Writing Yourself into the World


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Writing Yourself into the World Fantasies of Handwriting and Computer Graphics
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1 online resource (468 p.)
Kashtan,Aaron J
University of Florida
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Gainesville, Fla.
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Thesis/Dissertation Information

Doctorate ( Ph.D.)
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University of Florida
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Committee Chair:
Harpold, Terry A
Committee Co-Chair:
Ault, Donald D
Committee Members:
Bryant, Marsha C
Slawson, Brian


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English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
English thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


This dissertation argues that within contemporary North American culture, fantasies of handwriting function as an important means of negotiating the transition from digital to print culture. Traditionally, handwriting is understood as a privileged means of access to the essential ?self? or ?identity? of the writer: when we write by hand, we write ourselves into the world. The apotheosis of this view of handwriting is the fantasy of handwriting, a magical scenario in which handwritten letters or drawings take on independent existence and interact with the world. This scenario is a fantasy both because of its unrealistic nature ? it does not correspond to the way in which handwriting actually works ? and because it expresses a desire: the desire to have a stable, idiosyncratic self, and to write that self into the world. The fantasy of handwriting takes on particular importance at times ? such as the present cultural moment -- when handwriting is threatened with supplantation by newer writing technologies, raising the additional threat that the model of self that underlies handwriting might also disappear. At such times, the fantasy of handwriting is deployed in two ways. Restorative fantasies of handwriting imagine new writing technologies (e.g. digital animation or the Nintendo DS) in terms of handwriting and claim that these newer technologies can still be used to write oneself into the world, despite differing from traditional handwriting. Such fantasies ignore that writing oneself into the world was never possible in the first place, and erase the differences between traditional handwriting and its remediated versions. Reflective fantasies of handwriting facilitate a more mature response to technological transitions. Such fantasies acknowledge their own fantastic nature, recognizing that writing oneself into the world is impossible and that gaps always exist between handwriting and newer writing technologies. However, reflective fantasies of handwriting also acknowledge the desire for handwriting and its associated model of the self. The first body chapter of this dissertation defines fantasies of handwriting through an analysis of silent animation. Subsequent chapters explore the operation of fantasies of handwriting in four contemporary media: interactive fiction video games, alternative comics, digital animation, and handwriting-interface video games.
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by Aaron J Kashtan.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2011.
Adviser: Harpold, Terry A.
Co-adviser: Ault, Donald D.
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2 2011 Aaron Kashtan


3 To my grandfather, Lionel Finkelstein, who once asked me why I bothered studying comics. Now I know the answer.


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS bted to my brilliant advisors, Donald Ault and Terry Harpold, without whose generous support and insightful feedback this project could never have been imagined, let alone finished. In particular, I thank Professor Ault for his tireless support of comics s tudies at the University of Florida, and for helping to establish the legitimacy of comics studies as an academic field. I thank Professor Harpold for showing me that media was something I could actually study. I am also grateful to my other committee memb ers, Marsha Bryant and Brian Slawson, for their support. I also thank all the past teachers and advisors who helped me get to where I am now, including but not limited to the following: Shanna Gillespie, Jo Henriksen, Joan Brinkman, the late Marion Bohnsac k (I hope someday I can be half the teacher she was), Joan Mooney, Miriam Kagol, Joel Anderson, Peter Redmond, Michel Andr Bossy, Meera Viswanathan, Mary Ann Doane, George Landow, Evelyn Lincoln, Julio Ortega, Beatriz Pastor, and Ana Merino (without whose encouragement I might not be here). I owe an equal debt of gratitude to my parents, Judith and Clifford Kashtan, for their emotional support, for making my undergraduate education possible, and for teaching me the value of books and learning. In particu lar, I thank my father for taking me on my first trip to a comic book store, and for allowing me to read his copy of Maus at a shockingly young age, thus giving me an early exposure to the notion that comics could be worth writing about. I also thank my si blings and my extended family, including my grandfather, to whom this dissertation is dedicated. Among my colleagues and friends in the UF English Department, my greatest debt is to Tof Eklund and Nikki Smith, who made me feel at home in Gainesville and


5 helped me maintain my always tenuous grip on sanity. I wish them all the best. Others who offered useful advice and friendship include, but are not limited to, Stephanie Boluk, Lyndsay Brown, Mauro Carassai, Tania Darlington, Matt Feltman, Regina Martin, M ike Mayne, Melissa Mellon, Phil Sandifer, Katie Shaeffer, Elise Takehana, Zach Whalen, and Roger Whitson. Among other friends and acquaintances in the Gainesville area, I am particularly grateful to Sarah Whitfield, Travis Vitello, Travis Fristoe, Melissa Munkel, and the staff of Mega Comics, All Star Sportscards & Comics, and Hoyt's Cosmos of Comics. I thank the rest of the UF English Department faculty, particularly Anastasia Ulanowicz and my graduate coordinators Kenneth Kidd and Phillip Wegner, for th eir Corey Creekmur, Nick Montfort, Derek Parker Royal, and Meg Worley for their advice and support. I am also grateful to the many people with whom I communicated via the comixscholars l list. More specifically, I am indebted to Emily Short and Kevin Huizenga for answering questions about their work; John Canemaker, Corey Creekmur, Mark Eva nier, Jo Davis McElligott, Michael Mayne, Mark Newgarden, and Judith Page for responding to specific queries; and Elizabeth Bergmann Loizeaux, Walter Metz, and Phil Sandifer for giving me ac cess to unpublished materials. Of course, I also owe an immense debt to my many dedicated students. I can only hope I taught them half as much as they taught me. Finally, I haz a gratitude to the creators of icanhascheezburger.com, for providing a pleasant source of diversion and perhaps the kernel of my next project.


6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 9 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 10 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ................................ ................................ ........................... 16 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 17 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: FANTASIES OF HANDWRIT ING ................................ .............. 19 Preamble: Transparency, Privacy and Media Transitions ................................ ....... 19 Theories of Handwriting ................................ ................................ .......................... 21 Fantasies of Handwriting ................................ ................................ ........................ 30 Fantasies of Handwriting and Nostalgia ................................ ................................ .. 33 Chapter Breakdown ................................ ................................ ................................ 4 3 2 OUT OF THE INKWELL: TRADITIONAL ANIMATION AS FANTASY OF HANDWRITING ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 50 Felix and Fantasies of Handwriting ................................ ................................ ......... 50 Felix : The Kitties and the Critics ................................ ................................ ............. 52 Literature Review ................................ ................................ ............................. 52 Writing Surface and Medium in Fe lix ................................ ................................ 61 Letters and Punctuation Marks in Felix ................................ ............................ 68 Felix as Fantasy of Handwriting ................................ ................................ ....... 78 Transition: Illusory Materiality and the Legacy of Felix ................................ ............ 84 Road Runner: An Acme Essay in Critical Theory ................................ ................... 93 Who Erased Roger Rabbit? ................................ ................................ .................. 106 3 BECAUSE IT'S NOT THERE: INTERACTIVE FICTION AS FANTASY OF HANDWRITING ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 130 Word and Image in Inte ractive Fiction ................................ ................................ ... 130 Interactive Fiction as Handwriting ................................ ................................ ... 130 Literature Review ................................ ................................ ........................... 134 IF as Originary Fantasy of Handwriting ................................ ................................ 137 Ekphrasis ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 137 Visualization ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 142 Visualizability ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 152 Mapping and Writing ................................ ................................ ...................... 155


