positive content?" Zizek turns to

Lacan for the answer to this "crucial" question, stating,

The multitude of "floating signifiers," of proto-ideological elements, is structured
into a unified field through the intervention of a certain nodall point' (the Lacanian
point de capiton) which 'quilts' them, stops their sliding and fixes their meaning.
(87)

As an illustration of the "non-bound, non-tied elements" of such an ideological

space, Zizek considers the subject of ecologism which is not determined in advance but

can be variously posited as "conservative," "socialist," "state-oriented," etc., depending on

the "totalization" performed by the "quilting" of these otherwise "free-floating ...

ideological elements" (87). As we will become apparent in the chapters to follow, the

Patchen archive is replete with examples of'nodal points, points de capiton, which have

totalized the various "floating signifiers" clustering around the Patchen "signature." The

resulting series of equivalencess" include: Communist, Socialist, anti-capitalist, anti-war

activist, nihilist, Beat, romantic, environmentalist, pop surrealist, and the list goes on.

But as Zizek points out, such an enchainmentt is possible only on condition that a

certain signifier--the Lacanian 'One'-'quilts' the whole field, and, by embodying it,

effectuates its identity" (88). Zizek finds the prescription for being able to "formulate the

determining role of a certain particular domain without falling into a trap of essentialism"

in the "anti-descriptivism" of Saul Kripke. (89) Kripke's theory is suggested of Patchen's

youthful experiment with deconstructing the alphabet mentioned earlier. The fate of

identity is implicated in the act of naming, a realization that haunted Patchen, even as it

now haunts his biographer.









Zizek begins with an "elementary" question: "How do names refer to the objects

they denote?" The "descriptivist" answer is that:

every word is, in the first place, the bearer of a certain meaning--that is, it
means a cluster of descriptive features ("table" means an object of a certain shape,
serving certain purposes) and subsequently refers to objects in reality in so far as
they possess properties designated by the cluster of descriptions. (89)

One is reminded here of the B.C. cartoon in which one character asks the other why the

large, trunked object before them is called an "elephant." To which the other responds:

"Because it looks like an elephant!"

The anti-descriptivist answer, as Zizek states it, is,

that a word is connected to an object or a set of objects through an act of "primal
baptism," and the link maintains itself even if the cluster of descriptive features
which initially determined the meaning of the word changes completely. (90)

That the above can be as true for proper nouns, as for common, is clearly illustrated in

Patchen's inability to untie himself, for example, from the knot, the nodal point of

"Communist" long after abandoning the descriptive features of the appellation.

Patchen, indeed any potential subject of literary biography, can be a victim of what

Zizek refers to as "the dogmatic stupidity proper to a signifier as such, the stupidity which

assumes the shape of a tautology: a name refers to an object because the object is called

that"--a point comically rendered in the B.C. strip.

The impact of this "tautology" on Patchen, or on any such subject, can be more

tragic than comic. Zizek's example of the case of the "Jew" serves to emphasize this point.

In this instance "'Jew' appears as a signifier connoting a cluster of supposedly effective

properties (intriguing spirit ...)" but through a process of inversion the subject becomes







56
"greedy ... because they are Jews" (96). Zizek suggests the following Lacanian gloss for

this insidious phenomenon:

The points de capiton is the point through which the subject is 'sewn' to the
signifier, and at the same time the point which interpolates individual into subject
by addressing it with the call of a certain master signifier ('Communism', 'God',
'Freedom', America')--in a word--it is the point of the subjectivation of the
signifier's chain" (101).

I will go into greater detail below as to the precise manner in which Lacanian

analysis relates to the composition of the Patchwork "quilt." For the moment, it is

sufficient to recall Zizek's observation that: "The subject is always formulated, pinned, to a

signifier which represents him for the other, and through the pinning he is loaded with a

symbolic mandate, he is given a place in the intersubjective network of symbolic relations"

(113). The Patchen archive may, thus, be conceived retrospectively and futuristically as

such a network wired electronically. Novelist Russell Hoban, in correspondence with this

writer, referred to this phenomenon as a sort of "circuitry of the world mind" (Hoban).

This network is perceived experientially as the rapidly growing series of "links" summoned

by the WWW browsers--a network that invites the Patchen fantasist to enter, in Zizek's

words, "an imaginary scenario filling out the void, the opening of the desire of the Other"

(114). Let us imagine ourselves then, as invitees to the craft of quilting. What does the

rich tradition of this craft tell us about the possibility of critical theory and post-

structuralist biographical discourse?














CHAPTER 3
(A)NALOGY: QUILTING AS HOBBY THEORY

The second stage of the CATTt is that of(A)nalogy, intended to represent

formation and displacement. Patchwork de-monstrates the (A)nalogy of the CATT(t) by

incorporating as part of its inventio the use of Ulmer's hobby theory. As a tool for the

implementation of heuretics ("a brand of logic that treats the art of discovery or

invention"), hobby theory or theory craft "popularizes" theory by re-conceiving it as a

craft or hobby. In his "Handbook For A Theory Hobby," Ulmer predicts "that the day will

come when theory will be produced as a craft in the manner of woodworking, gourmet

cooking, photography, or karate" (400). To which I would add: theory in the manner of

patchwork crazy quilting.

In fact, I would extend Landow's argument that hypertext is the ideal laboratory

for conducting experiments in post-structuralist theory, by suggesting that the history of

patchwork crazy quilting as a craft anticipates and de-monstrates by way of analogy, the

theoretical potentialities for hypertext a century in advance. Evidence to support this claim

can be found both in the history of invention relevant to both modes of expression, as well

as in the language employed to explain their methodologies.

Consider what we know about the history and craft of patchwork crazy quilting.

The emergence of the craft is marked, for example, by the quality of its randomness and

accidental nature. According to quilt historian, Delores Hinson, "The earliest quilts, called

crazy quilts, were more a result of accident then of design" (21). Indeed, the genesis of







58

this craft in the late 1800's during the period of Victorian propriety and decorum, was, like

so many other 'against the grain' practices of this epoch, a deconstructive enterprise.

There is, for example, this excerpt from an article appearing in the May 1883

edition of Godey's Lady's Book, a popular women's magazine:

The raw edges of the scraps were usually, though not always, turned under
and were held in place by a row of fancy hand sewn embroidery stitches. The
scraps could be sewn to the foundation by sewing machine, but in general, this
method was not recommended for fear of adding too many straight lines
angularitieses offending they") to the finished design. (McMorris 10)

Thus, we learn that these crazy "text-iles" were composed of scraps in a manner that

discourages "straight lines" and valorizes randomness. Quilting as craft has been, and

continues to be, largely the work of women, a marginalized group with an historically

limited range of options for personal expression and story-telling. The recent exception of

male "patches" composed for the "AIDS Quilt Project" will be noted below.

So the popularity of this craft coincided with the rise in popularity of other forms

of home-based sewing and textile working. However, when demand for textile materials

exceeded both supply and the financial ability of families to purchase them, the availability

of scrap materials begat the necessity that was mother to invention. Shaped by their

increasing economic and artistic value, the proliferation of these scrap materials resulted in

the emergence of a collaborative form oftext(ile) expression. There began the practice of

circulating a "square of embroidery canvas" among friends. "Each friend of which was to

embroider whatever design she wished," reported a newspaper account. We are told the

paper "playfully" reported: "You will think it a 'crazy' custom indeed" (10).

In her study of Crazy Quilts, Penny McMorris explains that the etymological

relationship of the word "crazy" to quilt-making underscored such uses as "odd, bizarre,







59

irregular, strange, or unusual" and it was even suggested that "their crazy patchwork may

have originated among the inmates of insane asylums" (10). The seditious implications of

these entries, linking Victorian housewives with asylum inmates, provides yet another

historical parallel between the reception of this mad' compositional practice with the

response to other visual media and more recent electronically based technologies whose

non-linear, wildly collagist aesthetics have been similarly feared and denigrated.

We should also be reminded of the Foucaultian analysis of marginalized and

institutionalized groups, such as the insane, whose attempts to express themselves in an

alternative discourse from a skewed center of social balance served only to reaffirm their

marginalized status and social imprisonment. Similarly, when the victims of slavery in

America, a more recent example of socialized constraint and silence, took up the practice

of quilt-making, their ability to write between the lines, to mark their text(ile) in the stain

of their own blood, became an act of deconstruction, of auto-biography as scarification.

Yet another antecedent to the post-modern moment is the multi-cultural and inter-

textual components of the crazy quilt. A major influence was the Victorian interest in

orientalism. It is believed that the concept for fabric patches may have been inspired by the

broken up, "crazed" pattern, the "cracked-ice" design of Japanese pavement, which

became a motif in Japanese art, ceramics and textile design and was then imported into the

quilt-making craft. (10-11)

Other cultural influences can be seen in the quilting patterns of ancient Egyptian

robes and in the West African practice of weaving patterned strips into a larger fabric, "the

resulting cloth [having] asymmetrical and unpredictable designs" (Wahlman 35). The

improvisational nature of African quilt-making represents another multi-cultural and inter-









textual link between the craft of quilt-making and the application of theory craft to the

Patchwork biography. As Maude Southwell Wahlman points out in Signs and Symbols:

African Images in African-American Quilts, "Some African-American quilts are the visual

equivalent of blues, jazz, or gospel, rich in color and symbolism" (20). Wahlman traces

this improvisational element from its roots in "Kubia raffia cloth and painted Pygmy

textiles" and quotes Arfican quilter Eli Leon as saying, "An improvisational pattern is

always conceptualized as a range of possible structures" (48).

It is precisely these qualities of the crazy patchwork, derived from diverse sources,

that will serve as one of the aesthetic principles for the design of the electronic hyper-

text(ile) Patchwork. In addition to the obvious parallels between the methodologies of

these two quilt-making endeavors, there is also the historical parallels suggested between

the "jazz" elements of the crazy patchwork and Kenneth Patchen's contributions to the

invention ofjazz-poetry in particular, and to the repeated appearance of improvisation in

his use of various media, such as Patchen's theater work with John Cage.

Indeed, it may be demonstrated that the avant-garde movement in modern art, and

its specific expression in the Dada movement, was itself pre-figured in the Victorian crazy

patchwork period. In a section of her study on quilts entitled, "Everything Gets a Little

Crazy," McMorris reports that the popularity of the "crazy effect" and the randomness

associated with the patchwork craze resulted in the dissemination of this signifying system

to a diverse range of compositional modes from "crazy gardens" to the social practice of

"crazy teas". As described in The Ladies' World magazine in 1890, "Crazy quilts, pillows,

etc., are going swiftly 'out, but crazy teas are a new and pleasant diversion" (23). The

crazy tea was a Dada-like happening from the creation of mis-matched, collagist









invitations, to the Alice-In-Wonderland decor of upside down pictures on the wall,

peculiarly shaped furniture placed in random, functionally inappropriate locations,

including the serving of a crazy menu of "baked beans covered with currant jelly,

cornbread and cheese frosted with chocolate icing, tarts stuffed with chow-chow, and, to

quench the resulting thirst, hot, salted lemonade" (23). Even the conversation was Dada-

like, a Victorian jabberwockyy" with the "crazy" participants "being stopped and

redirected to a new topic every five minutes, at the sound of a bell rung by the hostess"

(23).

There appear here numerous qualities we might associate with the emergence of

electronic composition and the social practices that have begun to form around such

mediums of communication and expression as CD-Rom and the World Wide Web. Indeed,

some of these qualities might be likely to upset the likes of Roberts and other writers

accustomed to more linear and discursive styles of composing. Like their Victorian

precursors, young surfers and scriptors on the Internet seem to share a delight in delivery

of information in small "patches" of"bite"-sized information whose brevity and

unpredictably juxtaposed order allows both for the elements of surprise and delight.

If the traditional novel, a genre central to the Victorian era, is to today compete

with new forms, such as the hypertext fiction now emerging on-line, one might argue that

the un-bounding of the square text, and the joy inherent in loosening the constraining

threads of such text(iles), was inherent from its inception. And, indeed, the crazy

patchwork, like its electronic successor, has been received with considerable anxiety and

negative criticism. I had earlier related Robert's lament and his critique of the CD-

Rom/hypertext discourse. Some of the initial anti-crazy quilt sentiment was directed at









their lack of order and symmetry. Camps formed around the more traditional use of

repeated patterns and symbolic motifs, iterated from panel to panel and those who

championed the orientalized aesthetic of the crazy quilt.

But a good deal of the ridicule directed at the crazy quilt "mania," as it was

described by some, focused on the unhealthy strain on eyes and nerves and the fear that

such a hobby as this might result in some permanent form of either blindness, insanity, or

both. In addition, critics labeled the fancyworkk" associated with crazy patchwork as a

"time waster" and its practitioners were admonished to "fold up your Fancy work" and

"come out and have a chat or something that means business ."(25). There are clear and

interesting parallels here between the public reception and concerns raised by this textual

practice and those which have greeted more recent electronic modes of communication

such as television and computer related technologies

Quilts and Mourning

Not all crazy quilt patterns were as easily susceptible to the charges of triviality

and meaninglessness. The creation of the creation of the crazy quilt was sometimes

occasioned by the death of a beloved. Such "mourning quilts," as they came to be known,

were often "patched" together out of the pieces, the fabrics of a life. A deceased daughter

might be represented by patches of fabric from her dresses. In one instance a widow was

reported to have taken "her mourning coat, opened it up at the seams, and made a

mourning quilt with a central coffin shape to tell the story of her life with her husband"

(87). The very choice of the crazy patchwork, as opposed to, say, a more symmetrical or

ordered form, was an aesthetic motivated by an emotion. McMorris relates that "The kind









of embroidery, which was at times even and regular, and at other times wildly erratic,

came to express the quiltmaker's changing moods" (87).

Dolores A Hinson, writing in the Quilting Manual, points out that "nineteenth-

century Americans were obsessed with death" and that the quilt became a means by which

to signify the veritably unsignifiable signified that is "death." Hinson remarks,

Cemeteries spanned the chasm between bereaved families and their dead.
So too, did the posthumous portraits, photographs and hair ornaments treasured
by the survivors. And so did quilts. When families were broken by death, women
used these tactile, homey comforters to preserve ties to their deceased loved ones.
(11)

Hinson cites the example of Elizabeth Mitchell of Lewis County, Kentucky, whose quilt

"portrays the family plot" and whose "appliqued coffins within it and along the outer

borders of the quilt are labeled with family names." Adds Hinson, "Mitchell moved these

coffins from the world of the living, represented by the border, into the cemetery [or

central portion of the quilt] as her relatives died" (11).

This tradition of the mourning quilt has been monumentally revived in the form of

the AIDS Memorial Quilt, described by its founders as "the largest on-going community

arts project in the world" (WWW). The inspiration of Cleve Jones in 1987, the AIDS Quilt

has expanded beyond 32,000 patches ["panels"], each prepared by individual

"panelmakers" to the specific dimension of "3 feet by 6 feet the size of the human

grave" (1). The Quilt's Homepage, which arguably serves as a model for, as well as a

theoretical de-monstration of, many of the dimensions of the Patchwork project, has taken

the collaborative net-working of this formerly text(ile) composition into the realm of

electronic patchworking and mystorical hypertext. One speculates that had the World







64

Wide Web existed at the time of Jones's moment ofinventio, the AIDS Quilt would have

originated in the virtual form to which it has more recently been transformed.

The instructions provided for the AIDS Quilt Homepage invites consideration of

the craft of quilting as a working analog for quiltmaking as a means to do theory.

Implicated in this practice is the pervasive influence of the signature effect, the potential

play of signification set into motion by the "tens of thousands of people whose names are

sewn into the fabric" (1). Panel makers are invited to employ "a little imagination" in the

process of their inventio, and to submit their "patches" to the electronic "gallery" of Quilt

panels. As a form of mystory, panelmakers are asked to "tell their stories," composed of

materials chosen from a wide register of sources: personal history, popular culture,

ideology, to name a few.

Even the "how to" section of the AIDS Quilt Homepage instructions parallels

elements of Ulmer's notions of theory craft. For example, potential panel makers are

informed they "don't have to be an artist or a sewing expert," a point consistent with

Ulmer's support for the amateur status of theory crafters. Regarding the structional design

of the Quilt, we are told the text(ile) will be "folded and unfolded many times," thus

linking Derrida's invaginatingg fold," with its metaphorical reference to "catastrophe" seen

as a discontinuity or instability in a system.

Ulmer's analysis of Derrida's use of invagination is particularly useful in our

understanding of electronic patchworking as a deconstructive enterprise. In observing the

"folding back" of the signifier on itself, Ulmer comments that: "Repetition by itself can

provide the effects of invagination," a point Derrida de-monstrates in "Living On:







65

Borderlines" regarding a text by Blanchot" (Applied Grammatology 104). Observes Ulmer:

Iterability, the sheer possibility of quotation, of repeating, creates the
catastrophic fold in any text, giving it the structure of a Klein bottle (in topology,
a single surface "with no inside, outside, or edges .. recalling the pots with holes
knocked in the bottom found in tombs. ." (105)

The funereal association of the folded, iterated text, "a deconstruction," posits Ulmer, "of

the notion of language as a 'container' for ideas" (105), provides a compelling analogy to

the many-folded AIDS Quilt, as it at once a place of mourning "signed" in a series of

repeating quotations whose signified, shall we say, "death," no text(ile) can, in fact,

contain.

In what may be, perhaps, one of the few deconstructive readings of the AIDS

Quilt, Daniel Harris's "Making Kitsch From AIDS" (Harper's, July, 1994), argues 'against

the grain' in challenging the claim of the QUILT to re-present it's subject, "death," as

anything other than "political knickknack" (55). The AIDS Quilt, according to Harris, has

been so "thoroughly sentimentalized" that any signifier associated with the text(ile)

becomes an "allegorical emblem of the kitschification of AIDS" (56). Harris provides a

counter-reading to the memorial value of the AIDS Quilt Project by suggesting that the

adoption of a memorial "patchwork of cloth that can be visited like a grave site or a war

memorial" links the text as "a nostalgic folk art" to the "longing for a legendary small town

America," thus suppressing, by way of "substitution ... the iconography of the Christian

Church" which has attempted to shape our reception of the signified to which the signifier

"AIDS" has been linked.

In a passage which links the potency of the AIDS Quilt as a signifying system to

Zizek's concept of the "Ideological Quilt" discussed earlier, Harris attributes to the Quilt







66

the status of "the sublime expression of AIDS kitsch." Reconceived as Zizek's "ideological

quilt," rather than being structured through some unified field, consistent with the

ideological status assigned to it by its founders and promoters, Harris's critique

demonstrates how others, such as himself, can also "quilt" the floating signifiers through

other significations, such as "kitsch," for example, or in semiotic association with

corporations whose logos may function as a "point de capiton," a nodall point"-- as yet

another in an endless series of equivalenciess."

One of the objectives of Patchwork, of conducting biographical research in the

context of a mystorical hypertext, is to observe the patterns of trajectory which may

emerge from fields of association, the nomadic migrations of floating signifiers, set into

motion by the Patchwork crazy quilt. Beginning with the heuretically inspired generators

of my own mystorical "patches" and continuing outward with the randomly generated

"patches" of those who "sign-on" to the Patchwork hypertext, one can speculate that the

forces of certain "strange attractors" may form, to use the fractally inspired metaphors of

Chaos Theory, potential patterns of order within seeming disorder, certain "readings" on

the life and art of Kenneth Patchen that, while unpredictable and uncontrollable by

Patchwork's "author," may, nonetheless, fall into certain "nodally" bounded regions along

the illimitable signifying chain.

Chaos Theory and the "Crazy" Text(ile)

In Chapter Three of her study, Chaos Bound (Cornell University Press, 1990),

entitled "The Necessary Gap: Chaos as Self in The Education of Henry Adams," N.

Katherine Hayles argues as to how "chaos is as already present within a complex dynamic

of revelation and concealment" and, employing a series of textile metaphors, proceeds to







67
analyze how, for example, "a suture within the text joins Adams's past and present selves"

(64-65). Borrowing upon concepts derived from chaos theory, Hayles provides a cogent

re-reading of The Education, the implications of which seem applicable to the

deconstruction of traditional biographical methodology and, thus, to the development of

an alternative biography conceived in the form of a hypertext crazy quilt.

Informed by an authorial 'self who initially works "from a conception of the

universe as unity, linearity, and fixed truths," the text inevitably displays a 'rupture, the

'gap' through which emerges "the world as it actually exists--an anarchistic multiverse of

chaos, complexity, and relativism" (62). For Hayles, "The Education seems to be an

exemplary account of one man's initiation into the technological and social contexts that

form the cultural background for the later emergence of the sciences of complexity" (62).

Indeed, The Education may be conceived as a tutor text for the application of crazy

quilting as theory craft. The situation faced by Adams in the construction of his

autobiographical text replicates in many ways Kenneth Patchen's deconstructive textual

practices, practices which return, like the repressed, to haunt the construction of a Patchen

biography. Adams, like Patchen and the similarly schizoid 'self who 'authors' this study,

are inevitably hounded by the possibility "that some authorial self lingers beyond the reach

oftextuality" and that what might constitute the 'meaning' of a life, of a "'real self," may

"manifest itself within the text as an absence, rupture, or gap," a gesture which, thus,

"further complicates the linear flow of the narrative and punctuates the accretion of the

inscripted self, rendering its evolution discontinuous or indeterminate" (64-65).

As with Kenneth Patchen, the "subject" of Patchwork, the life and its textual

representation are marked by certain discontinuities, and the mystorical quilter of







68

Patchwork will experience a fate not unlike that of Adams's narrator, one of whose "most

characteristic activities is suturing, trying to stitch together a past and a present that have

been torn apart and can be fitted together only with difficulty" (70).

As subjects of both biography and autobiography, Patchen and Adams exist as

swirling forces of turbulence whose shifting sets of signifying practices respond to the

strange attractors, and rendering patterns that when quilted into a narrative fabric, exhibit

"a fold that conceals or a tear that reveals" and, suggests Hayles of Adams, "through this

gap chaos pours" (73).















CHAPTER 4
THEORYR: LITERARY BIOGRAPHY'S DECONSTRUCTIVE PROCLIVITIES

(T)heory, the third leg of the CATTt, as it relates to literary biography, is a muddy

issue, and the record, scattered as it is, suggests that the absence of any unified

biographical theory points to its inherent deconstructive tendencies. Noted practitioners

such as Leon Edel have observed, "There exists, I am sorry to say, no criticism of

biography worthy of the name" (10). Anthony Freidson, in his introduction to New

Directions In Biography, comments on a certain "fuzziness in the critical theory of

biography" and cites Edel's assertion that biography "has not yet articulated a

'methodology'" and has "'suffered through three centuries from a lack of definition, a laxity

of method"' (xxi).

Which is not to say that authors of literary biography have not attempted to define

their genre, and to establish certain idealized, if not unattainable goals. The problematic

announce themselves in definitions such as that of William Zinnzer that make a claim for

"the simulation in words, of a man's life, from all that is known about that man" (Zinnser

42). Definitions in a literary tradition of'life-writing' that dates back to James Boswell's

Life of Johnson, reveal an emphasis on verisimilitude, as underscored in Boswell's letter to

Bishop Percy, in which Boswell promises to "accompany Johnson in his progress, and, as

it were, see each scene as it happened." Yet, as contemporary biographers such as Philip

Ziegler have pointed out, ". .. Boswell's 'Johnson' could never be more than magnificently

incomplete, a subjective portrait viewed exclusively from a single point of view" (Ziegler










34). Adds Ziegler, "Boswell's advantages were also crippling disabilities, he did not so

much evade the pitfalls that await the contemporary biographer as avoid them or even

incorporate them within the landscape of his study" (34). Other critics are more harsh and

succinct, suggesting, as does David Gates, for example, that Boswell, "the archetypal

literary biographer, was a great gossip and a bum critic" (81).

Somewhere between the famous, ground-breaking work of Boswell, and the

impressionistic sketches ofLyton Stratchey's Eminent Victorians, to the more reductive,

fact-oriented biographies of more recent vintage, lies the illusive goal of the "pure

biography." In contrast to Paul Murray Kendall's contradictory claims for biography as

"the craft-science-art of the impossible" there is the more self-assured, though no less

questionable definition of Sir Harold Nicholson in The Development of English

Biography, as summarized by Zinnser, "that 'pure' biography comes into being when the

author, eschewing all extraneous purposes, writes the life of a man for its own sake, and

though adhering to truth, attempts to compose that life as a work of art" (13).

Zinnser is forced to ask of Nicholson, however, whether "even the 'purest' of

biographies is not moved by the commemorative urge? that he harbors, even if

unconsciously, no didactic impulse?" (13). To which I would add, How about

consciously?

Suffice it to say, the terminology employed by these various attempts to define

literary biography raise as many questions as they attempt to resolve. Even when the

enterprise is largely focused on the assemblage of facts, the problem of 'truth' telling and

verisimilitude are not resolved. For pure epistemological fuzziness, one could do no better









than the following attempt by Zinnser to demystify the bedrock of fact in biographical

research:

Fact is cold stone, an inarticulate thing, dumb until something happens to it; and
there is no use the biographer waiting for spontaneous combustion or miraculous
alchemy. Fact must be rubbed up in the mind, placed in magnetic juxtaposition
with other facts, until it begins to glow, to give off that radiance we call meaning.
Fact is a biographer's only friend, and worst enemy. (17)

Yes, well beware the biographical subject whose fate lies in this alchemist's hands. Or the

reader who must rely on the above mentioned process devoid of its deconstruction by,

shall we say, those damnable operations of interrogation posed by critical theory. Indeed,

the options, observes David Gates in a 1992 Newsweek review of contemporary

biography, are lamentable:

On the supply side we've got an academic world in which criticism has been
shanghaied by post-structuralist and p.c. crazies, leaving biography as a vehicle for
rational literary discourse. On the demand side, we've got upscale college students,
conditioned by culture's obsession with celebrity gossip, who'd rather read about
writers than their actual writings. (80)

But Boswell's own proclivity toward gossip (mentioned above) notwithstanding,

the fate of literary biography, as will hopefully be suggested in the closing chapters of this

study on biography-as-hypertext, may lie in the hands of no single camp of readers, writers

or critics. But this is the case to be made in later chapters of this study. What remains

illustrative in terms of this chapter's consideration of the current status of theory as it

applies to biographical method, may be ascertained in a survey of articles and reviews,

many of which appear regularly in periodicals such as the New York Times Book

Review, that provide a chorus of voices representing readers, writers and critics of

contemporary biography.







72

It is important to note that the language employed by the non-academic reviews of

scholarly literary biographies is replete with references suggestive of the very textual

elements which have become the points of inquiry by critical theorists. A reference to

Richard B. Sewall's biography of Emily Dickinson quotes the biographer's observation that

Dickinson was "a figure upon whose biography no narrative structure could be imposed

that is not to a degree arbitrary or fictitious" (Frank 7). In an article entitled, "Faulkner

proves too slippery for Karl," Los Angeles Times reviewer, Molly Giles, writes of the

"two Bills" which Karl discovered in his research and that "simple duality was a piece of

cake for someone as complex as Faulkner" (Giles 9). For Karl, according to this reviewer,

Faulkner remains "infinitely, triumphantly, mysterious" ( 9 ).

In a sidebar to a July 19, 1987 review of his biography, Hemingway, author,

Kenneth S. Lynn, acknowledges that while he "felt that seven-eighths of him were below

the surface," he was able to get to that "invisible" element "by means of biography--by

placing his stories within the context of his life" (Lynn 3). The path to this "truth" is to be

found, declares Lynn, in "the interplay between fiction and personality" (3) Such a thesis,

it might be argued, opens up the possibility for the post-structuralist interplay oftextuality,

one in which the borders suggested by Lynn's binary opposition are decidedly blurred,

problematized, and in which, in a Lacanian sense, the unconscious (of the subject) is

structured like a language

Occasionally one will come upon claims that bring new meaning to the word

"definitive," as applied to the literary biography. Frank Rich's review of William Wright's,

Lillian Hellman, suggests that Wright "possesses an essentialist tribute that more

passionate writers who neither loved nor reviled his subject do not: he really is an









objective observer" (Rich 1). Wright, according to Rich, "has no hidden agenda," is the

real article, the creator of the 'pure' biography. Yet throughout the review we come upon

references to Wright's support of "assertions of Hemingway's third wife" and of his

"revealing more complexities, however unflattering, than Hellman herself ever exhibited

for scrutiny" (38). In addition, we are told that while "Mr. Wright has psychological

theories about Hellman the woman who emerges from the book is far too independent

a character to fit any neat definition" (39). Our reviewer notes in his conclusion that the

final word of Wright's "tantalizingly unfinished woman" is "enigma" and that, "Lillian

Hellman, no little fox, continues to out run anyone who might attempt to cage her" (39).

One wonders, then, what constitutes the "objective" status of a biography that

accepts (and thus rejects) certain psychological theories, interpretations, data, over

others, and which eventually tries to seek cover under the sign of "enigma"? The

representation of the endless pursuit of the biographical "subject," of trying to anchor the

"floating signifier" represented by the signature of such a subject, linked as it is by a

seemingly endless chain of signification in the form of "facts" somehow associated with

the subject's appellation, has seen one of its most inventive, and illustrative, pop cultural

depictions in Orson Welles's film classic, Citizen Kane.

From Citizen Kane to Citizen Patchen

Welles' film is, curiously enough, based on a screenplay which bears its own weight

in authorial speculation in the form of unresolved questions concurring the particular

contributions of Welles and his screenwriting partner, Herman Mankiewicz. And then

there are, of course, the often noted parallels between Welles's own biography and that of









the newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, upon whom the thinly veiled meta-

biography of Kane is established.

From the opening sequence to the last, the film is framed by shots depicting the

monumental initial "K" that both invites the viewer/interpreter to pursue a chain of

biographical signifiers associated with the name, "Kane," while simultaneously blocking

off such access (the "K" adorns the imposing fence that surrounds Kane's "Xanadu").

What one indeed enters here is the memory system of the film, which, like the Lacanian

unconscious, is indeed structured like a language.

After a series of voyeuristic lap dissolves, we enter the impossible space (the word

is whispered, it registers only at the level of film's memory system) from which is heard

Kane's dying word, "Rosebud." The word is uttered in conjunction with the dropping of

Kane's fetish object, a Lacanian objet petite a, a glass ball paperweight, which, in the

memory system of the film, we will later note, contains, metonymically, a snowy winter

scene that links, in the film's chain of signification, death-desire-mother-first wife-sled-

Rosebud. This list is, of course, incomplete, as the film's final depiction of Kane's

mausoleum-like cellar of dead-signifiers suggests. For the semiotic joke upon which the

film is so cleverly, if not unconsciously, based is that precisely to follow the bouncing ball,

to try and piece together a unified image from the splintered vision initially perceived

through the shards of the disseminated fetish object in the death scene and later recalled in

the infinite regression of Kane's image as it passes between two mirrors, is to fall prey to

logocentrism, to the belief that representation can be policed by language. That both our

cinematic, and purportedly real-life, subjects (Kane/Hearst) are in the newspaper business,

that they attempt to seek power through control of language, and that they, themselves,










become the subject of investigation by members of their own "truth-seeking" reporters,

only adds to the cosmic nature of the joke.

I discuss Kane at length here because, first, the film, I believe, truly speaks to the

problematic of biographical representation that concern the Patchwork project, and

secondly, because I will be incorporating the film as an element of the mystorical approach

to hypertext-biography to be illustrated in Chapter 6, the CATTt's (t)ale. Here, Citizen

Kane, functioning as an element of the mystery's "pop cycle," to coin a related Ulmerian

term, becomes Citizen Patchen and Robitaille shares the position of the film's investigative

reporter, who, like the troubled biographer Robitaille, is confronted by a cubist subject

(Kenneth Patchen) about whom swirl conflicting interpretations of both the life and the

art.

At one point in the film the reporter is taken to the "Thatcher Memorial Library,"

a crypt-like Borgesian labyrinth of'words, words, words, which presumably holds the

definitive explanation ofKane's life. Like the magical word that unlocks the divine in the

Borges library, so too does the Thatcher collection promise the semiotic link between the

signifier, "Rosebud," and the "truth" of he whose utterance haunts our biographical

(in)quest.

I use the word "haunt" here purposefully, as the question of haunting, as it relates

to language, the (death of) the subject, and literary biography, is a theme that recurs in

recent experimental biographies, such as Jacqueline Rose's The Haunting of Sylvia Plath

(more about which I will say below), as well as my own forthcoming mystoriobiography,

Patchwork.







76

Of course, the Thatcher Memorial Library provides no good leads for the reporter,

and in the film's concluding scene, against the backdrop of the dust-covered hoard of

Kane's collective objet petite a's, the reporter admits, in response to a query regarding the

elusive "Rosebud," that, "Perhaps, a life can't be summarized in a single word." While this

may mark the end of the reporter's biographical chase, the memory system of the film

continues with the panning eye of the camera as it alights, finally, on a child's sled bearing

the name, "Rosebud." While the semiotic joke here might seem to be aimed at the

reporter, who didn't quite connect the dots that link, say, "Rosebud"-sled-paperweight-

winter scene-childhood-removal from mother, it is really the viewer who is targeted here.

It is the viewer/reader/interpreter, teased along by the film's memory system, who is lulled

into the false sense of security that seemingly, and conclusively, links "Rosebud" to a given

object, whose presence, while promising the missing link to a seemingly endless and

incomplete semiotic chain of associations, actually marks an absence, an endless

dissemination of free-floating signifiers. Such is the import of the concluding shots of the

sled, which, once fed to the furnace fire, becomes just so much smoke, dust, ashes, as the

camera exits from whence it came, our final gaze resting on the forbidding gate, the

resistant signature, marked by the sign of"K."

Other Models for Mystoriobiography

Citizen Kane's exploration of the signature effect, and its deliberate blurring of the

distinctions between fact and fiction, whether consciously intended or not, may be seen as

the cinematic equivalent of similar demonstrations in postmodern fiction. The relationship

of these experiments to biography is clearly and succinctly summarized by Justin Kaplan in

his article, "In Pursuit of the Ultimate Fiction," where he writes,







77

In the most reductive terms, what's a novel but a biography, partial or full-scale, of
people who exist first in the writer's imagination and later in the reader's? Both
kinds of storytelling may be species of one genus, prose fiction, and the melding
or confounding of the two a familiar postmodernist phenomenon: the breaking
down of genre, the elevation of puzzle, paradox, mystification and Borgesian
sleights of hand. (24)

In his review, Kaplan cites such diverse examples as Norman Mailer's Executioners

Song and E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, each of which, according to Kaplan, "treat verifiable

events as if they were "texts" to be "deconstructed" (24). In words that echo those of

Kane's reporter-cum-biographer, Kaplan suggests that: "Even biography's accustomed

hunt for a prime mover, a core personality--Walt Whitman calls it 'theMemyself--may be

like chasing Bigfoot" (24).

I am intrigued by the use of metaphorical language that begins to cluster around

this notion of the biographical subject, as it is this very play of language which serves,

particularly in its homonymic variations, as the foundation for my heuretically inspired

hypertext, Patchwork. Gathered in the rather wide net that I cast in search of such

examples, were references from Melville's apparitional "white whale" and similarly

spectre-like, "Bartleby," to Julian Barne's Flaubert's Parrot. Of the latter, Justin Kaplan

observes the following:

Geoffrey Braithwaite, the narrator of Julian Barnes's book, is a doctor and a
widower (there are other parallels with Charles Bovary) obsessed with the life of
Flaubert, but at the same time profoundly skeptical, even derisive, about the
ultimate value of any biography. Like a net, he says, biography can be described as
a "collection of holes tied together with a string." (25)

For the purposes of Patchwork, I would like to appropriate the "net" metaphor,

and its metaphorical and heuretic relationship to the Inter-net, to a problematizing

biographical text conceived as a series of electronic "patches" or hypertext "links," each of







78

which is tied together by a "string" woven by the various reader/browser/quilters. no given

resulting pattern of which may ever be said to be (w)holecloth.

In my readings for this chapter I come upon a related metaphor, a reference to

Pierre Bourdieu's concept of a "field" in Didier Eribon's "Preface" to his biography of

Michel Foucault. Eribon appropriates Bourdieu's concept to describe an "intersection" of

"theoretical, institutional, and political spacess" that constitute his "intellectual project"

(xii). I note that Eribon concludes the paragraph by noting that his text is also composed

of "several cultural registers," one of which, a reference to the Ecole Normale Superieure

on the Rue d'Ulm, curiously, provides a homophonic link to "Ulmer," whose own writings

on mystery in Teletheory link to a drawing provided by Jacques Derrida for the design of

a "folie" in the Parc dela Villette that is based on a metaphor informing a passage in Plato's

Timaeus. This metaphor is that of"the chora as crible, sieve or sift" (240). This sieve,

whose function Derrida characterizes as an "interpretive and selective filter which will

have permitted a reading and sifting of the three sites and the three embeddings," may be

seen, in its electronic sense, to parallel the functions of the "grid" provided by the

intersection of recombinatory patchworkings of my hypertext biography (241). For Ulmer,

Derrida's "sieve," or "mesh," I prefer the latter term for its allusion to the text(ile), leads

mystorically to "a description of the gravel plant [where Ulmer's father worked], which is

a three-layered grid for sizing rock" (241). For Robitaille, the rhizomatic flow of

associations links Ulmer, via Derrida, to (Patch)en via Robitaille. But the flow of

associations does not end here. As it turns out, Robitaille's and Ulmer's textual maps

intersect precisely at the "rue d'Ulm," in my case, via the reading of Eribon's Preface, cited

above, and for Ulmer, via "a copy of Feu la cendre from Derrida with "the return address









on the stationery--'45 Rue d'Ulm'" (241). And it is by way of this redoubling of the

mystorical crossroads that Ulmer's reading of Derrida's text brings our present discussion

of biography's deconstructive tendencies back around to my reading of Citizen Kane's

closing sequence, the sled in the furnace, to the place and function of memory in the film,

as well as the function of memory that haunts the biographical quest.

Ulmer is struck by the significance ofDerrida's text, in which he says, "1 now have

the impression that the best paradigm of the trace is not, as some have believed, the track

of a hunt, a marking, a step, and so on, but ashes, that which remains without remaining of

the holocaust, of the burn-all." To which Ulmer responds,

Not senders and receivers, then in a theory of communication, but cinders. In an
idiom referring to the "late," the deceased. A writing without debt that is as good
as a burning. No monument, no Phoenix. The "late" is also the "fire" in the idiom,
the fire that cannot be effaced in the cinders as a trace. It is a word that is in
question, that is to be put in place of memory, in the place of memory, to which we
are to listen; to take the word into the mouth and ears. Fire. Choler. But it could
be any word, any black on white letters. Not icons, but indexes, in this writing. A
text will not resemble what it is about, but be caused by it, the way smoke relates
to fire. (241)

And, we might add, the way a life relates to its anti-biography, to a mystery

written in the key of its infinitely disseminating progenitor. It could be any word.

"Rosebud." "Patchen." 1 am drawn to Ulmer's thesis, and his ongoing interest in what he

has identified here, and in his review of Eric L. Santner's Stranded Objects: Mourning,

Memory, and Film in Postwar Germany, as "the problematic of mourning" (153). As will

be obvious in my mystorical (t)ale or electronic patchwork hypertext to follow (Chapter

6), my own relationship to Kenneth Patchen, revolves, in no small part, around various

mystorical associations having to do with certain shared traumatic experiences of loss and

the resulting problematic of incomplete mourning.









As we will note, Patchen's pre-war loss of his sister, Kathleen, becomes the

haunting lens through which he views the horrors of World War Two. The textual

interplay of these events in his fiction, poetry, drawings and social interactions, reveals the

continuity of what Ulmer refers to as a "discourse of mourning" present in Patchen's early

correspondence, a discourse that reveals the author's prescient awareness that his entry

into a life of language held no promise of escape from melancholy, mourning, a radical

sense of a Lacanian "lack."

In his review, Ulmer identifies a problem central both to "institutions of letters"

and "the contaminated legacy of [Paul] de Man himself," precisely "how to break out of

the defensive circle of binary logic (identification or condemnation) in order to integrate

his [de Man's] work within a usable past" (154). Such is the dilemma which surfaces in the

handling of the Patchen archive. One can, like Henry Miller, in his essay on Patchen, "Man

of Anger, Man of Light," acknowledge the subject's schizoid potentialities, rather than fall

prey, as did most of Patchen's acquaintances, reviewers, scholars, et al., to the more

reductive claims of angry negativist or romantic angel. Aware of the tendency of critics,

publishers and readers to claim for him an association with a specific political and/or

artistic camp, Patchen virtually assured his departure down the black hole of literary

anonymity by refusing to be 'formulated' and 'pinned, to borrow the Prufrockian metaphor,

to any given segment of the signifying chain. Few readers of the Patchen signifying system

recognize in the material of his biographical corpus, what Ulmer locates in the writings of

Habermas: "the need for a postconventional identity that could accept fragmentation of

life (of history as a 'pile of wreckage'), and renounce the desire for rootedness that

produced fascism" (154).










What Ulmer finds significant in Sander's discussion of"two elegiac project[s]"--

Edgar Reits's television series, Heimat, and Our Hitler, a film by Hans Jurgen Syberberg--

are the tendencies of each "to repeat the operations of blocked mourning that they set out

to overcome" (154). It is precisely this repetition, this biographical conundrum, which

Patchwork attempts to avoid. And it is through the nomadic, rhizomatic operations of the

mystorical hypertext electronic patchwork, that the "desire for rootedness," endemic in the

traditional literary biography, will be both addressed and short-circuited. My objective in

pursuing this alternative biographical route is precisely that which Ulmer suggests Reitz

and Syberberg are unable to achieve in their work: "to rescue the 'stranded objects' from

the wreckage of history" (154). It is my belief that while Patchen may have been tragically

unaware of the nature or unique accomplishments of his valiant attempt to escape the

destructive forces of a logocentric, Western patriarchal culture, his legacy of

deconstructive art, as will be experientially re-presented in Patchwork, allows for the

possibility, quoting Ulmer's appraisal of Walter Benjamin's "theory for a more effective

mourning," of "a past that did not in fact take place but that remains available as a

possibility, as alternative choices, acts that might have been, as the basis for a renewed

legacy" (154).

Figures Before the Wall

I pause for a moment to re-imagine, to re-image, this question of effective

mourning, in the form of a figure sitting before a wall. Indeed, what appears is a series of

such figures receding in infinite regression, like that of Kane caught in an instance between

two mirrors: splintered, schizoid selves. These figures, however, are each seated before a

blank wall. Patchen comes to mind first, in the several accounts of the artist as a young









man placing his chair before a blank wall, staring away from the assembled gathering. A

youthful gesture of stylish defiance, perhaps? A bodily preconfiguration of his later, life-

long back ailments: the perils of exposing his backside (and in this anti-biographer's case,

his taille/tale)? Similarly confronted with the exhausting demands and spiritual limitations

oflogocentrism, Melville signs with "Bartleby," a tale told from a tomb, the writer

reduced to scrivener, copier, who, after a prior life among "dead letters," "prefers not to"

improve upon the perfection of a blank wall.

Or are these figures the embodiment of one who is attempting, in Ulmer's words, a

"'passage through the wall' (the walls of the crypt, or of a fort) by finding a medium that

interrupts the confrontation, is part of the choral linguistics needed to write directly with

the Symbolic code" (Heuretics 233)? Hence, Patchen's reach beyond logos, to a writing in

multimedia, with color and pigment, with jazz syncopation, with the body itself Central to

this choral linguistics, as Ulmer demonstrates in his own mystery, "Derrida at Little Big

Horn," is the function of the choral word, which "operates at the micro level of language,

the way writing with the paradigm operates at the level of discourse, and provides the

inventio that gathers differences into a set" (223). Or, as suggested earlier in relation to

Plato's Timaeus, the chora as a "sieve" or "grid," that leads, argues Ulmer, not to

"verification," but rather, to "the choral zone between fate and freedom, an irreducible

zone of luck, chance, risk, and timing ... the region of invention" (240).

Seen in this light, Kane's "Rosebud," or Patchen's "Kathleen," are not the anchors

of meaning that verify, and thus, totalize in a fascistic manner, the subjects associated with

these utterances. Rather, employed heuretically, as choral words, they explore a space

beyond mourning, a space that is generative, not funeral. In such a space the misnomer of







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biography as a "life-writing" becomes not the traditional entombment of its subject, but a

writing born out of a life that truly liberates its subject. In such a biography, what is

"authorized" is not an official "reading" under the signature of a singular scholarly

authority, but rather, the authority, always already inherent in the effect of the signature,

to enter into a mystorical interplay between signatures. In short, to enter the electronic

choral space, to join the electronic quilting bee, the Patchwork.

Before turning in Chapter 5, (T)arget, to a more detailed discussion of biography-

as-electronic-mystory, and of the specific elements that will be included in the closing

chapter, the CATT(t)'s (t)ale of crazy, woven "patches" in my electronic quilt, I would

like to consider a few more examples of texts that have acknowledged the deconstructive

tendencies inherent in biographical theory and methodology, and which serve, thus, as

tutor texts in the designing of an alternative biographical practice.

More Alternative Approaches

Two particular examples, which anticipate the visual dimension that a multi-media

hypertext such as Patchwork can provide, involve "auto-biographies," each experimentally

revisiting the meaning of that genre by invoking the image of a photograph as an initial

problematizing element of the text. The first of these models, My Room: The

Autobiography of Louise Brogan, is referred to on the cover as a "Mosaic by Ruth

Limmer." In addition to the visual component, Limmer's introduction describes her choice

of the mosaic aesthetic as the means by which to bring together a patchwork, if you will,

"composed ofjournals, notebook entries, poems .. sentences and paragraphs from her

[Brogan's] criticism, portions of letters, a lecture, answers to questions short stories,

recorded conversations, scraps of paper" (xx). The list reads like the collaged contents of









a CD-Rom without, of course, the added features of multi-media and hypertexted links.

Limmer's "Introduction" is motivated by a "disconcerting photograph of Louise Brogan,

which, when "viewed from a distance" and then "close up," becomes, in Limmer's eyes

"formidable" due to the "multiple readings it projects" (xiv). It is not, of course, an image

she can, or does, re-present to her readers.

In bringing together these materials, Limmer hopes to construct the auto-

biography Brogan never wrote, while admitting neither is it the auto-biography she would

have written. She likens the readers' experience to that of entering a gallery of "self-

portraits" whose "effect should be no more unsettling than an artist's retrospective" (xxi). I

cite the example of Zimmer's mosaic and those to follow below precisely because the

inclusion of the visual element here, and in a multi-media hypertext such as Patchwork,

becomes a crucial register ofundecidability that both problematizes and enriches, in a

Barthesian sense, the play of signification associated with the image-as-signifier.

Among the examples cited by Anthony M. Friedson in his "Foreword" to New

Directions in Biography, is that of Michael Ondaatje, whose experimental, collagist texts,

such as The Auto-biography of Billy-The-Kid, 'loosens' the "barriers of form: genre,

modes, and tones," (xix) that have come to define traditional modes of'life-writing. Like

Limmer's "mosaic," Ondaatje's Billy-The-Kid combines a diverse range of materials:

poems, fictionalized docu-dramatized news accounts of the day, imagined interviews, and

the like. And, in a strikingly similar gesture, Ondaatje opens with a reference to a

photograph, in this case represented on the page by a blank white space framed in a black

border. In the "caption" beneath the blank space, the ironic prose commentary calls

attention to the un-representability of the Kid's image. "I send you a picture of Billy," the







85

caption begins, addressing an undecidable reader, "made with the Perry shutter as quick as

it can be worked. ..." (5). Obviously not quick enough to capture this image. In lines that

link this caption to that of the inscrutable Kane, Ondaatje's "reporter" speaks of

photographic experiments in which he tries to capture the essence of "bits of snow in the

air" and, with a pun on the "truth" factor of his subject, promises to "send you proofs

sometime" (5). One is reminded of a certain phenomenon of the absence of presence

which Umberto Eco soberingly associated with the signified, "death," for which, observed

Eco, there is no sufficient signifierr." It is Hamlet's "Where's Yorrick" moment from which

Tom Stoppard's character, The Player, so aptly extrapolates that death is best signified

when "someone fails to show up." It is the moment in Citizen Kane, following the

"erasure" of the sled (floating signifier) beneath the falling snow on the occasion of the

young Kane's removal from his mother (a moment of loss, trauma, a "little death"). This

moment is followed later by the flickering blank white screen after the last of the real/reel

documentary images of Kane's life are projected before the reporter/detective/viewers'

eyes. It is Melville's white whale, Bartleby's blank wall, the Wittgenstein realization of the

limitations of the reach of human expression. It is, finally, what moves Sven Bikerts to

dread in Biography and the Dissolving Self: A Note, where the acknowledgment of

contemporary engagement with the biographical subject as an image of media

identification results in a condition where "lives seem to be losing mass and dissolving into

ever more nebulous bunches of pixels" (AGNI, No 40). Since my mystorical engagement

with the Patchen corpus involves the intersection of our lives via the electronic, I am

intrigued by Bikert's fears. Indeed, one of the as yet unresolved questions in my







86

experiment is precisely the fate of both the biographical subject and the reader/electronic

scriptor of Patchwork. What is potentially lost in this space? And what is gained?

One provocative response to these questions may be found in another iteration of

the "imaginary" quality of the image as presented in the opening passage of Roland

Barthes by Roland Barthes. In his experimental autobiography, Barthes explains that the

photographs included in this 'life-writing' leave him "in a state of disturbing familiarity,"

and that in each case, "I see the fissure in the subject (the very thing about which he can

say nothing)" (4). Later, in Camera Lucida, Barthes would write, "Whatever it grants to

vision and whatever its manner, a photograph is always invisible: it is not that we see" (6).

What we do see, suggests Barthes, and what links Barthes's speculations both to

the other example provided here, as well as to my own mystorical relationship to the

Patchen corpus (I use the cadaverous metaphor purposefully), is the "Spectrum of the

Photograph" (9). Barthes's use of the term "spectrum," he explains, relates it "through its

root .. to spectacle" and "adds to it that rather terrible thing which is there in every

photograph: the return of the dead" (9)

What Barthes has to say later in this chapter about the "portrait-photograph [as] a

close-field of forces" is, I would argue, applicable to the full range of signifiers that come

into play in biographical writing, particularly a multi-media biography such as that

proposed in Patchwork. Thus I quote the passage at length:

Four image-repertoires intersect here, oppose and distort each other. In front of
the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think 1 am, the one I want others to think
I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit
his art. In other words, a strange action: I do not stop imitating myself, and
because of this, each time I am (or let myself be) photographed, I invariably suffer
from a sensation of inauthenticity, sometimes of imposture (comparable to certain
nightmares). In terms of image-repertoire. The Photograph (the one I intend)







87

represents that very subtle moment when, to tell the truth, 1 am neither subject nor
object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: I then experience a micro-
version of death (of parenthesis) : I am truly becoming a specter. The
photographer knows this very well, and himself fears (if only for commercial
reasons) this death in which his gesture will embalm me. (Barthes, Camera Lucida
13-14)

From Boswell's pre-photographic promise "to show" Johnson as an image

captured verbally in situ, to the contemporary biographical subject photographically

represented in Benjamin's 'age of mechanical reproduction, the "air of a face," in Barthes's

poetic estimation, "is unacknowledged," and the "certainty" which its presence is intended

to assure, results merely in the "arrest of interpretation" (107).

Passage Through The Wall

How then does the biographer escape the fate of thus embalming his subject, of

inducing what we might call this condition of the cardiac arrest of interpretation? Or, in

the case of the electronic computer-based biography, the micro-chip version of death, to

recoin a Barthesian phrase? How, to state the matter, as does Ulmer, in another way, to

"short-circuit the melancholy of guilt linking the Hermeneutic code to the superego"

(Heuretics, 232). To work through this impasse Ulmer turns to choreography via Barthes

and the "antithetical organization of the Symbolic code" (232). Ulmer cites the following

passage from Barthes to "describe the situation of this code," a situation, I would argue,

that similarly describes a template for an electronic crazy quilt:

The two terms of an antithesis are each marked: their difference does not arise out
of a complementary, dialectical movement: the Antithesis is the battle between two
plentitudes set ritually face to face like two fully armed warriors: the Antithesis is
the figure of the given opposition, eternal, eternally recurrent: the figure of the
inexplicable. Every joining of two antithetical terms, every mixture, every
conciliation--in short, every passage through the wall of theAntithesis--thus
constitutes a transgression: to be sure, rhetoric can reinvent a figure designed to
name the transgressive; this figure exists: it is the paradoxism. (Barthes, 1974:27)









The "passage through the wall," which Barthes associates with Antithesis and

which Ulmer likens to "the walls of the crypt, or of the fort" (Ulmer. Heuretics 233),

requires "finding a medium that interrupts the confrontation," a medium Ulmer invents

incorporating a "choral linguistics" that allows him "to write directly with the Symbolic

code"--precisely the heuretic device he employs in his mystery.

The promise of a choral writing in a hypertextual mystery is the promise, to use

Julia Kristeva's analysis of Barthes's work, of "the awakening of subjects" (Kristeva 121).

"This awakening," argues Kristeva, "occurs simultaneously with the putting into play of

the desire for a signifier to symbolize a 'real' that has fallen into the subject's past or is

questionable for society" (121). Kenneth Patchen, in this study, is such a subject.

In the early stages of my conceptualizing this project, one of my goals was to find

a rhetoric and a medium that would allow the reader/viewer/navigator of this

hypertextually quilted patchwork biography to experience the same sense of vertigo that I

had experienced while negotiating the labyrinthine pathways and multiple perspectives that

emerged from the biographical and textual materials that composed the Patchen archive. It

is Barthes who again provides a model for such a re-imagining of biography writ chorally

and "by means of a violent anacoluthon" (Barthes, New Critical Essays 49).

In his analysis of Chateaubriand's Life of Rance, Barthes explains that while

Chateaubriand "meant to be no more than [Rance's] pious biographer," the biographer is

'initiated, by way of "anamesis" and a "passion of memory" that results in an "interlacing"

in which "Chateaubriand must remember for two; whence the intermingling, not of

sentiments (Chateaubriand actually feels little sympathy for Rance), but of memories" (45)

Operating, thus by superimpositionn" as opposed to "projection," Chateaubriand "can do







89

more here than enter by force, fragmentarily, a life which is not his own" (45). The vertigo

resulting from this forced and fragmentary entrance is elaborated upon by Barthes in terms

that I believe set the stage for Ulmer's development of the mystery and for its potential

incorporation into an alternative biographical practice. Describing a series of parallels in

the lives of Chateaubriand and Rance, Barthes observes that "the Reformer's [Rance's]

thread is broken for the sake of the narrator's sudden reminiscence" (45). Note the textile

metaphor here linking Chateaubriand's textual practice to the electronic gaps and

unpredictable "patches" or webbings inherent in a Patchwork crazy quilt. Adds Barthes,

In this broken recurrence, which is the contrary of assimilation, and consequently,
according to current meaning, of a "creation," there is something unsatisfied, a
strange sort of undertow: the self is unforgettable: without ever absorbing him,
Rance periodically reveals Chateaubraind: never has an author undone himself less;
in this Life there is something hard, made up of splinters, of fragments combined
but not melted down; Chateaubriand does not double Rance, he interrupts him,
thereby prefiguring a literature of the fragment, according to which the inexorably
separated consciousness (that of the author, that of the character) no longer
hypocritically borrow the same composite voice. With Chateaubriand, the author
begins his solitude: the author is not his character: a distance is established, which
Chateaubriand assumes, without resigning himself to it, whence those reversals
which give the Life of Rance its special vertigo. (46)

Other similarities exist between Barthes's analysis of Chateaubriand's textual

practice and Ulmer's heuretics, as, for example, their shared reliance on the homonym and

other similar plays of language for the purpose of invention. In describing how in ordinary

discourse "the relation of words is subject to a certain probability," Barthes notes that such

"ordinary probability is rarefied by Chateaubriand" through the use of "cultivated gaps"

through which a "surprising substance erupts into the discourse" (47). Indeed, the

marvelously performative and generative qualities of Ulmer's own mysteries, such as that

presented in his "Derrida at Little Big Horn" or the "Beau Geste" of Heuretics, provide









similar "surprises" that emerge out of the "cultivated gaps" and rarefied probabilities at

work therein.

I find truly haunting, one of the closing passages of Barthes's essay on

Chateaubriand, a paragraph in which vertigo achieves the status of a troubling dream--a

dream in which both the subject of literary biography and he or she who reads said subject,

is implicated in the "theater of... language" and "where the soul is doomed to speech"

(53). Such marks the intersection of the forking paths of Patchen/Robitaille/Welles/Kane

and all other parties who join the quilting bee and co-sign the patchwork by virtue of their

hypertextual weaving and unweaving of the infinite strands that both compose and

decompose the endless combinatorial arrangements of the Patchwork inter-active,

mystorical biography. Again, to quote Patchen himself, "You are not reading this book,

this book is reading you" (Moonlight 202 ). Barthes writes,

Every man who writes (and, therefore, who reads, has in him a Rance and a
Chateaubriand; Rance tells him that his self cannot endure the theater of any
language, or he is lost: to say I is inevitably to open a curtain, not so much to
expose (which henceforth matters very little) as to inaugurate the ceremonial of the
imaginary; Chateaubriand, for his part, tells him that the sufferings, the
discomforts, the exaltations of this self, in short, the pure sentiment of his
existence, can only plunge into language, that the "sensitive" soul is doomed to
speech, and consequently to the very theater of that speech. For nearly two
centuries this contradiction has haunted our writers: consequently we find
ourselves dreaming of a pure writer who does not write. (53)

Such, I believe, was Patchen's dream and his consequent flight into the obsessive

dissemination of his signature across of variety of media until all that was left beyond the

tortured register of his jazz poems and the primitive, alien forms of his painted poems, was

the final anchoring of the selfs free-floating signifier in the universal language of the

scream, which, according to his wife, Miriam, signaled the moment of his passing.









I close this chapter's commentary with some reflections on two more hauntingss,

two more recent attempts to construct an alternative biographical practice sensitive to the

problematic of biographical representation and which anticipate strategies to be employed

in Patchwork. The first, Jacqueline Rose's The Haunting of Sylvia Plath (1991 ), begins

with the disclaimer that the text to follow is not a biography," that the author "is never

claiming to speak about the life, never attempting to establish the facts about the lived

existence of Sylvia Plath" (xi). Indeed, Rose asserts she has no desire "to arbitrate between

competing and often incompatible versions of what took place" (xi). What does propel

Rose's engagement with her "subject" is "the circulation of fantasy in her [Plath's] texts"

and certain "difficult ethical issues -- about the legitimate scope of interpretation" (xii).

Calling into question the notion that there is "only one version of reality," Rose sets forth,

not to certify an authoritative reading of the life and art, but rather, to explore why, and in

what sense, it can be said that: "Sylvia Plath haunts our culture" (1)

For rather than providing her readers a unified subject, "Sylvia Plath," as an easily

anchored signifier, "her presence," observes Rose, "seems to open up a rent or gap in the

world" (2). In language that evokes the reporter's dilemma in Citizen Kane and the plight

of the biographer central to this project, Rose notes,

Often, as we will see, it is technically impossible to separate Plath's voice
from those who speak for her Plath's writings and the surrounding voices
stand in effigy for her, they speak in her name. It is this effigy that haunts the
culture. This is of course true of any writer who is no longer living--in fact of any
writer, whether living or not. (2)

It is the acknowledgment of this phenomenon that prompts the emergence of an

alternative approach to the biographical subject, an approach, such as that explored in

Ulmer's mystery, that neither ignores this contamination effect, nor sees it as a limit point







92

for the generation of a creative exchange with the play of signification "authorized" by the

constellation of signifiers that move in and out of the orbit of her signature. Indeed, Rose

posits a Derridean recognition of the complicity of language itself, of the centrality of

difference and of the double space of writing, when she writes,

What she [Plath] presents us with therefore is not only the difference of
writing from the person who produces it, but also the division internal to language,
the difference of writing from itself. It is the more striking that so many critics have
felt it incumbent upon themselves to produce a unified version of Plath as writer
and woman, as if that particular form of fragmentation or indirect representation
were something which, through the completion of their own analysis of her, they
could somehow repair. (6)

This compulsion to "repair" the subject, a compulsion readily apparent in the

comments of Patchen's friends and foes alike, is an occupational hazard amongst literary

biographers. The tendency to formulate the subject according to rules of bifurcation,

Patchen as angel of darkness and light, nihilist or romantic visionary, peacemaker or

aggressive antinomian, results, according to Rose's insightful theorizing, from the failure

to recognize that:

There is no history outside its subjective realization, its being-for-the-
subject, just as there is no subjectivity uncoloured by the history to which it
belongs. The division between history and subjectivity, between external and
internal reality, between the trials of the world and the trials of the mind, is a false
one. The distribution of opposites which has relentlessly attached itself to Plath is
the consequence of a false premise, a false antagonism, from the start. (8)

In search of a paradigm, of an aesthetic, that will serve as model for a 'life writing'

that will avoid such fascist agendas, Rose takes her cue from Plath's use of the collage

form, constructed as a "set of fragments" and which, significantly, "is also not unlike a

picture puzzle or rebus, which is the model Freud offered for the language of dreams" (9).

While rejecting the reductive interpretation of this collage form as valorizing a









"disordered, fragmented, shifting subjectivity which women oppose to a destructively

linear world," Rose argues, I believe, for an electronic logic, when she credits Plath's

collage as a means to work "across boundaries, psychic, political, cultural ." (10). It is

this multidimensionality, inherent in the mystorical approach to an alternative biographical

practice, that Rose hopes to honor in her non-biography.

Yet another recent experiment inspired by the hauntingss' of its "subject" is Louis

Kaplan's Lazlo Maholy-Nagy: Biographical Writings. Kaplan's text, like those discussed

above, similarly anticipates the possibilities inherent in a hypertextual, non-linear,

patchworked, mystorical alternative biography. Kaplan's project takes its cue from

Maholy-Nagy's artistic precept of"vision in motion" which Kaplan associates with

relativity theory, and which employs certain "deformation strategies and multiple

distortions" that ultimately "provide a powerful critique of any mode of representation"

(3). Kaplan identifies in Maholy-Nagy's artistic practice "a set of operations and strategies

that acknowledge the problematic of language for the visual arts and [which] consider art

as a signifying practice," a point central to the understanding of the role of Patchen's art to

Patchwork. Indeed, I would submit that such is not only the case with Patchen's

multimedia explorations and textual practices, but that one can conclude of Patchen, as

Kaplan does of Maholy-Nagy, that:

.. this linguistic turn provides another source and resource of turbulence and
resistance to an unproblematic form of historical representation, and this, in turn,
impacts any biographical attempt to seize upon Maholy and render an account of
his life (3).

Indeed, Kaplan succinctly summarizes the premise for the current project when he

notes that "abstract art art and theories of language in the twentieth century have









problematized the representation of the (biological) object of study and the claim to an

immediate, direct, and easy accessing of the referent" (3). Having accepted this

phenomenon as a (T)arget towards which he must invent an alternative strategy of

approach, Kaplan's inventio, his "particular thrust" at this semiotically untethered subject,

"is to review how the artistic practice ofLaszlo Moholy-Nagy engages a primal scene of

signification in the staging of signature effects, and further, to consider how this signature

practice impacts upon the writing of biography" (4). Kaplan cites as an example Derrida's

Glas, in which the "double band of the signature's writing" serves generatively to produce

a writerly text out of the juxtaposition of the signatures (and their respective play of

signification) of Hegel and Genet.

In Patchwork, this Derridean practice of decomposing the proper name into the

common noun, is extended through its employment as a strategic element in Ulmer's

heuretically inspired mystory. As Kaplan points out in his study of Maholy-Nagy, this

extension of the signature event into the realm of biography also finds its prototype in

Derrida, as witnessed in his "Otobiographies" wherein Derrida "challenges the genre of

philosophical biography that is constructed upon the historicist maintenance of a rigid

separation of the life and work of the philosopher" (9). Kaplan's project proceeds

therefore by way of the "substitution of the term (Moholyean) "artist" for (Nietzschean)

"philosopher," setting the stage for a writing "in the Key of Moholy" (10). The key to this

Derridean maneuver, as exemplified, say, in his The Ear of the Other, is when Derrida

"problematizes the fixed biographical subject by lending an (other) ear to the line of

textual credit undersigned in the posthumous name of Friedrich Nietzsche on account of

the dynamics of the eternal return" (10). Similarly, as will be discussed at length in




Full Text
PATCHWORK,
BIOGRAPHY AS HYPERTEXT:
EXPLORING THE PROBLEMATICS
OF BIOGRAPHICAL REPRESENTATION
AFTER POSTSTRUCTURALISM
By
STEPHEN ROBITAILLE
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
First, I would like to thank Professor Gregory Ulmer, who chaired my dissertation
from its original incarnation as a more traditional analysis into the methods of literary
biography to its final form as a truly experimental project. I am indebted both to his counsel
and scholarship, as well as to the many years of emotional support he generously provided. 1
also owe a debt of thanks to the other members of the committee. Professors Alistair
Duckworth, Patricia Craddock and John Craig Freeman, who provided both intellectual
stimulation and welcomed infusions of confidence and support. Also, I would like to thank
Professor Paul Stacey, whose support during the writing of my masters thesis at the
University of Hartford was the original stimulus for this study.
To Miriam Patchen I extend a belated appreciation for waiting out the completion of
this study, so many years after the generous interviews, conversation and confidences.
Finally, I would like to extend my loving appreciation to my parents, Jean and Pauline
Robitaille, who introduced me to the love of literature and provided an atmosphere of
unquestionable emotional support. To my grandmother, Yvonne Daniel, I owe the gift of
faith. And I am grateful beyond words to my beloved wife, Julie, without whom this project
would lack both its jouissance and its conclusion.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ii
ABSTRACT v
CHAPTERS
1 INTRODUCTION 1
Convergences 1
Theory 3
Models/Patches 6
Methodology 9
Implications 13
2 CONTRAST: MANIFESTO FOR A NEW ACADEMIC WRITING 21
Ironies 21
Plugging in Patchen 24
The Status of the "Author" and "Subject" Will Be Re-visited and Re-
Positioned in the Electronic 25
In the Electronic There Are No Origins and No Destinations and, Thus,
"Thesis," "Truth" and the "Real" Are Reconsidered and Repositioned . 33
The New Electronic Academic Discourse Will Be Non-Totalizing 36
Electronic Discourse Will Introduce Alternative Structures and Organizational
Patterns 39
The Question of Ideology Must Be Revisited and Reconfigured in the
Electronic 46
3 (A)NALOGY: QUILTING AS HOBBY THEORY 57
Quilts and Mourning 62
Chaos Theory and the "Crazy" Text(ile) 66
From Citizen Kane to Citizen Patchen 73
Other Models for Mystoriobiography 76
Figures Before the Wall 81
More Alternative Approaches 83
Passage Through The Wall 87
Assessing Patchworking Elements for Electronic Mystoriobiography 95
iii

4 (T)ARGET 99
Introduction 99
Crash Sites 102
Conclusion 124
5 THE CATT(t)'S TALE/TAILLE 129
Introductory Screens 129
Scene/Space One: The Bedroom 130
Scene/Space Two: The Projection Room 135
Scene/Space Three: The Newsroom 137
Scene/Space: Four: The Thatcher Memorial Library 142
Scene/Space Five: The Jazz Tent 143
Other Scenes/Other Spaces 145
Final Scene/Space: The Cellar as Site of "das Ding" 146
'das Ding': This Place 'Between Two Deaths' 149
REFERENCES 154
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 158
IV

Abstract of Dissertation to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
PATCHWORK,
BIOGRAPHY AS HYPERTEXT:
EXPLORING THE PROBLEMATICS
OF BIOGRAPHICAL REPRESENTATION
AFTER POSTSTRUCTURALISM
By
Stephen Robitaille
December 1998
Chairman: Gregory Ulmer
Major Department: English
The hypertext project, Patchwork, the subject of this study, is the result of a
convergence of critical theory and new modes of electronic media at a point in time when
artists and scholars continue to debate the impact of poststructuralist and postmodern thought
on the humanities. Patchwork is an examination into the problematics of biographical
representation as witnessed in the life and art of multimedia artist and poet, Kenneth Patchen
(1926-1972).
An examination of the vast array of oftentimes conflicting materials that compose
the Patchen archive reveals a decidedly cubist subject. This study has attempted to
stratagize an alternative, experimental biographical practice capable of re-presenting these
multiple perspectives. The possibility for such an approach was inspired by George Landow's
assertion that hypertext is an ideal laboratory for testing out certain tenants of critical theory.
Following this lead, research toward the development of Patchwork then turned to the
v

writings of Gregory Ulmer on applied grammatology and heuretics, which provided the
process of inventio which came to inform the aesthetics and design principles for the hypertext
mystoriobiography.
Employing Ulmer's heuretic of the CATT(t), the various stages and chapters of this
study serve as a manifesto for a new form of academic writing. Utilizing Ulmer's heuretical
concepts of hobby theory, mystory and the "popcycle," Patchwork, in turn, takes the form of
an electronic patchwork quilt in which the embedded material of both the biographer and
biographical subject are "stitched" into a remake, or detournment, of Citizen Kane The
resulting CD-Rom becomes a virtual tour of Kane's "Xandu" here reconceptualized at Citizen
Patchen.
This attempt to experiment with an alternative, poststructuralist mystoriobiography
employs various practices introduced by critical theory which address the very elements of
biographical representation that traditionally problematize such an endeavor. This study
underscores that in the case of a subject such as Kenneth Patchen, whose life and art is fraught
with all sort of deconstructive tendencies, an experimental approach is not only justified, it
becomes, in fact, the more illuminating route to travel.
vi

CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Convergences
The hypertext project, Patchwork, which is the subject of this dissertation is the
result of a convergence of critical theory and new modes of electronic media at a point in
time when artists and scholars continue to debate the impact of poststructuralist and
postmodern thought on the humanities. Nearly a decade ago, I began research into the life
and art of multimedia artist and poet, Kenneth Patchen (1926-1972), hoping to produce an
"authoritative" biography of my "subject." Long before that decade had concluded, it
would become fashionable to call into question the very notions of textual "authority" and
a representational, unified "subject"
My own questioning of such fundamental biographical imperatives arose directly
from my first plebeian forays into the realm of biographical research. After later reading
considerable literature on the biographical method, what I discovered was hardly
considered a trade secret: literary biography demanded one be a Jack-of-all-critical-trades
(historian, psychologist, sociologist, just to name a few) and be ultimately fated seldom to
be a master of any And this at a time when the disciplines, such as those mentioned
above, were each being rendered problematic under the critical eye of poststructuralist
thought.
To make a dreadfully long story short, 1 soon became more consumed with the
problematics of biographical representation than in the writing of a "definitive" Patchen

biography. One of the many ironies inherent in my digression is the fact that Kenneth
Patchen, like numerous other complex individuals and artists, had left behind a minefield
of biographical and artistic conundrums waiting to explode in the smug face of any future
"truth" hound hoping to sniff out the essence of his life and work. I was soon engaged in
the classical struggle, inherent in such research, with how to re-present to my readers, not
simply the facts of a life, but rather, with a replication of the research process itself, with
all its labyrinthine, poststructuralist twists and turns.
While I never feared the warnings of those who predicted that such an approach
would render the biographical "author" dead, or reduce his works to indeterminable
"texts," I did fear the possibility that I would not be able to find a suitable format for
allowing the reader to determine his, or her, own reading of the life and works And, more
importantly, would I be able to find the suitable format for allowing the reader's personal
engagement, not just with the materials of the text, but with the various problematics of
handling them? It was the emergence of hypertext which served to alleviate such fears.
There are two contemporary theorists whose works themselves have been the site
of significant convergences of post-critical thought, and to whom the Patchwork project is
largely indebted. First came the publication in 1985 of Gregory Ulmer's Applied
Grammatology. which introduced its readers to the "third" or "applied" phase of Jacques
Derrida's grammatology, and in so doing, outlined a new pedagogy for the humanities, and
in particular, a humanities now largely experienced in the era of audiovisual
communications. In his next book, Teletheorv. published in 1989, Ulmer invents a genre,
called mystory. for the cognitive structures of the electronic culture.

3
Contemporaneous with Ulmer's theorizing toward a new electronic pedagogy was
the work of Brown University Professor, George Landow, on the development of a highly
interactive form of electronic text, called hypertext, which correctly proclaims to be the
ideal laboratory for the testing of various essential points of contemporary literary and
semiological theory. The results of this work were published in Hypertext: The
Covergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology in 1992. Of particular
interest to my investigation into the possibilities of biographical representation, for
example, are the ability of hypertext to embody Derrida's idea of "de-centering" and
Barthes's conception of the "readerly" versus the "writeriy" text.
In the balance of this introduction, let me briefly outline key elements of the work
by Ulmer and Landow, and suggest how these elements have shaped the methodology for
constructing Patchwork, an interactive biographical hypertext whose subject is the
problematics of constructing a subject we might call "Kenneth Patchen."
Theory
To begin, let us consider what Ulmer found of interest in Derrida that shaped, first,
his development of an "applied grammatology," and more recently, teletheory. Ulmer
points out that: "Writing, as Derrida practices it, is something other than deconstruction,
the latter being a mode of analysis, while the former is a mode of composition" (Applied
Grammatology xi). Identifying in Derrida's work the utilization of "three levels of
communication—images, puns, and discourse," Ulmer finds that what is most important for
his work" is the extent to which Derrida systematically explores the nondiscursive levels—
images and puns, or models and homophones—as an alternative mode of composition and
thought applicable to academic work, or rather, play" (xi). "This writing," Ulmer posits.

4
"is not a method of analysis or criticism but of invention" (xii). Ulmer then postulates that
this "new compositional model . . . reflects a larger program that might be derived from
Derrida's [deconstructive] texts," a program Ulmer labels "grammatology" (xii). What is
significant for the purposes of my hypertextual project is Ulmer's insistence that:
"Grammatology as composition (Writing) is not confined to books and articles, but is
addressed more comprehensively to the needs of multichannel performance—in the
classroom and in video and film as well" (xii).
Thus, grammatology offered the promise of a form of composition that would not
lure me with the same siren sounds of "truth" that doom most biographers to the rocks of
exegetical totalism or "subject" mongering. Rather, a grammatological approach might
allow me the means to invent a pedagogical apparatus that invited the reader of this
electronic text to explore the possibilities of the Patchen archive both as a field of
information and as a means of self-instruction in the possibilities and problematics of
biographical representation.
Such possibilities are elucidated by Ulmer in the Preface to Teletheory. where he
explains that his proposed genre of mystory "takes into account the new discursive and
conceptual ecology interrelating orality, literacy and videocy" (vii). Of particular relevance
to the impact of teletheory, and its specific genre, mystory, on the humanities is the fact
that it "brings into relationship the three levels of common sense—common, explanatory,
and expert—operating in the circulation of culture from "low" to "high" and back
again. . . thus providing a "translation (or transduction) process researching
equivalencies among the discourses of science, popular culture, everyday life, and private
experience" (vii).