7 Interface ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 158 IF as Nostalgic Fantasy of Handwriting ................................ ................................ 163 Ekphrasis vs. Graphics ................................ ................................ ................... 163 City of Secrets and Ekphrasis ................................ ................................ ........ 170 Ad Verbum and Textual Materiality ................................ ................................ 187 4 IT'S ALL LINES ON PAPER, FOLKS: RESTORATIVE AND REFLECTIVE FANTASIES OF HANDWRITING IN ALT ERNATIVE COMICS ............................ 205 Opening Remarks and Literature Review ................................ ............................. 205 Alternative Comics as Art ................................ ................................ ............... 205 Alternative Comics as Literature ................................ ................................ ..... 208 Authorship in Alternative Comics ................................ ................................ .... 215 Authorship as Embodiment i n Alternative Comics ................................ .......... 221 Authorship as Fantasy ................................ ................................ .................... 229 Alternative Comics and the Digital ................................ ................................ ........ 232 Mechanical Lettering ................................ ................................ ...................... 232 Digital Lettering and Post Production ................................ ............................. 235 Handwriting in the Comics of Kevin Huizenga ................................ ...................... 240 Huizenga and the Fantasy of Handwriting ................................ ...................... 240 Huizenga vs. the Fantasy of Handwriting ................................ ....................... 245 I Know Well, but All the Same ................................ ................................ ........ 256 Transition: Huizenga and Cultural Politics ................................ ............................ 260 Scott Pilg rim versus the Fantasy of Handwriting ................................ ................... 263 Scott Pilgrim and the Apparent Absence of Handwriting ................................ 263 Scott Pilgrim and Nostalgia ................................ ................................ ............ 267 Scott Pilgrim and the Handwriting Effect ................................ ........................ 274 5 WRITING IN THE AIR: FANTASIES OF HANDWRITING IN DIGITAL CINEMA .. 291 Opening Remarks ................................ ................................ ................................ 291 Pixar and Restorative Fantasies of Handwriting ................................ ................... 292 Pix ar and the Nave Fantasy of Handwriting ................................ .................. 292 Pixar and the Fantasy of Immersion ................................ ............................... 299 Pixar and Restorative Nostalgia ................................ ................................ ..... 303 Reflective Nostalgia in Toy Story 2 ................................ ................................ 309 Monsters, Inc. : The Monsters and the Kiddies ................................ ...................... 312 Monsters, Inc and Imagination ................................ ................................ ...... 312 Monsters. Inc. and Visualization ................................ ................................ ..... 317 Monsters, Inc and Drawing ................................ ................................ ............ 319 Up as Reflective Fantasy of Handwriting ................................ .............................. 337 Scott Pilgrim vs. the Restorative Fantasy of Handwriting ................................ ...... 348 6 FORWARD TO THE PAST: NOSTALGIC FANTASIES OF HANDWRITING IN VIDEO GAMES ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 373 Video Games and Transparency ................................ ................................ .......... 373


8 Video Games and the Desire for Transparency ................................ ............. 373 Gaming and Fundamental Paradoxes of Transparency ................................ 378 Handwriting i n Video Games ................................ ................................ .......... 383 ................................ ............................... 385 Cel Shading ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 385 Jet Set Radio and the Handwriting Interface ................................ .................. 388 and the Celestial Brush ................................ ................................ ...... 391 as Uncritical Fantasy of Ha ndwriting: General Problems .................... 399 kami as Uncritical Fantasy of Handwriting: Specific Problems. ................... 402 III. Scribblenauts: Write Any thing*, Solve Everything ................................ ............ 409 Scribblenauts and Handwriting ................................ ................................ ....... 409 Scribblenauts and the DS as Handwriting Interface ................................ ....... 412 Scribblenauts and Barriers to Creativity ................................ ......................... 421 Handwriting Begins with You ................................ ................................ ................ 430 Fantasies of Handwriting in The World Ends with You ................................ ... 430 TWEWY as Reflective Fantasy of Handwriting ................................ ............... 434 The DS as Object of Nos talgia ................................ ................................ .............. 443 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 453 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 468


9 LIST OF TABLES Table page 1 1 The four types of fantasies of handwriting ................................ .............................. 47


10 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1 1 Two of Joey El ................................ .... 48 1 2 WordWorld. 1995 2011 Public Broadcasting Service. ................................ ................................ .............. 48 1 3 A sequence from by David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik. 2004 Paul Auster, Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli. ......... 49 1 4 A still from Harold and the Purple Crayon (David Piel, 1969). 1969 David Piel. ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 49 2 1 Still from Futuritzy and lack of resemblance to an actu al cat. All Felix images 2011 Felix the Cat Productions, Inc. ................................ ................................ ........................ 119 2 2 2006 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome. ....................... 119 2 3 A still from Felix in Hollywood (Otto Messmer, 1923). All Felix images are Felix the Cat Productions Inc. ................................ ................................ ........... 120 2 4 Diagram of the Hurd process, in which paper is used for the background and Patent 1,143,542, in the public domain. ................................ ........................... 120 2 5 A black kitty. Compare to Figure 1 1. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. ................................ ................... 121 2 6 Still from Non Stop Fright (Otto Messm er, 1927) showing the 478 MILES sign in its original state. ................................ ................................ ............................ 121 2 7 Still from Non Stop Fright Note the glasses (8), the chair (4) and the pipe (7). 122 2 8 Still from Non Stop Fright showing Felix in the act of replacing the numerals. 12 2 2 9 Still from Feline Follies (Otto Messmer, 1919) showing Master Tom's tail transformed into a question mark. ................................ ................................ .... 123 2 10 Still from Felix Follows the Swallows generation of exclamation marks. ................................ ................................ ..... 123 2 11 Still from Felix Follows the Swallows showing Felix treating the exclamation marks as objects. ................................ ................................ .............................. 124


11 2 12 Still from Felix Follows the Swallows showing Felix co nverting the exclamation marks into tools. ................................ ................................ ........... 124 2 13 Still from Felix Follows the Swallows. Here the exclamation marks have become Felix's wings. ................................ ................................ ....................... 125 2 14 Still from A Trip to Mars (Dave Fleischer, 1924). Note the visual contrast between the animated and live action elements of the image. This film is in the public domain. ................................ ................................ ............................ 125 2 15 Still from Comicalamities (Otto Messmer, 1928) showing Felix tearing Kitty out of the image. Note that the leading edge of the paper is drawn, not real. ... 126 2 16 Still from Th ere They Go Go Go (Chuck Jones, 1956) showing a typical Coyote sign. ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 126 2 17 Still from Gee Whiz z z z z z z (Chuck Jones, 1956) showing a sign that logically shouldn't exist. ................................ ................................ .................... 127 2 18 Still from Fast and Furry ous (Chuck Jones, 1949) showing the first use of the painting gag. Note that the painting is difficult to distinguish from the ................................ ................................ ................ 127 2 19 Still from Fast and Furry Ous From this angle the painting can be clearly recognized as a two dimensional representation. ................................ ............. 128 2 20 Still from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Robert Zemeckis, 1989). Note the seamless integration of live action and animated footage. Compare to Figure 2 14. ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 128 2 21 Still from Who Framed Roger Rab bit showing the clanking, mechanical doomsday device. ................................ ................................ ............................. 129 3 1 Screenshot from Ad Verbum Reproduced by permission of the author. .......... 201 3 2 Ad Verbum but with a different font, font color and background color. Reproduced by permission of the author. ........................... 201 3 3 Screenshot from Maniac Mansion (LucasAr ts, 1987). Note the menu of twelve verbs/actions. ................................ ................................ ........................ 202 3 4 Screenshot from Full Throttle (LucasArts, 1995). Although this game uses the same engine as Maniac Mansion it replaces the menu with four icons whose meanings change based on context. ................................ ..................... 202 3 5 Adventure running on an Osborne 1. Originally uploaded by Cetcom. Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. ................................ .. 203


12 3 6 Screenshot from City of Secrets Reproduced by permission of the author. ................................ ......................... 203 3 7 Screen shot from City of Secrets Note the idiosyncratic font. Reproduced by permission of the author. ................................ ................................ .................. 204 4 1 An example of Jeffrey Brown's highly crude drawing style. .............................. 282 4 2 Page 146 of Craig Thompson's Blankets in which Craig masturbates while looking at Raina's handwriting. ................................ ................................ ......... 282 4 3 Jim Aparo's cover to The Brave and the Bold #124, in which he shows ..................... 283 4 4 Panel from Seth's Clyde Fans Note the differences between individual instances of t ................................ .... 283 4 5 Example of LeRoy lettering, from William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter's Wonder Woman ................................ ................................ ............................... 284 4 6 Page from a variant version of Captain America #601, reproduced directly from Gene Colan's pencils. Note the incongruity between pencil artwork and digital lettering. ................................ ................................ ................................ 284 4 7 style of drawing and lettering. Images by Huizenga are reproduced by permission of the author. ................................ ................................ .................. 285 4 8 Cover of Ga nges #2. Note the highly idiosyncratic lettering and the lack of any evidence of digital production. ................................ ................................ ... 285 4 9 gamewor ld. Compare with the following figure and note the lack of graphic ................................ .. 286 4 10 Glenn imagining the real world in terms of the gameworld, f ................................ ................................ ....................... 286 4 11 The conjunction of the parrot, the gramophone and the word balloon, from Richard Outcault's Yellow Kid strip of October 25, 1896 ................................ 287 4 12 the idea that video games cause violence. ................................ ....................... 287 4 13 The cover of Hopeless Savages #1, by Andi Watson. An example of Oni ................................ ....... 288 4 14 Scott's pee meter, full and empty. (O'Malley 2007 79) ................................ ..... 288


13 4 15 Scott levels up. Note the jaggy type. ................................ ................................ 289 4 16 An example of the font used in O'Malley's captions. Compare to the font used for the word balloon. ................................ ................................ ......................... 289 4 17 Comicraft's Hedge Backwards font, based on Richard Starkings's hand lettering. ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 290 4 18 Example of Jef f Smith's pioneering handwriting based font. Compare the ................................ .............. 290 5 1 Still from Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995). Note the childish handwriting. ....... 357 5 2 Still from Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, 1999). Note the more mature handwriting. ................................ ................................ .. 357 5 3 Stil l from Monsters, Inc. (Pete Docter, 2001). The child is indifferent to this ................................ ................... 358 5 4 Still from Monsters, Inc This one, however, is. ................................ ................ 358 5 5 Still from Monsters, Inc. Boo's self portrait with Sulley was actually executed by Harley Jessup's four year old son. ................................ ............................... 359 5 6 Stil l from the title sequence of Monsters, Inc. showing a monster interacting with letters. ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 359 5 7 Still from Monsters, Inc. showing a battle between a monster and a letter. ...... 360 5 8 Still from Monsters, Inc. suggesting the effects of television upon children's imaginations. ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 360 5 9 Still from The Princess and the Frog (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2010). Note the utter lack of scariness. ................................ ............................ 361 5 10 Still from My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988). Note the uncanny combination of cuteness and scariness. ................................ ........................... 361 5 11 Still from Monsters, Inc. Note the incongruity between the normal bed and the monster in (not under) it. ................................ ................................ ............. 362 5 12 Sti ll from Up (Pete Docter, 2009). Note the childish lettering. ........................... 362 5 13 Still from Up Note Ellie's childish painting of Paradise Falls. ........................... 363 5 14 Still from Up Note Ellie's childish drawing of the house. ................................ .. 363 5 15 Still from Up Note the childish lettering and inconsistent capitalization. .......... 364


14 5 16 Still from Up writing. ................................ ................ 364 5 17 Still from Up showing another act of hand drawing. ................................ ......... 365 5 18 Still from Up The giant bunch of balloons was the major technological showpiece of the film. ................................ ................................ ....................... 365 5 19 Pages from the Adventure Book combining handwriting hand drawing and photography. ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 366 5 20 Handwriting from beyond the grave. Compare Ellie's handwriting in this image to that in Figures 5 15 and 5 19. ................................ ............................ 366 5 21 Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright, 2010). Note the internal, apparently hand drawn, panel borders. ................................ ............................ 367 5 22 Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World This font resembles one used in the graphic novels. ................................ ................................ ................................ 367 5 23 Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Note the apparently hand lettered sound effect. ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 368 5 24 Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Music is here represented as symbols emanating from instruments. ................................ ................................ ............ 368 5 25 Still from Batman (Leslie H. Marti nson, 1966). Note the obvious incongruity between the sound effect and the live action footage; the former seems to float above the latter. ................................ ................................ ........................ 369 5 26 Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Al though the same sense of incongruity exists, the viewer is meant to perceive the BLAM! as existing on the same ontological register as Kim's body. ................................ ................................ ... 369 5 27 Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the Wo rld Scott physically interacts with the word LOVE. ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 370 5 28 Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World This image is part of a flashback sequence narrated with static drawings rather than live action footage. .......... 370 5 29 Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World showing the juxtaposition of live action footage with handwriting and hand drawing. ................................ .................... 371 5 30 Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Seven evil X's. ................................ ....... 371 5 31 Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World The pixellated sword is an example of the film's non il lusionistic style of graphics. ................................ ...................... 372 5 32 Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Another example of the same. ............... 372