5
Ulmer's acknowledgment of the impact of his inventio on the humanities, and his
challenge to the discipline, is boldly stated as such:
The failure of the Humanities disciplines to communicate with the public
may be due in part to the fact that what separates specialized humanists from
laymen is not only our conceptual apparatus and the discourses of the academy,
but the very medium in which we work—the printed word. It is time for the
humanities disciplines to establish our cognitive jurisdiction over the
communications revolution, (viii)
The decision to translate my own disciplinary research into the biographical method
in general, and the biographical subject, Kenneth Patchen, in particular, into an electronic
hypertext, was doubly confirmed by Landow's own acknowledgment of Derrida via Ulmer
in the opening chapter to Hypertext. The convergence of Derrida/Ulmer/Landow with
Robitaille/Patchen appears in the form of a parallel between Derrida's deconstructive
enterprise and Patchen's lifelong attempt to explore and expand the possibilities of personal
expression through multimedia art. The following observation by Landow of Derrida may
be said to echo my own experiences with Patchen's work and with Patchen as subject of a
biographical hypertext. Writes Landow:
Derrida's groping for a way to foreground his recognition of the way text
operates in a print medium—he is, after all, the fierce advocate of writing as
against orality—shows the position, possibly the dilemma, of the thinker working
with print who sees its shortcomings but for all his brilliance cannot think
outside this mentalite. (Hypertext 9)
What I am trying to suggest here is that Derrida's "groping" and the subsequent new kinds
of text that he has created are recognized by theorists such as Ulmer and Landow as
providing both the theoretical underpinnings and numerous specific terms, models and
strategies which lend themselves ideally to the composition of hypertext. I would like now
to consider several of these terms, models and strategies and briefly outline how, in the

6
chapters to follow, they will be utilized in the design and operation of Patchwork. Finally,
I will consider some of the implications for the humanities that the creation of such a
hypertext biography might pose
Models/Patches
A seminal point of convergence, one that both names and legitimizes my
Patchwork project, derives from Derrida, and after him, Ulmer's, employment of the
concept of homonymy, based on the
premise of applied grammatology . . that the cartouche principle of the signature,
directing the relation of the proper name to common nouns. . . may be generalized
to include the process of concept formation--the relation of an abstract term to the
metaphors from which the term is "derived." (Applied Grammatology. 26)
For Derrida, the concept of homonymy allowed for the possibility of creating a text,
Signsponge, generated out of the poet's name, "Frances Ponge," in which, as Ulmer
describes it, "[Derrida] treats Ponge's oeuvre as if it were written in the key of'Ponge,'"
which Ulmer sees as "one way to generalize a rhizomatic relation to the world"
(Teletheorv. 160).
Such an approach, suggests Ulmer, allows for the possibility of "celebrating what a
name founds, what may be found in a name" (161). This "signature procedure," more
importantly, "is not the naming of a determinism, but an invention, inventio. whose
purpose is to produce a text" (164). In employing such a procedure, 1 am following the
rhizomatic possibilities of the signature "Patchen" as it converges homonymically with the
textile metaphors of the "patch" as "patchwork," in both its square (printed), round
(electronic) and hobby (theory) senses. (I'll elaborate on Deleuze and Guatarri's use of
"rhizome" and Ulmer's concept of "theory hobby" in the handbook to follow.) Writing

7
thus, in what Derrida considers this third modality of the signature, one arrives at what
Ulmer, in his invention of mvstory. refers to as "metaphors or vehicles for a poetics of
invention, a memory system or mnemonics available for thinking about any matter
whatsoever" (165).
What I want to think about, therefore, are the following. For example, what would
a hypertextual biography look like if it functioned not only in the traditional sense, as a
repository of archival information concerning an artist's life and creative practices, as well
as an attempt to reconstruct some semblance of a "self in the humanist sense of the word,
but rather, to use Ulmer's description of Signsponge. as a "theoretical elaboration of the
poetics of generating the text," a work, in other words, that is "at once the thing and the
model" (Teletheory 156-7). Identifying Derrida's project as otobiography. which "mixes
the modes of critique and fiction," Ulmer, in his incorporation of otobiography to his
genre, mystory, sets out to demonstrate, as in "Derrida at Little Big Horn: A Fragment,"
"the possibility of applying literary devices to the practice of academic discourse" (161).
How then, for example, might I incorporate into my hypertext, a mystorical
"patch" which brings into relation (via multichannel, hypermedia capabilities of this new
electronic medium) such mystorical levels of discourse as the "personal (autobiography),
popular (community stories, oral histories or popular culture), [and] expert (disciplines of
knowledge)" (Teletheory 209)9
In Patchwork, for example, the personal, or autobiographical level would link,
again by way of homonymy, "Patch/Patchen" with "Robitaille/robe(text-tile) and
"taille'Vtailor, thus generating various electronic webs, or rhizomatic linkages between my
familial association with the New England textile industry, exposure to my father's career

8
as an engraver of other persons' signatures and the translation of this autobiographical
link, with my "minor vita," as Ulmer calls it "(alluding to Deleuze and Guatarri's minor
literature, minor science)," into the present context of electronic biographical
"patchworking" (Strategies 17). Additional autobiographical links would include my first
traumatic awareness of death via electronic transmission of certain images over my
grandmother's television, and the resurfacing of this memory as a recurrent phenomenon in
my problematic relationship with biographical representation in general (i.e., explication as
annihilation) and in my fetishistic relationship with the subject "Kenneth Patchen," in
particular (e g., Patchen's own preoccupation with death, the disaster of his sister's fatal
accident, his violent art and his own association with the 'death of language and the author'
phenomenon). In trying to understand the relevance of Patchen's "story" to my own
cultural formation, such factors need to be reckoned with, for it is in this mystorical
convergence of disasters that the reader/co-author of my hypertext discovers that
exploring an author's corpus is, in the present instance, to enter an electronic crypt, where
the Freudian theory of melancholia and mourning results, as Derrida suggests of Nietzsche
in Glas. with Nietzsche's unsuccessful mourning, and the deferral of his signature (Derrida,
The Ear of the Other. 56-59).
How, similarly, might the reader/re-creator of this hypertext generate his or her
own mystory in such a fashion as to consider the following relationships and
convergences: a) the archival material available for the construction of "Kenneth Patchen"
as a biographical subject, b) a miming of Patchen's own poetics and avant-garde practices
as a means by which to compose a critical literary biography of his life Step C would then
combine "a" and "b" with the three levels of discourse inherent in mystory to create an

9
open ended "Patchwork" conceived of not as a "text of justification," (the biographical
urge to codify a life), but rather, one "of discovery" intended to "help the composer
articulate the ground of invention" (Ulmer, Applied Grammatology. 211).
In positing the link between postructuralist thought and hypertext, Landow cites
the work of a diverse range of theorists whose concepts are embodied in both the design
and application of this new electronic medium From Barthes's "galaxy of signifiers" to
Foucault's notion that the "'frontiers of a book are never clear-cut,"' the parallels between
computer hypertext and critical theory are many and significant. For the purposes of
Patchwork, it is my intention to create an electronic crazy quilt, where individual
electronic "patches" whose signatures read Derrida, Barthes, Ulmer, Foucault, Lacan,
Kristeva, Deleuze, Guatarri, Robitaille et al (the Patchwork quilt is, like Borges's
labyrinth, infinite in size) will, in a manner of speaking, be woven into the larger quilt, each
"patch" representing a "reading" into the problematic of transforming the infinite and
chaotic galaxy of signifiers that might signify "Kenneth Patchen," into that which, in the
manner of Lacan's objet petite a, is marked by a "lack" that renders it always something
both more and less than wholecloth.
Methodology
In linking my project to that of Ulmer's and Landow's theoretical explorations in
hypertext, I wish to further extend an experiment which Ulmer states in his Introduction to
Heuretics "derived from Hayden White's challenge to contemporary historians to reinvent
historiography using the arts and sciences of today as models in the same way that the
nineteenth century historiographers drew upon the models available to them in their

10
period" (xii). My objective, then, is to reinvent biographical methodology using a model
provided by Ulmer in Heuretics.
Heuretics. which Ulmer defines as "the branch of logic that treats the art of
discovery or invention," has as its goal "not only to reproduce historical inventions" but
"also to invent new poetics" (xii). In introducing his analysis of the "story of invention,"
Ulmer cites the significant contributions of major figures whose theories and practice have
shaped a long "tradition of the discourse on method" (8). The list includes among others:
Freud and Marx, Dziga-Vertov and Eisenstein, Wittgenstein and Barthes. Ulmer singles
out for special consideration, "André Breton's invention of surrealism as a sample of the
generative approach to writing theory" (5). Given Patchen's role as a central figure in
American surrealist and avant-garde literature and art, I am drawn to Ulmer's extension of
surrealism, and his inquiry into how "might an invention such as surrealism, rooted in a
particular historical and cultural moment, be simulated in the heuretic experiment9" (6).
Robert Ray, crediting Ulmer's influence, provides an excellent series of examples of the
application of surrealist strategies for the purpose of doing theory. These strategies will
inform the creation of Patchwork.
In addressing the question of surrealism's re-simulation in the heuretic experiment,
Ulmer identifies Breton's "The Manifesto of Surrealism" as "belong[ing] to the tradition of
the discursive method." Furthermore, explains Ulmer
A comparison of Breton's manifesto with the various classics of method
reveal that they tend to include a common list of elements, which are
presentable for mnemonic reference by the acronym CATTt (Ulmer,
1991b). The CATTt includes the following operations:
C = Contrast (opposition, inversion, differentiation)
A = Analogy (figuration, displacement)
T = Theory (repetition, literalization)

11
T = Target (application, purpose)
t = Tale (secondary elaboration, representability) (8)
In Heuretics. Ulmer considers how the above operations are manifested in Plato's
Phaedrus. In summarizing Ulmer's explication ofCATTt in Plato, I will briefly outline, by
analogy, how I will employ the CATTt in the construction of the hypertext. Patchwork.
Indeed, Ulmer's CATTt is to serve as the blueprint for my hypertext project, which has as
its objective testing out this invention (CATTt) on the subject of biography. Thus, each of
the chapters to follow will focus on the five elements of the CATTt.
"The theorist," explains Ulmer, "begins by pushing away from an undesirable
example or prototype, whose features provide an inventory of qualities for an alternative
method" (8). In Plato's case, he "defines his own position in opposition to that of the
Sophists" (8). In Chapter 2, "Contrast," the undesirable example or prototype is the
traditional methodologies employed in the composition of the literary biography with its
attendant qualities of verisimilitude, linearity, teleology, logocentrism and theories of
authorship and subjectivity, to name a few.
In his discussion of analogy, Ulmer (citing Buchler) states: "Method becomes
invention when it relies on analogy and chance" (8). Adds Ulmer, "If methods tend to be
practiced as algorithms, their invention is heuristic . . "(9). Plato's analogy for inventing
the dialectic is "between proper rhetoric and medicine" (9). In the case of Patchwork, as
discussed in Chapter 3, "Analogy," the analogy will be between the theory and craft of
quilt-making and the application of critical theory to a hypertext biography.
The "theory" component of the CATTt requires that "the theorist generate[s] a
new theory based on the authority of another theory whose argument is accepted as literal

12
rather than a figurative analogy" (9). In each case, according to Ulmer, a "new theory will
include in one register a literal repetition of a prior theory, modified, of course, by its
interaction with the other elements of the CATTt" (9) In Chapter 4 I will import various
elements of post-structuralist theory, particularly as they have informed Ulmer's
grammatalogical extension of critical theory into the realm of electronic media More
specifically, as mentioned earlier, I wish to experiment with Ulmer's concept of theory
craft as the means to join the theory component (T) with Analogy (A)/Quilt-making and
Tale(t)/hypertext biography.
Since it is the intention of the theorist to have "in mind an area of application that
the new method is designed to address" and since this target "is often identified in terms of
an institution whose needs have motivated the search for the method" (9), I would like to
target the flourishing institution of literary biography, whose received conventions and
traditional methodology have only, of late, begun to be deconstructed and problematized.
As Ulmer summarizes, "Target supplies an inventory out of what is lacking or missing, or
out of the excess of a new situation for which no practices yet exist" (9). Thus, in Chapter
5, "Target," I will speak to that inventory of what would appear to be lacking or missing
in terms of present institutional practices and suggest how, through the incorporation of
mystory, the CATTt's tail/tale (linking homonymically to Robi-taille. French for
tailor/stitcher/text-tile worker) provides out of the excess of this situation, a new practice
of biographical writing and research
Finally, according to Ulmer's CATTt, "the invention, the new method, must itself
be represented in some genre," ideally, perhaps, in the form of "a dramatization of the
theory of knowledge appropriate for the human subject envisioned by or presumed by) the

13
Theory" (9). Since, in the case of Plato's dialogues, his "discourse on method did what it
said (was a showing as well as a telling," in Chapter 6 I will perform an experiment that
presents a series of such parallel gestures. 1 will explore Landow's premise that hypertext
is the ideal laboratory for testing out certain tenets of post-structuralist theory. By
extension, I will employ Ulmer's practice of theory craft and mystory as the means by
which to test out the theory (T) of what becomes of biography when written in this new
discourse and medium.
Implications
Many scholars continue to agree with biographer Leon Edel's assertion that
biography "has not yet articulated a 'methodology'" (Edel 4-5). Others, such as Hugh
Brogan, insist that the attempt to construct a ". . . cubist biography would be impossible,
for it would too patently impose the writer's design on the subject's life" (Brogan 104).
Implicit in the concerns expressed in, say, a review of the year's New York Times' reviews
of biographies, is the implicit notion that were a methodology to be discovered and agreed
upon, it would fulfill what Brogan asserts is the "aim at accuracy of detail and
completeness of outline," and would avoid at all costs "the ingenuities of deconstructing
critics" (104, 110).
What those of us who have begun to explore the possibilities of collaborative
writing have discovered, and there is much here for literary biographers to consider, is
that, to quote Barthes's S/Z: "this T which approaches the text is already itself a plurality
of other texts, of codes which are infinite (Barthes 10). In thus conceptualizing the
Patchwork hypertext as an electronic quilt, whose nodes of intersection recast our notion
of'self as, in Jean-Francois Lyotard's terms, "a fabric of relations that is now more

14
complex and mobile than ever before" (15). abandoned is the central executive authority
whose signature "author-izes" a reading of the "subject."
In short, one of the major implications of this study is to respond to the assertion
that a non-traditional, post-structuralist hypertext literary biography must be, by virtue of
its definition, devoid of "meaning" and incapable of bringing the reader into some
significant and relevant awareness of both the literary "subject" and the means by which
that "subject" might, in fact, be "constructed." In addition, this project explores the
possibility that such new methodologies, operating as a generative, rather than merely
analytical and hermeneutic, force are, thus, capable of producing "readings" of a life and a
body of literature which, albeit untethered from the leash of an author-izing agent, thesis
or theme, are, nonetheless, rich in their conveyance of the scents (if not "sense") and
traces (if not "truths") of the literary "subject."
Even as I write these introductory remarks, an article in this month's Harper's
(June 1996) by Paul Roberts entitled "Virtual Grub Street" is mounting the same critical
attack on hypertext as a medium as Brogan has made against the potentialities of a
"cubist" or deconstructive biography. I welcome the timely appearance of this article as it
makes the sort of no-holds-barred critique the implications of which the Patchwork project
is intended to address. Appearing as it does in a widely read and respected magazine,
Roberts's article will no doubt confirm the suspicions and fears shared by many who see
critical theory's sinister affinity with hypertext as a further assault on literacy and
knowledge. Thus, I would like to quote at length from Roberts's article and suggest, in
advance, how the Patchwork handbook to follow will take into consideration his various
concerns.

15
In what amounts to the confessions of a guilt-ridden and over-paid free-lance
writer of "info-nuggets" and "pap" for CD-ROM companies, Roberts begins by concluding
that: "Brevity and blandness: these are the elements of the next literary' style" (71).
Regrettably, it would seem, Roberts has yet to encounter some of the evocatively poetic
hypertexts represented say by the Eastgate catalog of writers, to mention one obvious
source. As to the charge of brevity, Roberts makes it clear that his measure is that which
he, in quotes, refers to as "normal" writing, in which "the writer uses the paragraph as a
bridge between specific points" (75). The problem, which remains surprisingly out of
Roberts's view throughout his critique, is that his assignments have been largely info-based
encyclopedic CD-ROMS which, by design, are caption oriented, and do not ask of the
composer to invent new syntactical and rhetorical strategies in which each page, or "link,"
can be imaginatively juxtaposed with other pages to constitute, not the "expendability"
Roberts laments, but a plurality of readings resulting from a plentitude of perspectives and
a logic which seems to leave Roberts out in the cold
A key paragraph in Roberts's article links the pitfalls of hypertext to academe,
critical theory, and the writers of avant-garde literature. Since it serves as a sort of
compendium of the sources I will cite as positive influences on the creative use of this new
medium, I cite it in full:
Nonlinearity might seem like little more than channel surfing, but its proponents—
ranging from wealthy software gurus to tenured English professors—champion it
as an authentic yet functional postmodern form, a critical break from the age-old,
rigidly linear format of the printed page. Nonlinearity, we're told, redistributes
narrative power to readers. It undermines the tyranny of the Author Its branching
"intertextuality" is a much closer match to the brain's own networks. Indeed,
advocates believe that the nonlinear text, or hypertext, literature can at last give
full expression to the kinds of unconventional discursive impulses that folks like
Joyce and Barthes were forced to convey via the grotesquely obsolete linear

16
format. For that matter, non-linearity provides a kind of running critique of the
linear format, laying open the myth that "stories" can be told only one way, in only
one direction, and toward only one conclusion: toward "closure." With
nonlinearity, as with thought itself, there is no closure, only additional links. Thus
nonlinearity, to its proponents, is the beginning of a new, more honest and
complex literature--and, perhaps, the beginning of the end of an old one. "The
printed book . . . seems destined to move to the margin of our literate culture,"
writes Jay David Bolter, a Georgia Tech professor of communication and one of
the more articulate exponents of electronic texts. "Print will no longer define the
organization and presentation of knowledge, as it has for the past five centuries."
(73)
This paragraph, like the article as whole, is itself deserving of some deconstruction.
For example, "that stories can be told only one way" is not a myth, nor is it an accurate
reading of the historical record. As we will observe in a later chapter, there is considerable
precedent for nonlinearity and lack of closure in the print tradition, the midrash of
rabbinical exegesis serving as just one prime example. More fundamentally, while the
human inclination for narrative closure is indeed a persistent one, its ubiquitousness is
matched only by the equally human urge to defy borders, to resist interpretation, to recoil
against too easy a sounding of one's "story," as does Hamlet in this most proto-typical of
self-deconstructing texts. Consider Borges, with his labyrinthine narratives, as further
evidence that a period does not sign the close of a narrative, however linear its path may
seem to be
Neither Joyce nor Barthes, despite their "unconventional discursive impulses," can
be credited with the limitations Roberts claims are inherent in the style of CD-ROM
composition. The worlds they have created and the delight their texts have brought to
legions of readers, recommend their work as models for writers of hypertext.
I am particularly delighted by one of Roberts's most revealing statements, one that
concludes, ironically enough, with a textile metaphor, thus "linking" hypertextually and by

17
way of negative example, Roberts's hypertextual endeavors to my own. He begins by
underscoring the virtue and intellectual vigor of his preferred writing practice with the
apparently mindless and conspicuously feminine ("knitting") craft of hypertext:
Conventional, linear writing can be a gruesome task. Beyond the lame pay and the
feast-or-famine job cycle, the pounding of disparate facts and feelings into a tightly
structured narrative is like digging a ditch across a concrete parking lot. By
contrast, squirting out blurbs is a cakewalk, a lower-order process managed, I'm
sure, by the same lobe that handles heart rate and knitting. (75)
Roberts's statement, aside from the sour grapes and occupational anxiety
associated with his having harnessed his literacy skills to shifting paradigms, is replete with
damning evidence of the very sort of unified, complexity reducing, singularly plotted
narrative toward which literary biographers occasionally set forth and from whose siren-
sounded waters few return unhaunted and deconstructed Indeed, should the biographer
set his or herself a "conventional, linear" path, the going will indeed be "gruesome,"
though this hardly serves as a valorization of the chosen path. One wonders how the facts
(not to, mention the reader) suffer at the hands of so much "pounding." As to the
metaphor of "digging a ditch across a concrete parking lot," I am reminded of a Zen koan
which raises the puzzle: how to extricate a rare, last of its species bird who has grown too
large to be removed from the Ming-quality vase into which it had earlier been placed? The
answer: "Poof! It's out!" In other words, to research the record of conundrums which the
subjects of literary biography, via their behaviors and artistic work, have left behind, not to
mention those conundrums imposed apriori by the ideological bent of the biographer, is to
watch so many birds be placed in so many vases, thus setting into play the necessary
violence, the "pounding" of the interpretive pick-ax

18
As regards Roberts's "knitting" reference, the parallel he would appear to be
drawing is that between the sadly commercialized and mundane encyclopedic CD-ROM
assemblages represented by the dreary sample entries he provides on marine science facts
and, say, knitting in its most basic, wool-mitten manifestation. Circumstances have not
permitted Roberts to become the Melville of cyberspace, and 'suppressed of voice' he is
reduced to a "blurbmeister," unable to create his "extended symphonic rhythms" (75).
Knitting, however, when employed in the craft of quilt-making, is no "lower order
process" but a craft, as we shall see below, with a rich signifying tradition and a
significant body of theoretical discussion. Quilt-making's multimedia content employs a
diverse range of text and visually based literacies and, like hypertext, is storied in nonlinear
"patches" that are often linked associationally with little emphasis on a narrative thread or
closure.
Roberts fear of the lack of control extends beyond his subject matter to that which
he can exert over his readers "I realize," he writes, "1 can't make my "linear" readers read
what 1 write in the order that 1 write it." Sadly, he is forced to admit: "Linear readers skim.
They jump ahead, looking for interesting parts, then refer back for context--behaving, in
some respects, like the multimedia user." One can hear exasperations of the parental
rebuke directed at potential (mis)behaving readers. Such lack of trust is magnified in the
closing lines of the paragraph
But the nonlinear interactive process undeniably accelerates this haphazardness.
The nexus of creativity is shifted from the writer to either the producers, who lay
out the text links, or the readers, who make use of those links. (77)

19
Several issues are suggested by this passage. First, were Roberts the producer here, could
he envision a reconfiguration of the subject matter (i .e links) that would allow him to
utilize the unique attributes of this medium in a creative and expressive way? Second,
might Roberts allow for the development of a poetics that invites reader response, which,
while not determined by a controlling narrative or thesis, nonetheless generates reader
interaction, intrigue and interpretive impulses9
Feminists have argued with considerable force of proof and conviction that such
rage for control is a masculine trait. Further evidence presents itself in the New York
Times Book Review (June 9, 1996), where Molly Haskell writes in praise of Barbara
Grizzuti Harrison's An Accidental Autobiography. In contrast to Roberts's anxiety over
the "haphazard" element in composition, Molly Haskell cites as praiseworthy
compositional strategies based on nonlinear pathways to communication and knowledge.
Writes Haskell, "This pattern of recurrence and repetition, this sense of memory as a
Heraclitean river in which each step is both familiar and new, is the guiding principle for
Barbara Gurizzuti Harrision ..." (9). Drawing specific attention to Harrison's use of
'"nonhierarchical"' associations of memory," Haskell describes the author's inclusion of a
"vast number of subjects ... in chapters arranged alphabetically," a strategy similar,
perhaps intentionally so, to that employed by Roland Barthes in his own autobiography,
Roland Barthes Since Barthes's work serves as one of the models for Patchwork that I
will discuss below, I read with interest Haskell's congenial response to Harrison's text:
This strategy rejects straightforward developmental biography for something akin
to the more relaxed tone of the personal essay, but without even the topical or
thematic unity that genre usually has—and to which Ms Harrison, a past master, is
no stranger. The nearest literary convention would be the commonplace book, or
what she describes as a scrapbook with "different photographs of the same

20
emotional memories." In fact, her book is like a collage or a mosaic: clusters of
language portraits so richly detailed, and palpable with color, fabric and texture,
that they are closer to the visual arts than to conventional prose narrative. (9)
One does, indeed, envision such a text as a CD-ROM In the hands of another
writer and hypertext artist such as Michael Joyce, such biographical material would be so
configured as I will discuss below. Hypertext, conceived of as an electronic patchwork
quilt, as a text(of)tile(s), is a mosaic or collage of multimedia material whose patches are
juxtaposed into patterns suggested by the memories storied in the patchwork-materials in
concert with unique responses and "readings" of these materials by the quilt-
maker/hypertext reader into whose hands these materials land.
Should you one day find yourself weaving your way through however many
"patches" then constitute my Patchwork quilt, my hope is that you will discover for
yourself, in the archive's endless dissemination of words, paintings, recordings, interviews,
interpretations, reviews, assaults, castigations, deconstructions, and mystories, some node
of intersection, or to paraphrase Robert Coover, "the allure of the blank spaces of [my]
fabulous network" (Landow 105). And having arrived, as only whoever you think you are
could have arrived, you will discover the eerie sensation, the biographer's nightmare, as
feverishly declared in Patchen's Journal of Albion Moonlight: "You have read many books.
This book is reading you" (202).

CHAPTER 2
CONTRAST: MANIFESTO FOR A NEW ACADEMIC WRITING
The alphabet is euphoric: no more anguish of "schema"," no more rhetoric
of "development," no more twisted logic, no more dissertations!
-Roland Barthes in Roland Barthes
Strength lies in improvisation. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.
-Walter Benjamin in "One Way Street"
The question must be: What are the equivalents at the level of institutional
practices and personal behavior of the convergence of electronic technologies9
-Gregory Ulmer in "One Video Theory"
Ironies
We begin our journey to the CATTt's (t)ale, the hypertext quilting of a post-
structuralist anti-biography of Kenneth Patchen with a consideration of those elements of
traditional literary discourse against which this project is to be contrasted. In Chapter 5 we
will (T)arget literary biography principally as that institutional practice which our
experiment in hobby theory is attempting re-create.
While the resulting Patchwork antibiography will be ahistorical in a Foucautean
sense, there is indeed a history to the emergence of hypertext and to its status, in
Landow's terms, as the ideal laboratory for testing out certain formulations of post¬
structuralist literary theory As we will discuss throughout and witness in the resulting
(t)ale or de-monstration. Patchwork, the life and art of Kenneth Patchen provides, by way
of homophony and the play of the signature effect, an analogy to the problematics of
historiography, biography and representation, which have emerged out of the history of
21

22
communication from the oral tradition to what Ong refers to as the present period of
secondary oralitv or the post-literate, electronic age.
We will examine certain "effects" of Patchen's writing practice that include a
significant compendium of issues raised by the emergence of new discourses now taking
shape in cyberspace via hypertext and CD-Rom computer generated technologies.
Implicated here are the relationship between these technologies and post-structuralist
theories that have influenced and shaped them and that may be further extended and
explored by virtue of their invention.
A central irony that frames this enterprise lies at the heart of the mystorical thread
that links my auto-biography to that of Patchen's bio-graphy. As we will later note,
Patchen's anti-novelistic prose, his explorations in concrete poetry, poetry-jazz,
experimental type and graphology, and collaborations with John Cage and other avant-
garde artists, embodied as an artistic corpus the very sorts of deconstructive practices
which marked the scars, wounds, gaps and fissures that plagued his physical body and
psyche for most of his life. These deconstructive elements return, like the Freudian
repressed, or the Lacanian objet petit a, as that which haunts my present attempt to re¬
present this art and life.
Additional ironies abound Patchen's anti-art, with its carnivalesque coilaging of
hybrid discourses, and its schizoid meeting of ideological and social practices, resulted in
mixed and oftentimes conflicted reviews. And his long-standing impulse not to be
"named" (despite, paradoxically, the ubiquitous presence of his trademark signature), or to
be categorized as "Beat" or "proletarian," or any other such typology, as well as his
general disdain for the academic critical enterprise of literary interpretation, has virtually

23
erased his name from the literary register and the indexes of contemporary anthologies.
Nonetheless, as I will both argue and hope to de-monstrate in Patchwork, that which is
represented by a 'virtually' endless chain of signification, by the floating signifier of
"Kenneth Patchen" as woven in multiple patchwork variations at the site of a "great
quilting," as Nietszche's site of "multiple exits and entrances," constitutes the "living-on"
of the subject in a manner fitting the boundless nature of the consciousnesses that are
patched together in his name.
And yet the reality of Patchen's legacy continues to haunt my present work in the
form of the devalued currency which the name "Kenneth Patchen" represents to academic
research and publishing 1 pursue an interest in a marginalized subject and 1 desire to do
so, following Derrida in Signsponge. in the key of Patchen, which is to say, represent the
play of Patchen's signature in the form of a new academic writing that links the effects of
his signature to the deconstructive elements potentialized in hypertext and multimedia
We proceed, then, left-handedly toward the CATTt's tale by first reviewing
Landow's claim for hypertext as a laboratory for an experiment such as Patchwork.
Having established the basis for legitimizing hypertext as a valid and useful inventio for an
alternative academic discourse, I will extend the argument specifically to literary
biography-as-hypertext in Chapter 5 ("Target"). In the two bridge chapters, we will
examine the importation of quilting as the hobby theory of choice for our experiment
(Chapter 3, "Analogy") and the extension of the 'quilt' metaphor into the realm of
electronic 'quilting', or hypertexting (Chapter 4, "Theory").

Plugging in Patchen
What the Patchwork project represents is an argument by way of de-monstration
for a new form of academic writing. The groundwork for this project has its roots,
rhizometrically speaking, in the past and in the future Indeed, we might suggest that this
endeavor marks a return from the future anticipated by the past.
The problems of biographical representation which I began to consider in the early
stages of my research on the life and art of Kenneth Patchen included a vast compendium
of issues which have long plagued those disciplines and discourses which attempt to deal
with such notions as "representation," "fact," "truth," "origin," "subject," "author," and the
like. Historiography, anthropology, linguistics and literary theory, not to mention the
sciences themselves, have all been scrutinized and re-considered in light of the shifting
paradigms and new technologies of this century. It should come as no surprise, therefore,
that biographical method should be similarly interrogated and that institutional discourses
in literary biography should not likewise be re-considered and potentially re-configured
While later chapters will consider the impact directly upon literary biography
theory and practice, what I would like to review in this chapter are some of the essential
concepts listed above ("representation," "fact," etc.) and how these concepts might be
taken up and re-positioned in a post-alphabetic, electronically based literacy. In short,
what aspects of my work on the Kenneth Patchen "archive" and its translation into a post¬
structuralist multimedia biography are most directly impacted by critical theory9 And how
might what Ulmer and others refer to as electronic thinking, or "videocy," the cognitive
domain of Ong's period of "secondary orality," inform the shaping of this new academic
discourse If, as Landow suggests in Hypertext, multimedia and computer based texts are

25
the ideal lab for testing out certain aspects of critical theory, how, uniquely, might the
generative powers embodied homonymically in the subject "Patchen," provide a tutor
corpus (I use this term to reference both the literary and physical bodies of my "subject")
for such a study?
The manifesto to emerge from this chapter is thus constructed as a series of
contrasts to traditional academic discourse as practiced in the dissertation, the gate-
keeping discourse, if you will, for the profession 1 wish to highlight specifically those
elements of this discourse which are relevant to Kenneth Patchen, my "subject" (the term
itself an issue here), and to consider how these elements are impacted by the importation
of this "subject" into the realm of the electronic.
The Status of the "Author" and "Subject"
Will Be Re-visited and Re-Positioned in the Electronic
The details of Kenneth Patchen's art and life are an exemplar, if you will, of a long
record of discussion concerning the nature of the subject in relationship to writing that
dates back to antiquity. My interest in Patchen, virtually from my first encounter with his
work, the anti-novel. The Journal of Albion Moonlight (1941), stemmed from the meta¬
levels of his hybrid discourse, what in Bahktinean terms would be its carnivalesque or
dialogic qualities and in a Deleuzean sense, the schizoid nature of its narrative "You have
read many books," Albion tells us at one point in the randomly structured journal, "But
this book is reading you" (xxx). While I can appreciate the levels at which this comment
might have been directed toward his readers (or, as 1 will later argue, himself), the
ramifications of such a line in terms of a signifying "play" of meaning both in his work and
life are significant, I believe, beyond even the conscious intention of its scriptor

26
If one adds to the self-consciousness of such lines, other qualities of the text, such
as the use of parallel discourses printed in the margins of the book, the constant shifting of
genre in the novel from Albion's tale, to journal entries, direct address to the reader,
concrete poetry and the use of visual images as an element of the text's graphical structure
and mnemonics, one begins to appreciate how this work, like others in the Patchen
oeuvre, are linked both to the emergence of the book out of a pre-alphabetic tradition and
to the return of the illuminated text as an electronic hypertext and multimedia.
What is essential to the premise of the Patchwork project is the critical linking of
such aesthetic issues as the appearance and structure of the work with the formation of the
"self," the "subject-who-writes," of the "author." The scattering effect of Patchen's
Moonlight has implications not just for the schizoid narrator, but also for he who signs the
book, the biographical Kenneth Patchen, as well as he who signs the book in his name, the
reader of the text That was the message in the bottle that surfaced in the fomenting
waters of this biographer's dreams and ruminations. Just how is it that the 'floating
signifier, "Kenneth Patchen," inscribed as a ludic play of multimedia impressions,
typographies, drawings, jazz poems, etc., not to mention, from the biographer's
perspective, the free-play of associations witnessed in his nonfiction writings and the
proliferation of his image as a pop icon—contributes to the determination of meaning one
might attach to the writer's name or signature9
In his letter dated February 5, 1930, written during his freshman year at the
Andrew Micklejohn Experimental College to Isabel Stein, a former member of his high
school poetry club, Patchen muses on the arbitrary nature of the alphabet and toys with
the notion of randomly reassigning the designation of these signs. Having failed to cross a

27
"t," Patchen begins a reverie in which he decides, "I will use my own letters," and
substitutes hieroglyphic like signs as an alternative code of communication. All the while,
Patchen has been juxtaposing a parallel reverie in which he questions the status of the
"snow" outside his window: "If you know what that means ["that" referring to his
hieroglyphics] you could explain to me why it must snow on the ground today in order to
have the ground covered with snow while the ground was covered with snow yesterday
and it did not snow." The snow imagery here is reminiscent of the snowy flight into
solipsism in Conrad Aiken's "Silent Snow, Secret Snow." Patchen closes by suggesting to
Isabel: "Perhaps some day I will make a study of snow."
As I will later explore in the mystorical patch of the Patchwork quilt, Patchen's
"snow" may be linked by way of the mnemonic system of Patchwork with the snow scene
in Citizen Kane, in which snow functions as a moment of erasure for our twin subjects,
Patchen/Kane. Earlier evidence for Patchen's anxiety about a life committed to language as
a means of escaping a depressed youth can be found in his October 4, 1929, letter to
Isabel in which he speculates with some fear and trepidation at the implications of
dedicating himself to the possible self-destructive, or self-deconstructive, task of
depending on language as the means by which to express, indeed, to create a less pained
self. He informs Isabel that
Because of illness I did not start to school until I was eight years old and it was
while I was sick that I had things read to me I lived in an imaginary world and I
believe sometimes that I never really left that world ("Letters")
Aware of critical nature of his decision, Patchen writes, "But say I shut out
everything in my life but the pursuit of creative poetry and in the end find that it does not
satisfy me then I'd feel that 1 had ruined my life for a silly whim " As we will explore by

28
way of the inter-textual weave of Patchwork. Patchen's concerns were well-founded, as
indeed, there would be no borders between the "inside/outside" of his physical/literary
corpus. The moment of prophecy arrives in the same letter, when Patchen reveals: "There
is and has been something lacking in my life and I can't place it, I hate sentimental things
and modern poetry seems to be nothing else and I'm at a loss "
That Patchen would establish himself as a writer of some of the mid-century's most
popular love poems, while winning similar acclaim for his dark, surrealist anti-novels and
absurdist prose, may be viewed less as a point of irony, but rather, as an expression of the
carnivalesque, schizoid nature of a multifaceted subject-in-language, a "self more written
upon than written whose scattered patches we will "assemble edit" and re-edit via the
apparatus of our biographical hypertext.
These early letters, with their strange markings, their phantasms of snow and
shadow, their prescient foreshadowings of a haunting lack which no manner of expression
could suture, could make whole, these "dead letters" are the ghost in our machine Indeed,
I would make the claim they are the ghost which our hypertext lab (if Landow and others
are correct) is best suited to negatively re-present by way of the de-centered, fragmented,
non-totalizing, disseminating qualities of the medium In fact, "medium" here might be said
to operate in its more "occult" "left-handed" fashion as that which marks a "lack," the
"traces" of a subject conceived of as that which we invent as much out of desire, as out of
a need to logically explain.
These letters are an heraldic moment in the poet's lifelong series of etchings on the
mind's wall. I believe they reenact at the personal level what Havelock and Ong have
charted in their writings as that critical passing from mythology to philosophy, from an

29
oral to a written culture. As Ulmer reminds us of this moment, the texts of Jacque Derrida
"similarly already reflect an internalization of the electronic media, thus marking what is
already at stake in the debate surrounding the closure of Western metaphysics" (Ulmer,
Applied 303). While, according to Ulmer, Derrida's program "represents a deliberate
choice to accept the new paradigm," in Patchen's case, 1 would argue the choice was less
willed, less intentional, but certainly no less productive of a 'body' of work that is at once
deconstructive, marginalized and pre-electronic.
And central to this program is the issue of the "signature" as a prominent feature of
Patchen's art, the effects of which "signature" are to be related to the notion of the
displaced or dis-remembered 'self, particularly as the 'self or 'subject' might be displaced in
the electronic paradigm.
The self as "an invention of Socratic vocabulary" becomes "textualized" by Plato
and thus there emerges the "personality" of the person using the language, and this
language, suggests Havelock, becomes "that level of theoretical discourse denoted by
logos (Havelock, 1964). It is at this critical moment, argues Havelock that "a cleavage
opened up, between theoretical discourse and the rhythmic narrative of oralism: the
philosopher against the poets" (114). The conclusions which Havelock draws from this
critical moment are central to the formation of my manifesto. Havelock writes,
The linguistic symptoms of this radical shift away from oralism, which has ever
since underlain all European consciousness, occurred in a proliferation of terms,
notions, and thoughts and thinking, for knowledge and knowing, for
understanding, investigating, research, inquiry. (115)
The "symptoms" may be said to be largely felt in traditional academic discourse. It
may also be said to characterize the life and work of Kenneth Patchen, seen as a valiant

30
explorer into the realm of this cleavage, and as a "potentiality," or doubly victimized
"subject" of a research method (i.e , literary biography) itself contaminated by these very
symptoms.
Our strategy for acknowledging the "linguistic symptoms" to which Havelock
refers, for avoiding an academic apparatus that according to Derrida "consists of a mouth
speaking-lecturing—an ear listening, in a literal way, a hand writing—the cultural machine
of note-taking," is to change the apparatus (Ulmer, Teletheory. 160). Ulmer's contribution
here is to propose extending "the intellectual senses—hearing and sight, knowledge from a
distance—by means of audio-visual technologies" (Ulmer, Applied. 160). Ulmer cites
Derrida's practice of otobiographv. a "mixing of the modes of critique and fiction," as
"demonstrating the possibility of applying literary devices to the practice of academic
discourse" (160). Citing Derrida's Signsponge. a text "in which [Derrida] treats Ponge's
oeuvre as if it were generated in the key of Ponge," Ulmer explains how such an
experiment "includes one way to generalize a rhizomatic relation of the text to the world"
(160). The existence of a "Patchen Homepage" on the web, consisting in July 1998 of
some 110 links, or "threads" to use the textile metaphor associated with our hobby theory,
suggests that the Patchwork quilters are already at work, the web already expanding
rhizomatically in cyberspace What will it mean to try and find "Patchen" in this endless
chain of signifiers9 What will it mean to "quilt" biographically with these "patches," in this
space, collaboratively9
What Derrida finds in Ponge's discovery of the "science" of the signature is a
production that celebrates "what a name founds, what may be found in a name" (161).
Such a discovery leads Derrida to the conclusion that simply affixing a signature to the

31
end of a book does not constitute a "signing." The proper name "survives, lives-on," by
virtue of a "transformation from singular reference to general concept." It is the proper
name's "aleatoriness," its randomness and iterability, that interests Derrida. The proper
name "becomes meaning once again, of limited range, once it is invested with semantic
content. It starts to reenter the framework of a general science that governs the effects of
the alea” (118,120). In our case, the proper name "Patchen" reenters through the
framework of the hypertext quilt, a Derridean sifter of endlessly disseminating material.
The mystorical thread here links, via puncept, Derrida's alea, which he finds "in the wing
(aile) of "Hegel" to Robit-aille. two who may be said to have refused to sign. While Ponge
singles out Hegel as a philosopher who refuses to sign, Ulmer, in Teletheory. suggests "he
may stand in for academic writing as well" (163 T). What remains consistent throughout
the employment of Derrida's signature procedure "is not the naming of a determinism, but
an invention, inventio, whose purpose is to produce a text" (164).
Ulmer concludes his discussion on this subject with a paragraph that so
comprehensively and succinctly summarizes the protocol for the Patchwork project that I
cite it in full:
The places of memory in mystory, appropriating the signature, are organized into
an alternative way to gather materials into a set—a sweep through the encyclopedia
following the rhizome of the proper name as inventio. The signature may be a
direct transposition of the proper name into a common noun (antonomasia), or it
may be indirect, marked by a rhythm, a cadence, a fragmented image, a partial
scene, a phrase, that repeats in the discourse, relating words to things and resulting
in an intelligible collection The story resulting from this series of juxtapositions
constitutes a writing machine. The things generated in the third modality of the
signature, that is, represent the model, the metaphors or vehicles for a poetics of
invention, a memory system or mnemonics available for thinking about any matter
whatsoever The signature helps find the images of wide scope that make up the
imagination (the image-repertoire) of the subject of knowledge, to be used in
further research. (Teletheory 165)

32
What Ulmer presents here is an inventio for conducting and composing research in
hypertext using the logic of the electronic. In the case of Patchwork, the proper noun
"Patchen" is transposed into the common noun "patch" or "patching," terms shared by
both the craft of patchwork quilting and the electronic "patch" of editing Other
connotations become available to the biographical/mystorical enterprise such as to "patch"
a tear or rip in a garment, or to cover with a patch, either to conceal or mend "Robitaille"
is similarly linked, "rob(e)" suggesting the possibility of a "garment" or a "thief', and
"taille," a reference to "tailor," to one who works with text(ile) materials, to a tax
(collector?) Or, possibly, the reference might be to "tale" or "tail," reminding the
biographer, thus, to cover his tail/tale, check his flanks, to be aware of a tale that is text-
ualized, composed of many threads, "patched" from seemingly unrelated materials. I will
discuss the relevance of the textile metaphor at length in Chapter Three ("Analogy") as it
relates to quilting as hobby theory.
Ulmer's observation that the signature procedure, and the "models," "metaphors,"
and "vehicles" author-ized by this procedure constitute a "poetics," and that the resulting
"collection" of items, signs, and materials that cluster in the subject's name are
"intelligible," is a claim which I hope to confirm in Patchwork Hypertext, whether in the
context of CD-Rom multimedia or a Homepage on the WWW, does not have to be
vacuous, the empty set that Roberts decries in his confessional article. Those who come to
the "Patchwork quilt" and follow its threads, will, 1 believe, reflect upon the implications
of the "patches" in their various juxtapositions, patterns and ludic associations, thus
extending the possibilities of literary biography beyond the mere archiving of facts in a
linear progression along a singular narrative and teleological path Here they are more

33
likely to encounter the delirium, the madness that haunts a life, any life, and to enter the
blissence, the carnilvalesque and schizoid nature of "realty" in which the "truth" of the life
becomes less important than workings of desire, of jouissance, of "living-on" in a
(cyber)space beyond borders, in the "between" of the folds of a fabric of traces.
In the Electronic There Are No Origins and No Destinations and. Thus.
"Thesis." "Truth" and the "Real" Are Reconsidered and Repositioned
The new academic discourse based on electronic logic is to be contrasted with a
more traditional system of exclusion whose "will to truth," argues Foucault, "rests on an
institutional support: it is both reinforced and renewed by whole strata of practices, such
as pedagogy, of course; and the system of books, libraries; learned societies in the past and
laboratories now" (55 Y). How do I escape the snares of this 'willed truth, the "obscenity
of questioning" which, as Slavoj Zizek notes, "lays open, exposes, denudes its
addressee . . . invades his sphere of intimacy" (179). It is a fear, as I will illustrate in my
examination of the methodology and problematics of literary biography (Chapter 5,
Target) with which every biographer, every author of a thesis-bound dissertation, must
reckon
Zizek, in his study on The Sublime Object of Ideology, turns to Lacan for a
response to this issue In his summary of Lacanian thinking, Zizek writes of this "'object in
subject' which causes the presumptive knowledge" that, indeed, in Lacanian terms, "the
Real cannot be inscribed, but we can inscribe this impossibility itself, we can locate its
place: a traumatic place which causes a series of failures" (172). In terms of our translation
of this understanding into the realm of the electronic, a "web" site which serves both as a
Derridean 'sifter' of disseminating traces and of the Lacanian Real, we should, suggests

34
Zizek, be able to "encircle the void place of the subject through the failure of his
symbolization, because the subject is nothing but the failure point of the process of his
symbolic representation" (173).
In his commentary, Zizek draws a distinction between the Foucaultian notion of
the subject "conceived as an effect of a fundamentally non-subjective process" and on
Foucault's informed analysis of the "different modes by which individuals assume their
subject-positions" and Lacan's notion of the subject. In the Lacanian perspective, explains
Zizek,
... if we subtract all the richness of the different modes of subjectivity, all the
fullness of experience present in the way individuals are "living" their subject
positions, what remains is an empty place which was filled out with this richness,
this original void, this lack of symbolic structure, is the subject, the subject of the
signifier. (175)
What is critical for the purpose of "quilting" a Patchen Patchwork is an
appreciation that "any surplus of signification masks a fundamental lack" (175). As we try
to re-construct our subject out of the numerous and diverse materials left in the wake of
our subject's passing into and through our shared constellation of'floating signifiers, a
constellation of material with which we are now signing in his name, we will be reminded
by the logic of our electronic "quilt" that any such signifying practice is a failure and what
inevitably remains is "a lack," a "void opened up by the failure is the subject of the
signifier" (175).
The happy paradox as Zizek sees it, and which is relevant to the "productive"
nature of our enterprise, is "how this negative, disruptive power, menacing our identity, is
simultaneously a positive condition of it" (176). Zizek provides as an example of the
'negative of the negative, that of the Jew "experienced as the embodiment of negativity, as

35
the force disrupting stable social identity ..." (176). But the " 'truth' of anti-Semitism,"
explains Zizek,
is, of course, that the very identity of our position is structured through a negative
relationship to this traumatic figure of the Jew. Without reference to the Jew who
is corroding the social fabric, the social fabric itself would be dissolved. In other
words, all my positive consistency is a kind of "reaction formation" to a certain
antagonistic, traumatic kernel: If I lose this impossible point of reference my very
identity dissolves. (176)
Just who is reading this text, and to whose peril and dissolution9 As I shall expand
upon in later chapters, the implications of Zizek's reading of Lacan are critical to the
restructuration of new academic discourse on the 'impossible' subject, Kenneth Patchen,
seen as a de-monstration of the corrosive effect of a social fabric woven in the form of an
electronic quilt. Such a "quilt" will be, by virtue of its unique logic and construction, a text
in which " antagonism is always a kind of opening, a hole in the field of the symbolic
Other, a void," writes Zizek, "of an unanswered, unresolved question . . ." (177).
In my later examination of various "patches" in the Patchen archive, we will note
how our bio-graphical "subject" shared the status of the Jew, the antagonistic and
problematic Other. In categories ranging from anti-novelist to anti-American, from the
agency of disorder in art to self-deconstructive back patient, attempts to locate the "Real"
nature of Patchen's tortured corpus have resulted in his being delegated to the status of a
Jew wandering in the margins of contemporary art and literature The truth of the "Real"
which Patchwork attempts both to acknowledge and incorporate as its poetics is the
possibility of a double victimization which a more traditional academic discourse on such a
life would engender For as Zizek points out: ". . as soon as the subject is caught in the
radically external signifying network, he is mortified, dismembered, divided" (173). Were I

36
to follow the lead of those who have previously attempted to 'formulate' my "subject," like
Eliot's Prufrock "stuck upon a pin," I would nail the same nails into the same "sign" of his
cross.
Writes Zizek, "The subject is always fastened, pinned, to a signifier which
represents him for the other, and through this pinning he is loaded with a symbolic
mandate, he is given a place in the subjective network of symbolic relations" (113). Such a
network is the thesis-framed, linear narrative of the traditional literary biography. The
question before us is what happens when that network becomes a CD-Rom hypertext with
a World Wide Web interface, a text without closure or singular author-ship sensitive to
the effects of chaotic "strange attractors" whose seemingly minor and unpredictable inputs
can yield equally unpredictable and often significant outputs9
The New Electronic Academic Discourse Will Be Non-Totalizing
Patchen's open-ended anti-novel. The Journal of Albion Moonlight, 'concludes'
with the lines: "There is no way to end this book. No way to begin" (313). Lacking the
close punctuation of a period, the structure of this text, with its multiple discourses,
beginnings and endings, repeats a pattern found throughout the Patchen corpus, in which
both the art and the physical person of the author resisted totalization, unification. From
the refusal to assume a singular identity in a specific artistic niche (e g "Beat poet") or
political (e.g., "Socialist") stance, to the surgery defying attempts to fuse his fissured
spine, every aspect of the "corpus" is marked by lines of fracture and scarification.
In writing of Bahktin's relationship to Joyce, Brandon Kershner suggests. "Bahktin
is not, except in patches (my underline), systematic" (20). In composing Patchwork in the
'key of Patchen, the attempt is to engage the subject by way of de-monstration, by

37
employing the systematics of electronic logic which is constructed in patches. The
resulting text, like Patchen's Moonlight, has no end and fulfills the Bahktinian promise of
an 'outlaw language' (20). Adds Kershner, ". . . the thrust of [Bahktin's] ideas is generally
to deny the desirability or even the possibility of erecting totalizing systems. For him, there
is no 'last word’" (20).
We find another precedent for such resistance to finality in the tradition of
rabbinical interpretation. In her chapter on "Some Philosophical Aspects of the Rabbinical
Interpretive System" in The Slavers of Moses. Susan Handleman outlines a tradition of the
open, non-totalizing text the practice of Rabbinical interpretation and midrash, to the work
of Barthes and "Reb" Derrida. In so doing, she cites Edward Said's Beginnings in which
Said discusses four "conventions" to be found in Freud's Interpretation of Dreams where
the psychoanalyst "avoided certain specific textual conventions which the classical novel
had employed" (78 Handleman). Handleman employs Said's analysis "as a way of
contrasting Rabbinical concepts of narrative and interpretation with classical notions (78).
Handleman notes of Said's analysis of Freud, that Freud's "non-mimetic
approach . . . does not follow linear progression but leads to multiple and endless
interpretations," a characteristic that Handleman finds is also "true of Rabbinical
interpretation" (79). Handleman observes in the "colloquy of voices in the Midrash or
Talmud" that the "interpretive process is collective" and she acknowledges the extension
of this tradition in the work of Barthes and Derrida She cites the following lines from
Barthes's The Pleasure of the Text, lines that echo those cited earlier from Patchen's
Moonlight. "The text," writes Barthes, "is a fetish object, and this fetish desires me" (23).

38
"This book is reading you," writes Patchen, a line that haunts the biographer and
implicates the reader in the "production" rather than the "representation" of its meaning.
Again, I cite Handleman's analysis of Barthes, since the language quoted here is so
suggestive of the logic and structures of electronic discourse and of Patchwork :
In Barthes's view, reading should be in the nature of a step-by-step commentary, a
process of "decomposition" of the text, a "systematic use of digression," "a cutting
of the text into contiguous fragments, "manhandling the text, interrupting it": that is
to say, playing with its infinite possibilities. (80)
Such, of course, is Barthes's practice in S/Z. his "decomposition" of Balzac's Sarrasine. It
has also been Derrida's practice, as, for example, in Glas. where the influence of chance
and necessity produced by homophony or homonymy, result in a similarly non-totalizing
paradigm that, as Ulmer suggests, "automatically locates all equivocality" (47 AG).
In its critique of Derrida's deconstructive practice, Ulmer's analysis is attentive to
concepts and terminology which reference the electronic dimension of Derrida's discourse,
and, by way of extension, to the textile metaphor which "patches" Derrida to Patchen to
Robitaille. Derrida's "différance," a "sameness which is not identical" is characterized as a
"movement" that is "virtual," like the "moire effect in op writing" (47 AG). In Glas.
Derrida writes, "Each cited word gives an index card or a grid [grille] which enables you
to survey the text. It is accompanied by a diagram which you ought to be able to verify at
each occurrence" (Glas. 223). Ulmer notes that Derrida names this movement in Glas " 'la
navette’ (shuttle, referring to the 'to and fro' motion which bears this name in weaving,
sewing, and transportation)" (47). I will discuss in further detail the relationship of
Derrida's language and practice as it relates to Patchwork in Chapter 3 (ANALOGY). In
brief, what interests me here is Derrida's productive employment of the textile metaphor

39
seen as "the interlacing stitching of sewing" (47). The invention that is thus generated by
the signature "Patchen" informs the design of a new' discourse written in the 'key' of his
name, one that takes on the problematics of inside-outside, of totalization, of traditional
academic discourse, representation and the very certainty of one's own name.
Electronic Discourse Will Introduce
Alternative Structures and Organizational Patterns
It has already become apparent that organizational structures associated with print
and the 'square' versus the 'round' book are being replaced by structures informed and
shaped by the logic of emerging computer technologies. This moment has not arrived
without its critics and legitimate grounds for concern. Paul Roberts's expressions of
concern cited in my Introduction, the fear that the navigable structures of hyper-media are
controlling and reductive, are widely felt. Such paths, writes media theorist, David
Rokeby, "range from the latticework of a regular and highly interconnected network, to
the single serial path of a narrative" (138). Metaphors for these paths range from that of
the "map" to the "labyrinth." But the merits of following such hyper-media pathways can
be viewed as both liberating and constraining. As Rokeby warns his readers,
It's a mistake to conclude that by presenting a variety of perspectives, the artist is
being objective and disinterested. Through the selection of the specific points of
view offered, how they are linked together, and the design of the method of
navigation, the artist holds significant power, which is enhanced by this apparent
objectivity. (140)
The challenge, therefore, of Patchwork, an investigation into the problematics of
biographical representation after post-structuralism, is to identify structural models that
incorporate, as part of their invention, something other than the limited and dictatorial
paths from factotum to factotum that characterize most commercial and many

40
academically based CD-Roms. Such models should not be a mere replication of the
teleologically influenced maps which guide the viewer through an information field
towards certain thesis-centered and authorized "truths."
Rather, we should be identifying those metaphors, models and strategies which
Landow argues are inherently linked to post-structuralist thought and which render hyper¬
media an ideal lab for their exploration. This means, frankly, extending invention beyond
that demonstrated by such Landow inspired projects as the Dickens Web, which functions
largely as a open-ended compendium of Dickensonia, and which does not, by way of its
design or poetics, either radically reposition its "subject," or transform its subject into an
agent for the production of a new text written, say, in the "key of Dickens."
I have already referred to a number of such structures that date from antiquity and
of the development of the illuminated texts of medieval tradition. To appreciate the
relationship of these texts to the logic and organization of electronic discourse is to
recognize the centrality of memoria, the power and functioning of memory, in these
textual systems.
In The Book of Memory; A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (1990), Mary
Carruthers writes that "Memoria meant, at that time, trained memory, educated and
disciplined according to a well developed pedagogy that was part of the elementary
language arts—grammar, logic, and rhetoric" (7). In this discipline material was
"divided . . . into pieces short enough to be recalled in single units and to key them into
some sort of rigid, easily reconstructable order" (7). Carruthers reports that such discipline
depended upon what Hugh of St. Victor, writing in the early twelfth century, identified as
"the mnemonic utility of manuscript page layout and decoration" (9).

41
Patchen's multimedia art has been variously recognized and praised for celebrating
the spirit and poetics of the "illuminated text," or, to use Patchen's own term, an "art of
engagement." To which I would add, to "engage" the senses in a variety of discourses and
artistic media. From the attention to typographic detail in the early prose and poetry, to
the later "painted poems," concrete poetry, silk-screens, and poetry jazz, whatever one
deemed to be the "subject" of Patchen's discourse, this "subject" found expression in a
multi-form and polyvocal corpus, further evidence, if you will, of Patchen's unbounded
signifying practice.
Writing of the diversity of such a signifying practice in medieval literature,
Carruthers comments,
I want to distinguish very carefully here between pictorial" and "visual." Memories
could be marked by pictorial means; the ancient system described in Rhetorica ad
Herennium was precisely that. But pictures are not the only sorts of objects we can
see. We also see written words and numbers, punctuation marks, and blotches of
color; if we read music, we can see it as the notes on the staff; if we play the piano
by ear, we can see music as the position of our fingers. Moreover, we can
manipulate such information in ways that make it possible to bring together or
separate in a variety of ways, to collate, classify, compose, and sort it in order to
create new ideas and deconstruct old ones. (18-19)
Carruther's above description of information "manipulation" and composition
production is strikingly similar to that of hypermedia, and to the poetics and electronic
logic to be utilized in Patchwork. Carruther's research shares with Gregory Ulmer's
"applied grammatology" the understanding that, to quote Carruthers: "All mnemonic
organizational schemes are heuristic in nature They are retrieval schemes, for the purpose
of inventio or 'fmding'"(20).
To employ such an inventio in the context of an electronic post-structuralist
hypermedia biography will be the extended subject of the chapters to follow. It is here, in

42
this chapter’s manifesto for a new electronic academic discourse, that 1 wish to establish
the historical basis for such a project. And Curruther's commentary, particularly her
opening chapter on "Models for the Memory," assists us in tracing these roots.
Among the other observations she makes relevant to this study are the following.
Memory images, recalling Aristotle's analysis, can function "like an imprint in us [and] can
also cause us to remember 'what is not present'" (23) With regard to the issue of totality
and representation, Carruthers points out that: "Partialness is also a characteristic of
memory" (25). Concerning the role of homophony, she adds, "The earliest Greek memory
test we possess, a pre-Socratic fragment called Dialexis. relies upon a sort of visualized
homophony, in its advice about memorizing for both 'words and things'" (28).
And in a critical passage, Carruthers links the remembering process to that of
computer based technologies "The ancients and their medieval heir," suggests Carruthers,
"thought that each 'bit' of knowledge was remembered in a particular place in the
memory . . ." (28). She adds that
The words topos, and locus used in writings on logic and rhetoric as well as on
mnemonics, refer fundamentally to physical locations in the brain, which are made
accessible by means of an orderly system that functions somewhat like a cross
between the routing systems used by programs to store, retrieve, merge, and
distinguish the information in a computer's memory, and postal addresses or library
shelf-marks. (29)
Until recently there has been no serious attempt to import the logic, rhetoric and
grammar of the electronic into the realm of nonfiction and academic discourses. It has
been the hybrid discourses of Derrida, Foucault and Barthes, for example, that have
inspired tele-theorists such as Gregory Ulmer, in a series of works beginning with Applied
Grammatolouv. and more recently in Teletheory and Heuretics. to mine the possibilities of

43
critical theory as the source for a new poetics for hypermedia. Two of Ulmer's major
inventions, mvstory and the CATTt, referred to in my Introduction, serve as structural
agents for Patchwork.
Robert Ray, Ulmer’s colleague in the Media Studies Program at the University of
Florida, has recently published The Avant-Garde Finds Andy Hardy (Harvard, 1995), a
work that provides, perhaps, the best and most thorough attempt to redefine and rewrite
academic discourse—in this case, by "reinventing film studies." In declaring that "film
studies is dead," Ray postulates that he is "not," in fact, "against the application of
sophisticated semiotic, ideological and psychoanalytic methods" in academic writing, but,
argues Ray, " We know in advance where such analysis will lead, and thus even the most
skilled of such efforts will achieve very little 'information"' (6). Ray's corrective to the
"automatic pilot" of such discourses is "to consider, as an alternative practice, "that branch
of the humanities which, since the nineteenth century, has functioned as the equivalent of
science's pure research: the avant-garde" (10). Citing the examples of Apollinaire, Walter
Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Marcel Duchamp, André Breton, John Cage and others, Ray
builds upon a rich historical precedent for "evidence of the avant-garde-as- research" (13).
Of equal significance for my study is Ray's linkage of the avant-garde-as-research
to the work of Jacques Derrida, by way of Eric Havelock, Jack Goody and Walter Ong,
whose works examine the transition from "the alphabetic to 'cinematic' or 'electronic"'
(14) Ray's stated purpose for 'writing' about Andy Hardy is "to provide a means for
bringing film criticism into some sort of relationship with communications technologies
revolutionizing everyday life." Ray emphatically adds, "... far from being useless, the
experimental arts amount to a 'workshop for potential criticism'" (16).

44
What Ray proposes for film criticism is analogous to that which Patchwork
proposes for biographical criticism as another form of academic discourse.
Acknowledging that "artists don't have to explain what they do," Ray argues that
"although Andy Hardy must at first give way to the theoretical accounts which will re¬
present him . . . experiments involving the Hardy movies bring him increasingly forward"
(17). This is a significant claim and one I would similarly make for Patchwork. In the latter
case, the materials include those of literary biography as applied to a multimedia artist.
Thus, my experiments, such as testing out Ulmer's "CATTt," (itself an avant-garde
intervention cited by Ray in his own study), involve the application of the avant-garde-as-
research to the full range of the biographical archive: prose, poetry, multimedia art,
correspondence, reviews, scholarship, etc. In so doing, Patchen, the biographical
"subject," is brought forward, not in the traditional sense of "unified" or "Real," but,
rather, as the agency of a production author-ized by the circulation of his signature
through a series of electronic "patches."
Structurally, Ray serves up a range of forms, the fragment, "writing's equivalent of
the photograph," being the most recurrent. Using models of the fragment, such as
Barthes's anecdotal Roland Barthes, and John Cage's experimental (and anecdotal)
lectures, Ray organizes his text in such a fashion, recognizing, as he does, say, with Cage,
that this structure's "determined discontinuity, non-teleological structure, and obvious
strangeness . . . represents its subject matter" (22). Patchen's own collaboration with Cage
in the 1942 Columbia Radio Workshop production of Patchen's "The City Wears a Slouch
Hat" provides this project a more immediate legitimization for the importation of Cagian
poetics into the Patchwork design.

45
Other surrealist interventions with the Andy Hardy material include the reliance on
recombination and juxtaposition, and, after Benjamin, "the flaneur's . . preference for
drifting" (43). From Barthes, Ray imports the use of a fragmented structure in the form of
lexias. "arbitrary blocks" that I will call "patches" in my quilt. These, suggests Ray,
function as "mini-essays ('divigations')" and result in "a new kind of critical writing" (97).
What Ray finds so interesting about, say, Breton's surrealist Manifesto, or
Barthes's S/Z. is "how ill prepared most academics are to deal with departures from the
conventional essay" (98). To demonstrate his point, Ray models Chapter Six, "The
Alphabet," after Roland Barthes, Barthes's auto-biography consisting of a series of
alphabetized fragments. What Ray adopts from Barthes, Barthes, we are told, found in
Netzsch's "aphoristic books" which, Ray observes, are "so perfectly adapted to what Gilíes
Deleuze has called 'nomad thought'" and which is structured in the mode of a "digression"
(121).
Nomadic thought, of course, "anticipates the nature of cyberspace," and for Ray,
this becomes yet another justification for its importation into film studies. Is this not, Ray
argues by way of illustration, the poetics of Godard's Two Or Three Things 1 Know About
Her9 Such "poetic thinking [which] ..regards every object as a potential metaphor" is
familiar to every user of computer software And yet, laments Ray, "film criticism has been
slow to adopt to this method" (123). Ray, however, is not so reluctant, and thus he
develops his chapter with a series of such digressive entries.
If one conceives, therefore, of a crazy quilt composed in such a fashion, woven of
"patches" of materials circulating nomadically through the cyber-archive, being sifted
through the Derridean dissemination machine, coming under the influence of "strange

46
attractors," and endlessly recombining into new quilts bearing the signature effect of their
"subject," one begins to imagine how such a textual practice might depart from the
structure of the traditional academic essay.
That such works should be viewed by their critics as lacking structure, as
exhibiting a troublesome disorder, would come as no surprise to this writer, after
examining the record provided by the Patchen archive. For as we will note below, the
archive contains sufficient evidence of the extent to which Patchen's critics either often
dismissed his seemingly disordered art out of hand, or, as in the case of his supporter and
lifelong publisher, James Laughlin, attempted, for the good of some supposed "order," to
rewrite The Journal of Albion Moonlight. Patchen's most deliberately disordered and
acclaimed work
Thus, before concluding this chapter's manifesto for a new academic writing, let us
examine one further dimension of our alternative discourse, that being the relationship
between structure, disorder and ideology. To write in the "key of Patchen" will necessitate
that we incorporate into the composition of our "quilt," recognition of the manner in
which the "order" claimed for, or demanded of, the works "signed" by the "subject" of a
literary biography are, to quote Machéry, "merely an imagined order, projected on to
disorder, the Active resolution of ideological conflicts, a resolution so precarious that it is
obvious in the very letter of the text where incoherence and incompleteness burst forth"
(Machéry 194).
The Question of Ideology Must Be Revisited and Reconfigured in the Electronic
Among the many factors that recommend Kenneth Patchen as a tutor subject for
the purposes of a deconstructive anti-biography are the circumstances that serve as a case

47
study of what Althusser calls the Ideological State Apparatus (ISA). The influence of the
ISA begins with "an academic or schooling practice which defines both the conditions for
the consumption of literature and the very conditions of its production also" (Balibar 84).
From cradle to grave, Patchen was enmeshed in the workings of the ISA.
Patchen, the noted "poet-of-the-steelworks," was, from his first youthful days of
reading, a regular patron of the Warren, Ohio Library, built, ironically, with funding from
the Carnegie steel empire. It was here that the young writer sought his escape from the
depressing conditions of his steeltown existence, conditions caustically recalled in his
poetic recounting of the soot-covered fate of his "Orange Bear" (Collected Poems 384).
Sequestered in the halls that industry built, Patchen read his Blake and began to view his
slag infested environs through the industrial haze of Blake's "London".
By the time Patchen had reached Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a new poetic voice
in the late 20's, he had already become one of the recognized representatives of American
proletarian verse. At Random House, publisher Bennett Cerf was looking to publish just
such a poet and Patchen was offered his first book contract That first collection of poems,
Before The Brave (19331. with its symbolic "red" cover, included the poet's most
ideologically conspicuous language, a veritable lexicon of socialist jargon, which the poet
immediately attempted to distance himself from, together with the tags and reputation
associated with being a poster boy for leftist political causes.
We will return to this and other of Patchen's ideologically influenced works in
more detail below. What I wish to note here is why the question of ideology is important
to a post-structuralist biography and how the treatment of the ideological component of
such a biography will be reconfigured and repositioned in an electronic discourse For

48
what I wish to avoid here is the hermeneutic trap of trying to "fix" my subject in a given
ideological position or category. Given that Patchen was the victim of such analytical
dissection in life, I do not wish to once again resurrect his corpus, only to further assign
him away to the taxonomies provided by disciplinary authority. And so I search for models
of alternative approaches to this subject of knowledge. Specifically, I search for models
that can be adopted to the structures and logic of an electronic "patchworking."
I will introduce four such theorists and their models here that will later be
amplified and de-monstrated in the chapters below. These models include Althusser's ISA.
Bahktin's notions of dialogism. polyphony, carnival and ideologemes. Ulmer's teletheory
and its representation in mvstory. and Zizek's ideological quilt.
From Althusser's writings in "Freud and Lacan" comes the suggestion "that the
human subject is decentered, constituted by a structure which has no 'center' either, except
in the ideological formulations in which it recognizes itself (Kershner 188-89).
Surrounded as he was by warring ideological forces trying to lay claim for "Patchen" in
their name, Patchen, like so many other victims of literary biography, has always been at
the mercy of, to use Althusser's term, the "unconscious." Which is to say "unconscious" to
the fact that their conception of the "subject" arrives in the form of "structures" of the
unconscious which are seldom understood as such, but which nevertheless shape their
minds and their attempts to anchor the floating signifier, say "Kenneth Patchen," at some
fixed point along its path of circulation.
As Althusser points out in his essay, "Ideology and the Ideological State
Apparatus," this process works in its "disguised" and "symbolic" form through popular
forms of electronic communications such as radio and television, usually with the effect of

49
valorizing the dominant ideology in control of these very technologies. Thus, our goal is
to redirect these technologies, to effect a detournment in which the potentials of
deconstruction and dissemination inherent in hypermedia and cyber-discourse, unravel the
weave of our collected "patches" and expose the manner in which their variously
ideological and "structured" meanings may have been "knotted" by other patch-workers
up and down the signifying chain.
Thus, Althusser's understanding of how various repressive apparatus are complicit
in the ideological formation of the subject, and of the linkage of this process to popular
communications technologies, underlies the present study, in that one of the aims of this
experimental anti-biography is to expose, like the undraped Oz, the workings of this
apparatus. In so doing, we will explore the ability of new, computer-based discourses to
demystify ideological content and reveal the workings of the "political unconscious."
The importance of the works of M.M. Bakhtin for this study derive from his
concepts of diologism and carnilvalization. In importing Bakhtin for this project, I am
following the lead of R. B. Kershner, whose study, Joyce, Bakhtin, and Popular Literature
(University of North Carolina Press, 1989) has shed considerable light on the use of
popular literature in Joyce's works. While I would not claim for Patchen the significance
and influence which Joyce represents for this century, I would argue that the usefulness of
the theoretical approach provided by Bakhtin, and the similarity of stylistic and ideological
elements in the works of Joyce and Patchen, recommend a Bakhtinian approach to our
study.
Like Joyce, Patchen's prose and poetry exhibits what Kershner, citing Bakhtin,
describes as "a great variety of conflicting variants—languages of officialdom, vernacular,

50
occupational jargon, technical, literary, and sub-literary, all polyphonically resounding"
(15). Identifying "heteroglossia" as the "condition of our existence," "dialogism," suggests
Kershner, "is the necessary mode of knowledge in such a world, a form of relationship
between or among different languages that, like dialectics, defines a sort of logic" (16)
The logic identified here may be said to be found in electronic, hypertext discourse
and in the collaborative composition potentialized in hypertext and cyberspace. The novel,
and particularly the sort of anti-novel represented by Patchen's The Journal of Albion
Moonlight, fulfills the description of "metagenre" that, explains Kershner, "overtakes (or
'novelizes') such other genre as romantic poetic narrative, because it is dialogical can take
no final shape, but is in a process of continuous metamorphosis" (17). To write, thus, of
Patchen in the 'key of Patchen' would be to import such a poetics—a poetics already
anticipated by, and inherent in, electronic multimedia discourse.
And there is, as suggested earlier, an ideological component to Bakhtin's thought
In "Marxism and the Philosophy of Images" Bakhtin writes that: "The logic of
consciousness is the logic of ideological communication, of semiotic interaction of a social
group If we deprive consciousness of its semiotic, ideological content, it would have
absolutely nothing left" (Bakhtin 13). If we take this notion into consideration in the
context of literary biography, particularly that woven as a patchwork of juxtaposed and
polyphonous, fragmentary voices, the resulting text would be less the mirroring of a
univocal or "dominant voice," but rather, as Kershner so ascribes to Bakhtin, "a polyphony
of voices of opposition, voices of local dominance and local opposition, voices inserted at
odd angles to the major debates . . ." (21) In short, a crazy quilt—anti-biography as
hypertext.

51
If Althusser provides us with a model of the ideological apparatus from which our
post-structuralist biographical subject is to be freed, and Bakhtin a model for the
biographical subject conceived as a dialogic, polyphonous voice speaking in
"ideologemes" from the pages of carnivalesque texts, where might we now turn to situate
such conceptions in an electronically configured logic and discourse9 Gregory Ulmer's
development of teletheory. which he refers to as "the application of grammatology to
television in the context of schooling," has led to his invention of the mystorv, a "specific
genre . . designed to do the work of schooling and popularization in a way that takes into
account the new discursive and conceptual ecology interrelating orality, literacy and
videocy" (Teletheory. vii). Within mystory, the question of ideology becomes the subject
of both investigation and exposure. Ulmer cites a number of influential sources whose
focus has been "the emotional dimension of comprehension" (109). Ulmer refers to
several theorists whose writings underscore the role of "narrative pleasure" seen as "one
way to locate the pleasure-in-recognition central to the maintenance and persistence of
ideological formation" (106). He points to the work of film theorist Bill Nichols which
explores the diegetic effect of film narrative, an effect that causes us to "see through the
perceptual habit and the image's construction to an already meaningful world (without, in
this case, 'seeing through' the deception that is involved, the actual production of
fabrication of meaning" (Nichols, 1981: 38). Citing Wittgenstein's The Brown Book as a
mystorical model, Ulmer claims the function of mystory as a new form of pedagogy is "to
teach this elusive illusion upon which is based the misrecoanition 'that traps us within an
imaginary realm of identity and opposition governed by desire to be what we are not and
to possess what cannot be 'had'"(42) The significance here to an anti-biography-as-

52
hypertext, is that in contrast to the traditional practice of the biographical essay, with its
dependence on solving the problem of explaining away the "truth" of a "subject" in the
form of an argument, or thesis, the mystory, as Ulmer asserts with a nod to Wittgenstein "
makes thinkable the possibility of a writerly essay that could reason in the absence of
argument and problem" (109).
Such a turn in the direction of a "writerly" biographical narrative, would constitute
for biography the parallel status of "alternative historiography" which Ulmer claims for
mystory. Calling The Brown Book "a kind of film" and Barthes's use of "poses" in The
Lover's Discourse: Fragments, a "new rhetoric . . . that reflects cinematic thinking," Ulmer
points to the use of the punctum as a "mnemonic technique" whose "sting" is an emotional
response to certain details "expressed in an image" (110). The crucial element here is that
the "referent of this story cannot be denoted, but only connoted" (111) And, thus, in
contrast to the usual mandate to revive the past as it actually was, memory, that moment
of recognition triggered by the sting of the punctum is 'seized', suggests Walter Benjamin
in his "Theses on the Philosophy of History," as it "flashes up at a moment of danger"
(111). What follows in mystory, explains Ulmer, is that this "punctum of emotional
recognition is put to work in the service of invention, bringing to bear on disciplinary
problems the images and stories of autobiography" (111).
The mystory that shapes Patchwork will be developed at length in Chapter 6:
(t)ale. It is a mystory that links its cosigners, Patchen/Robitaille, both homonymically by
way of the puncept, but also by way of the punctum, and the sting of co-mingled memory.
Indeed, the triggering device is the scene of two catastrophes, two deaths. For Patchen, it
is the return of the repressed memory of his beloved sister's untimely death when struck by

53
an automobile. For Robitaille, it is haunting memory of his first recollected exposure to
death, in the form of a televised skit on NBC's Today program, in which host Dave
Garraway is "seemingly" flattened by a steam roller on the streets of New York. The
amplification effect of these memories, the perpetual sting of their punctum, becomes one
of the threads woven through the fabric of the Patchwork quilt. As Ulmer describes this
process: "Mystory attempts to be the genre of transmission, which comes into proper
perspective in relating catastrophic time to the time of invention" (112). The "patches" of
my quilt, like Barthes's "poses" or album "snapshots," become the juxtaposed fragments by
which the crafter of the quilt directs his attention not at the object of knowledge, but at the
"subject," the anti-biographer whose "double inscription," in Lacanian terms, allows the
quilter to take into his account his own desire, the erotic pleasure he takes— Barthes's
fetishistic lover "mutilating" his beloved. My desire for "knowledge" of Patchen is not
unassociated with my own fantasy life, and in this sense the act of quilting becomes the
scene of a transference, an element usually repressed in academic literary biography but
made manifest in the mnemonic autoportrait that is mystory.
As our bridge to Chapter Three, "(A)nalogy," which will examine the parallels
between the theory and craft of patchwork quilting and "quilting" as a metaphor for doing
theory, let us consider the last of our models for re-positioning ideolouv in the electronic:
Slavoj Zizek's analysis of the "The Ideological 'Quilt'" in The Sublime Object of Ideology
(Verso, 1989).
Zizek begins his discussion of the "ideological 'quilt"' w-ith a question of
considerable interest to this study: "What creates and sustains the identity of a given

54
ideological field beyond all possible variations of its positive content9" Zizek turns to
Lacan for the answer to this "crucial" question, stating,
The multitude of "floating signifiers," of proto-ideological elements, is structured
into a unified field through the intervention of a certain 'nodal point' (the Lacanian
point de capitón) which 'quilts' them, stops their sliding and fixes their meaning
(87)
As an illustration of the "non-bound, non-tied elements" of such an ideological
space, Zizek considers the subject of ecolotzism which is not determined in advance but
can be variously posited as "conservative," "socialist," "state-oriented," etc., depending on
the "totalization" performed by the "quilting" of these otherwise "free-floating . . .
ideological elements" (87) As we will become apparent in the chapters to follow, the
Patchen archive is replete with examples of'nodal points, points de capitón, which have
totalized the various "floating signifiers" clustering around the Patchen "signature." The
resulting series of "equivalences" include: Communist, Socialist, anti-capitalist, anti-war
activist, nihilist. Beat, romantic, environmentalist, pop surrealist, and the list goes on.
But as Zizek points out, such an "enchainment is possible only on condition that a
certain signifier—the Lacanian 'One'-'quilts' the whole field, and, by embodying it,
effectuates its identity" (88). Zizek finds the prescription for being able to "formulate the
determining role of a certain particular domain without falling into a trap of essentialism"
in the "anti-descriptivism" of Saul Kripke. (89) Kripke's theory is suggested of Patchen's
youthful experiment with deconstructing the alphabet mentioned earlier. The fate of
identity is implicated in the act of naming, a realization that haunted Patchen, even as it
now haunts his biographer.