15 6 1 Screensho t from Dead Space (Electronic Arts, 2008). This game omits the standard HUD. Instead, the meter on the avatar's back represents his remaining life, and the counter on his gun indicates his ammunition supply. ... 445 6 2 Map of one level of Comix Zone (Sega Technical Institute, 1995). ................... 445 6 3 The second panel of the first level of Comix Zone Note Mortus's hand drawing an enemy into e xistence. ................................ ................................ .... 446 6 4 Screenshot from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo, 1998). Note the three dimensional style of graphics. ................................ ................... 446 6 5 Screenshot from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Nintendo, 2003). Note the two dimensional style of graphics. Compare to Figure 6 4. ............... 447 6 6 Screenshot from the Japanese version of (Clover Studios, 2006). Note the thought balloon, the ink painted appearance of the graphics, and the rice paper veneer (visible in the sky at the upper left). ............................... 447 6 7 Screenshot from kami Note the thought balloon containing a henohenomoheji symbol (a face composed of hiragana characters) at the upper left. ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 448 6 8 Screenshot from Note the giant kanji character. ................................ .. 448 6 9 Screenshot from The brush god Yomigami is partially drawn and partially real, and has a brush for a tail. ................................ ............................ 449 6 10 Screenshot from showing the Celestial Brush interface. Note the variation in the thickness of the brushstroke. ................................ .................... 449 6 11 The cover of Scribblenauts (Clover Studios, 2009). Note the han dwriting like font used for the title, and the Comic Sans font used for the subtitle. ............... 450 6 12 Screenshot from Scribblenauts showing the handwriting interface, which is designed to resemble a sheet of notebook paper. ................................ ............ 450 6 13 xkcd strip #637. ................................ ................................ ...... 450 6 14 The Nintendo DS Lite and its included stylus. ................................ .................. 451 6 15 Screenshot from The World Ends with You depicting the combat interface. Note the top screen, controlled with buttons, and the bottom screen, controlled with the stylus. ................................ ................................ ................. 452


16 LIST OF ABBREVIATION S HUD Heads up display IF Interactive fiction TWEWY The World Ends with You


17 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfill ment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy WRITING YOURSELF INTO THE WORLD: FANTASIES OF HANDWRITING AND COMPUTER GRAPHICS By Aaron Kashtan August 2011 Chair: Terry Harpold Cochair: Donald Ault Major: English This dissertation arg ues that within contemporary North American culture fantasie s of handwriting function as an important means of negotiating the transition from digital to print culture. Traditionally, handwriting is understood as a privileged means of access to the essenti of the writer: when we write by hand, we write ourselves into the world. The apotheosis of this view of handwriting is the fantasy of handwriting a magical scenario in which handwritten letters or drawings take on independent exist ence and interac t with the world. This scenario is a fantasy both because of its unrealistic nature it does not correspond to the way in which handwriting actually works and because it expresses a desire: the desire to have a stable, idiosyncratic self and to write that self into the world. The fantasy of handwriting takes on particular importance at times such as the present cultural moment -when handwriting is threatened with supplantation by newer writing technologies, raising the additional th reat that the model of self that underlies handwriting might also disappear. At such times the fantasy of handwriting is deployed in two ways. Restorative fantasies of handwriting imagine new writing technologies (e.g.


18 digital animation or the Ninten do DS ) in terms of handwriting and claim that these newer technologies can still be used to write oneself into the world, despite differing from traditional handwriting. Such fantasies ignore that writing oneself into the world was never possible in the first p lace, and erase the differences between traditional handwriting and its remediated versions. Reflective fantasies of handwriting facilitate a more mature response to technological transitions. Such fantasies acknowledge their own fantastic nature, recogniz ing that writing oneself into the world is impossible and that gaps always exist between handwriting and newer writing technologies. Ho wever, reflective fantasies of handwriting also acknowledge the desire for handwriting and its associated model of the se lf. T he first body chapter of this dissertation defines fantasies of handwriting through an analysis of silent animation. Subsequent chapters explore the operation of fantasies of handwriting in four contemporary media: interactive fiction video games, alt ernative comics, digital animation, and handwriting interface video games.


19 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: FANTAS IES OF HANDWRITING He used to write with his thumb in the air. She had the curious sensation that the pictographs and ideograms that covered the walls with bold black and dark blue shapes were moving, not jumpily like half seen print but evenly, regularly, expanding and shrinking very gently, as if they were breathing. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Telling Preamble: Transp arency, Privacy and Media Transitions Silmarillion the elven king Finrod Felagund and the human Beren on a quest to recover the Silmaril, a priceless jewel stolen by the Dark Lord, Morgoth are lieutenant. However, Sauron does not know who they are or what they seek to accomplish, and so he challenges Finrod to a contest of magical songs. Sauron goes first: He chanted a song of wizardry, Of piercing, opening, of treachery, Revealing, uncovering, betraying. Then sudden Felagund there swaying Sang in answer a song of staying, Resisting, battling against power, Of secrets kept, strength like a tower, And trust unbroken, freedom, escape; Of changing and of shifting shape Of snares eluded, broken trap s, The prison opening, the chain that snaps (Tolkien n.p.) Sauron sings of revealing, of transparency, complete knowledge, unimpeded vision. In response, Finrod sings of privacy, of secrecy, of keeping his idiosyncratic essence to himself. And Finrod almo st wins. According to one common interpretation, Finrod loses only because he starts singing of Valinor, the homeland of the Elves; this reminds him


20 Although Finrod loses the singing contest and is ultimately killed, Sauron never does learn his name or mission, and Beren eventually succeeds in recovering the Silmaril. I will read this story as a parable of a more generalized contemporary polemic in North American cul ture: a debate between transparency and privacy. Or more generally, between one complex or package of values that includes transparency, verisimilitude and realism and that is often associated with digital technology and new media, and another complex or p ackage of values that includes privacy, selfhood, and embodiment and that is often associated with analog technology and older media. Digital technologies and new media promise to offer us fluid, continuous visual experiences which have no gaps, are barely distinguishable from real life, and succeed as far as possible in concealing their own fictional and artifactual nature. A film such as Avatar or a video game such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare promises us a visual experience which equals or even surpas ses visual experiences we encounter in real life. In watching such a film or playing such a game, we supposedly forget who we are, becoming absorbed in the narrative or game situation to such an extent as to lose ourselves. And we forget who made the text we are consuming; we think we are having an actual experience, instead of a mediated one which was crafted by a particular group of people in a particular rhetorical situation. This view of digital technology is clearly quite reductive, and I hope to show work this way. Nonetheless, this account does represent a commonplace understanding of digital transparency, which is often encountered both in commercial discourses and in digital texts such as the film Av atar (James Cameron, 2009). This account of digital technology is complemented by an equally reductive, but also equally common, account


21 of analog technology. This latter account holds that when we read a graphic novel or a lyric poem, we remain conscious of ourselves as separate entities from the author and the text; we never become absorbed to the point of self abandonment. And we remain conscious of the crafted, scriptural nature of the text, never forgetting that one or more human beings made it. Both a uthor and reader retain an idiosyncrasy specific to each. reading situation lies somewhere between these two extremes. (We could also draw an analogous binary opposition betw een the writing situations entailed in old and new media, and this binary opposition would be equally false.) Nonetheless, comparisons between old and new media are often expressed in precisely these terms, not only in polemical writings about media studie s but also in media texts themselves; over the course of this dissertation we will see numerous examples of this. A cultural imaginary exists in which new media represent the visible, the transparent, the spectacular, while old media represent the private, the invisible, the idiosyncratic. Old media has become identified with those personal, irreducible traits of character that seem to be stripped out, in various ways, by new media. Theories of Handwriting In this dissertation I propose handwriting as a figure for what appears to be lost in the transition from old to new media. This figure or image of handwriting encapsulates, in a compact and precise form, all or at least many of the cherished values that are typically aligned on the side of new media an d against old media. Handwriting is associated in contemporary Western culture with personality, idiosyncrasy and authenticity.