55
Zizek begins with an "elementary" question: "How do names refer to the objects
they denote?" The "descriptivist" answer is that:
. . . every word is, in the first place, the bearer of a certain meaning—that is, it
means a cluster of descriptive features ("table" means an object of a certain shape,
serving certain purposes) and subsequently refers to objects in reality in so far as
they possess properties designated by the cluster of descriptions. (89)
One is reminded here of the BC. cartoon in which one character asks the other why the
large, trunked object before them is called an "elephant." To which the other responds:
"Because it looks like an elephant!"
The anti-descriptivist answer, as Zizek states it, is,
that a word is connected to an object or a set of objects through an act of "primal
baptism," and the link maintains itself even if the cluster of descriptive features
which initially determined the meaning of the word changes completely. (90)
That the above can be as true for proper nouns, as for common, is clearly illustrated in
Patchen's inability to untie himself, for example, from the knot, the nodal point of
"Communist" long after abandoning the descriptive features of the appellation.
Patchen, indeed any potential subject of literary biography, can be a victim of what
Zizek refers to as "the dogmatic stupidity proper to a signifier as such, the stupidity which
assumes the shape of a tautology: a name refers to an object because the object is called
that"—a point comically rendered in the B C strip.
The impact of this "tautology" on Patchen, or on any such subject, can be more
tragic than comic. Zizek's example of the case of the "Jew" serves to emphasize this point.
In this instance "'Jew' appears as a signifier connoting a cluster of supposedly effective
properties (intriguing spirit . .)" but through a process of inversion the subject becomes

56
"greedy . . . because they are Jews" (96). Zizek suggests the following Lacanian gloss for
this insidious phenomenon:
The points de capitón is the point through which the subject is 'sewn' to the
signifies and at the same time the point which interpolates individual into subject
by addressing it with the call of a certain master signifier ('Communism', 'God',
'Freedom', America')—in a word—it is the point of the subjectivation of the
signifier's chain" (101).
I will go into greater detail below as to the precise manner in which Lacanian
analysis relates to the composition of the Patchwork "quilt." For the moment, it is
sufficient to recall Zizek's observation that: "The subject is always formulated, pinned, to a
signifier which represents him for the other, and through the pinning he is loaded with a
symbolic mandate, he is given a place in the intersubjective network of symbolic relations"
(113). The Patchen archive may, thus, be conceived retrospectively and füturistically as
such a network wired electronically. Novelist Russell Floban, in correspondence with this
writer, referred to this phenomenon as a sort of "circuitry of the world mind" (Hoban).
This network is perceived experientially as the rapidly growing series of "links" summoned
by the WWW browsers—a network that invites the Patchen fantasist to enter, in Zizek's
words, "an imaginary scenario filling out the void, the opening of the desire of the Other"
(114). Let us imagine ourselves then, as invitees to the craft of quilting What does the
rich tradition of this craft tell us about the possibility of critical theory and post¬
structuralist biographical discourse"7

CHAPTER 3
(A)NALOGY: QUILTING AS HOBBY THEORY
The second stage of the CATTt is that of (A)nalogy, intended to represent
formation and displacement Patchwork de-monstrates the (A)nalogy of the CATT(t) by
incorporating as part of its inventio the use of Ulmer's hobby theory. As a tool for the
implementation of heuretics ("a brand of logic that treats the art of discovery or
invention"), hobby theory or theory craft "popularizes" theory by re-conceiving it as a
craft or hobby. In his "Handbook For A Theory Hobby," Ulmer predicts "that the day will
come when theory will be produced as a craft in the manner of woodworking, gourmet
cooking, photography, or karate" (400). To which I would add: theory in the manner of
patchwork crazy quilting
In fact, I would extend Landow's argument that hypertext is the ideal laboratory
for conducting experiments in post-structuralist theory, by suggesting that the history of
patchwork crazy quilting as a craft anticipates and de-monstrates by way of analogy, the
theoretical potentialities for hypertext a century in advance Evidence to support this claim
can be found both in the history of invention relevant to both modes of expression, as well
as in the language employed to explain their methodologies
Consider what we know about the history and craft of patchwork crazy quilting.
The emergence of the craft is marked, for example, by the quality of its randomness and
accidental nature According to quilt historian, Delores Hinson, "The earliest quilts, called
crazy quilts, were more a result of accident then of design" (21). Indeed, the genesis of
57

58
this craft in the late 1800's during the period of Victorian propriety and decorum, was, like
so many other 'against the grain' practices of this epoch, a deconstructive enterprise.
There is, for example, this excerpt from an article appearing in the May 1883
edition of Godev's Lady's Book, a popular women's magazine:
The raw edges of the scraps were usually, though not always, turned under
and were held in place by a row of fancy hand sewn embroidery stitches. The
scraps could be sewn to the foundation by sewing machine, but in general, this
method was not recommended for fear of adding too many straight lines
("angularities offending they") to the finished design. (McMorris 10)
Thus, we learn that these crazy "text-iles" were composed of scraps in a manner that
discourages "straight lines" and valorizes randomness. Quilting as craft has been, and
continues to be, largely the work of women, a marginalized group with an historically
limited range of options for personal expression and story-telling The recent exception of
male "patches" composed for the "AIDS Quilt Project" will be noted below.
So the popularity of this craft coincided with the rise in popularity of other forms
of home-based sewing and textile working. However, when demand for textile materials
exceeded both supply and the financial ability of families to purchase them, the availability
of scrap materials begat the necessity that was mother to invention Shaped by their
increasing economic and artistic value, the proliferation of these scrap materials resulted in
the emergence of a collaborative form of text(ile) expression There began the practice of
circulating a "square of embroidery canvas" among friends. "Each friend of which was to
embroider whatever design she wished," reported a newspaper account. We are told the
paper "playfully" reported: "You will think it a 'crazy' custom indeed" (10).
In her study of Crazy Quilts. Penny McMorris explains that the etymological
relationship of the word "crazy" to quilt-making underscored such uses as "odd, bizarre.

59
irregular, strange, or unusual" and it was even suggested that "their crazy patchwork may
have originated among the inmates of insane asylums" (10). The seditious implications of
these entries, linking Victorian housewives with asylum inmates, provides yet another
historical parallel between the reception of this mad' compositional practice with the
response to other visual media and more recent electronically based technologies whose
non-linear, wildly collagist aesthetics have been similarly feared and denigrated.
We should also be reminded of the Foucaultian analysis of marginalized and
institutionalized groups, such as the insane, whose attempts to express themselves in an
alternative discourse from a skewed center of social balance served only to reaffirm their
marginalized status and social imprisonment. Similarly, when the victims of slavery in
America, a more recent example of socialized constraint and silence, took up the practice
of quilt-making, their ability to write between the lines, to mark their text(ile) in the stain
of their own blood, became an act of deconstruction, of auto-biography as scarification.
Yet another antecedent to the post-modern moment is the multi-cultural and inter-
textual components of the crazy quilt. A major influence was the Victorian interest in
orientalism. It is believed that the concept for fabric patches may have been inspired by the
broken up, "crazed" pattern, the "cracked-ice" design of Japanese pavement, which
became a motif in Japanese art, ceramics and textile design and was then imported into the
quilt-making craft (10-11)
Other cultural influences can be seen in the quilting patterns of ancient Egyptian
robes and in the West African practice of weaving patterned strips into a larger fabric, "the
resulting cloth [having] asymmetrical and unpredictable designs" (Wahlman 35). The
improvisational nature of African quilt-making represents another multi-cultural and inter-

60
textual link between the craft of quilt-making and the application of theory craft to the
Patchwork biography. As Maude Southwell Wahlman points out in Signs and Symbols:
African Images in African-American Quilts. "Some African-American quilts are the visual
equivalent of blues, jazz, or gospel, rich in color and symbolism" (20). Wahlman traces
this improvisational element from its roots in "Kubia raffia cloth and painted Pygmy
textiles" and quotes Arfican quilter Eli Leon as saying, "An improvisational pattern is
always conceptualized as a range of possible structures" (48).
It is precisely these qualities of the crazy patchwork, derived from diverse sources,
that will serve as one of the aesthetic principles for the design of the electronic hyper-
text(ile) Patchwork. In addition to the obvious parallels between the methodologies of
these two quilt-making endeavors, there is also the historical parallels suggested between
the "jazz" elements of the crazy patchwork and Kenneth Patchen's contributions to the
invention of jazz-poetry in particular, and to the repeated appearance of improvisation in
his use of various media, such as Patchen's theater work with John Cage.
Indeed, it may be demonstrated that the avant-garde movement in modern art, and
its specific expression in the Dada movement, was itself pre-figured in the Victorian crazy
patchwork period. In a section of her study on quilts entitled, "Everything Gets a Little
Crazy," McMorris reports that the popularity of the "crazy effect" and the randomness
associated with the patchwork craze resulted in the dissemination of this signifying system
to a diverse range of compositional modes from "crazy gardens" to the social practice of
"crazy teas". As described in The Ladies' World magazine in 1890, "Crazy quilts, pillows,
etc., are going swiftly 'out, but crazy teas are a new and pleasant diversion" (23) The
crazy tea was a Dada-like happening from the creation of mis-matched, collagist

61
invitations, to the Alice-In-Wonderland decor of upside down pictures on the wall,
peculiarly shaped furniture placed in random, functionally inappropriate locations,
including the serving of a crazy menu of "baked beans covered with currant jelly,
cornbread and cheese frosted with chocolate icing, tarts stuffed with chow-chow, and, to
quench the resulting thirst, hot, salted lemonade" (23). Even the conversation was Dada-
like, a Victorian "jabberwocky" with the "crazy" participants "being stopped and
redirected to a new topic every five minutes, at the sound of a bell rung by the hostess"
(23).
There appear here numerous qualities we might associate with the emergence of
electronic composition and the social practices that have begun to form around such
mediums of communication and expression as CD-Rom and the World Wide Web. Indeed,
some of these qualities might be likely to upset the likes of Roberts and other writers
accustomed to more linear and discursive styles of composing. Like their Victorian
precursors, young surfers and scriptors on the Internet seem to share a delight in delivery
of information in small "patches" of "bite"-sized information whose brevity and
unpredictably juxtaposed order allows both for the elements of surprise and delight.
If the traditional novel, a genre central to the Victorian era, is to today compete
with new forms, such as the hypertext fiction now emerging on-line, one might argue that
the un-bounding of the square text, and the joy inherent in loosening the constraining
threads of such text(iles), was inherent from its inception And, indeed, the crazy
patchwork, like its electronic successor, has been received with considerable anxiety and
negative criticism. I had earlier related Robert's lament and his critique of the CD-
Rom/hypertext discourse. Some of the initial anti-crazy quilt sentiment was directed at

62
their lack of order and symmetry. Camps formed around the more traditional use of
repeated patterns and symbolic motifs, iterated from panel to panel and those who
championed the orientalized aesthetic of the crazy quilt.
But a good deal of the ridicule directed at the crazy quilt "mania," as it was
described by some, focused on the unhealthy strain on eyes and nerves and the fear that
such a hobby as this might result in some permanent form of either blindness, insanity, or
both. In addition, critics labeled the "fancywork" associated with crazy patchwork as a
"time waster" and its practitioners were admonished to "fold up your Fancy work" and
"come out and have a chat or something that means business . . "(25). There are clear and
interesting parallels here between the public reception and concerns raised by this textual
practice and those which have greeted more recent electronic modes of communication
such as television and computer related technologies.
Quilts and Mourninu
Not all crazy quilt patterns were as easily susceptible to the charges of triviality
and meaninglessness. The creation of the creation of the crazy quilt was sometimes
occasioned by the death of a beloved. Such "mourning quilts," as they came to be known,
were often "patched" together out of the pieces, the fabrics of a life A deceased daughter
might be represented by patches of fabric from her dresses. In one instance a widow was
reported to have taken "her mourning coat, opened it up at the seams, and made a
mourning quilt with a central coffin shape to tell the story of her life with her husband"
(87). The very choice of the crazy patchwork, as opposed to, say, a more symmetrical or
ordered form, was an aesthetic motivated by an emotion McMorris relates that "The kind

63
of embroidery, which was at times even and regular, and at other times wildly erratic,
came to express the quiltmaker's changing moods" (87).
Dolores A Hinson, writing in the Quilting Manual, points out that "nineteenth-
century Americans were obsessed with death" and that the quilt became a means by which
to signify the veritably unsignifiable signified that is "death." Hinson remarks,
Cemeteries spanned the chasm between bereaved families and their dead.
So too, did the posthumous portraits, photographs and hair ornaments treasured
by the survivors. And so did quilts. When families were broken by death, women
used these tactile, homey comforters to preserve ties to their deceased loved ones.
(11)
Hinson cites the example of Elizabeth Mitchell of Lewis County, Kentucky, whose quilt
"portrays the family plot" and whose "appliquéd coffins within it and along the outer
borders of the quilt are labeled with family names." Adds Hinson, "Mitchell moved these
coffins from the world of the living, represented by the border, into the cemetery [or
central portion of the quilt] as her relatives died" (11).
This tradition of the mourning quilt has been monumentally revived in the form of
the AIDS Memorial Quilt, described by its founders as "the largest on-going community
arts project in the world" (WWW). The inspiration of Cleve Jones in 1987, the AIDS Quilt
has expanded beyond 32,000 patches ["panels"], each prepared by individual
"panelmakers" to the specific dimension of "3 feet by 6 feet the size of the human
grave" (1). The Quilt's Homepage, which arguably serves as a model for, as well as a
theoretical de-monstration of, many of the dimensions of the Patchwork project, has taken
the collaborative net-working of this formerly text(ile) composition into the realm of
electronic patchworking and mystorical hypertext. One speculates that had the World

64
Wide Web existed at the time of Jones's moment of inventio, the AIDS Quilt would have
originated in the virtual form to which it has more recently been transformed.
The instructions provided for the AIDS Quilt Homepage invites consideration of
the craft of quilting as a working analog for quiltmaking as a means to do theory.
Implicated in this practice is the pervasive influence of the signature effect, the potential
play of signification set into motion by the "tens of thousands of people whose names are
sewn into the fabric" (1). Panel makers are invited to employ "a little imagination" in the
process of their inventio, and to submit their "patches" to the electronic "gallery" of Quilt
panels. As a form of mvstorv. panelmakers are asked to "tell their stories," composed of
materials chosen from a wide register of sources: personal history, popular culture,
ideology, to name a few.
Even the "how to" section of the AIDS Quilt Homepage instructions parallels
elements of Ulmer's notions of theory craft For example, potential panel makers are
informed they "don't have to be an artist or a sewing expert," a point consistent with
Ulmer's support for the amateur status of theory crafters Regarding the structional design
of the Quilt, we are told the text(ile) will be "folded and unfolded many times," thus
linking Derrida's "invaginating fold," with its metaphorical reference to "catastrophe" seen
as a discontinuity or instability in a system
Ulmer's analysis of Derrida's use of invagination is particularly useful in our
understanding of electronic patchworking as a deconstructive enterprise. In observing the
"folding back" of the signifier on itself, Ulmer comments that: "Repetition by itself can
provide the effects of invagination," a point Derrida de-monstrates in "Living On

65
Borderlines" regarding a text by Blanchot" (Applied Grammatology 104). Observes Ulmer:
Iterability, the sheer possibility of quotation, of repeating, creates the
catastrophic fold in any text, giving it the structure of a Klein bottle (in topology,
a single surface "with no inside, outside, or edges . . . recalling the pots with holes
knocked in the bottom found in tombs. . . ." (105)
The funereal association of the folded, iterated text, "a deconstruction," posits Ulmer, "of
the notion of language as a 'container' for ideas" (105), provides a compelling analogy to
the many-folded AIDS Quilt, as it at once a place of mourning "signed" in a series of
repeating quotations whose signified, shall we say, "death," no text(ile) can, in fact,
contain.
In what may be, perhaps, one of the few deconstructive readings of the AIDS
Quilt, Daniel Harris's "Making Kitsch From AIDS" (Harper's. July, 1994), argues 'against
the grain' in challenging the claim of the QUILT to re-present it's subject, "death," as
anything other than "political knickknack" (55). The AIDS Quilt, according to Harris, has
been so "thoroughly sentimentalized" that any signifier associated with the text(ile)
becomes an "allegorical emblem of the kitschification of AIDS” (56). Harris provides a
counter-reading to the memorial value of the AIDS Quilt Project by suggesting that the
adoption of a memorial "patchwork of cloth that can be visited like a grave site or a war
memorial" links the text as "a nostalgic folk art" to the "longing for a legendary small town
America," thus suppressing, by way of "substitution the iconography of the Christian
Church" which has attempted to shape our reception of the signified to which the signifier
"AIDS" has been linked.
In a passage which links the potency of the AIDS Quilt as a signifying system to
Zizek's concept of the "Ideological Quilt" discussed earlier, Harris attributes to the Quilt

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the status of "the sublime expression of AIDS kitsch." Reconceived as Zizek's "ideological
quilt," rather than being structured through some unified field, consistent with the
ideological status assigned to it by its founders and promoters, Harris's critique
demonstrates how others, such as himself, can also "quilt" the floating signiflers through
other significations, such as "kitsch," for example, or in semiotic association with
corporations whose logos may function as a "point de capitón," a "nodal point"— as yet
another in an endless series of "equivalencies."
One of the objectives of Patchwork, of conducting biographical research in the
context of a mystorical hypertext, is to observe the patterns of trajectory which may
emerge from fields of association, the nomadic migrations of floating signiflers, set into
motion by the Patchwork crazy quilt. Beginning with the heuretically inspired generators
of my own mystorical "patches" and continuing outward with the randomly generated
"patches" of those who "sign-on" to the Patchwork hypertext, one can speculate that the
forces of certain "strange attractors" may form, to use the fractally inspired metaphors of
Chaos Theory, potential patterns of order within seeming disorder, certain "readings" on
the life and art of Kenneth Patchen that, while unpredictable and uncontrollable by
Patchwork's "author," may, nonetheless, fall into certain "nodally" bounded regions along
the illimitable signifying chain.
Chaos Theory and the "Crazy" Text(ile)
In Chapter Three of her study, Chaos Bound (Cornell University Press, 1990),
entitled "The Necessary Gap: Chaos as Self in The Education of Henry Adams." N.
Katherine Hayles argues as to how "chaos is as already present within a complex dynamic
of revelation and concealment" and, employing a series of textile metaphors, proceeds to

67
analyze how, for example, "a suture within the text joins Adams's past and present selves"
(64-65). Borrowing upon concepts derived from chaos theory, Hayles provides a cogent
re-reading of The Education, the implications of which seem applicable to the
deconstruction of traditional biographical methodology and, thus, to the development of
an alternative biography conceived in the form of a hypertext crazy quilt.
Informed by an authorial 'self who initially works "from a conception of the
universe as unity, linearity, and fixed truths," the text inevitably displays a 'rupture, the
'gap' through which emerges "the world as it actually exists—an anarchistic multiverse of
chaos, complexity, and relativism" (62). For Hayles, "The Education seems to be an
exemplary account of one man's initiation into the technological and social contexts that
form the cultural background for the later emergence of the sciences of complexity" (62).
Indeed, The Education may be conceived as a tutor text for the application of crazy
quilting as theory craft. The situation faced by Adams in the construction of his
autobiographical text replicates in many ways Kenneth Patchen's deconstructive textual
practices, practices which return, like the repressed, to haunt the construction of a Patchen
biography. Adams, like Patchen and the similarly schizoid 'self who 'authors' this study,
are inevitably hounded by the possibility "that some authorial self lingers beyond the reach
of textuality" and that what might constitute the 'meaning' of a life, of a '"real self," may
"manifest itself within the text as an absence, rupture, or gap," a gesture which, thus,
"further complicates the linear flow of the narrative and punctuates the accretion of the
inscripted self, rendering its evolution discontinuous or indeterminate" (64-65).
As with Kenneth Patchen, the "subject" of Patchwork, the life and its textual
representation are marked by certain discontinuities, and the mystorical quilter of

68
Patchwork will experience a fate not unlike that of Adams's narrator, one of whose "most
characteristic activities is suturing, trying to stitch together a past and a present that have
been torn apart and can be fitted together only with difficulty" (70).
As subjects of both biography and autobiography, Patchen and Adams exist as
swirling forces of turbulence whose shifting sets of signifying practices respond to the
strange attractors, and rendering patterns that when quilted into a narrative fabric, exhibit
"a fold that conceals or a tear that reveals" and, suggests Hayles of Adams, "through this
gap chaos pours" (73).

CHAPTER 4
(T)HEORY: LITERARY BIOGRAPHY'S DECONSTRUCTIVE PROCLIVITIES
(T)heory, the third leg of the CATTt, as it relates to literary biography, is a muddy
issue, and the record, scattered as it is, suggests that the absence of any unified
biographical theory points to its inherent deconstructive tendencies. Noted practitioners
such as Leon Edel have observed, "There exists, I am sorry to say, no criticism of
biography worthy of the name" (10). Anthony Freidson, in his introduction to New
Directions In Biography, comments on a certain "fuzziness in the critical theory of
biography" and cites Edel's assertion that biography "has not yet articulated a
'methodology'" and has "'suffered through three centuries from a lack of definition, a laxity
of method'" (xxi).
Which is not to say that authors of literary biography have not attempted to define
their genre, and to establish certain idealized, if not unattainable goals. The problematics
announce themselves in definitions such as that of William Zinnzer that make a claim for
"the simulation in words, of a man's life, from all that is known about that man" (Zinnser
42). Definitions in a literary tradition of'life-writing' that dates back to James Boswell's
Life of Johnson, reveal an emphasis on verisimilitude, as underscored in Boswell's letter to
Bishop Percy, in which Boswell promises to "accompany Johnson in his progress, and, as
it were, see each scene as it happened " Yet, as contemporary biographers such as Philip
Ziegler have pointed out, ". . Boswell's 'Johnson' could never be more than magnificently
incomplete, a subjective portrait viewed exclusively from a single point of view" (Ziegler
69

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34). Adds Ziegler, "Boswell's advantages were also crippling disabilities; he did not so
much evade the pitfalls that await the contemporary biographer as avoid them or even
incorporate them within the landscape of his study" (34). Other critics are more harsh and
succinct, suggesting, as does David Gates, for example, that Boswell, "the archetypal
literary biographer, was a great gossip and a bum critic" (81).
Somewhere between the famous, ground-breaking work of Boswell, and the
impressionistic sketches of Lyton Stratchey's Eminent Victorians, to the more reductive,
fact-oriented biographies of more recent vintage, lies the illusive goal of the "pure
biography." In contrast to Paul Murray Kendall's contradictory claims for biography as
"the craft-science-art of the impossible" there is the more self-assured, though no less
questionable definition of Sir Harold Nicholson in The Development of English
Biography, as summarized by Zinnser, "that 'pure' biography comes into being when the
author, eschewing all extraneous purposes, writes the life of a man for its own sake, and
though adhering to truth, attempts to compose that life as a work of art" (13).
Zinnser is forced to ask of Nicholson, however, whether "even the 'purest' of
biographies is not moved by the commemorative urge? that he harbors, even if
unconsciously, no didactic impulse?" (13). To which I would add, How about
consciously?
Suffice it to say, the terminology employed by these various attempts to define
literary biography raise as many questions as they attempt to resolve. Even when the
enterprise is largely focused on the assemblage of facts, the problem of'truth' telling and
verisimilitude are not resolved For pure epistemological fuzziness, one could do no better

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than the following attempt by Zinnser to demystify the bedrock of fact in biographical
research:
Fact is cold stone, an inarticulate thing, dumb until something happens to it; and
there is no use the biographer waiting for spontaneous combustion or miraculous
alchemy. Fact must be rubbed up in the mind, placed in magnetic juxtaposition
with other facts, until it begins to glow, to give off that radiance we call meaning.
Fact is a biographer's only friend, and worst enemy. (17)
Yes, well beware the biographical subject whose fate lies in this alchemist's hands. Or the
reader who must rely on the above mentioned process devoid of its deconstruction by,
shall we say, those damnable operations of interrogation posed by critical theory. Indeed,
the options, observes David Gates in a 1992 Newsweek review of contemporary
biography, are lamentable:
On the supply side we've got an academic world in which criticism has been
shanghaied by post-structuralist and p.c. crazies, leaving biography as a vehicle for
rational literary discourse. On the demand side, we've got upscale college students,
conditioned by culture's obsession with celebrity gossip, who'd rather read about
writers than their actual writings. (80)
But Boswell's own proclivity toward gossip (mentioned above) notwithstanding,
the fate of literary biography, as will hopefully be suggested in the closing chapters of this
study on biography-as-hypertext, may lie in the hands of no single camp of readers, writers
or critics. But this is the case to be made in later chapters of this study. What remains
illustrative in terms of this chapter's consideration of the current status of theory as it
applies to biographical method, may be ascertained in a survey of articles and reviews,
many of which appear regularly in periodicals such as the New York Times Book
Review, that provide a chorus of voices representing readers, writers and critics of
contemporary biography.

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It is important to note that the language employed by the non-academic reviews of
scholarly literary biographies is replete with references suggestive of the very textual
elements which have become the points of inquiry' by critical theorists. A reference to
Richard B. Sewall's biography of Emily Dickinson quotes the biographer's observation that
Dickinson was "a figure upon whose biography no narrative structure could be imposed
that is not to a degree arbitrary or fictitious" (Frank 7). In an article entitled, "Faulkner
proves too slippery for Karl," Los Angeles Times reviewer, Molly Giles, writes of the
"two Bills" which Karl discovered in his research and that "simple duality was a piece of
cake for someone as complex as Faulkner" (Giles 9). For Karl, according to this reviewer,
Faulkner remains "infinitely, triumphantly, mysterious" ( 9 ).
In a sidebar to a July 19, 1987 review of his biography, Hemingway, author,
Kenneth S. Lynn, acknowledges that while he "felt that seven-eighths of him were below
the surface," he was able to get to that "invisible" element "by means of biography—by
placing his stories within the context of his life" (Lynn 3). The path to this "truth" is to be
found, declares Lynn, in "the interplay between fiction and personality" (3). Such a thesis,
it might be argued, opens up the possibility for the post-structuralist interplay of textuality,
one in which the borders suggested by Lynn's binary oppositions are decidedly blurred,
problematized, and in which, in a Lacanian sense, the unconscious (of the subject) is
structured like a language
Occasionally one will come upon claims that bring new meaning to the word
"definitive," as applied to the literary biography. Frank Rich's review of William Wright's,
Lillian Heilman, suggests that Wright "possesses an essentialist tribute that more
passionate writers who neither loved nor reviled his subject do not: he really is an

73
objective observer" (Rich 1). Wright, according to Rich, "has no hidden agenda," is the
real article, the creator of the 'pure' biography. Yet throughout the review we come upon
references to Wright's support of "assertions of Hemingway's third wife" and of his
"revealing more complexities, however unflattering, than Heilman herself ever exhibited
for scrutiny" (38). In addition, we are told that while "Mr. Wright has psychological
theories about Heilman ... the woman who emerges from the book is far too independent
a character to fit any neat definition" (39) Our reviewer notes in his conclusion that the
final word of Wright's "tantalizingly unfinished woman" is "enigma" and that, "Lillian
Heilman, no little fox, continues to out run anyone who might attempt to cage her" (39).
One wonders, then, what constitutes the "objective" status of a biography that
accepts (and thus rejects) certain psychological theories, interpretations, data, over
others, and which eventually tries to seek cover under the sign of "enigma"9 The
representation of the endless pursuit of the biographical "subject," of trying to anchor the
"floating signifier" represented by the signature of such a subject, linked as it is by a
seemingly endless chain of signification in the form of "facts" somehow associated with
the subject's appellation, has seen one of its most inventive, and illustrative, pop cultural
depictions in Orson Welles's film classic, Citizen Kane.
From Citizen Kane to Citizen Palchen
Welles' film is, curiously enough, based on a screenplay which bears its own weight
in authorial speculation in the form of unresolved questions concurring the particular
contributions of Welles and his screenwriting partner, Herman Mankiewicz. And then
there are, of course, the often noted parallels between Welles's own biography and that of

74
the newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, upon whom the thinly veiled meta-
biography of Kane is established.
From the opening sequence to the last, the film is framed by shots depicting the
monumental initial "K" that both invites the viewer/interpreter to pursue a chain of
biographical signifiers associated with the name, "Kane," while simultaneously blocking
off such access (the "K" adorns the imposing fence that surrounds Kane’s "Xanadu").
What one indeed enters here is the memory system of the film, which, like the Lacanian
unconscious, is indeed structured like a language.
After a series of voyeuristic lap dissolves, we enter the impossible space (the word
is whispered, it registers only at the level of film's memory system) from which is heard
Kane's dying word, "Rosebud." The word is uttered in conjunction with the dropping of
Kane's fetish object, a Lacanian objet petite a, a glass ball paperweight, which, in the
memory system of the film, we will later note, contains, metonymically, a snowy winter
scene that links, in the film's chain of signification, death-desire-mother-first wife-sled-
Rosebud. This list is, of course, incomplete, as the film's final depiction of Kane's
mausoleum-like cellar of dead-signifiers suggests. For the semiotic joke upon which the
film is so cleverly, if not unconsciously, based is that precisely to follow the bouncing ball,
to try and piece together a unified image from the splintered vision initially perceived
through the shards of the disseminated fetish object in the death scene and later recalled in
the infinite regression of Kane's image as it passes between two mirrors, is to fall prey to
logocentrism, to the belief that representation can be policed by language That both our
cinematic, and purportedly real-life, subjects (Kane/Hearst) are in the newspaper business,
that they attempt to seek power through control of language, and that they, themselves,

75
become the subject of investigation by members of their own "truth-seeking" reporters,
only adds to the cosmic nature of the joke.
I discuss Kane at length here because, first, the film, I believe, truly speaks to the
problematics of biographical representation that concern the Patchwork project, and
secondly, because I will be incorporating the film as an element of the mystorical approach
to hypertext-biography to be illustrated in Chapter 6, the CATTt's (t)ale. Here, Citizen
Kane, functioning as an element of the mystory's "pop cycle," to coin a related Ulmerian
term, becomes Citizen Patchen and Robitaille shares the position of the film's investigative
reporter, who, like the troubled biographer Robitaille, is confronted by a cubist subject
(Kenneth Patchen) about whom swirl conflicting interpretations of both the life and the
art.
At one point in the film the reporter is taken to the "Thatcher Memorial Library,"
a crypt-like Borgesian labyrinth of'words, words, words, which presumably holds the
definitive explanation of Kane's life. Like the magical word that unlocks the divine in the
Borges library, so too does the Thatcher collection promise the semiotic link between the
signifier, "Rosebud," and the "truth" of he whose utterance haunts our biographical
(in)quest.
I use the word "haunt" here purposefully, as the question of haunting, as it relates
to language, the (death of) the subject, and literary biography, is a theme that recurs in
recent experimental biographies, such as Jacqueline Rose's The Haunting of Sylvia Plath
(more about which I will say below), as well as my own forthcoming mystoriobiography,
Patchwork.

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Of course, the Thatcher Memorial Library provides no good leads for the reporter,
and in the film's concluding scene, against the backdrop of the dust-covered hoard of
Kane's collective objet petite a's, the reporter admits, in response to a query regarding the
elusive "Rosebud," that, "Perhaps, a life can't be summarized in a single word." While this
may mark the end of the reporter's biographical chase, the memory system of the film
continues with the panning eye of the camera as it alights, finally, on a child's sled bearing
the name, "Rosebud." While the semiotic joke here might seem to be aimed at the
reporter, who didn't quite connect the dots that link, say, "Rosebud"-sled-paperweight-
winter scene-childhood-removal from mother, it is really the viewer who is targeted here.
It is the viewer/reader/interpreter, teased along by the film's memory system, who is lulled
into the false sense of security that seemingly, and conclusively, links "Rosebud" to a given
object, whose presence, while promising the missing link to a seemingly endless and
incomplete semiotic chain of associations, actually marks an absence, an endless
dissemination of free-floating signifiers. Such is the import of the concluding shots of the
sled, which, once fed to the furnace fire, becomes just so much smoke, dust, ashes, as the
camera exits from whence it came, our final gaze resting on the forbidding gate, the
resistant signature, marked by the sign of "K "
Other Models for Mvstoriobiography
Citizen Kane's exploration of the siunature effect, and its deliberate blurring of the
distinctions between fact and fiction, whether consciously intended or not, may be seen as
the cinematic equivalent of similar demonstrations in postmodern fiction. The relationship
of these experiments to biography is clearly and succinctly summarized by Justin Kaplan in
his article, "In Pursuit of the Ultimate Fiction," where he writes,

77
In the most reductive terms, what's a novel but a biography, partial or full-scale, of
people who exist first in the writer's imagination and later in the reader's9 Both
kinds of storytelling may be species of one genus, prose fiction, and the melding
or confounding of the two a familiar postmodernist phenomenon: the breaking
down of genre, the elevation of puzzle, paradox, mystification and Borgesian
sleights of hand. (24)
In his review, Kaplan cites such diverse examples as Norman Mailer's Executioners
Song and E.L Doctorow's Ragtime, each of which, according to Kaplan, "treat verifiable
events as if they were "texts" to be "deconstructed" (24). In words that echo those of
Kane's reporter-cum-biographer, Kaplan suggests that: "Even biography's accustomed
hunt for a prime mover, a core personality—Walt Whitman calls it 'theMemyself—may be
like chasing Bigfoot" (24).
I am intrigued by the use of metaphorical language that begins to cluster around
this notion of the biographical subject, as it is this very play of language which serves,
particularly in its homonymic variations, as the foundation for my heuretically inspired
hypertext. Patchwork. Gathered in the rather wide net that I cast in search of such
examples, were references from Melville's apparitional "white whale" and similarly
spectre-like, "Bartleby," to Julian Barne's Flaubert's Parrot. Of the latter, Justin Kaplan
observes the following:
Geoffrey Braithwaite, the narrator of Julian Barnes's book, is a doctor and a
widower (there are other parallels with Charles Bovary) obsessed with the life of
Flaubert, but at the same time profoundly skeptical, even derisive, about the
ultimate value of any biography. Like a net, he says, biography can be described as
a "collection of holes tied together with a string." (25)
For the purposes of Patchwork. I would like to appropriate the "net" metaphor,
and its metaphorical and heuretic relationship to the Inter-net, to a problematizing
biographical text conceived as a series of electronic "patches" or hypertext "links," each of

78
which is tied together by a "string" woven by the various reader/browser/quilters, no given
resulting pattern of which may ever be said to be (w)holecloth.
In my readings for this chapter 1 come upon a related metaphor, a reference to
Pierre Bourdieu's concept of a "field" in Didier Eribon's "Preface" to his biography of
Michel Foucault. Eribon appropriates Bourdieu's concept to describe an "intersection" of
"theoretical, institutional, and political space[s]" that constitute his "intellectual project"
(xii). I note that Eribon concludes the paragraph by noting that his text is also composed
of "several cultural registers," one of which, a reference to the Ecole Nórmale Superieure
on the Rue d'Ulm, curiously, provides a homophonic link to "Ulmer," whose own writings
on mystory in Teletheory link to a drawing provided by Jacques Derrida for the design of
a "folie" in the Parc dela Villette that is based on a metaphor informing a passage in Plato's
Timaeus. This metaphor is that of "the chora as crible, sieve or sift" (240). This sieve,
whose function Derrida characterizes as an "interpretive and selective filter which will
have permitted a reading and sifting of the three sites and the three embeddings," may be
seen, in its electronic sense, to parallel the functions of the "grid" provided by the
intersection of recombinatory patchworkings of my hypertext biography (241). For Ulmer,
Derrida's "sieve," or "mesh," 1 prefer the latter term for its allusion to the text(ile), leads
mystorically to "a description of the gravel plant [where Ulmer's father worked], which is
a three-layered grid for sizing rock" (241) For Robitailie, the rhizomatic flow of
associations links Ulmer, via Derrida, to (Patch)en via Robitailie But the flow of
associations does not end here. As it turns out, Robitaille's and Ulmer's textual maps
intersect precisely at the "rue d'Ulm," in my case, via the reading of Eribon's Preface, cited
above, and for Ulmer, via "a copy of Feu la cendre from Derrida with "the return address

79
on the stationery~'45 Rue d'Ulm'" (241). And it is by way of this redoubling of the
mystorical crossroads that Ulmer's reading of Derrida's text brings our present discussion
of biography's deconstructive tendencies back around to my reading of Citizen Kane's
closing sequence, the sled in the furnace, to the place and function of memory in the film,
as well as the function of memory that haunts the biographical quest.
Ulmer is struck by the significance of Derrida's text, in which he says, "I now have
the impression that the best paradigm of the trace is not, as some have believed, the track
of a hunt, a marking, a step, and so on, but ashes, that which remains without remaining of
the holocaust, of the burn-all." To which Ulmer responds,
Not senders and receivers, then in a theory of communication, but cinders. In an
idiom referring to the "late," the deceased. A writing without debt that is as good
as a burning. No monument, no Phoenix. The "late" is also the "fire" in the idiom,
the fire that cannot be effaced in the cinders as a trace. It is a word that is in
question, that is to be put in place of memory, in the place of memory, to which we
are to listen; to take the word into the mouth and ears. Fire. Choler. But it could
be any word, any black on white letters. Not icons, but indexes, in this writing. A
text will not resemble what it is about, but be caused by it, the way smoke relates
to fire. (241)
And, we might add, the way a life relates to its anti-biography, to a mystory
written in the key of its infinitely disseminating progenitor. It could be any word
"Rosebud." "Patchen." I am drawn to Ulmer’s thesis, and his ongoing interest in what he
has identified here, and in his review of Eric L Santner's Stranded Objects: Mourning,
Memory, and Film in Postwar Germany, as "the problematic of mourning" (153). As will
be obvious in my mystorical (t)ale or electronic patchwork hypertext to follow (Chapter
6), my own relationship to Kenneth Patchen, revolves, in no small part, around various
mystorical associations having to do with certain shared traumatic experiences of loss and
the resulting problematics of incomplete mourning.

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As we will note, Patchen's pre-war loss of his sister, Kathleen, becomes the
haunting lens through which he views the horrors of World War Two. The textual
interplay of these events in his fiction, poetry, drawings and social interactions, reveals the
continuity of what Ulmer refers to as a "discourse of mourning" present in Patchen's early
correspondence, a discourse that reveals the author's prescient awareness that his entry
into a life of language held no promise of escape from melancholy, mourning, a radical
sense of a Lacanian "lack."
In his review, Ulmer identifies a problem central both to "institutions of letters"
and "the contaminated legacy of [Paul] de Man himself," precisely "how to break out of
the defensive circle of binary logic (identification or condemnation) in order to integrate
his [de Man's] work within a usable past" (154). Such is the dilemma which surfaces in the
handling of the Patchen archive. One can, like Henry Miller, in his essay on Patchen, "Man
of Anger, Man of Light," acknowledge the subject's schizoid potentialities, rather than fall
prey, as did most of Patchen's acquaintances, reviewers, scholars, et al ., to the more
reductive claims of angry negativist or romantic angel. Aware of the tendency of critics,
publishers and readers to claim for him an association with a specific political and/or
artistic camp, Patchen virtually assured his departure down the black hole of literary
anonymity by refusing to be 'formulated' and 'pinned, to borrow the Prufrockian metaphor,
to any given segment of the signifying chain. Few readers of the Patchen signifying system
recognize in the material of his biographical corpus, what Ulmer locates in the writings of
Habermas: "the need for a postconventional identity that could accept fragmentation of
life (of history as a 'pile of wreckage'), and renounce the desire for rootedness that
produced fascism" (154).

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What Ulmer finds significant in Sander's discussion of "two elegiac project[s]"~
Edgar Reits's television series, Heimat, and Our Hitler, a film by Hans Jurgen Syberberg—
are the tendencies of each "to repeat the operations of blocked mourning that they set out
to overcome" (154). It is precisely this repetition, this biographical conundrum, which
Patchwork attempts to avoid. And it is through the nomadic, rhizomatic operations of the
mystorical hypertext electronic patchwork, that the "desire for rootedness," endemic in the
traditional literary biography, will be both addressed and short-circuited. My objective in
pursuing this alternative biographical route is precisely that which Ulmer suggests Reitz
and Syberberg are unable to achieve in their work: "to rescue the 'stranded objects' from
the wreckage of history'" (154). It is my belief that while Patchen may have been tragically
unaware of the nature or unique accomplishments of his valiant attempt to escape the
destructive forces of a logocentric, Western patriarchal culture, his legacy of
deconstructive art, as will be experientially re-presented in Patchwork, allows for the
possibility, quoting Ulmer's appraisal of Walter Benjamin's "theory for a more effective
mourning," of "a past that did not in fact take place but that remains available as a
possibility, as alternative choices, acts that might have been, as the basis for a renewed
legacy" (154).
Figures Before the Wall
I pause for a moment to re-imagine, to re-image, this question of effective
mourning, in the form of a figure sitting before a wall. Indeed, what appears is a series of
such figures receding in infinite regression, like that of Kane caught in an instance between
two mirrors: splintered, schizoid selves. These figures, however, are each seated before a
blank wall. Patchen comes to mind first, in the several accounts of the artist as a young

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man placing his chair before a blank wall, staring away from the assembled gathering. A
youthful gesture of stylish defiance, perhaps7 A bodily preconfiguration of his later, life¬
long back ailments: the perils of exposing his backside (and in this anti-biographer's case,
his taille/tale)? Similarly confronted with the exhausting demands and spiritual limitations
of logocentrism, Melville signs with "Bartleby," a tale told from a tomb, the writer
reduced to scrivener, copier, who, after a prior life among "dead letters," "prefers not to"
improve upon the perfection of a blank wall.
Or are these figures the embodiment of one who is attempting, in Ulmer's words, a
'"passage through the wall' (the walls of the crypt, or of a fort) by finding a medium that
interrupts the confrontation, is part of the choral linguistics needed to write directly with
the Symbolic code" (Heuretics 233)? Hence, Patchen's reach beyond logos, to a writing in
multimedia, with color and pigment, with jazz syncopation, with the body itself. Central to
this choral linguistics, as Ulmer demonstrates in his own mystory, "Derrida at Little Big
Horn," is the function of the choral word, which "operates at the micro level of language,
the way writing with the paradigm operates at the level of discourse, and provides the
inventio that gathers differences into a set" (223). Or, as suggested earlier in relation to
Plato's Timaeus. the chora as a "sieve" or "grid," that leads, argues Ulmer, not to
"verification," but rather, to "the choral zone between fate and freedom, an irreducible
zone of luck, chance, risk, and timing ... the region of invention" (240).
Seen in this light, Kane's "Rosebud," or Patchen's "Kathleen," are not the anchors
of meaning that verify, and thus, totalize in a fascistic manner, the subjects associated with
these utterances Rather, employed heuretically, as choral words, they explore a space
beyond mourning, a space that is generative, not funeral In such a space the misnomer of

83
biography as a "life-writing" becomes not the traditional entombment of its subject, but a
writing born out of a life that truly liberates its subject. In such a biography, what is
"authorized" is not an official "reading" under the signature of a singular scholarly
authority, but rather, the authority, always already inherent in the effect of the signature,
to enter into a mystorical interplay between signatures In short, to enter the electronic
choral space, to join the electronic quilting bee, the Patchwork.
Before turning in Chapter 5, (T)arget, to a more detailed discussion of biography-
as-electronic-mystory, and of the specific elements that will be included in the closing
chapter, the CATT(t)'s (t)ale of crazy, woven "patches" in my electronic quilt, I would
like to consider a few more examples of texts that have acknowledged the deconstructive
tendencies inherent in biographical theory and methodology, and which serve, thus, as
tutor texts in the designing of an alternative biographical practice.
More Alternative Approaches
Two particular examples, which anticipate the visual dimension that a multi-media
hypertext such as Patchwork can provide, involve "auto-biographies," each experimentally
revisiting the meaning of that genre by invoking the image of a photograph as an initial
problematizing element of the text. The first of these models, My Room: The
Autobiography of Louise Brogan, is referred to on the cover as a "Mosaic by Ruth
Limmer." In addition to the visual component, Limmer's introduction describes her choice
of the mosaic aesthetic as the means by which to bring together a patchwork, if you will,
"composed of journals, notebook entries, poems . sentences and paragraphs from her
[Brogan's] criticism, portions of letters, a lecture, answers to questions . . . short stories,
recorded conversations, scraps of paper" (xx). The list reads like the collaged contents of

84
a CD-Rom without, of course, the added features of multi-media and hypertexted links.
Limmer's "Introduction" is motivated by a "disconcerting photograph of Louise Brogan,
which, when "viewed from a distance" and then "close up," becomes, in Limmer's eyes
"formidable" due to the "multiple readings it projects" (xiv) It is not, of course, an image
she can, or does, re-present to her readers.
In bringing together these materials, Limmer hopes to construct the auto¬
biography Brogan never wrote, while admitting neither is it the auto-biography she would
have written. She likens the readers' experience to that of entering a gallery of "self-
portraits" whose "effect should be no more unsettling than an artist's retrospective" (xxi). I
cite the example of Zimmer's mosaic and those to follow below precisely because the
inclusion of the visual element here, and in a multi-media hypertext such as Patchwork,
becomes a crucial register of undecidability that both problematizes and enriches, in a
Barthesian sense, the play of signification associated with the image-as-signifier
Among the examples cited by Anthony M. Friedson in his "Foreword" to New
Directions in Biography, is that of Michael Ondaatje, whose experimental, collagist texts,
such as The Auto-biography of Billv-The-Kid. 'loosens' the "barriers of form: genre,
modes, and tones," (xix) that have come to define traditional modes of'life-writing. Like
Limmer's "mosaic," Ondaatje's Billv-The-Kid combines a diverse range of materials:
poems, fictionalized docu-dramatized news accounts of the day, imagined interviews, and
the like. And, in a strikingly similar gesture, Ondaatje opens with a reference to a
photograph, in this case represented on the page by a blank white space framed in a black
border. In the "caption" beneath the blank space, the ironic prose commentary calls
attention to the un-representability of the Kid's image. "I send you a picture of Billy," the

85
caption begins, addressing an undecidable reader, "made with the Perry shutter as quick as
it can be worked. . . (5). Obviously not quick enough to capture this image. In lines that
link this caption to that of the inscrutable Kane, Ondaatje's "reporter" speaks of
photographic experiments in which he tries to capture the essence of "bits of snow in the
air" and, with a pun on the "truth" factor of his subject, promises to "send you proofs
sometime" (5). One is reminded of a certain phenomenon of the absence of presence
which Umberto Eco soberingly associated with the signified, "death," for which, observed
Eco, there is no sufficient "signifier." It is Hamlet's "Where's Yorrick" moment from which
Tom Stoppard's character. The Player, so aptly extrapolates that death is best signified
when "someone fails to show up." It is the moment in Citizen Kane, following the
"erasure" of the sled (floating signifier) beneath the falling snow on the occasion of the
young Kane's removal from his mother (a moment of loss, trauma, a "little death"). This
moment is followed later by the flickering blank white screen after the last of the real/reel
documentary images of Kane's life are projected before the reporter/detective/viewers'
eyes. It is Melville's white whale, Bartleby's blank wall, the Wittgenstein realization of the
limitations of the reach of human expression. It is, finally, what moves Sven Bikerts to
dread in Biottraphy and the Dissolving Self: A Note, where the acknowledgment of
contemporary engagement with the biographical subject as an image of media
identification results in a condition where "lives seem to be losing mass and dissolving into
ever more nebulous bunches of pixels" (AGNI, No 40). Since my mystorical engagement
with the Patchen corpus involves the intersection of our lives via the electronic, I am
intrigued by Bikert's fears Indeed, one of the as yet unresolved questions in my

86
experiment is precisely the fate of both the biographical subject and the reader/electronic
scriptor of Patchwork What js potentially lost in this space9 And what is gained9
One provocative response to these questions may be found in another iteration of
the "imaginary" quality of the image as presented in the opening passage of Roland
Barthes by Roland Barthes. In his experimental autobiography, Barthes explains that the
photographs included in this 'life-writing' leave him "in a state of disturbing familiarity,"
and that in each case, "I see the fissure in the subject (the very thing about which he can
say nothing)" (4). Later, in Camera Lucida. Barthes would write, "Whatever it grants to
vision and whatever its manner, a photograph is always invisible: it is not that we see" (6).
What we do see, suggests Barthes, and what links Barthes's speculations both to
the other example provided here, as well as to my own mystorical relationship to the
Patchen corpus (I use the cadaverous metaphor purposefully), is the "Spectrum of the
Photograph" (9). Barthes's use of the term "spectrum," he explains, relates it "through its
root ... to spectacle" and "adds to it that rather terrible thing which is there in every
photograph: the return of the dead" (9).
What Barthes has to say later in this chapter about the "portrait-photograph [as] a
close-field of forces" is, 1 would argue, applicable to the full range of signifiers that come
into play in biographical writing, particularly a multi-media biography such as that
proposed in Patchwork Thus 1 quote the passage at length:
Four image-repertoires intersect here, oppose and distort each other In front of
the lens, 1 am at the same time: the one I think 1 am, the one I want others to think
I am, the one the photographer thinks 1 am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit
his art. In other words, a strange action: I do not stop imitating myself, and
because of this, each time I am (or let myself be) photographed, I invariably suffer
from a sensation of inauthenticity, sometimes of imposture (comparable to certain
nightmares). In terms of image-repertoire. The Photograph (the one I intend)

87
represents that very subtle moment when, to tell the truth, 1 am neither subject nor
object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: 1 then experience a micro-
version of death (of parenthesis) : 1 am truly becoming a specter. The
photographer knows this very well, and himself fears (if only for commercial
reasons) this death in which his gesture will embalm me. (Barthes, Camera Lucida
13-14)
From Boswell's pre-photographic promise "to show" Johnson as an image
captured verbally in situ, to the contemporary biographical subject photographically
represented in Benjamin's 'age of mechanical reproduction, the "air of a face," in Barthes's
poetic estimation, "is unacknowledged," and the "certainty" which its presence is intended
to assure, results merely in the "arrest of interpretation" (107).
Passage Through The Wall
How then does the biographer escape the fate of thus embalming his subject, of
inducing what we might call this condition of the cardiac arrest of interpretation9 Or, in
the case of the electronic computer-based biography, the micro-chip version of death, to
recoin a Barthesian phrase9 How, to state the matter, as does Ulmer, in another way, to
"short-circuit the melancholy of guilt linking the Hermeneutic code to the superego"
(Heuretics. 232). To work through this impasse Ulmer turns to chorography via Barthes
and the "antithetical organization of the Symbolic code" (232). Ulmer cites the following
passage from Barthes to "describe the situation of this code," a situation, I would argue,
that similarly describes a template for an electronic crazy quilt:
The two terms of an antithesis are each marked: their difference does not arise out
of a complementary, dialectical movement: the Antithesis is the battle between two
plentitudes set ritually face to face like two fully armed warriors: the Antithesis is
the figure of the given opposition, eternal, eternally recurrent: the figure of the
inexplicable. Every joining of two antithetical terms, every mixture, every
conciliation—in short, every passage through the wall of theAntithesis—thus
constitutes a transgression: to be sure, rhetoric can reinvent a figure designed to
name the transgressive; this figure exists: it is the paradoxism (Barthes, 1974:27)

88
The "passage through the wall," which Barthes associates with Antithesis and
which Ulmer likens to "the walls of the crypt, or of the fort" (Ulmer, Heuretics 233),
requires "finding a medium that interrupts the confrontation," a medium Ulmer invents
incorporating a "choral linguistics" that allows him "to write directly with the Symbolic
code"—precisely the heuretic device he employs in his mystory.
The promise of a choral writing in a hypertextual mystory is the promise, to use
Julia Kristeva's analysis of Barthes's work, of "the awakening of subjects" (Kristeva 121).
"This awakening," argues Kristeva, "occurs simultaneously with the putting into play of
the desire for a signifier to symbolize a 'real' that has fallen into the subject's past or is
questionable for society" (121). Kenneth Patchen, in this study, is such a subject.
In the early stages of my conceptualizing this project, one of my goals was to find
a rhetoric and a medium that would allow the reader/viewer/navigator of this
hypertextually quilted patchwork biography to experience the same sense of vertigo that I
had experienced while negotiating the labyrinthine pathways and multiple perspectives that
emerged from the biographical and textual materials that composed the Patchen archive. It
is Barthes who again provides a model for such a re-imagining of biography writ chorally
and "by means of a violent anacoluthon" (Barthes, New Critical Essays 49)
In his analysis of Chateaubriand's Life of Ranee. Barthes explains that while
Chateaubriand "meant to be no more than [Ranee's] pious biographer," the biographer is
'initiated, by way of "anamesis" and a "passion of memory" that results in an "interlacing"
in which "Chateaubriand must remember for two, whence the intermingling, not of
sentiments (Chateaubriand actually feels little sympathy for Ranee), but of memories" (45).
Operating, thus by "superimposition" as opposed to "projection," Chateaubriand "can do

89
more here than enter by force, fragmentary, a life which is not his own" (45). The vertigo
resulting from this forced and fragmentary entrance is elaborated upon by Barthes in terms
that I believe set the stage for Ulmer's development of the mystory and for its potential
incorporation into an alternative biographical practice. Describing a series of parallels in
the lives of Chateaubriand and Ranee, Barthes observes that "the Reformer's [Ranee's]
thread is broken for the sake of the narrator's sudden reminiscence" (45). Note the textile
metaphor here linking Chateaubriand's textual practice to the electronic gaps and
unpredictable "patches" or webbings inherent in a Patchwork crazy quilt. Adds Barthes,
In this broken recurrence, which is the contrary of assimilation, and consequently,
according to current meaning, of a "creation," there is something unsatisfied, a
strange sort of undertow: the self is unforgettable without ever absorbing him,
Ranee periodically reveals Chateaubraind: never has an author undone himself less;
in this Life there is something hard, made up of splinters, of fragments combined
but not melted down; Chateaubriand does not double Ranee, he interrupts him,
thereby prefiguring a literature of the fragment, according to which the inexorably
separated consciousness (that of the author, that of the character) no longer
hypocritically borrow the same composite voice. With Chateaubriand, the author
begins his solitude: the author is not his character: a distance is established, which
Chateaubriand assumes, without resigning himself to it, whence those reversals
which give the Life of Ranee its special vertigo. (46)
Other similarities exist between Barthes's analysis of Chateaubriand's textual
practice and Ulmer's heuretics, as, for example, their shared reliance on the homonym and
other similar plays of language for the purpose of invention. In describing how in ordinary
discourse "the relation of words is subject to a certain probability," Barthes notes that such
"ordinary probability is rarefied by Chateaubriand” through the use of "cultivated gaps"
through which a "surprising substance . . erupts into the discourse" (47). Indeed, the
marvelously performative and generative qualities of Ulmer's own mystories, such as that
presented in his "Derrida at Little Big Horn" or the "Beau Geste" of Heuretics. provide

90
similar "surprises" that emerge out of the "cultivated gaps" and rarefied probabilities at
work therein
I find truly haunting, one of the closing passages of Barthes's essay on
Chateaubriand, a paragraph in which vertigo achieves the status of a troubling dream—a
dream in which both the subject of literary biography and he or she who reads said subject,
is implicated in the "theater of. . language" and "where the soul is doomed to speech"
(53). Such marks the intersection of the forking paths of Patchen/RobitailleAVelles/Kane
and all other parties who join the quilting bee and co-sign the patchwork by virtue of their
hypertextual weaving and unweaving of the infinite strands that both compose and
decompose the endless combinatorial arrangements of the Patchwork inter-active,
mystorical biography. Again, to quote Patchen himself, "You are not reading this book,
this book is reading you" (Moonlight 202 ). Barthes writes,
Every man who writes (and, therefore, who reads, has in him a Ranee and a
Chateaubriand; Ranee tells him that his self cannot endure the theater of any
language, or he is lost: to say I is inevitably to open a curtain, not so much to
expose (which henceforth matters very little) as to inaugurate the ceremonial of the
imaginary; Chateaubriand, for his part, tells him that the sufferings, the
discomforts, the exaltations of this self, in short, the pure sentiment of his
existence, can only plunge into language, that the "sensitive" soul is doomed to
speech, and consequently to the very theater of that speech. For nearly two
centuries this contradiction has haunted our writers: consequently we find
ourselves dreaming of a pure writer who does not write (53)
Such, I believe, was Patchen’s dream and his consequent flight into the obsessive
dissemination of his signature across of variety of media until all that was left beyond the
tortured register of his jazz poems and the primitive, alien forms of his painted poems, was
the final anchoring of the seifs free-floating signifier in the universal language of the
scream, which, according to his wife, Miriam, signaled the moment of his passing.

91
I close this chapter's commentary with some reflections on two more 'hauntings,
two more recent attempts to construct an alternative biographical practice sensitive to the
problematics of biographical representation and which anticipate strategies to be employed
in Patchwork The first, Jacqueline Rose's The Haunting of Sylvia Plath (1991), begins
with the disclaimer that the text to follow " is not a biography," that the author "is never
claiming to speak about the life, never attempting to establish the facts about the lived
existence of Sylvia Plath" (xi). Indeed, Rose asserts she has no desire "to arbitrate between
competing and often incompatible versions of what took place" (xi). What does propel
Rose's engagement with her "subject" is "the circulation of fantasy in her fPlath's] texts"
and certain "difficult ethical issues — about the legitimate scope of interpretation" (xii).
Calling into question the notion that there is "only one version of reality," Rose sets forth,
not to certify an authoritative reading of the life and art, but rather, to explore why, and in
what sense, it can be said that: "Sylvia Plath haunts our culture" (1).
For rather than providing her readers a unified subject, "Sylvia Plath," as an easily
anchored signifier, "her presence," observes Rose, "seems to open up a rent or gap in the
world" (2). In language that evokes the reporter's dilemma in Citizen Kane and the plight
of the biographer central to this project. Rose notes,
Often, as we will see, it is technically impossible to separate Plath's voice
from those who speak for her. Plath's writings and the surrounding voices
stand in effigy for her, they speak in her name It is this effigy that haunts the
culture. This is of course true of any writer who is no longer living—in fact of any
writer, whether living or not (2)
It is the acknowledgment of this phenomenon that prompts the emergence of an
alternative approach to the biographical subject, an approach, such as that explored in
Ulmer's mystory, that neither ignores this contamination effect, nor sees it as a limit point

92
for the generation of a creative exchange with the play of signification "authorized" by the
constellation of signifiers that move in and out of the orbit of her signature. Indeed, Rose
posits a Derridean recognition of the complicity of language itself, of the centrality of
differance and of the double space of writing, when she writes.
What she [Plath] presents us with therefore is not only the difference of
writing from the person who produces it, but also the division internal to language,
the difference of writing from itself. It is the more striking that so many critics have
felt it incumbent upon themselves to produce a unified version of Plath as writer
and woman, as if that particular form of fragmentation or indirect representation
were something which, through the completion of their own analysis of her, they
could somehow repair. (6)
This compulsion to "repair" the subject, a compulsion readily apparent in the
comments of Patchen's friends and foes alike, is an occupational hazard amongst literary
biographers. The tendency to formulate the subject according to rules of bifurcation,
Patchen as angel of darkness and light, nihilist or romantic visionary, peacemaker or
aggressive antinomian, results, according to Rose's insightful theorizing, from the failure
to recognize that:
There is no history outside its subjective realization, its being-for-the-
subject, just as there is no subjectivity uncoloured by the history to which it
belongs The division between history and subjectivity, between external and
internal reality, between the trials of the world and the trials of the mind, is a false
one. The distribution of opposites which has relentlessly attached itself to Plath is
the consequence of a false premise, a false antagonism, from the start. (8)
In search of a paradigm, of an aesthetic, that will serve as model for a 'life writing'
that will avoid such fascist agendas. Rose takes her cue from Plath's use of the collage
form, constructed as a "set of fragments" and which, significantly, "is also not unlike a
picture puzzle or rebus, which is the model Freud offered for the language of dreams" (9).
While rejecting the reductive interpretation of this collage form as valorizing a

93
"disordered, fragmented, shifting subjectivity which women oppose to a destructively
linear world," Rose argues, I believe, for an electronic logic, when she credits Plath's
collage as a means to work "across boundaries, psychic, political, cultural . . ." (10). It is
this multidimensionality, inherent in the mystorical approach to an alternative biographical
practice, that Rose hopes to honor in her non-biography.
Yet another recent experiment inspired by the 'hauntings' of its "subject" is Louis
Kaplan's Lazio Maholy-Nattv: Biographical Writinus. Kaplan's text, like those discussed
above, similarly anticipates the possibilities inherent in a hypertextual, non-linear,
patchworked, mystorical alternative biography Kaplan's project takes its cue from
Maholy-Nagy's artistic precept of "vision in motion" which Kaplan associates with
relativity theory, and which employs certain "deformation strategies and multiple
distortions" that ultimately "provide a powerful critique of any mode of representation"
(3). Kaplan identifies in Maholy-Nagy's artistic practice "a set of operations and strategies
that acknowledge the problematics of language for the visual arts and [which] consider art
as a signifying practice," a point central to the understanding of the role of Patchen's art to
Patchwork. Indeed, I would submit that such is not only the case with Patchen's
multimedia explorations and textual practices, but that one can conclude of Patchen, as
Kaplan does of Maholy-Nagy, that:
. . this linguistic turn provides another source and resource of turbulence and
resistance to an unproblematic form of historical representation, and this, in turn,
impacts any biographical attempt to seize upon Maholy and render an account of
his life (3).
Indeed, Kaplan succinctly summarizes the premise for the current project when he
notes that "abstract art art and theories of language in the twentieth century have

94
problematized the representation of the (biological) object of study and the claim to an
immediate, direct, and easy accessing of the referent" (3). Having accepted this
phenomenon as a (T)arget towards which he must invent an alternative strategy of
approach, Kaplan's inventio, his "particular thrust" at this semiotically untethered subject,
"is to review how the artistic practice of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy engages a primal scene of
signification in the staging of signature effects, and further, to consider how this signature
practice impacts upon the writing of biography" (4). Kaplan cites as an example Derrida's
Glas. in which the "double band of the signature’s writing" serves generatively to produce
a writerly text out of the juxtaposition of the signatures (and their respective play of
signification) of Hegel and Genet.
In Patchwork, this Derridean practice of decomposing the proper name into the
common noun, is extended through its employment as a strategic element in Ulmer's
heuretically inspired mystorv. As Kaplan points out in his study of Maholy-Nagy, this
extension of the signature event into the realm of biography also finds its prototype in
Derrida, as witnessed in his "Otobiographies" wherein Derrida "challenges the genre of
philosophical biography that is constructed upon the historicist maintenance of a rigid
separation of the life and work of the philosopher" (9). Kaplan's project proceeds
therefore by way of the "substitution of the term (Moholyean) "artist" for (Nietzschean)
"philosopher," setting the stage for a writing "in the Key of Moholy" (10). The key to this
Derridean maneuver, as exemplified, say, in his The Ear of the Other, is when Derrida
"problematizes the fixed biographical subject by lending an (other) ear to the line of
textual credit undersigned in the posthumous name of Friedrich Nietzsche on account of
the dynamics of the eternal return" (10). Similarly, as will be discussed at length in

95
Chapter 5, "(T)arget," it will be observed that what emerges from biography as
hypertextual mystory, is the electronically aided and abetted "patching" of the "other" in
an endless cycle of eternal returns to a "subject" whose co-signature extends the range of
its signification beyond the bounds of the traditionally "authorized biography." As will be
illustrated in Chapter 6, in which the CATTt exposes it (t)ale/taille, the resulting
patchwork mystorical biography transcends the usual exhumation of the literary "corpus"
for purposes that ensure the author is "dead" in a manner infinitely more stupefying than
that of the poststructuralist "death of the author." In the case of Patchwork, the chasing of
one's (t)ale/taille becomes the occasion for the biographical subject and those who engage
in the event of his signature, not simply to "be" told, as in the case of the static model of
the "authoritative" wholecloth framing of the life, but rather "to bee," as in quilting bee,
where the participant crazy quilter may explore "the architecture of the between," the
interstices between biographical subject and other, the various and deconstructive patterns
whose electronic, graphical representations form an Heraclitean stream, which "gives the
graphic," according to Kaplan, "back to biography" and visually re-presents "the drift of
the signature effect" (188).
Assessing Patchworking Elements for Electronic Mvstoriobiographv
As the template below reveals, this study has included a diverse range of concepts,
represented by their respective signatories, that strongly support the hypertextual
approach proposed by the Patchwork mystoriobiography. In essence, if the traditional
biography was characterized by verisimilitude, a singularly authoritative analysis of a
purportedly unified subject, and an hermeneutic emphasis on defining the 'true' aspects of a
life, the alternative approach exemplified in Patchwork may be said to be informed by a

96
heuretical, multivocal, collagist and generative interplay between the archival materials and
the co-signatories creatively writing in the keys of the floating biographical signifiers The
following table includes a 'sampler' of some of the major elements included in the
construction of Patchwork.
Table 1. Sample of Major Elements in the Construction of Patchwork
Concept
Co-Signatory
Tutor Texts
Heuretical Application
Post-structuralism/
Deconstruction
Derrida
Barthes
Glas
S/Z
grammatology -
double space of writing
Signature effect
Derrida
Barthes
Ulmer
Kaplan
SiensDonee
Roland Barthes
Derrida at Little Big
Horn
Maholv-Nagv
Writing in the key of
Patchen/Robitai 1 le
puncept/homonymy
Derrida
Ulmer
Kaplan
Signsponge
Beau Geste
Maholv-Nagv
Patchen/Patchw ork
Robitaille/ tailor of
electronic text(iles)
octobiographv
Derrida
The Ear of the Other
the function of the
'other' in octobiographv
mystery
Ulmer
Ross McElwee
Wittgenstein
Teletheorv
Sherman's March
The Brown Book
mystoriobiography
hobby theory^
Ulmer
electronic quilt-making
rhizome/nomadic
writing
Deleuze &
Guatarn
Anti-Oedmus
A Thousand Plateaus
rhizomatic qualities of
electronic writing
Midrash
rabbinical
scholarship
Susan
Handleman
Talmud
The Slavers of Moses
computer-generated
electronic midrashing in
the form of cyber¬
patchworking
popcycle
Ulmer
Heuretics
Beau Geste remake
incorporation of Citizen
Kane as entertainment,
popular culture element
in Citizen Patchen
hypertext
Landow
H\-pertext
mystoriobiography as
hypertext

Table 1-continued
97
Concept
Co-Signatory
Tutor Texts
Heuretical Application
randomness/chance
Cage
various applications of
I-Ching to performance
artworks
recombinatonal
possibilities and chance
reconfigurations of quilt
patches in Patchwork
chaos theory/strange
attractors
Hayles
Adams
Chaos Bound
The Education of Henry
Adams
chaos theory as a
design element for an
alternative biographical
practice
heuretics/CATTt
Ulmer
Heuretics
design template for
conceptualizing
Patchwork
crazy quilt
long tradition
dating back to
the Orient
McMorris
many examples of
crazy quilt patterns
Crazy Quilts
hobb> craft to be
integrated as hobby
theory
ideological 'quilt'/
points de capitón
Zizek
The Sublime Object of
Ideology
Patchyvork as
ideological quilt
alternative
historiography
Foucault
The Order of Things
analysis of relationship
betxveen poyver and
knoyvledge
White
Metahistorv
historical narratives and
tropes employ ed to
make sense of history
dialogism/pol\phonv/c
Bahktin
The Dialogic
introduction of
amival
Imagination
polyphony and the
analogic into
mystoriobiography
memory/mnemonics
Carruthers
The Book of Memory
mnemonic organization
scheme as heuretic
device in
Patchyvork
alternative forms of
Ulmer
Heuretics
avant-garde as
academic discourse
Rav
The Avant- Garde
alternative mode of
Meets Andv Hardv
research
ideological apparatus
Althusser
Ideoloev and the
examination of the
Ideoloeical State
subject becomes
Apparatus
constituted in ideology

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Thus, in Chapter 5, we take aim at our (T)arget and with electronic needles in
hand we join the Patchwork quilting bee In doing so, we will examine the
mystoriobiograpical elements of a Patchwork hypertext and consider the plurality of
readings which the recombinatorial possibilities of these "patches" might potentially yield.

CHAPTER 5
(T)ARGET
A precious, last of its species bird was placed into a Ming quality vase. The
bird has grown to such a proportion that it can no longer be removed from
the narrow mouth of the vase without damage to either the bird or the
vase. How do we resolve this dilemma and protect both the bird and the
vase?
Answer: Poof! It's out!
—Zen Koan
To approach knowledge from the role of not knowing what it is, from the
side of the one who is learning, not from that of the one who already
knows, is to do mystory.
—Gregory Ulmer, Mystory
Introduction
If the fate of hermeneutics in general, and literary biography in particular, is putting
so many precious puzzles and conundrums in bottles, only to release them in the name of a
given "truth" or explanatory theme, thus diminishing the complexity of the subject while
embellishing the vita of the scholar, then I suppose I will have none of it. What I had
originally mistaken as a desire to explain Kenneth Patchen both to myself and the world, I
soon discovered had less to do with resolving the complexities of this cubist subject and a
whole lot more to do with what thinking about the materials of this rich archive could tell
me about the, at times, almost fetishistic relationship that so often results in the warring
emotions of fascination and repulsion recounted by so many practitioners of the trade
As discussed earlier, there are many interesting accounts by professional literary
biographers, such as the "haunting" experience cited in Jacqueline Rose's encounter with
99

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Sylvia Plath, which attempt to analyze this phenomenon from the perspective of the expert
in the field. Having begun my own journey fresh out of graduate school, 1 feared my status
as a beginner would expose me as an amateur, and as such, 1 would do the subject of my
study an injustice. It then occurred to me that it was precisely the professional critics and
biographers against whom Kenneth Patchen had railed, fearing, justifiably, that their
formulations would entomb him in the very shrouds of dead language that his increasingly
diverse artworks were attempting to transcend. It was as if the very cues for a Patchen
anti-biography were embedded in the gaps, fissures and meta-moments of his work. I now
find confirmation and consolation in Ulmer's claims for mystory as the legitimate
enterprise for amateurs such as myself. I began all of this on the side of not knowing, and
what I am going to say in my mystory, while it may shed some light on the Patchen
corpus, is likely to be a small ray of illumination in a crypt of contorted contours and a
constantly shifting karst-like topography. The site of the present writing, Gainesville,
Florida, is best described as an "irregular limestone region" and not well suited for those
who prefer to build on bedrock. To write in such a space is to learn something about how
one comes to enter such a space, what it is like to get lost there. Here you might catch an
occasional glance of the literary corpus and other artifacts left behind by other strange
attractors like myself, caught in the vector of signifying forces bounding the seemingly
chaotic field that biographers reductively refer to as a "life."
For indeed, if what Patchen's Albion Moonlight says is true of his Journal, that it
has no "end," then it may be similarly said of my curious mystoriobiography of Patchen,
that it has no beginning. The Heraclitean stream of floating signiflers into which I immerse

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myself is an onion with no center, which is not to say that it is not without an operating
paradigm or propelled forward by emotions of unknown origin
It seems that at some originally subconscious level, later to surface consciously via
the medium of mystory, I was drawn to Patchen's corpus in the primitive, visceral fashion
of a carrion crow seeking fresh kill, the literary biographer as ambulance chaser, seeking
confirmation of my own mortality in the obsessive meditation on Yorrick's skull. Not
mistaking the container for the contained, tugged along by a certain absence of presence,
I knew that wherever this journey led me, and it is now some thirty years since my lover
placed that first haunting Patchen signature at my bedside, that what 1 would discover on
this journey would have less to do with the truth or falsity of the biographical details of a
life, and a whole lot more to do with the capacity of language to convey human expression
even as it taunts us with its constant reminder of its fundamental inability to speak the
unspeakable, to penetrate beyond the final punctuation mark which signals a profound
lack, the absolute silence of the grave
One might say, then, that in this instance the biographical "urge" was motivated by
a certain "bliss-sense," which, as Ulmer explains, "manifests itself in mystory as aleatory
associations formed by three levels of discourse: private, popular and expert" (Teletheory,
96). In the case of Patchwork, let us review what these three levels contain and how,
ultimately, they form "the nexus of history, politics, language, thought and technology"
which mystoriobiography, writ electronically as the braided elements of a hypertext
patchwork quilt, is capable of generating.
One of the organizing principles of a mystory is the employment of the punctum as
a mnemonic, like that which is generated by the punctum arriving in the form of a "sting"

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which "is an emotional response to certain details 'expressed' in an image, calling to mind
an experience of time" (110).
In my family album, the scraps of which I will electronically patch together as a
hobby theory in my Patchwork hyperquilt, there exists the following images which 1 will
categorize according to the manner in which they will link up to the other two levels of
discourse in the mystory (popular and expert), thus forming the template for the
construction of the quilt
Crash Sites
Imagine, if you will, a quilt patch bearing the iconic rendering of a crash site (e g.,
police tape embossed over the chalk outline of a crash victim). Click here and you enter a
gallery of crash site images which represent in my mystory the nexus of a series of
catastrophes spanning the discourse levels of personal, popular and expert. From the
register of the personal we have the following
Personal Crash Sites
My paternal grandfather died in a car crash when my father was six years old He
was a carpenter and building contractor in my birthplace of New Bedford, Massachusetts,
who died before he was able to build a home for his family. At precisely the same point in
time, Kenneth Patchen's father was pursuing the same trade in his birthplace of Warren,
Ohio. According to accounts I have received from high school classmates, the Patchens
lived in a series of "shells" constructed by the father and then sold, and Patchen spent his
youth in a series of such partially constructed sites. It was while living in such a "shell"
that Patchen, received word that his beloved sister, Kathleen, had been killed in an auto
accident. Correspondence with Patchen's friends and family suggests he responded to this

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event with extreme displays of grief and such a response is corroborated by his thinly
veiled short story, "Come Bury Them in God." Beyond incidental surface similarities of
their housing situation, there remains the more obvious symbolism of an early loss of a
significant other due to a family catastrophe.
I have only recently begun to piece together, as a result of mystorical
patchworking, the significance of the impact of my grandfather's death on my father.
Though as a child, I had certain premonitions that my father's desire to be an active
presence in his family's life was in large part motivated by having not had this paternal
presence himself. 1 also suspect that this "lack" imposed upon my father's personal
ideology a certain conservative set of constraints that militated against risk taking and an
almost compulsive embrace of the status quo Growing up I heard my father's endless
recitation of the homily: "I wept because 1 had no shoes, until I met a man who had no
feet." Years later, in my older adolescence, 1 would chide my dad in fits of righteous
indignation, for constantly referring to someone else's greater misfortune as the basis for
accepting his own seemingly unexplored challenges and personal opportunities. In the
mystorical imagination that shapes this telling, my father was Melville's "snug" and "safe"
narrator and was destined to play his Bartleby. I mention this anecdote because at some
subconscious level the repercussions of the crash site continue to reverberate outward,
ultimately predisposing me, no doubt, to a disestablishmentantarianism 1 have identified in
the works and signifying materials associated with the Patchen signature
This crash site, and the others to be (s)cited below, form an artificial memory
which Ulmer relates to a "personal cemetery," in a manner similar to earth artist's, Robert
Smithson's, reference to "a kind of tomb" (180). "The signature," writes Ulmer, "is related

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to Lacan's account of the Name-of-the-Father as founding metaphor of language, invented
to mark the tomb of the Dead Father" (180).
Though my father had few memories of his dad to recount to me, he did recall
proudly that a plaque bearing is father's name could still be found outside a church my
grandfather constructed in New Bedford Curiously, the other local site that continued to
hold my father's attention in later years, and that he had made the object of an almost
sacred pilgrimage one summer vacation following our move to Miami, Florida, was the
Seaman's Bethel featured in the opening sequence of Herman Melville's Moby Dick The
nexus of these two sites and their relationship to language, the tomb of the Dead Father,
and the mystoriobiography, Patchwork, are precisely this: My father left a dying industrial
mill town because its two major industries, fishing and textiles, were threatened and on the
verge of extinction. My father's accounts of the harsh working conditions and depressing
lifestyles 1 would later find echoed throughout Patchen's literary works and personal
correspondence In coming across Henry Miller's reference to Patchen's birthplace as
looking like "the planet Vulcan," I tactilely recalled the piles of coal in the abandoned mill
yards of New Bedford. When my father moved the family to Florida when I was three,
following a brief stint working for the railroads, he began working as an engraver of
plaques and name signs.
The historical and personal ironies here are many and will later be seen to span all
three levels of discourse: private, popular and expert/disciplinary My father's link to his
own dad was memorialized in a plaque on a church, a site representing an institution, the
Catholic Church, which both Patchen and I would later associate with the tomb of another
absent signified, the metaphysical divine. My father became an engraver of such plaques

and signatures. Like Patchen, my father, having abandoned the graveyard of dead
text(ile)s, (cite/site here Melville's solipsistic trajectory from Moby Dick through
"Bartleby" to the lonely linguistic interiors of Pierre), took up copying other's signatures.
My father also shared Patchen's interest in type-fonts and both seemed to be drawn to the
graphic elements of their work, even as both seemed to personally lament the deadly
repetition of "signing" for others. Lawrence Ferlinghetti informed me in a personal
interview conducted on January 2, 1980, that the first issues of his City Lights Publishing
Company were printed using font styles he found in a text given to him by Kenneth
Patchen. For both Patchen and my father, in others words, signing became associated
with an act of commodification. For my father, it was a means of earning a living, and
even for Patchen, the practice of embellishing limited edition runs of his work with
colophon numbers and a hand-written signature, was intended to increase market value
while ostensibly offering the purchaser a "limited edition" in which no two signatures were
alike But, of course, it was the very recognition of Patchen's 'trademark' childlike
signature, its reproducibility, upon which Patchen's very limited income as an artist came
more and more to rely. Indeed, Miriam Patchen speaks with some remorse about having
agreed to have Patchen's work be published by Hallmark, and in one of the last items 1
came across in publisher James Laughlin's Patchen correspondence at New Directions,
there is a reference to interest at Apple Records to produce a project in conjunction with
Patchen. If one examines John Lennon's, A Spaniard In The Works, the parallels between
the nonsense tales and the fetal, Paul Klee-like images, and Patchen's work is striking, not
to mention their shared anti-war sensibility.