22 I define handwriting as a process involving four basic material components: a writing tool (e.g., a pen, a pencil, or a stylus) which is typically longer than wide and writing surface (e.g., paper, celluloid, or a resistive touchscreen), which is typically two dimensional and originally blank; a writing medium (e.g., ink or paint) 1 ; and a wr iting hand which holds the writing tool. In handwriting, the writing hand uses the writing tool to make inscriptions upon the writing surface, possibly by applying the writing medium thereto. That is to say, the writing hand interacts physically with the writing surface through the mediation of the writing medium and the writing tool. The action of the writing hand is therefore the direct cause of the appearance of inscriptions upon the writing surface. Finally, and crucially, these inscriptions are readab le. They are not meant simply to be appreciated on the basis of their graphic qualities; instead, they refer to something other than themselves. In other words, handwritten inscriptions function as elements of a writing system a mapping of signifiers to s ignifieds. A classical example of handwriting, involving the four material components plus the writing system, would be the use of an ink brush to compose Chinese characters in ink on writing paper. 2 However, we can also define handwriting more broadly. So me of the four material components of handwriting are optional. Cuneiform is still handwriting in the sense in which I use this term, even though the same object (a wet clay tablet) serves as both writing medium and writing surface. Indeed, cuneiform even seems like 1 produce art. I use 2 Three of the material components of writing correspond to the items known in Chi nese calligraphy and paper (writing surface).


23 a purer and more originary form of handwriting, due to the lack of mediation between the writing tool (the stylus) and the writing surface. Again, we can conceive of handwriting processes where the writing tool is subsumed into the writing hand, such as system may not be an actual alphabet; there is considerable overlap between letters and pictures, and cartoon drawings often signify in the same way as alphab etic letters. 3 The two key elements, however, are the writing hand and the writing surface, although these can be metaphorical rather than actual. For example, I will argue in Chapter 3 that interactive fiction (IF) is metaphorically similar to handwriting In interactive fiction, the writing tool (keyboard) and writing surface (screen) do not correspond to the classical versions of these items, and the causal link between them is not clear. However, the medium works in such a way as to enforce a metaphoric al connection between the keyboard and screen, and to suggest that this connection is analogous to the connection between a hand held writing tool and paper. Specifically, as I will explain, IF is made to seem like a process of making inscriptions on a sur face. This is the essence of handwriting: the act of making signifying marks on a surface. When we define handwriting in this way, it becomes easy to understand why handwriting functions, at least in Western culture, as a privileged sign of interiority, s ubjectivity and embodiment. In the first place, this is because handwriting is irreducibly material. The existence of a handwritten trace is conclusive proof of the prior presence of the writer at the moment of writing. In handwriting, the writing hand phy sically engages with the writing tool, the writing surface and the writing medium. The written 3 On this point see McCloud, Understanding Comics Mimesis: Reading


24 This is why signatures can be used to authenticate documents. The appearance of a signature on a document indicates that that signature was executed by the person it names. Handwriting therefore serves as the material trace of the existence of the writer. In the second place, handwriting is absolutely specific to the writer. The physiology of which even the writer himself or herself may be unaware. This is the p rinciple behind the use of handwriting for questioned document examination: if the handwriting on a questioned document is sufficiently similar to the handwriting on another document of known authorship, then it may be assumed that the two documents were w ritten by the same person, and by no one else. Some characteristics of handwriting therefore record the uniqueness of the writer. These two properties existence and uniqueness are unique to handwriting and seem to vanish when handwriting is replaced wi th mechanical or digital writing processes. Writing produced with a device such as a printing press, a typewriter, or a ing tool, because they are not controlled direct physical contact with the writing surface. However, such devices still function by direct manual engagement. The letter is produced as a result of the physical engagement of the writing hand with the writing device; there is a clear, unambiguous


25 the appearance of a letter on the p age. Such devices, however, lack uniqueness; a document written on a typewriter, for example, looks the same no matter who was using the machine. Based on the appearance of the letters on the document, we cannot determine who wrote it. We may be able to de termine which typewriter it was written with, because the typewriter has unique attributes (cf. Gitelman 215), but the unique attributes of the user are unlikely to be communicated to the writing surface via the mediation of the typewriter. Mechanical wr iting processes such as typewriting involve a form of transcribing evidence of existence without evidence of uniqueness. Digital writing processes, such as computerized word processing, may involve neither: I press the keys, I see glyphs corresponding to them imprinted on the screen, I imagine that they will eventually be imprinted on a page. But between the keystroke, pixels, and the page it is harder to imagine intermediate processes that join them; those seem of a different order altogether, one compose d of magnetic valences, electrical discharges, and more virtual things that exist only in the logic of a program; they are effected beneath or outside thresholds of my perception. (Harpold 2009 28) Using a computer keyboard is in some respects just as much of a manual process as using a pen or a typewriter keyboard. It appears to be a myth that excessive keyboard use is the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome (Stone 439), but the popularity of this myth is evident that in the contemporary cultural imaginary, ke yboarding is still understood to be an embodied process. What happens in word processing is that the relationship of material causality between my keystrokes and the appearance of the corresponding letters on the screen becomes invisible. I know my keyboa phenomenology of the typing experience would be the same in either case. There is a causal connection between the production of a digital document and my p resence at the moment of its production, but this causal connection is not evident, because it takes


26 place below the threshold of human perception. In this sense it seems as though word processing and similar processes fail to record either the presence or the uniqueness of the writer. Alternately, we could also express this claim in terms of disembodiment: the body, nor do they seem to have a physical body in the same sen se as the letters I write by hand or on a typewriter. 4 These (apparent) differences between handwriting and mechanical or digital writing are not value neutral. The properties of existence and uniqueness are often seen as inherently valuable. Because of th ese two properties (which are not entirely separable presence of a given writer), handwriting is frequently understood as a particularly authentic, personal or idiosyncratic m ode of writing. Handwriting is or historically has been considered appropriate for signatures, personal letters, and other types of writing which seem to have a close connection to the writer. The handwritten ness of a document connotes its personal nature In juxtaposition to handwriting, mechanical or digital writing technologies seem comparatively lifeless, machinic, or artificial. A paradigmatic example here is the scandal that erupted in 2004 when then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was found to have been using a mechanical signing machine to sign letters addressed to relatives of fallen soldiers (Glaister n.p.). Where a personal, individual touch and an investment of time were required, Rumsfeld substituted the heartless touch and cold repetitive ness of a machine indicating that the government 4 On the question of embodiment in digital writing, see Drucker 2002 passim


27 he represented held a similarly heartless attitude to the soldiers who died in their service, or that he felt his time was better spent otherwise. But discourses associated with the imaginary of handwriti ng often go even further. Handwriting is sometimes understood as being connected to its writer in a deep, even mystical sense, as revealing more about its writer than simply the quirks of his or her physical movements. The pseudoscience of graphology, whic h flourished in the early 20th century and still enjoys limited popularity today, claimed to be able to predict a that particular irregularities in handwriting corr esponded to particular personality traits. Empirical studies have consistently found that personality traits cannot be accurately predicted based on graphological analyses, and graphology is now generally considered a pseudoscience. 5 Nonetheless, the premi se behind graphology seems close physical connection of handwriting with the body, it makes a certain kind of sense to believe that in our handwriting, we inadvertent ly reveal ourselves that handwriting contains some interior, hidden kernel of a psychic unity we associate with the body. Handwriting, according to this logic, is literally the trace of the self (a term which is of course highly problematic but which is often employed uncritically in this sort of discourse). A handwritten letter or word is literally the extension of the person who wrote what we might call the graphological fantasy of handwriting is often implicitly at work in claims that handwriting is more embodied, personal, etc., than other media. 5 For a detailed account of the history of graphology, see Thornton 1995.