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Thus, the trajectory of Patchen's signature moves from the decision by Random
House founder and publisher, Bennett Cerf, to publish Kenneth Patchen's Before the
Brave (1933), under red cover, as their first proletarian poet, through Hallmark's
appropriation of Patchen's romantic verse, to the unrealized potential to co-sign a text
with a former Beatle. Throughout this entire process of the signature's dissemination, what
goes largely unrecognized in the process are the complex deconstructive elements of the
work that both explain its history of appropriations and exploitations, as well as its
insistent contrariness, its resistance to play monophonically in a single register of meaning
(socialist, humanist, romantic, beat), thus ultimately fating the corpus to the dustbins of
marginally anthologized literary history.
It is here, in the contemplation of these 'dead letters' that I follow the mystorical
path back to New Bedford and the Seaman's Bethel, where my father traced with my tiny
fingers the supposed signature which Herman Melville allegedly carved into the pew.
(Many years later I strain to recall the actuality of this scene, to question whether it is not
the fiction of the voice who recalls for me what "seems" to be the past). Of course, what is
important here mystorically is the linkage of Melville's "Bartleby," a scrivener whose
previous experience working in the "dead letter office" of the postal service, manifests
itself throughout the text in the repeated refrain, "I prefer not to," and in his ultimate
dissolution from starvation in "the tombs "
My father, thus, spent most of his life as a scrivener of sorts, having left one form
of dead text(iles) for another Was my father's haunting memory of his father's signature
on the church plaque, and his later life in signage, a variation on the theme of incomplete
mourning9 A mourning in which the living is fated to repeatedly co-sign with the hand of

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the deceased9 Does my own compulsion to explore the Patchen palimpsest, to follow the
forked path of Patchen's peregrinating signature, signal, perhaps, my own attempts to
escape the stranglehold of my own logocentric genealogy9 How ironic, is it not, that for
thirty years my father worked for a man named "Law " at a firm called "Law's
Engraving"? Surely I could not have invented a more logo-centric affiliation, where the
"law" of language was the work of the engraver of dead letters.
Finally, I should add that the one element of bliss-sense my father experienced in
his work with signatures was the oftentimes homonymic quality of their coinage, which
often inspired in him a fond appreciation for homonymic play and the pun. At the dinner
table nothing would please my father more than the groans he could elicit from a truly bad
pun. My appreciation for this form of linguistic play, of course, now informs my
mystorical retelling of this taille/tale.
Popular Crash Cites/Scene One: Death. Television and Catastrophe
My earliest memory of the phenomenon of death coincides with one of my earliest
memories of television. In the early days of the Today Show. 1950 or so, host Dave
Garroway would appear in live skits that took place outside the studio on the streets of
New York City in a manner later to be emulated by David Letterman and others.
Garroway and company sought to exploit the new territory of the televisual "real" by
blurring the distinction between the "real" and the "newsreel" that had previously been
manipulated in the cinema and, thus, made available for deconstruction in scenes like that
in Citizen Kane, in which the facts of William Randolph Hearst's life are framed with a
pseudo-documentary profile of Charles Foster Kane, framed in-turn within the fictional
narrative of Welles's classic.

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The Today Show sequence that functions as a punctum in my mystory involved
Dave Garroway being flattened by a runaway steam roller. Utilizing a series of dramatic
shifts of point-of-view, the experience of Garroway's terror is witnessed both in the
expression of panic on his face and from his perspective as the steam roller approaches.
After viewing shots of the impending fatal encounter from behind the barricaded street
side audience, Jack Lescoulie, Garroway's sidekick, peels a cardboard thin facsimile of
Garroway from the pavement. As an obviously hyper-sensitive child, the sight/site of this
accident sent me into paroxysms of uncontrollable crying, followed by what my parents
must have felt was an unhealthy period of grief and their seemingly ineffective attempts at
consolation. A couple of years ago I came across, quite by chance, a tiny obituary in the
paper mentioning the passing of Jack Lescoulie and the obscure bit of television trivia that
Garroway had named him "The Saver" for having pulled the duo out of so many near gaffs
in those early days of live, wild west television broadcasting.
The question for mystory is how the stings of such memories, recurring as strong
images from the past, live on in the present as one of the organizing principles of one's
subconscious thought. In the case of Patchwork, the visual and audio patches of the
hypertext quilt would graft the cry of the distraught child with that of both the oblique and
disturbing shriek of the cockatoo in Citizen Kane and the scream which Miriam Patchen
reported hearing at the moment of her husband's passing. All the many words uttered and
written by or about the signatories Patchen, Robitaille, Kane, will not, under the
pressurized forces of hermeneutics, yield a truth of gem-like precision that reveals that
which is signified by these vocalizations. This observation is marvelously dramatized in the
semiotic joke with which Edgar Allan Poe concludes his short story, "The Case of M

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Vladimir." Having mesmerized a dying patient, a physician hopes to hear the man's
personal account of what he experiences as he crosses the threshold from life to death.
The patient complies by speaking the unutterable utterance, "I am dead." The rest, to
quote Hamlet, is "silence." Critics have also noted in Citizen Kane that Kane's deathbed
utterance, "Rosebud," could not have been passed on to the reporter since the scene
suggests the whispered comment would have been inaudible to any other character in the
film. As I noted earlier, it is precisely in the artificial memory of the film itself, and the
interplay of disseminating signifiers set in motion by this utterance, that the term seems to
yield its generative powers.
The Today Show incident precipitated a later series of car related dreams of
catastrophe in which I would find myself in an automobile perched precariously close to
the edge of a dark water body. In each repetition of the dream the emergency brakes on
the car would slip and the vehicle would slip into the brink. As the water poured into the
car a toy quite popular at the time would float into view. It was a black, fortune telling ball
with a window screen into which would randomly float a series of cryptic predictions. In
my dream what appeared was the date of the accident However, before my night
consciousness could retrieve it, I would wake, sweating and disturbed, in my darkened
bedroom. In Patchwork, specifically in the mystorical detournment Citizen Patchen. the
fortune-telling ball is substituted for Kane's paperweight, while serving similarly in the
memory system of my "tale" as one in a series of floating signifiers, of points de capitón,
available for sewing or patching together various interlocking narratives.
Even more curious, as fate would have it, is the appearance of a February 4, 1998,
news story in the San Francisco Chronicle that El Nino rains brought torrential floods to

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Palo Alto, and that Miriam Patchen, wife of the late poet, Kenneth Patchen, found their
home suddenly inundated with rising water Mrs. Patchen was rescued by someone in an
outboard boat and left behind in her wake were many lost, rare, personal items including
original works by the author Indeed, the corpus is never safe, and there always exists the
danger that all traces of the signature may be obliterated. Truly a biographer's nightmare!
The writing of the Patchwork mystory, thus, is not so much to "save" Patchen
from his entombment within the crypt of a more traditional biographical and historical
analysis, but rather, to quilt out of the patchwork of crazy scraps left behind in the wake
(pun intended) of his passing signature. In other words, to be a quilt maker, one must be a
"saver," a collagist with a desire to produce not a mourning coat out of the wholecloth of
hermeneutic truth, but a crazy quilt whose generative interplay of seemingly unrelated
scraps allows for the constant schiz-flow to circulate.
Popular Crash Sites/Scene Two: From the Automobile to the Nuclear
The crash site as a popular manifestation of a collective obsession may be
explained in part by psychological theorizing such as Freud's, but there is little denying the
documentable tendency in popular culture and tabloid journalism for the "If it bleeds, it
leads" mentality that drives the sales of print and visual media today.
I was born precisely at the onset of tv nation The first television broadcast in
Miami, Florida, took place within weeks of my birth in July of 1949. It was in Miami that
the family diet of television was quickly established and it now occurs to me that crash
sites have been a regular item on this menu of tv fare: the fatal intersection that marks the
site of the Kennedy assassination, the vapor trails of the Challenger explosion, the

Ill
potential for catastrophe signified by a speeding white Bronco and, most recently. Princess
Diana's fatal exit into the dark tunnel of death-by-media.
The site of catastrophe that links the private and popular levels of discourse in
Patchwork is the scene, not only of the automobile accident (the real/reel exposure of
technology run amok), but, similarly, it is also the site of the nuclear blast, the possibility
of total annihilation of human consciousness. This punctum, and its sting of memory, like
the auto accident and its televisual re-presentation, is also closely linked to Robert
Simithson's view, as noted in Ulmer's Teletheory. of the "coalescence of the ages of video
and the H-Bomb" (183). Ulmer quotes Smithson on this point, and the passage marks
such a significant element of Patchwork, and of my relationship to the signifying materials
associated with the Patchen signature, that 1 cite it in full:
It seems that "the war babies," those born after 1937-38 were "Born
Dead"-to use a motto favored by the Hells' Angels. The philosophism of "reality"
ended some time after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and
the oven cooled down. Cinematic "appearance" took over completely sometime in
the late 50's. "Nature" falls into an infinite series of movie "stills"—we get what
Marshall McLuhan calls "The Reel World " (Smithson, 74)
As I include visits to specific sites of individual and mass extermination in my tour
of memory, a tour that will be emblematized in the patches of my electronic quilt, I
execute "a process of mourning" in which the "places turn out to be arranged around a
monument bearing the signature, if not the family name, related to death and decay" (184)
In Patchwork, this monument will appear in the initial screen as a remake of Kane's
"Xanadu," and the merging of our family names, Kane/Patchen/Robitaille, signaled by their
respective initials on the front gate, which, as they alternate in appearance, can be clicked

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upon with the mouse, marking the first of many forking paths presented in the
mystoriobiography's detournment of Citizen Kane.
Such a "non-site" is seen to be hinged rhizomatically with the site of individual
experience and institutional discipline . . . figured ... as a family album" (184). In this
case, the album takes the form of a film-remake through Xanadu, upon whose virtual walls
may be found a series of crazy quilts, each of which is embedded with patches
hypertextually linked to the rhizomatically expanding and recombinant text(iles) of the
mystoriobiography.
Thus, to return to the coalescence of the H-Bomb and video, I should note the
following specific stings of memory Not long after I moved to Miami from New Bedford,
there began the practice of low level aerial spraying of pesticides to control the spread of
disease due to mosquito infestations. Already hypersensitized by images of aerial
bombardment witnessed in the countless hours my father watched such popular war series
as Victory At Sea, the sight/site of these low flying prop planes just a few feet above tree
line, had me running for the shelter of the utility room behind my home.
Then, in the early 60s, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we learned that the South
Florida pharmaceutical tycoon whose estate backed onto our property was building the
largest bomb shelter in the state just a few yards from my own tiny shelter in the utility
room. My brother and I would sometimes leap the stone wall behind our home and make
our way through the avocado grove to stare at the bunker which rose like an Indian
mound out of the ground. Meanwhile, at school, my classmates and I watched Civil
Defense films and participated in frequent air raid drills where we were instructed to

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huddle, fetal-like, under our desks where, as the popular college poster of the day darkly
joked, we could "kiss our sweet asses goodbye."
However, the sting with the greatest half-life relating to my nuclear memory was,
in fact, related to its video re-presentation, a "Playhouse 90" adaptation of Pat Frank's
apocalyptic 1959 novel, Alas. Babylon. Much to the horror of my admittedly hyper¬
sensitive adolescent imagination, Frank's vision of nuclear Armageddon is set in Fort
Repose (the name has a crypt-ically funeral ring), an apocryphal river town in Central
Florida. When the bombs begin to fall, we witness a mushroom cloud to the northeast and
electronic communication with Jacksonville is instantly cut off On the evening of the
premiere broadcast of Alas, Babylon. 1 was watching the program at home in Miami,
knowing that my close cousins were then living in Jacksonville. Like Jersy Kosinzki's
Chauncy Gardner in Being There and Orson Welles’s radio audience for War of the
Worlds. I found it difficult to separate the real from the reel, and so my parents finally
resorted to a long distance phone call to confirm my cousin's survival
It is only now, as I revisit these stings of memory, that 1 finally pick up a copy of
Frank's novel I am immediately struck by this paragraph in the author's foreword to the
book:
A man who has been shaken by a two-ton blockbuster has a frame of
reference He can equate the impact of an H-bomb with his own experience, even
though the H-bomb blast is a million times more powerful than the shock he
endured To someone who has never felt a bomb, bomb is only a word. An H-
bomb's fireball is something you see on television It is not something that
incinerates you to a cinder in the thousandth part of a second For the H-bomb is
beyond the imagination of all but a few Americans, while the British, Germans, and
Japanese can comprehend it, if vaguely. And only the Japanese have personal
understanding of atomic heat and radiation (7)

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While I do not question the impact that being "shaken" by an H-bomb would have
on an individual, a deconstruction of this paragraph yields, I believe, several points that
both call into question the logic here, while revealing a number of points central to
Patchwork. Indeed, it is by way of Ulmer's consideration of "nuclear criticism" that 1 read
against the grain of Frank's language
In Teletheorv. Ulmer provides a series of tutor texts which manifest what he refers
to as elements of "nuclear criticism." Central to this criticism is the "deconstruction of the
apocalyptic tone" and the realization "that nuclear catastrophe is the one referent of the
literary, in that it is the one event that cannot be internalized by the symbolic" (201). The
following passage from Derrida encompasses the spirit and genesis of Patchwork to such a
degree that I repeat it here in full:
An individual death, a destruction affecting only a part of society, of
tradition, or culture may always give rise to displacement, and so on In that case
there is a monumentalization, archivization and work on the remainder Similarly,
my own death as an individual, so to speak, can always be anticipated
phantasmatically, symbolically too, as a negativity at work—a dialectic of the
work, of signature, name, heritage, image, grief all the resources of memory and
tradition can mute the reality of death, whose anticipation then is still woven out of
fictionality, symbolicity, or, if you prefer, literature; and this is so even if I live not
to equate with the annihilation of humanity as a whole; this catastrophe occurs
with every individual death; there is no common measure adequate to persuade me
that personal mourning is less serious than a nuclear war But the burden of every
death can be assumed symbolically by a culture and a social memory (that is even
their essential function and justification). Culture and memory limit the
"reality" of individual death to this extent, they soften or deaden it in the realm of
the "symbolic." The only referent that is absolutely real is thus of the scope or
dimension of an absolute nuclear catastrophe that would irreversibly destroy the
entire archive and all symbolic capacity, would destroy the "movement of
survival," what I call "survivance," at the very heart of life. (Derrida, 1984b 28)
As Derrida suggests, every death is a catastrophe sufficient to yield a half-life of
slow emotional decay. But what can now be said of the post-Hiroshima age is the

capacity, presently in place, "to destroy the entire archive and all symbolic capacity ." The
implications for teletheory are clear in that "nuclear catastrophe represents that which
resists internalization and therefore escapes mourning" (202). Ulmer follows with a critical
observation that calls into question the logic of Frank's position, when he states: "It is not
a question of actual annihilation, but of this image that makes accessible to thought the
other of mourning" (202).
When Frank dismissively suggests that "to someone who has never felt a bomb,
bomb is only a word," he fails to appreciate that it is precisely in the incapacity of this
word to signify "that which resists internalization" that the transduction between language
and image takes place. Given what cannot adequately be expressed in alphabetic language,
one is thus compelled to explore the way of deconstruction, of that which is "more than a
language and no more a language" (202)
I believe this is exactly what the young Patchen was puzzling over in the letter to
his high school friend cited earlier in which he expressed his distrust and futility with
alphabetic language on the cusp of his decision to declare himself a w'riter. Anais Nin,
writing of Patchen's prose in her diary, finds only "a confusion of languages, gutter jargon,
literary, colloquial, inflated to achieve rhetorical grandeur, a Tower of Babel creating only
chaos" (Nin 64). Seen, however, from the perspective of nuclear criticism, Patchen's
'Babel' becomes the source of his venture into painting and jazz-poetry as a means by
which to expand the range of expression in order to possibly articulate that which a
logocentrically-bound writing practice could not Given Patchen's restlessness with form,
his efforts to destabilize every genre and media he worked in, and his resistance to
formulation by any given ideology or aesthetic (e g., "proletarian," "beat"), it would not

116
only be ironic, it would be a missed opportunity not to explore in the Patchen archive the
materials with which to invent texts composed in the "key of Patchen," that is to say,
composed in the same schizoid spirit of delimitation and permutation which characterizes
the inherently open ended enterprise associated with his signature.
Expert Crash Sites: Deadly Disciplinary Intersections
It is when we cross the personal and popular levels of discourse and their
respective catastrophic crash sites, with the deadly wreck-strewn intersections of
deconstructed disciplinary discoveries, that the Hill implications of the Patchwork
paradigm come into play. As has been argued throughout, the importation of hypertext,
heuretics and mystory into the practice of an anti or post-biography, is intended, to quote
Hal Foster on the post-modern sensibility, "to grasp the present nexus of culture and
politics and to affirm a practice resistant both to academic modernism and political
reaction" (xv) In this section, I would like to illustrate precisely how "writing in the key of
Patchen" becomes the generative means by which to explore the limit points which
traditional biographical practice would impose on our understanding of biography in
general, and a Patchen biography in particular. Indeed, as the record will show, each of the
elements of the Patchen archive (the author's creative work, his correspondence, critical
and academic analysis, and the writings of those who knew him) anticipate the onset of a
poststructuralist, deconstructive perspective which now makes available for discussion and
reconsideration those aspects of the archive which vexed, and in other ways limited, the
range of readings 'authorized' by the sign of "Patchen."
This sentiment is well-represented in Raymond Nelson's observations of Patchen's
Panels on the Walls of Heaven, about which he notes, "That system of shared and shifting

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identities can be difficult because it results in literary practices with objectives and
standards different from those of the traditionally oriented literature for which we have a
critical vocabulary" (63). Or there is this entry on Patchen's Journal of Albion Moonliuht
in Anais Nin's infamous diary: "Chaos is born out of great fissures which happen in the
telling of the story. There are pauses. Silences Mysteries. Fissures" (65) Echoing Nin's
puzzlement is this comment by Charles Glicksberg on Patchen's textual practice:
"Obviously, even in composing these works, Patchen must have had some architectonic
principle in mind Why then, does he labor so frantically to keep it concealed and
disguised?" (Glicksberg 191).
And yet, even as he searches for the explanatory perspective and language which
would later be provided by poststructuralism and deconstruction, Glicksberg does provide
critical commentary that links Patchen's enterprise to the postmodern He notes, for
example, that, "When Freud found the death wish implemented in human beings, the poet
discovers in the civilization of his time. [Patchen's] The Dark Kingdom, for example, is the
poetic, imaginative expression of Freud's essay 'Thoughts on War and Death' published
during the height of the First World War" (186). Here we see identified Patchen's
exploration of the 'double space of writing' that is characteristic of the heuretic, generative
quality of poststructuralist textual practice Glicksberg further expands on the function of
invention in Patchen's work when he suggests:
If Patchen has learned from his literary predecessors, it is chiefly from
Joyce (in his playing with words and puns, his parodies of conventional plots and
his grandiloquent style), from Kafka (in his use of enigmatic symbols and a
tortured, mystically ambiguous 'plot'), and most of all from Freud, though he can
use these references with remarkable freedom and independence. (186)

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Indeed, it is analysis such as this, with its attention to a generative approach to his
material (a poetic rewriting of Freud) and textual play (e g. use of puns) that gets closer to
the "truth" of the Patchen oeuvre than the many critiques of the period, which reduced the
play of signification to either a straight-jacketed singularity ("Marxist," "Beat") or a
deranged schizophrenia However, what many found in, say, The Journal of Albion
Moonliuht. to be an anarchistic and destructive gesture, others, such as Raymond Nelson,
perceived as the liberating embrace of a textual practice more generative than
destructive—a practice, one might add, that seems to anticipate the collagist,
grammatological space of electronic, multi-media Nelson observes:
By the time we have reached the end of The Journal. Albion and his
technique have succeeded in creating a real literary mess The last pages of the
book are strewn with the rubble of exploded forms, journal entries, the table of
contents of one novel and fragments of several more, snatches of poems, an
assortment of catalogs, marginal musing The closing words are:
There is no way to end this book
No way to begin
But in disorder, Albion has freed himself from ordered insanity, transcended the
usual human condition, and experienced truth. (Nelson, 1969, 235).
The "truth" as Nelson explores it in Kenneth Patchen and American Mysticism is
to be found in the realm of a non-western logic, such as that exemplified by the Zen riddle
or koan, and which eschews the rational categorizations and bifurcating, either/or
propositions which characterizes the hermeneutical thrust of traditional literary biography.
Such a "truth" has more to do with a 'living on' of the corpus, rather than exhumation and
dissection. When we arrive at this site, at this precise moment of collision, the personal,
popular and expert come together in the form of catastrophe whose outcome has
implications at all three registers of discourse From a post-Foucautian perspective, it is
not enough to question the status of the "contained" subject Rather, we must consider the

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very institutions and their practices charged with defining the rules of subjectification.
Foucault's indictment of the prison, may be, in the case of Patchen, extended to the 'prison
house of language' whose structures of confinement he sought throughout to escape in his
explosive forms, even as the analytical armies sought to snare him in their hermeneutical
traps.
The centrality of nuclear criticism as a means by which to better appreciate what
survives the impact of this collision between the personal, popular and expert levels of
discourse is well-represented in the collaboration of Patchen and avant garde musician
John Cage on the radio broadcast premiere of Patchen's play. The City Wears a Slouch
Hat. According to Richard Morgan, "the play was performed only once, for the Columbia
Radio Workshop (WBBM-CBS) on Sunday in New York, May 31, 1942," and that
"sound was done by John Cage" (Morgan 9) There appears to be no extant recording of
the broadcast While the published version of the script reveals little indication of the avant
garde experimentation that would later bring Cage international prominence as a
postmodern musician, the intersection of these two lives is a major contributing factor to
the Patchwork mystory and to the design aesthetic shaping its construction
1 refer here specifically to Cage's practice of employing music as, notes Ulmer, "a
kind of research" in the manner in which Patchen's rewrites an essay by Freud in the form
of an experimental prose poem In this way Cage (and I would argue, Patchen)
"postmodernizes the critical essay by bringing to bear in its inventio and dispositio the
same collage and aleatory procedures used in writing with tape recorders and other
electronic equipment in his musical composition" (102). It would be a safe bet to suggest
that had Patchen and Cage linked up later in their careers, and had Patchen lived on into

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the age of electronic, computer-based multi-media composition, their respective
experimentation into collagist forms would have been all the more richly embedded in
postmodernist elements. I believe we can imagine that their work would have exhibited
vibrantly transformed chance driven iterations of Patchen's already exploded forms. One
potential feature of Patchwork is to include in its design the capacity to envision and,
indeed, create new Patch-workings (here again electronic pun on "patch" intended) based
on the 'key of Patchen, thus remotivating the archival material in the mystorical quilt.
But the grafting of Patchen to Cage yields more than a shared avant garde
aesthetic. As Ulmer points out in his essay, "The Object of Post-Criticism," Cages's
contribution to nuclear criticism, vis-á-vis his "passion for mushrooms," may "be read as
paraliterature, the mushroom may be understood as a model mounted in a discourse for
allegorical purposes" (104). Ulmer links Cage's mushrooms to Derrida's "pharmakon" and,
by extension, to the existence of certain "undecidables" which according to Derrida are
"unities of a simulacrum that can no longer be included with philosophy's (binary)
apparatus” (Positions. 43).
Ulmer sees in Cage's "fascination with mycology" the artist's aesthetic insistence on
the "undecidability of classification" (105). Such "undecidables introduce a certain "risk in
reading" associated with Barthes's S/Z. He cites Barthes's observation that: "One defect in
this encyclopedia, one hole in the cultural fabric, and death can result" (105). Thus, Ulmer
concludes, "The mushroom, in other words, de-monstrates a lesson about survival" (105).
The implication for Patchwork is precisely not to conceive of the quilt as a "whole" but
rather as "patches" in a crazy quilt pattern whose seams, tears, fissures and "holes" are
both manifest and intended. Such is the nature of the cultural pattern in which both our

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subject, "Patchen" and his reader/biographers must encounter this perpetually floating
signifier.
The danger of the sort of "death" to which Barrthes refers is marked, if you will,
by the site/sight of the collision of these three intersecting discourses and their respective
catastrophes. And it is this tripartite collision that both haunts and shapes Patchwork. For
the mushroom, in its role as saprophyte is, "an organism that lives on dead organic matter"
and, explains Ulmer, "exist in symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship with their hosts"
(105). In the present case, mystoriobiographers-as-saprophytes enjoy just such a
symbiotic relationship with their material, and rather than exhuming Patchen's corpus only
to dissect it, a work of post-biography such as Patchwork, thrives by "growing among the
roots of literature, feeding on the decay of tradition" (106) The mushroom cloud is here
reconsidered in terms of the half-life of decay, rather than as an annihilating force.
When we enter the re-motivated, hyper-linked space of "Xanadu" detourned as
Citizen Patchen. that which was the ruins of the conflated Hearst/Kane/Welles Museum
becomes ruins in the sense implied by Adorno and Benjamin, for whom "the museums
were signs of the decay of the bourgeoisie era, requiring in philosophy a 'logic of
disintegration'^ 106) Such a logic, as 1 have suggested above, was always already written
into Patchen's work and thus instigated much of the critical commentary surrounding his
oeuvre.
What has remained largely undiscovered and unappreciated is the extent to which
Patchen's "logic of disintegration" was the means by which to escape the trap of
logocentrism and to ensure that the never-quite-famous Patchen signature, rather than
validating an ideological identity, in which the signified came before the signifier, would, in

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his case, see the reverse of this sequence. In Patchen's case, as will be explored
mystorically in Patchwork, we are all the potential addressee of this signature and
interactively implicated in the dissemination of that which is signified in his name.
Henry Miller, perhaps Patchen's most famous admirer and supporter, understood in
a profound way the peculiar qualities of Patchen's art, which would have been
characterized as "antiliterature" in the parlance of the post World War I world, but which
may be seen today as exhibiting a postmodern, poststructuralist sensibility and aesthetic.
Nelson aligns Patchen's disposition with other "twentieth century mystical writers" and
cites the following statement in Henry Miller's "Reflections on Writing" in which we find
language rife with the with the metaphor of the nuclear:
I have always welcomed the dissolving influences [in art]. In an age marked by
dissolution, liquidation seems to be a virtue, nay a moral imperative. Not only have
I never felt the least desire to conserve, bolster up or buttress anything, but 1 might
say that I have always looked upon decay as being just as wonderful and rich an
expression of life as growth. (Nelson 67)
In Miller's praise of "decay" as a literary virtue, what is unaccounted for is the fact
that decay is inextricably linked with the growth process, and gives rise in creative terms
to inventio. As an example of what can emerge out of the ruins of decay, Douglas Crimp,
in his essay "On The Museum's Ruins," attempts to deconstruct "the museum's claims to
represent art coherently" (44). Of particular significance to my project is Crimp's
referencing of "Robert Rauschenberg's transformation of the picture surface into what
[critic Leo] Steinberg calls a 'flatbed, referring significantly, to the printing press" (44).
Crimp underscores the fact that "the flatbed is a surface which can receive a vast and
heterogeneous array of cultural images and artifacts that had not been compatible with the
pictorial field of either premodern or modernist painting" (44). By extension, according to

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Crimp, Steinberg's critique of Rauschenberg's textual process points to a significant
"transformation in the epistemological field"—a transformation with considerable
implications for art history and the museums designed to represent and institutionalize this
history. (45)
In Citizen Kane, the protagonist-as-media-mogul, and his attempt to control
destiny through a fetishistic manipulation of his printing presses, is yet another of the film's
reminders of the "flatbed" capacity to bring a vast array of signiflers together in a manner
that ultimately confers to the paper's indeterminable addressees the power to determine the
play of signification and possible "meaning" therein. In the case of the detournment,
Citizen Patchen. the role of the printing press or "flatbed" is transformed into the
electronic surface of the computer screen, and the recombinatorial possibilities of the
archive's contents renders representing "Patchen" no less problematic that determining the
"true" identity of Charles Foster Kane.
Yet another of Crimp's analogies for the "museum's ruins," provides a illuminating
parallel for deconstructing "Xanadu." Crimp analyzes the situation of the "two loony
Parisian bachelors" in Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pécuchet, which may be linked both to the
situation of the reporter in Citizen Kane and to his academic truth-sleuthing counterpart,
the literary biographer. The bachelors,(curiously both copy clerks like Melville's
"Bartleby" and, in a manner of speaking, my father) have failed at their desk jobs, and thus
begin a search for a more satisfying profession As Crimp summarizes the tale, in order to
"prepare themselves for each of their new professions," the bachelors "consult various
manuals and treatises" only to discover "contradictions and misinformation" and the

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ultimate realization that all of their actions are "incommensurate with the texts which
purport to represent it" (48).
The implication for the transformation of knowledge in the realm of the electronic
is suggested in Crimp's summary analysis of Eugenio Donato's essay on Flaubert's novel.
Crimp points out that Donato "argues persuasively that the emblem for the series of
heterogeneous activities of Bouvard and Pecuchet is not, as Foucault and others have
claimed, the library-encyclopedia, but rather the museum" as "the museum contains
everything the library contains and contains the library as well" (48). In the age of the
electronic, the existence of a Patchen archive in the form of an interactive hypertext,
acknowledges the "ruined" status of a traditionally 'authorized' biographical portrait and
opens up the space for a cubist perspective for which no single tour of the ruins will
provide a definitive interpretation.
Conclusion
What, then, can finally be said about my relationship to Patchen as revealed,
potentially, by my return to the crash site, to the scene of some "repressed" that threatens
eternally to haunt me At the personal level it would seem to be my identification with
Patchen's incomplete mourning and the inability to adequately express the 'lack' and sense
of loss related to the 'other' who alludes one from beyond the realm of language At the
popular level it would it would appear to be my readerly and writerly obsession with texts
of all kinds which explore the boundaries of language, of presence and absence I seem
compelled to want to find some confirmation that the existence of such texts, and the
epistemological phenomenon they explore and attempt to re-present, link me to a
community of other writers and readers who wander restlessly, as 1 do, between the lines,

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or, to paraphrase Korzybski, in a territory 'off the map. And at the disciplinary level, 1
must seek in some way to resolve the professional dilemma presented to me nearly two
decades ago by the challenge to write a Patchen biography. The initiation of this project,
at precisely the time when critical theory was turning its sites on the very foundations of
disciplinary approaches to subject representation, combined with the emergence of new
forms of electronic media and their potential to transfer the logic and grammatological
practices inherent in this new space of writing, has further complicated and enriched this
process of discovery.
Along the way, one might ask what happened to those treasured lodestones of
biographical data to which are often attracted the magnetic details of a life that make for
such good copy and have served to popularize the genre in recent years Did Patchen, for
example, receive his infamous back injury while a) playing high school football, b)
separating two entangled car bumpers or, c) cleaning a gas storage tank7 Was he the
model romantic poet/husband, whose every new title was dedicated to his beloved
"Miriam," or, as the feminist might have it, did he imprison her in the confining persona of
the domesticated muse?
While questions such as these remain interesting and, in some cases, substantive
issues in the Patchen narrative, it has been my experience that elements such as the status
of Patchen's wounds, both physical, and as figuratively depicted in his art, incessently lead
me to explore not so much the subject-who-worked-with-language but rather the subject
as both the affect-of-language and the agent capable of effecting alternative ways of
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One final example, one poem, one freely floating signifier which has landed in "the
attic" may serve to represent simultaneously our exit and our entrance into
Patchwork—into Xanadu revisited. We'll call it our "Rosebud" moment, our lost sled,
erased at an earlier moment of filmic memory under the clear white-out of freshly fallen
snow, later to be discovered as a 'trace' by our house detective, in the hall-of-ruins, the
room that 'lack' built and then obsessively filled with whatever the net of unquenchable
desire could sweep up. I would preface the discussion of this example with yet another
instance of hypertextual interconnectedness which links us back to Anais Nin's diary and
her characterization of Citizen Kane as "a film that magnifies a thousand times the dream
of emptiness" (117). Nin further notes that "the castle and the art objects become devoid
of meaning except as possessions of material value" (117). I would counter by suggesting
that as free floating signifiers, their emptiness is not unrelated to their detachment from
any determinable signified
Patchen's "The Lute in the Attic" (Collected Poems 378), is described by Nelson as
"one of his compassionate poems of psychological terror" (59). The story of the poem.
Nelson identifies as having to do with "some crime Willy [the poem's persona] committed
when young" (59). Nelson notes "the primordial nature of his sin and that it was violent
and bloody and probably sexual" (59). If one wishes to triangulate this poem with the
seemingly thinly veiled autobiographical short story, "Come Bury Them In God," in which
the schizoid split voice of the fiction's protagonist is interrupted by that of the author of
the fiction, at which point the fear of incestuous desire is discussed-- then one might
conclude the poet did, in fact, have such feelings for his sister, Kathleen, and that her
sudden death in the traffic accident resulted, as speculated earlier in this chapter, in

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incomplete mourning and an haunting identification with the deceased Nelson's reading of
the poem suggest the possibility that Isalina, Willy's object of affection , "is his sister," but
adds, more importantly, that such mysteries in "The Lute in the Attic" are "intensified by
the anonymity of the speaker" and the "sinister" aspects of "the fog blunted house" (59-
60). Of the presence of the "lute" in the poem. Nelson acknowledges that from a
traditional literary perspective the lute "is primarily a symbol of the lyric art with which
humanity has responded to the challenges of failure, death, and the unfamiliar" and that "it
could also be a physical object which has been put away and forgotten, and which, being
turned up, triggers a stream of melancholy associations" (61).
Here we have the "lute" as Lacan's objet petit a' the "chimerical object of fantasy"
to cite Zizek's phrasing, and "the object causing our desire and at the same time—this is
it's paradox—posed retroactively by this desire." Adds Zizek,". . . in 'going through the
fantasy' we experience how this fantasy-object (the 'secret') only materializes the void of
our desire" (65). Kane's "Rosebud" disseminates throughout the 'hall-of-ruins, with its
bellowing furnace, its holocaust of signifiers rising as ash above "Xanadu." In Citzen
Patchen this "multitude of floating signifiers" may be, in terms of Zizek's sublime object of
ideology, "structured into a unified field through the intervention of certain 'nodal points'"
that "'quilts' them, stops their sliding and fixes their meaning" (Zizek 87). Well, sort of. If
the quilt pattern is a "crazy" one, and the "patches" are electronically configured, (or to
use the technical term "reassemble editing"), then we are looking at a multitude of nodal
points, seen here also as punctums, stings of memory giving off sharp, pricking electronic
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Thus, even as Zizek describes the possibility of "quilting floating signifiers through
'Communism"' in a manner that "confers a precise and fixed signification" to a range of
otherwise dissociated concepts ("real democracy. . . ecologism . peace movement"), so
too might the many floating signifiers associated with "Kenneth Patchen" be similarly
quilted, later to be disassembled and the patches recirculated through an economy of
desire until they reappear in yet another mystorical configuration. Such a process of
interactive "reading" becomes revelatory in a manner, 1 would argue, far beyond that of
most traditionally composed literary biographies. We are in position of knowing and not
knowing, and, most significantly, of sharpening our awareness of why and how this is so.
In Chapter 6, the CATTt's "tale/taille," I will conclude this study with an abridged
tour through Patchwork, conceptualized as "Xanadu" revisited, "Xanadu " as Citizen Kane
detourned as Citizen Patchen. upon whose walls hang crazy quilts, the individual patches
of which link rhizomatically the contents of this mystorical museum space.
I will close this chapter with a reference to one feature of the Patchwork software,
its "Screen Saver." We'll call it the "Jack Lescoulie Memorial Screen Saver" in tribute to
his twin roles as gaff-buster for Today host, Dave Garroway, and as the figure in
Patchwork emblematic of the project's dedication to the Derridean notion of'living on, of
survival. Thus, during periods of inactivity on the program, (or conveniently saved to the
hard drive for a more permanent reminder of its absence/presence), there will appear an
image of "Xanadu's" basement out of the closing shots of Citizen Kane/Citizen Patchen
throughout which walks the ghostly, apparitional figure of Jack Lescoulie—the ghost in
the machine.