28 There are, however, two constitutive tensions in handwriting that work against its claims to be a maximally embodied, personal medium of writing. In the first place, even according to the graphological view of handwriting, letters are merely traces of the former 977 20). Handwriting testifies only to been present in a past now of a dead person does not bring him or he r back from the grave, but merely serves as a ghostly reminder of his or her former presence. 6 For Derrida, handwriting is therefore an example of how writing necessarily depends on iterability, i.e. on the possibility of nal intentions. linguistic code, which neither originates with nor is specific to the writer. Handwriting consists of letters, which are elements in a differential system of signification. A letter is not an inherent essence but merely a trace of its difference from other letters. As Johanna Drucker reminds us, a model of the materiali ty of language must be hybrid. and nontranscendent difference and that of a phenomenological, apprehendable, f differentiality operates in cartooning, where images are not mimetic representations of the things they stand for, 6 Speaking of the phonograph, which depends on a similarly uncanny combinati on of absence and literally being dead, yet speaketh


29 but conventionalized signs; the difference between an alphabetic letter and a cartoony representation of a cat or mouse, for example, may b e one of degree rather than kind. The graphological concept of handwriting concentrates on the first of these two strands, ignoring that handwriting is a medium of intersubjective communication as well as pure subjective revelation. As such, it consists of a string of signifiers which are never pure, only differences, and no positive terms values of the letters are purely neg ative and differential. So the same individual might write t in such variant forms as: [illustration omitted] The one essential thing is that his t should be distinct from his l his d to words. The seman tic value of a letter or word is separable from its materiality in the sense of its sensuous physical appearance. Moreover, even the physical appearance of This sign individual writes t in a way which is specific to him or her, any two instances of the letter t written by that individual will be only minimally distinguishable. The only thing that is absolutely specific and unrepeatable in any handwritten sign is the fact of its origin in a particular act of inscription and even then, as we just saw, the handwritten sign must be separated from that originary moment of inscription in order to be r eadable. Finally, the arbitrariness of language also implies that a gap necessarily exists between sign and referent: nouns, for example, are not the things they name. I am not a cartoon drawing, despite its more mimetic nature, also partakes of this logic of arbitrariness and


30 differentiality ( diffrance been told as much. Fantasies of Handwriting However, one might ima gine a way of getting around both these constitutive tensions or gaps. What if letters were not immobile and bound to the writing surface? What if letters (or handwritten drawings) could move independently? What if handwriting, instead of just sitting ther e, could do stuff ? 7 What if letters were alive ? This idea, while obviously fantastic in nature, is surprisingly common in 20th century American culture. It represents a recurring theme or unifying trope that cuts across is dissertation. The most representative example of Felix the Cat but it comes up in a variety of media, although not always in such a literal way as in Felix I will use the term fantasy of handwriting to refer primarily to this scenario, although my uses of this term will embrace also other fantastic scenarios which are closely related. The fantasy of handwriting represents the apotheosis of handwriting and the overcoming of its constitutive gaps. When handwri ting comes alive, it ceases to be a mere record of former presence; it becomes a living, breathing entity. And a letter (or schematic drawing) which is alive is, in some mysterious sense, a hybrid of differentiality and materiality. It promises to overcome the logic of diffrance to make things identical to their names and this promise is all the more seductive because one 1) or the 7 rm. Within the context of a diegetic presence, causes permanent changes to other objects, etc.


31 WordWorld (Figure 1 2) are appealing, but in an uncanny, eerie way, precisely because they straddle the notional border between signs and things. 8 Their appeal comes from the fact that they appear to have come to life without ceasing to be recognizable as letters, as elements in a preexisting sign system. Otherwise, the frog in Figure 2 would be no different from any other computer both an actual frog and g literally is change the name of a thin g is to change the thing, and vice versa, and magic can be performed only by invoking things by their true names (Le Guin 50 52). This fantasy of adaptation of in which a character proposes that in the garden of Eden, language and its referent were identical; the constitutive arbitrariness of language is a consequence of the fall of Man (Figure 1 3). Or, in a less litera Analects When asked by a disciple what would be his first priority if he were in charge of the government of a country, the Master replied: ct, language is without an object. When the language is without an object, no affair can be effected. When no affair can be effected, rites and music wither. When rites and music wither, punishments and penalties miss their target. When punishments and pen alties miss their target, the people do not know where they stand. Therefore, whatever a gentleman conceives of, he 8 Both of these examples were designed as tools for teach ing literacy to children. This is probably no coincidence; there seems to be something childlike about the fantasy of animated letters.


32 must be able to say, and whatever he says, he must be able to do. In the matter of language, a gentleman leaves nothing to chance (60 61). The fantasy of handwriting offers a mystical means of enforcing this connection between names and the things they represent, and thereby heals the constitutive void at the heart of language, the gap between the signifier and its referent. When defined in these terms, the fantasy of handwriting is clearly understood as a context, but definitions of fantasy commonly characterize it as a process of imagining things which are no t present, or of pretending that things are otherwise than they in fact are. For example, one of the Oxford English Dictionary actually pr commonly serves the purpose of satisfying unfulfilled desires. The OED also defines and quotes G. sic ] is a day dream in which desire, unfulfilled in the elaborates: desir e. This elementary definition is quite adequate, on condition that we take it literally : what the fantasy stages is not a scene in which our desire is fulfilled, fully satisfied, but on the contrary, a scene that realizes, stages, the re is not something given in advance, but something that has to be constructed and it is precisely the role of fantasy to give the position the subject assumes in it. It is only th rough fantasy that the subject is constituted as desiring: through fantasy, we learn how to desire (6). In other words, fantasy is not just an imaginary realization of desire; it is also a process by which desire is clarified and elaborated. Its purpose, as Zizek goes on to elaborate,