CHAPTER 6
THE CATT(t)'S TALE/TAILLE
Introductory Screens
The first screen to appear on the Patchwork CD-Rom will be an image of a crazy
quilt that will rearrange itself through a series of recombinations of patchwork squares.
Within each of the individual patches will be various iconic designs or emblems which will
later appear in the tour through "Xanadu," either as independent icons linked to material
embedded in the archive or as patches on the various quilts that will appear on the walls of
"Xanadu" and which will similarly link to other locations in the archive. At this point the
viewer, or "addressee" as I would prefer to call the indeterminable receiver of this
material, will not know in what sense the patches are emblematic and, thus, they will
function here aesthetically as a means to introduce the homonymic play of "Patchen" as
"patch," and the process of "patchworking" as the hobby theory employed in the mystory.
These initial patches will then dissolve and there will then appear on the screen the
opening title, also represented in the style of a quilt "sampler," with the words,
"Patchwork; a Mystoriobiography," woven into the squares of the quilt This quilt pattern
will in turn dissolve and there will next appear the opening image of "Xanadu" out of
Citizen Kane, first seen in quilted form and then morphing into the photographic image of
the movie still. The camera then zoons in via a series of lap dissolves, arriving finally at a
close-up of the letter "K" that rests atop the gate barring access to the estate. After a few
seconds the emblematic "K" will begin to alternate with the letters "P" for Patchen and
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"R" for Robitaille. The intuitive addressee of this interactive text will note that by clicking
on the emblem in sequence with one of the letters, he calls up a series of pages that explain
how each of the names emblematized by the initials on the gate functions within the
general concept of the signature effect, and more precisely, in the context of the mystory.
At a later point in the exploration of the labyrinthine archive, the addressees will be asked
to type in their initial, and upon exiting "Xanadu" at the conclusion of each tour, the
addressees will note that their initials now appears in rotation with the original three A
click upon their own initial brings up a tour map that recaps the pattern of their
progression through "Xanadu." The map is first presented schematically as an outline, and
gradually dissolves into an image of a crazy quilt, the pattern of which is determined by
the sequence of choices indicated in the outline here randomly reconfigured as emblems on
their own personal Patchwork quilt—a record, if you will, of their own bliss-sense.
Scene/Space One: The Bedroom
Following the opening sequence of screens described above, the addressee is
presented with a floor plan of "Xanadu" that invites the interactor to tour either the ruins
of this mystorical archive according to the sequence of scenes as they occur in the film, or
to move at will to any of the virtual locations within For purposes of this preview of
Patchwork. I will describe these scene/spaces following the sequence of the film
The first stop, then, would be Kane's bedroom (with some embellishments), site of
the famous "Rosebud" sequence in which the dying Kane drops a glass ball while uttering
the word "Rosebud ." As this screen/scene comes up we observe that there is a section of
police crime-scene tape stretched across the room in front of Kane's bed The body, at this
point is covered by a sheet, and one hand is seen extending out from the cover, gripping

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the glass ball. Within the ball the three initials alternately appear, and when the mouse is
clicked in sequence with the "K," for example, the sheet dissolves, Kane's body is
revealed, makes it's last gesticulations and utters "Rosebud." The ball then drops to the
floor, accompanied by the wildtrack sound of the screeching cockatoo, imported from its
later appearance in the film. As the ball hits the floor it breaks into shards which then float
across the screen and transform themselves into the various patches of a crazy quilt. The
various patches of the Kane quilt now adorning the wall will, when clicked upon, call up
smaller screens, each of which contains a fragment of information that, when juxtaposed
against other fragments hidden behind the other patches (here also functioning in the sense
of an "electronic patch"), constitutes a non-linear commentary suggesting the parallels
between the reporter-as-detective and the biographer-as-deconstructionist. Other
fragments will introduce a sort of meditation on the function of "Rosebud" as a floating
signifler linked to the concepts of the punctum of memory and site of catastrophe.
If one clicks on the glass ball in sequence with the initial "P," the room is suddenly
transformed into the imagined bedroom of Kenneth Patchen, where, as the biographical
record reveals, the author spent most of his writing life, from his self-sequestered
childhood through the many tormented adult years of severe back pain. When the scene
has been so transformed, the glass ball drops from Patchen's hand and we hear him utter
the name of his beloved sister, "Kathleen," whom he lost to a car accident when they were
both adolescents. As the ball hits the floor, we again hear the cockatoo shriek, and the
glass shards similarly float across the room while transforming themselves into the
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Clicking on other objects in the room results in the movement of the Patchen
figure to that location. These objects and their locations come to represent a gestural
language revealed in the archival material that extends the range of his writing practice, as
well as that which is signified by his signature, beyond the realm of the logocentric. For
example, clicking on a chair that is positioned conspicuously facing a blank wall results in
an image of Patchen sitting, Bartleby-like, (or might we suggest, Zazen-like), facing this
blank surface. Accounts of Patchen's habit of entering a crowded room, only to position
himself in such a fashion, date back to his childhood, according to interviews and personal
correspondence shared with me. When this scene is brought up by the addressee, it is
accompanied by a smaller screen which relates the associated anecdotes, while also
providing a hyperlink to a gurney resting against the opposite wall. By clicking on the
gurney, we get a brief commentary on the various conflicting theories of Patchen's back
problem, the international response to his medical needs, the famous undoing of his
landmark spinal fusion and various speculations relating to the exposing of one's backside
to the world.
The Patchen quilt itself repeats the paradigm of the fragmented commentary
experienced while traversing the linked patches of the Kane quilt in the previous screen. In
this instance, the nonlinear pastiched material accessed behind each quilt patch presents an
inquiry into the function of key floating signifiers in the Patchen archive that parallel those
associated, say, with "Rosebud" in the case of Kane One quilt patch, represented by the
image of a lute, would introduce various perspectives on Patchen's poem, "The Lute In
The Attic," while another would explore the associations of the signifier, "Miriam," the

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poet's wife and muse, with "Kathleen" and the many other variants on the female "other"
that proliferate throughout the Patchen archive.
Finally, should you click on the ball in the bedroom scene while the "R" is exposed
within, the room becomes a facsimile of the author's college apartment, within which he
first encountered the Patchen signature, written in the ubiquitous childlike scrawl across
the cover of The Journal of Albion Moonlight, a gift of the author's lover. As with the
earlier screen, the cover lifts from the hidden corpus, this time to expose the youthful
Robitaille, and as the ball drops, the word "Patchen" is heard escaping from Robitaille's
mouth and the shards of the broken ball transform themselves into the crazy quilt patches
of the Robitaille quilt.
This variation of the bedroom, like the others, includes objects which signify
important moments in the mystory. On the desk is a photo of Robitaille with Miriam
Patchen taken in 1970 at the opening of the Patchen Archive at the University of
California at Santa Cruz A click upon this picture, calls up an embedded text in the form
of a meditation on the confused mix of emotions that relate the various parties involved in
this biographical enterprise: poet, widow, biographer The meditation includes self-
interrogation into the phenomenon of transference and projection, of what is confided to
me by a diverse group of conspicuously biased informants, of questions I choose to ask,
and those I do not—and why?
Off to one side is a miniature x-ray of Robitaille's back, with its clear evidence of
deteriorating disks, inviting the addressee to muse over the coincidence that both the
biographer and his subject share a similarly fractured corpus and periods of debilitating
pain. On the bookshelf is a postcard from Henry Miller to the biographer. One side bears

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the image of a Miller lithograph, a circus figure entitled "Clown A " The verso bears the
inscription: "Am unable to answer all your questions about Patchen, Nin, etc 1 am now (at
88) cultivating my forgettery, not my memory. Besides I have great trouble seeing. Henry
Miller." A click on this card call up a reverie on the function of memory and "forgettery"
as it might relate to the construction of this mystory.
Of the Robitaille quilt hanging on the wall, it will be noted that like the previous
screens, the random accessing of the various patches engages the addressee in a circuitous
commentary on how "Patchen" may come to serve, in Zizek's terminology, as a 'point de
capitón, as the quilting point for the mystoriobiographer, stitching together the fragments
which at any given moment constitute the perpetually fluctuating elements of his mystory.
Like some "strange attractor," "Patchen" brings together within the bounded field of this
chaotically inspired text, various "crazy" quilt patterns whose recombinatorial possibilities
shine an oblique light on a subject whose position shifts, with predictable relativity,
somewhere slightly out of view.
The Robitaille quilt to appear in the "screening room" sequence to be described
below will bring together the various disciplinary perspectives which form the prism of this
Patchen study In the present instance, in the "safe" confines of one's bedroom, the focus
of the quilt patches is on the personal—on those objects and occasions to which Barthes
would assign the designation "third meaning." The questions lurking behind these patches
include, for example: how does one take into account what "chance," in a Cagean sense,
delivers to us? What role do we assign to the undecidable elements that guide our
ostensibly rational disciplinary endeavors9 What would it mean to follow my bliss-sense as
a biographer and allow the materials I have gathered in my research to inform me as to the

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patterns of my academic impulse, rather than pretending that the "truth" I have coughed
up from my subject's throat has nothing to do with the blood on my hands?
Scene/Space Two: The Projection Room
The next scene/space to be explored in "Xanadu" is Kane's personal film projection
room In the film, following the bedroom scene, Welles and Mankiewicz present a film-
within-a-film in the form of News on the March, a takeoff on the popular March of Time
of the period. Within the film Citizen Kane, the newsreel serves the double function of
blurring the distinction of the fiction-within-the-fiction, even as it purports to elevate the
larger fiction of Citizen Kane to the level of newsreal. thus suggesting the link between
Kane and William Randolph Hearst
In my detournment of Citizen Kane as Citizen Patchen. I am relocating the
screening of the newsreel from the newspaper office to "Xanadu's" projection room When
the image for this room first comes up there appears projected on the movie screen the
glass ball with the alternating initials If one clicks on the "K" there is then seen assembled
in the audience the major characters from the film, each of whom, as we know, is
interviewed by the "reporter" in the film concerning the meaning and possible origin of the
word "Rosebud." As you click on each of the characters, a "quick time" clip from his
respective sequences in the film is shown on the screen Following each clip, the question,
"Is there any response from the audience?," is heard spoken and appears simultaneously on
the screen With each click of the assembled characters, including, as well, both Welles
and Mankiewiz, respective hand to be raised and each is then heard to respond with a
deconstruction of his own position within the film's narrative vis-á-vis the floating

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signifier, "Rosebud," as well as his reflections on the general problematic of representing a
life
A click on the initial "P" results in an audience filled with some of the major figures
involved in the Patchen biography. This includes not only the biographer, Robitaille, but
the poet's widow, Miriam, and a diverse range of writers, artists, musicians, publishers,
critics, scholars and personal acquaintances, all of whom share perspectives sufficiently
askew as to contribute to the cubist quality of the resulting portrait From a menu of
selected moments in the life there appears a brief sequence on the screen, again followed
by the query, "Are there any questions or comments from the audience9" By clicking on
any of the upraised hands, we solicit a series of reactions to the screened sequences, the
contents of which are derived from published sources or interviews, and which appear
without editorial comment from the biographer.
Finally, a click on the initial "R" populates the audience with figures associated in
some way with the biographer's work on this project The scenes to be projected in this
context are those involving the mystoriobiographer's difficulty in sorting out the material
for Patchwork, and his coming to terms with the increasingly conflicted relationship he
shares with the his subject, Kenneth Patchen, and perhaps more significantly, with the
pursuit of this subject via an academic, disciplinary-based analysis of that which he
assumes to be represented by this signature. The result of randomly calling up the project's
dramatis personae will be to experience in some admittedly diffuse way, the schizoid
nature of interacting with, and responding to, the many pulls and tugs of theory and
explanatory influences that vie for the attention and acceptance of the biographer The

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resulting vertigo should, in some small way, provide an experiential mode of connection
between the addressee and the nomadic mystorian
Scene/Space Three: The Newsroom
Moving the cursor about the screen of the Kane news room reveals a number of
hotlinks to various mystorical elements of Patchwork. A click on the figure of a man
laying out type for a page template discloses the fact that he is the mystoriobiographer's
father, consigned to repeat the motions of inserting the "slugs" of lead type for a
recounting of his own life story While in the opposite corner, a figure dressed in what
might be best described as the garb of an impoverished ascetic stares at a blank wall and,
when clicked upon, utters the repeated refrain: "I prefer not to." At another easel, a banner
headline reads: "News From Catastrophe Site." The passing of the cursor over this
headline reveals a series of embedded stories reporting, in no particular order, the fatal car
accidents of Robitaille's grandfather, Patchen's sister, Kathleen, and Kane's first wife and
child. Additional catastrophe sites include the bombing of Hiroshima, the Challenger
explosion, the nuclear bombing of Florida in Alas, Babylon, and the death by steam roller
of Today host, Dave Garroway Brief accounts of these events accompany each story,
along with photos, some bearing the disclaimer, "artist's rendering" or "photo
manipulation."
In Citizen Kane the newsroom is the focal point of Kane's obsessive desire to
disseminate the "Kane" signature via the mass distribution of his publishing dynasty. In so
doing, his obsession expands to include the attempt to influence world events, and,
eventually, secure political office. The deconstructive critique written into this scene of the
now detourned Citizen Patchen. has to do with the problematics of historical

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representation and will take the form of transforming the newsroom activity into that of a
quilting bee. When the initial screen comes up there appears to be the usual trappings of a
newsroom, but in the center, where traditionally there would be located a U-shaped desk
called "the slot," around which sat copy editors who proofed stories and wrote
accompanying headlines, there here appears a group of persons each stitching away on his
respective square of a large patchwork quilt. In the center of the quilt is the orb-shaped
insignia with the alternating initials. When the click of the mouse is on the "K," there
appears a pattern of iconic designs in the various patches of the quilt. A click on each of
these patches results in the appearance of a different lead story, photo and headline on a
newspaper laid out to the left of the quilters on a copy editor's easel Each of these stories
focuses on a different aspect of Kane's multifaceted persona as represented by some key
sequence of the film shown here as the photo accompanying the story.
With the selection of each of the figures sitting around "the slot," a different
segment of copy is seen to appear surrounding the central, or lead, story. Each of these
surrounding "sidebars" constitutes another in the series of deconstructive "readings" of the
film. The visual effect here is intended to replicate the midrash tradition, which viewed
aesthetically, anticipates the compositional strategies of hypertext, From a critical
perspective, the addition of this device in the process of inventio allows us to link
Patchwork via the tradition of Talmudic exegesis to the open ended, reader response
mode encouraged by mystoriobiography.
For example, a click on the "reporter's" square would "patch" you in to the
headline, '"Rosebud' Eludes Reporters," accompanied by a shot of Kane's memorabilia-
filled cellar, which would in turn be surrounded by commentary linking Welles's infamous

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"floating signifier" to segments of the exchange of views between —and—regarding "The
Purloined Letter." A click on, say, Kane's wife, for example would present a feminist
perspective which she is unable to adequately voice in the film, and which, perhaps, links
the tyranny of Kane's logocentric enterprise with the failed nature of his domestic
relations. With this particular link, as with others throughout the hypertext
mystoriobiography, a hyperlink would introduce an embedded screen in which the
addressee is invited to consider the possible parallel between the captive state of Kane's
wife and Miriam Patchen, the poet's cloistered muse for whom adoration and protection
from the world, according to various sources, have had had its price. One final example
here might be the inclusion of Mankiewicz, whose "patch" calls up the title page of the
screenplay, and whose surrounding commentary reminds us of the controversy
surrounding the "origin" of "Citizen Kane," of writing credit appropriated and denied, and
of the presence within the work of certain mystorical elements that, like a Chinese box,
further complicate the inside/outside of textual boundary-making.
When the mouse is clicked over the center square of the quilt the alternating letters
change as do the identity of the quilters. When "P" is engaged there appears a
congregation of Patchen's reviewers, critics, scholars and biographers. The patches within
the quilt now represent Patchen book covers, painted poems, poetry-jazz album jackets
and other of the author's multi-media works. When one of these items is chosen some of
the quilters' hands are seen to rise and a window opens providing a brief bio each.
Choosing one of the quilters transforms the quilt into another midrash-like pattern with a
commentary from the "reader" now surrounding the highlighted text. As each of the
figures is chosen his respective commentary is added to the midrash. The net effect of

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scanning these pastiched elements is to encounter the disparate, often contradictory,
readings of the art and life.
When the "R" is chosen, the group of quilters again changes and there is now
assembled represent various theorists whose critical strategies have been at the foreground
of deconstructive analysis and issues central to this study, such as the status of the
"author," "truth," and the problematics of representation. Thus, when one of the panels of
the Robitaille quilt is chosen, a new page of midrash is introduced by hyper-linking, or
"patching" together, responses from the quilters to selected fragments of material from the
Patchen archive
One set of choices might serve here as an example of this midrash would be
created. Let us say that one of the panels reveals a facsimile of the cover of Patchen's The
Journal of Albion Moonlight, a cover on which appears a page of crazed prose from the
journal in Patchen/Albion's signature scrawl. A click on this image brings up another of the
journal's pages, this one exhibiting one of the more extreme examples of the text's
exploded barrages of form and death-haunted, violence-smeared prose. A tour of the
perspectives of the assembled hobby theorists whose hands are raised in conjunction with
the shifting of the mouse reveals their actual or imagined musings on the excerpts as they
appear, one by one, to surround the central fragment
For purposes of demonstration I have, with the aid of the 1-Ching, arrived at the
choice of pages 118-19. Here are some thoughts concerning the possible responses from
the patchworkers. Jacques Derrida is interested in Patchen's exploration of a double space
of writing and in the performative aspects of a textual practice that serv es both as creative
fiction, even as it functions as a critical commentary on the nature of language itself, with

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its slippages, gaps and undecidable cross-currents. Roland Barthes is fascinated by the
display of bliss-sense, and in a writing that is not premeditated and which provides
multiple levels of semiotic play. Patchen's publisher, James Laughlin, is represented by a
long letter he wrote to Patchen suggesting an alternative structure for the novel that might
serve to eliminate the sort of disorder represented in the page in question. Laughlin is
responding to feedback he has received from critic Edmund Wilson, to whom he sent the
manuscript, seeking, and indeed receiving, a corroboration of his negative response to the
book. From Virginia Admiral, mother of actor Robert De Niro and Patchen's typist, there
is an interview with this author describing the circumstances surrounding the writing of
the Journal, the pages flowing like automatic writing, as the poet propped himself on his
side in bed, suffering from another period of back pain. Henry Miller writes in his essay,
"Man of Anger, Man of Light," concerning the justification for the artist's anger and the
legitimacy of the deranged lucidity which characterize these pages. Foucault contributes a
commentary on the function of such Nietzschean literature in world increasingly
suppressed by failed social institutions, while Deleauze and Guattari find evidence here of
the sort of health producing "schiz flow" that elevates Patchen's proletarian art to a form
of critical cultural response to the voracious appetite of identity consuming capitalism.
Bakhtin's excerpt celebrates the Journal's employment of the carnivalesque, and Norman
Holland provides the theoretical underpinning for the addition of reader response
contributions in the form of addressee graffiti on the midrash wall.
Thus, each click of the mouse on the center quilt patch is capable of calling up
examples of Patchen's work in various media. Accordingly, a hobby theorist’s response to
an art critic's review of Patchen's painted poems might be juxtaposed with a

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psychoanalytic reading of the primitive, ameba-like creatures that inhabit these works. A
page of John Lennon's similar drawings and nonsense verse in his A Spaniard In The
Works would be seen juxtaposed against a letter in the Laughlin file expressing interest by
Apple Records to produce a project based on Patchen's work.
Scene/Space: Four: The Thatcher Memorial Library
In Citizen Kane, the entrance to the Thatcher Memorial Library is guarded by
"Bertha," whose black-booted demeanor and rigid conditions for accessing the Kane
materials are in turn ominous and comically indicative of the weight placed upon supposed
rare and private matters. The Mankiewicz script tells us the room has "all the warmth and
charm of Napoleon's tomb" (Kael 133). Thus, our detournment of this scene requires only
a modest shift in direction to arrive at the repository for the Patchen and Robitaille
corpuses.
I have added a plaque outside the entrance of the library in the initial screen which
bears the following inscription from a letter Franz Kafka to Oskar Pollack:
... the books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us
suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as
though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all
habitation—a book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.
A shift of the cursor to the position of the inscription results in the opening of the
doors to the library. Inside, the main room is seen to be divided into three sections bearing
the now familiar initials "K," "P," and "R " By selecting one of the initials, the addressee
may then access a vast collection of archival materials related to Kane, Patchen and
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In the Kane section are a variety of books, scholarly articles, press reviews, essays
and other materials related to Citizen Kane. A click on each item on the shelf provides
access to selected excerpts, and in some cases, entire copies of this material.
Section "P" holds a vast array of Patchen titles, as well as primary and secondary
source materials related to the artist's life and work. The "R" or Robitaille collection
includes materials from the this study's "List of References," as well as a diverse range of
material that form the constellation of elements that inform the shaping of Patchwork It is
here, in this library, that the addressee may meander through the intertextual fabric of
signifying patchworking materials in their as yet unquilted state The interactor is invited
to add hyperlinks between any combination of items for the purpose of constructing their
own crazy quilt pattern
Scene/Space Five: The Jazz Tent
Yet another potential point of intersection between Citizen Kane and Citizen
Patchen involves Kane's bizarre picnic in the Florida Everglades In the original
screenplay, "The Florida Camp," Hearst's San Simeon estate writ tropical, consists of "a
number of classy tents" (Kael 265). In the final shooting script there is added a lap
dissolve to a "colored man singing" a tune that begins, "It can't be love For there is no
true love" (409). The lyrics of the song would seem to provide an ironic commentary on
the theme of failed love in the movie Our embellishment of this scene is to transform the
side panels of the tent into a large crazy quilt over which surface movement of the cursor
calls forth the chora or fragmentary Lacanian commentaries on the "lack" which haunts
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A signboard outside the tent in the opening screen reveals the alternating three
initials and when the "P" is engaged the tent is transformed into a 1950's jazz club and
Patchen's photo with a jazz quartet now adorns the marquee. Select this image and you
enter the hall where the tent panels, once again composed of quilt patches, provide access
to selections from Patchen's recordings of poetry jazz During any of these performances,
the lyrics of each poem appear on a separate screen and by simultaneously clicking on a
member of the audience, you can call up various "readings" and reviews of Patchen's
poetry-jazz. These commentaries address such issues as how the shift into a musical
register allowed Patchen and other jazz-poets, to expand the range of artistic expression
via multi-media. Other perspectives include the relationship of jazz to dissonance, and
what New Yorker music critic, Alex Ross, describes as the response of the "panicking ear"
that is both drawn to and repelled by "the kind of harmonic density that shatters into
noise" and the related "pleasure" in "the control of chaos, in the movement back and forth
across the border of what is comprehensible" (Ross 76). While Patchen may have been
more aligned with the "cool" versus the "hot" jazz-poets, the extension of his work into
the medium seems consistent with his earlier collaboration with other border crossing
avant-garde artists such as John Cage. Such adventures into exploded forms allowed
Patchen the freedom to experiment in fiction and collage poetry.
Select the "R" on the marquee and the view inside the tent is again transformed,
this time revealing tent walls bearing patchworked designs containing embedded fragments
of mystorical material, each with an audio "sample" from Robitaille's jazz collection. One
of the patches is blank and, in the manner of those popular scrambled picture puzzles, the
movement of the fragments from one location to another in the quilt, accesses an array of

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Patchen's collage poems while simultaneously modifying the audio track. A click on the
"play" button below the musical quilt provides the listener with a reading of the poem to
the accompanying discordant bites of sampled jazz.
Other Scenes/Other Spaces
The above mentioned scenes are a selected representation of the many, as yet,
unmentioned spaces into which we might enter during our tour of "Xanadu." Other such
spaces might include the "Chapel" or "Mausoleum." wherein are located the famous
collection of "mourning quilts" whose patches link us to that grand tradition of quilts
intended to evoke the punctum of personal loss. These rare quilts are inspired variously by
the sting of the collected, here conflated, memories of Kane/Patchen/Robitaille that stitch
together the knitted elements of the mystory, particularly as they relate to language, loss
and mourning.
And then there is Susan's Interactive Puzzle Parlor in which the obsessive, escapist
puzzle-making by Kane's wife is here transformed into a video game room in which each
screen presents a patchwork design perforated into puzzle segments that enable the
addressee to disassemble and reconfigure a variety of Patchen materials including his
collage/concrete poetry, and selected portrait photographs taken over the long span of the
artist's career.
Of course, ruins such as those we have traversed here, customarily bear the mark
of incompleteness, some spaces being under construction, while others are under erasure,
or abandoned. Such is the state of our virtual site. The addressee is invited to imagine
other spaces, other rooms To "move in," so to speak, and make their own presence

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known here by reconfiguring the existing elements or adding new patches to the quilt, and
new rooms to hang them in.
Final Scene/Space: The Cellar as Site of "das Ding"
In the closing segment of Citizen Kane, we enter "Xanadu's" cellar where we view
the dust covered artifacts that come to represent the ruins of the Kane legacy. Earlier 1
discussed the semiotic joke played out here, the admission by the reporter that a life
cannot be summed up by a word and the false sense of signifying security suggested by the
camera’s discovery of Kane's lost childhood sled and its inscription, "Rosebud "
In my detournment. Citizen Patchen. this ruined space is transformed into the ruins
of Patchwork—quite virtually, a scrap heap of archival material, each neglected item of
which may be opened up to reveal a fragment of the mystoriobiography's nonlinear
concluding, though deliberately inconclusive, closing commentary. In this space, the
moving cursor takes the form of the ghostly Bartleby. When this apparitional figure is
placed in contact with a given patch of scrap material, there appears a bubble, or a series
of bubbles, of commentary associated with the iconic or emblematic image appearing on
the patch. Some of these patches represent Patchen's writings, fragments of which invite
deconstruction and which may be surrounded by seemingly unrelated fragments from
diverse sources such as critical theory, biographical data, items from the news or popular
culture, etc. In other instances the scraps may represent perspectives from critical
theorists, literary reviews and the like, similarly surrounded by excerpts from Patchen's art.
On occasion, opening up a scrap at one end of the cellar will cause a scrap at another
sector to rise up and balloon outward exposing its various fragments of dissociated
commentary
a

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While the mere passing over of each patch, or scrap of material, by the ghostly
figure gives rise to these balloons of fragmented commentary, a click of the mouse on any
given scrap causes the spectral figure to pick up the scrap and carry it over to the flirnace
where it is pitched into the flames along with "Rosebud" and the rest of Kane's hoarded
objets petit a's. Should the tormented addressee endure this process down to the last
scrap, or when they have decided, no doubt mercifully, to engage the cellar's "exit" button,
the Bartleby figure is seen to pitch himself into the inferno, and out of the ash cloud
disseminating from the estate's smokestack appears the following words from Melville's
tale:
Dead letters? does it not sound like dead men9 Conceive a man by nature and
misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness, can any business seem more fitted to
heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters, and assorting them
for the flames9
What is indeed being worked out in this space, and which is similarly represented
in various of the patches of the scrap heap cum dissociated commentary, is the fate of
biography writ deconstructively, mystorically. It has been almost thirty years to the day
from my first encounter with Patchen's Albion Moonliuht on my bed stand, to my entrance
into, and exit from, this cellar What began naively as an attempt to write a life developed
over time into a desire to "right" a life—as in: make correct, salvage, protect, recuperate.
Soon the question arose: whose life was 1 writing/righting? More complicated questions
followed, such as the identity of that which, in fact, prompted the writing, and thus,
needed to be righted
Ultimately it was in search of these "truths" that the project was undertaken,
rendering incidental the more traditional truths associated with literary biography—truths

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that attempt to thematize or in some other reductive manner explain away the central core
of a writer's being as somehow deduced from dissecting the literary corpus and excavating
the ruins of the biographical archive. Indeed, the very notion of sifting through such
material for pertinent and explanatory strategies was itself deconstructed by calling into
question the very status of "examples," the logic of which, suggests Ulmer and others, is
"a special case of concept formation" (Ulmer, Applied Grammatolouv 100). In his
discussion of the exchange between Lacan and Derrida concerning Poe's "The Purloined
Letter," Ulmer considers how Lacan's inclination to give predominance to the signifier
follows from the failure to take into account "the framing, the mise en scéne, of the
narrative form itself' (101). Derrida's deconstruction of Lacan's practice points to a
"textual drifting off course of the tale's narrative" resulting from the "graft of
intertextuality which opens the tale to other stories and settings . . ." (102). Ulmer
concludes his discussion with a quote from Derrida replete with Mellvillian overtones: "I
am always the letter that never arrives" (102). And striking a chord sounded throughout
this project, Ulmer notes: "The problematic of the narrator in literature applies equally to
the author-narrator in academic discourse, making the frame and the signature the same
question" (102).
I suppose it is the holy/wholly grail of "truth" that every reporter/literary
biographer hopes will arrive during the chasing of one's tale/taille That piece of the puzzle
which eternally eludes us, and whose presence might serve to reassure, even as its absence
haunts. And so, as I slowly pan the surfaces of my study, with its shelves of books, files of
Patchen related correspondence, critical articles and the like, these "things" appear as so
many scraps of patchworking material now strewn about my virtual cellar And it is here,

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in the prescient moment, that 1 return to Zizek and his contemplation of the various stages
of Lacan's teaching regarding the connection between the death drive and the symbolic
order
"das Ding": This Place "Between Two Deaths"
When I consider the prolific outpouring of work in various media produced by
Patchen following the writing of his youthful letter to Isabel Stein in which he hoped to
escape the deathly constraints of language by attempting to deconstruct it, I realize that I
have been a witness to my own terrifying fall into the abyss which Zizek identifies as "a
place of sublime beauty as well as terrifying monsters the site of das Ding, of the real-
traumatic kernel in the midst of symbolic order" (135).
A review of Zizek's summary analysis of the stages of Lacanian teaching parallels
in many ways the evolution of Patchen's life and art. In what Zizek refers to as the first
period, the focus is on "the Hegelean phenomenological idea that the word is death, a
murder of a thing" (131). To turn, for example, "from the word "table" to the table itself in
its physical reality," marks "a certain lack" and "recourse to the word implies an
absence of the thing" (131). Patchen's letter to Isabel Stein, with its alternative alphabet
and its prophetic references to the schism which his life of (dead) letters would manifest, is
a route similarly traced in Citizen Kane when neither the utterance of the word "Rosebud"
nor its inscription on the sled is able to fill the lack experienced by a consciousness caught
in a symbolic network.
In Lacan's second period, according to Zizek, "the accent is shifted from the word,
speech, to language as a synchronic structure, a senseless autonomous mechanism which
produces meaning as its effect" (131). At this stage, the "death drive is now identified with

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the symbolic work itself." Symptomatic of this stage is a "compulsive repetition" which
results when "the human being is caught in the signifier's network" and the resulting effect
is, thus, "mortifying" (132). For Patchen, this condition may be said to have manifested
itself in the compulsive repetition which structures so many of his works with their
innumerable iterations of darkness and light, hope and despair, romantic love and horrific
violence, incessantly encircling like carrion over the mortifying absence of the aw(e)fiil,
absent Other. It is a pattern easily repeated by his biographer caught in the signifying
network authorized by his subject's profligate signature. In Citizen Kane, it is the
compulsive repetition of Kane's hoarding of "things" which, having been drawn into the
wide net of his lack-driven appetite, ultimately have the mortifying effect represented in
the funeral gloom of "Xanadu."
But it is Lacan's third period, as Zizek describes it, that most haunts, and, in a Zen-
like way, returns me to a calm and redemptive stillness. It is here we encounter the
Freudian "das Ding" which Zizek describes as "the Thing as an incarnation of the
impossible jouissance" (132). In this stage's crucial "shift of emphasis from the symbolic to
the Real," Zizek identifies and describes with illuminating precision the essential
"difference between real (biological) death and its symbolization" (135). In order to
illustrate this difference, Zizek turns to popular culture and the cartoon for his model He
reminds us of the many variations of the theme of the cartoon cat who walks off" the
precipice onto thin air and who falls only after becoming aware of his Real condition
Zizek compares this scene to the status of the father in Freud's Interpretation of Dreams
"who does not know that he is dead" (134) It is the impossible moment in Poe's
"Vladimir," mentioned earlier, in which this recognition is marked by the unutterable

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utterance, "I am dead." The point Zizek raises here that is crucial to Patchwork is
precisely this mindfulness of the possibility of "supplementary lives" seen as "intimately
related to the site of das Ding." Such is a "place . . . opened by symbolization/
historicization: [in which] the process of historicization implies an empty place, a non-
historical kernel around which the symbolic network is articulated" (135).
It is this "non-historical place, a place which cannot be symbolized," where our
mystoriobiography, Patchwork, may be said to manifest its virtual non-existence. To enter
here is to encounter the "brute" fate hauntingly described by Zizek, in which, once the
"pre-symbolic reality is symbolized/historicized, it 'secretes', it isolates the empty,
'indigestible' place of the Thing" (135).
At this juncture, Zizek's analysis returns us to the notion of catastrophe and
nuclear criticism, when he asserts that it is precisely "this reference to the empty place of
the Thing which enables us to conceive the possibility of a total, global annihilation of the
signifier's network" and that "absolute death, the 'destruction of the universe', is always the
destruction of the symbolic universe" (135). To what extent Patchen had consciously
worked out the relevance of this tangled web of thought seems impossible to ascertain.
But that which may be said on the basis of the bliss-sense authorized by the effect of his
signature suggests he was not unaware of the dangers and the jouissance to be
encountered when crossing such borders and sacrificing his physical and literary corpus in
exchange for a sublime one
Biographers often write of the torturous experience they have subjected
themselves to in pursuing their subject, whatever they ultimately come to determine that
"subject" to be. Zizek refers to "the Sadeian notion of a radical, absolute crime that
liberates nature's creative force" and, having done so, thus liberates nature from its own

152
laws and opens the way for the creation of new forms of life ex nihilo" (134). To locate a
contemporary example of this phenomenon, Zizek turns to the popularity of the electronic
and video games "in which we deal, literally, with the differences between two deaths" and
in which the displayed figures possess multiple or "supplementary lives" (135) This may be
yet another reason why my project is at home in this virtualized space Thus, my
cybercubist portrait of Patchen, like the fragmented image of Kane caught between the
mirrored reality of his schizoid selves, defies easy assimilation into any system of
signification.
In the final analysis, you may ask whether the problematics of biographical
representation can be addressed by the chasing of the CATTt's tale/taille. To which I
would respond by noting a final example of sublime synchronicity. For, as it strangely
turns out, Zizek's other example from "mass culture" of the difference between the two
deaths is a scene from a Tom and Jerry cartoon in which Tom, the Cat, having been
subjected to "frightful misadventures," not to mention "stabbed" and "dynamite goes off in
his pocket," is finally "run over by a steamroller and his body flattened into a ribbon." Of
course, in the next scene "he appears in his normal body and the game begins again" (134-
5). There is obviously no way of escaping the punctum of one's past, and the image of the
flattened Jack Lescoulie, not even in hobby theory land. He will return again and again,
the screen "Saver," walking his ghostly rounds amidst the scraps of a life—a life which
once deconstructed, awaits its eternal reconfiguration in the hands of the electronic
patchworker.
There is no way to end this book.
No way to begin

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Stephen Robitaille was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, grew up largely in
Florida and received his undergraduate degree in English education from the University of
Florida in 1971. He returned to New England where he received his master's degree in
English from the University of Hartford in 1974 Following his return to Florida in 1976
he joined the English/Media Studies faculty of Santa Fe Community College. Mr.
Robitaille is an independent filmmaker and co-founder of the Florida Media Arts Center.
He lives with his wife, Julie, and two children in a 100-year-old home they restored after
moving it to Flamingo Hammock, an intentional community on the edge of Paynes Prairie
near Gainesville, Florida.
157

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quantity,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
igory Ulther
Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quantity,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
/t^1 ^ A
Alistair Duckworth
Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quantity,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
^atricia Craddock
Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quantity,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department of
English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate School and was
accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
December 1998
Dean, Graduate School

LO
1780
1992
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1262 08555 0860



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