33 rather with the reproduction of deisr The fantasy of handwriting, then, depends on a certain desire namely, a desire to return to some archaic state of language, some Edenic time when materiality, semantic value and selfhood were not yet separated from each other. At the same time, however, it does not claim to satisfy this desire or rather, when it does make such a claim, it loses much of its productive potential. The fantasy of handwriting is most interesting when it acknowledges its role in pr oducing and perpetuating the same desire that motivates its creation. Fantasies of Handwriting and Nostalgia In the cases I am examining in this dissertation, the fantasy of handwriting is invoked at moments of technological change, when handwriting is ch allenged by newer writing technologies. At such moments, the fantasy of handwriting becomes nostalgic, and it is therefore useful to discuss the fantasy of handwriting here in connection with nostalgia. In a certain sense, the fantasy of handwriting is ne cessarily nostalgic. It entails a desire to return to some lost homeland of language, some Edenic or antediluvian lass this is the explicit objective of Peter Stillman the elder: he wants to return language to its Edenic condition. Nostalgia, of course, is always revisionary: it never simply remembers a lost object but also, to some extent, creates that object, by in vesting it with positive qualities that were not perceived until after it was (already) lost. There never actually was an antediluvian


34 period when language was identical to its object and when handwriting recorded the living (rather than the past) presence of the author. The fantasy of handwriting retroactively constitutes this lost condition of language at the same time that it laments the loss thereof. The fantasy of handwriting is therefore always nostalgic in an abstract sense, in that it expresses a d esire for a condition which is (falsely) supposed to have existed at some past time. However, I now want to claim that fantasies of handwriting can also be affected by nostalgia in a more specific, concrete way. When an old writing technology e.g., handw riting or typewriting is supplanted by a newer one e.g., respectively, typewriting or word processing the old writing technology may become identified as more completely fulfilling the fantasy of handwriting than the newer one does. The older writing technology comes to seem more embodied or personal, more effective at recording the existence and uniqueness of the writer. In her book Handwriting in America: A Cultural History Tamara Plakins Thornton demonstrates that the graphological concept of hand writing is actually a fairly recent invention (at least in North America). In earlier times when handwriting was the primary or only means of communication available, its significance was often fantasized very differently, if at all. In colonial America, f or example, handwriting was supposed to identify the writer as a member of a particular social class; there was one prescribed script for gentlemen, handwriting were rea membership in a particular stratum of society. Similarly, in Victorian times, handwriting


35 not idiosyncr asy. By writing properly that is, according to conventions that identified one identified oneself as a proper person. Idiosyncratic variations in handwriting would therefore have been read as evidence of sloppiness an d lack of character, not distinctive individuality. For Thornton, the modern view of handwriting as revelatory of personality is largely a product of the encounter of handwriting with print and typewriting. When handwriting encountered competition from the se newer, more mechanical technologies which could more efficiently reproduce a regularity of writing than could handwriting it came to be reimagined in terms of individuality and selfhood rather than correctness and uniformity. Irregular handwriting b ecame a positive sign of distinctive character, rather than a negative sign of carelessness. Some handwriting pedagogues responded to the encounter with the machine by trying to make handwriting more machinic method o body, so as to produce handwriting that had the correctness and consistency of typewritten text. Arts and Crafts calligraphers, on the other hand (no pun intended), responded to the challenge of typing and printing by reevaluating handwriting in terms of self expression, art and craftspersonship. For Edward Johnston, the leader of the Arts and Crafts calligraphy revival, handwriting was a labor of love which therefore stood in op position to the soullessness of the machine: The essential qualities of Lettering are legibility, beauty and character and these are to be found in numberless inscriptions and writings of the last two thousand years. But since the traditions of the early scribes and printers and carvers have decayed, we have become so used to inferior forms and arrangements that we hardly realize how poor the bulk of modern lettering really is. (xviii)


36 ity, the quality of or indeed any other letter maker is advised to allow the pen to train his hand to make the proper strokes automatic ally; then he may begin to master and control the pen, making it conform to his hand and so produce Letters which have every possible virtue of penmanship and are as much his own as his common personal quality is essential to perfect workmanship, [although] that is the natural and gradual sometimes scarcely visible departure from the value of human individuality, then, Johnston reasserted th e dominance of the hand of handwriting is explicitly nostalgic. Faced with other writing technologies that seem to xistence and uniqueness, advocates of handwriting seek to understand handwriting (or media which are equated to handwriting) as having been characterized by personality, character, and embodiment. Any such understanding of handwriting is necessarily retroa ctive, simply because we technology, until we have some other writing technology to compare it with. Otherwise, than what We can therefore distinguish between one variety of the fantasy of handwriting which is nostalgic in a more broad, generic sense, and another variety which is nostalgic for a specific past technology or media ecology. I will describe the fantas y of Originary fantasies of


37 handwriting are enacted within handwritten (or handwriting like) media, prior to the creation of surrogates for handwriting. They are nostalgic in an abstract sense, wi thout being able to appeal to a specific medial object of nostalgia. At the same time, however, originary fantasies of handwriting may sometimes be enacted within a relatively new medium (e.g., animation), if users of this new medium perceive it as being s imilar to handwriting or as having qualities in common with handwriting. Nostalgic fantasies of handwriting, in contrast, are enacted in response to a specific media transition. Such fantasies express longing or desire for a preexisting state of media. Thi s preexisting state of media development is identified with, or becomes a surrogate for, the generalized condition of perfect handwriting that serves as the object of nostalgia in the originary fantasy of handwriting. This opposition originary and nosta lgic intersects with a second opposition which may be used to classify fantasies of handwriting. Such fantasies can be either uncritical or critical The uncritical fantasy of handwriting simply expresses the longing for a prior state of perfect handwrit ing (originary) or of more embodied writing (nostalgic). It navely wishes that this prior state could be brought back. The critical fantasy of handwriting, however, recognizes that the object of nostalgia can never return not only because time is irreve rsible, but also (and more specifically) because the object of nostalgia never existed to begin with. As I explained above, handwriting is always predicated on constitutive gaps. Handwriting always represents an absent rather than a living presence, and it always signifies by difference as well as substance. The uncritical fantasy of handwriting seeks to forget these gaps; the critical fantasy of handwriting acknowledges them. However, the critical fantasy of handwriting is not a


38 simple debunking or deconst ruction of the uncritical fantasy. At the same time that the critical fantasy acknowledges the unsatisfiability of the desire for handwriting, it also admits the powerful, compelling nature of that desire. It is simultaneously aware that we can never have perfectly embodied handwriting, and that even knowing this, we still want to have perfectly embodied handwriting. This combination of desire and the knowledge of the unsatisfiability of desire is what gives the critical fantasy of handwriting its poignancy When we combine these two axes uncritical and critical, originary and nostalgic we obtain four different types of fantasies of handwriting (Table 1). These four fantasies correspond to four different concepts of the type of selfhood that handwriting embodies. A text that invokes the nave fantasy of handwriting is enacted within a medium which uses or resembles handwriting. It is created prior to the arrival of media which compete with this handwriting based medium, and which are perceived as techno logically superior in one way or another, but as having less in common with handwriting. It expresses the nave desire that handwriting could be brought to life, that a handwritten medium (often a relatively new one) can be manipulated in such a way as to overcome the constitutive gaps involved in handwriting. For example, the Fleischer Out of the Inkwell features characters who are drawn with ink on paper, then come to life, or appear to do so thanks to the magic of the then new technology of ani which superseded ink on hand much less visible. Alternately, however, a nave fantasy of handwriting can even be created after the arrival of media that are more transparent, mimetic, etc. than


39 handwriting, and that are perceived as fundamentally dissimilar to handwriting. This can be done by simply ignoring the existence of these newer media. For example, David Pie Harold and the Purple Crayon Out of the Inkwell in that it features a Disneyesque full animation had become the state of the art, but it does not acknowledge the fact that it employs a style of animation which is no longer the current state of the art. (Such a work is close to expressing a restorative fantasy of handwriting, media.) The nave fantasy of handwriting encodes an equally nave concept of the self. It assumes that selfhood is a unitary, self identical entity and that it can be completely encoded or manifested in physical form. Such a model of the self is a classically humanistic one, associated with traditional humanist concepts such as authenticity and truth. A text that expresses the self aware fantasy of handwriting is also created in handwritten media prior to the arrival of more advanced alternatives. (I have my doubts as to whether a text expressing a self aware fantasy of handwriting can be created after the transition to a less handwritten medium; I think such a text wou ld actually involve a reflective fantasy of handwriting.) However, unlike the nave fantasy of handwriting, it acknowledges its own nature as a fantasy. As I will demonstrate in Chapter 2, the Felix the Cat comes from the conflict i t creates between belief and suspension of disbelief. When Felix interacts physically with question marks and exclamation marks, for example, the viewer is pleasantly astonished because he or she


40 knows that such an interaction is not possible, that it mere ly expresses a fantasy. This sort of self consciousness or self reflexivity is mostly absent in a work like Out of the Inkwell or Harold and the Purple Crayon The self aware fantasy of handwriting encodes a concept of selfhood which is less sure of itself which understands itself as constantly shifting and as conditioned by other people (a succession of ipse selves as well as an unchanging idem After a handwriting like medium (e.g., ink and paper animation or interactiv e fiction) is replaced by a medium which has less in common with handwriting (e.g., full animation or the graphical video game), the fantasy of handwriting becomes nostalgic rather than originary. At this point, however, it can be either restorative or ref lective I The Future of Nostalgia nostalgia were developed in the specific context of nationalism and immigrant experience. For Boym, nostalgia is the desire for the return to a literal lost home My Self which again discusses nostalgia in the context of immigration. Here, however, I A work that invokes the restorative fantasy of handwriting is one that simply wishes for the return of an earlier state of technological evolution; it tries to restore a lost condition of totally embodied handwriting, ignoring that such a condition neve r existed to begin with, and that even if it had ever existed, it would be irrecoverable. An example of such a work is the Nintendo DS video game Sccribblenauts which simply presents itself as a remediation of handwriting, leading inevitably to disappoint ment when the player


41 fantasy of nostalgia assumes that the integral selfhood associated with idiosyncratic (hand)writing is something which has been lost in the sense of being temporarily misplaced, and which can still be recovered. It assumes that selfhood is an unchanging essence which is independent of the technologies that permit its expression. Of these four types of fantasies of handwriting, the one that interests me most is the reflective fantasy of handwriting. As with the restorative fantasy, a work that enacts the reflective fantasy of handwriting is created after the replacement of a handwriting like medium with a less handwriting like medium, either in the fo rmer medium or the latter. However, unlike the restorative fantasy, the reflective fantasy acknowledges both the nonexistence and the unrecoverability of any originary condition of handwriting. nostos and proposes to rebuild the lost home and patch up the memory gaps. Reflective nostalgia dwells in algia in longing and loss, reflective nostalgia is aware that one cannot simply retur n to a previous state of media evolution. It accentuates the gaps between present and former media ecologies. Instead of seeking simply to restore a lost condition of handwriting, the reflective fantasy of handwriting is interested in the impossibility of such a restoration. At the same time, as noted above with reference to the critical fantasy of handwriting, reflective nostalgia is not a simple deconstruction of restorative nostalgia. Reflective nostalgia acknowledges the desire for the lost home, which represents a lost state of selfhood. Yet at the same time, it realizes that this desire is unsatisfiable because selfhood is an evolving process rather than an immutable entity. Restorative nostalgia activates a me .


42 the operation in which the fetishist b elieves in the existence of the maternal phallus without acknowledging it: s/he b elieves all the same that the object of nostalgia existed in the first place, and tries to forget that s/he knows very well that neither of these things are true. Compared to restorative nostalgia, reflective nostalgia constitutes a more mature and honest means of responding to media transitions: instead of seeking to restore old media, it poses the question of the meaning of media and the relation of media to selfhood. In the context of handwriting, the reflective fantasy of handwriting does not simply see k to bring handwriting back, but also opens up a space for critical reflection (hence the name) on what handwriting is and is not. The restorative fantasy of handwriting presupposes that there is a stable, true, authentic self which can be perfectly expres sed through handwriting. The reflective fantasy realizes that this sort of selfhood is always already an object of nostalgic desire, inasmuch as it never existed to begin with, and that media technologies construct the self at the same time that they permi t its expression. Such a realization does not, of course, prevent us from feeling the desire to return to a prior state of media with its attendant concepts of selfhood and integral identity. This realization can, however, make this desire more self consci ous. The restorative nostalgic is able to achieve a more finely tuned balance between knowing very well that the object of nostalgia (in this case, handwriting in the


43 graphological sense) never existed in the first place and would be irrecoverable even if it had existed, and wishing all the same that it could be resurrected. Chapter Breakdown The remainder of this dissertation is divided into five chapters, of which Chapters 3 and 4 form a thematic unit, as do Chapters 5 and 6. In Chapter 2, I define the fa ntasy of Felix the Cat cartoons. I cite these cartoons as a paradigmatic model of the originary fantasy of handwriting, although of course this is a model which need not be literally followed in each of the tex ts discussed subsequently. I argue, however, that Felix specifically represents a model of the critical fantasy of handwriting, insofar as it acknowledges the way in which its enactment of the fantasy of handwriting depends on technological trickery. I the n examine how this fantasy of handwriting is nostalgically reenvisioned in two later works of traditional Road Runner Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Chapters 3 and 4 address groups of texts that have tradit ionally depended on handwriting in a literal or figurative sense, and explore the impact of digital technologies, specifically computer graphics, on the production and reception of such texts. The question in these two chapters is: What happens to the fant asy of handwriting when it ceases to be originary and becomes nostalgic? How do media that pride themselves on Chapter 3 discusses the genre of interactive fiction (IF) (a.k.a., te xt adventure) video games. I begin by arguing that at the period of their commercial prominence, IF games depended on nave appeals to the fantasy of handwriting, and that such a strategy became impossible after the debut of sophisticated computer graphics in video


44 games. I examine the competing strategies that contemporary IF authors have used in cs. I argue that the alternative comics movement has been explicitly informed, again, by nave fantasies of handwriting, and that these fantasies have been deployed for the specifically political purpose of defining the alternative cartoonist as a literary author. This explains why in alternative comics, unlike in IF, the nave fantasy of handwriting is still alive and well, and has survived the introduction of computerized modes of visual rendering into other genres of comics. However, the alternative and quasi alternative comics that interest me more (specifically the works of Kevin Huizenga and Bryan Lee handwriting, using the advent of digital technology as an opportunity to think about the Chapters 5 and 6 discuss nostalgic fantasies of handwriting in graphical genres i.e., in categories of texts that are defined by their use of computer graphics rather than handwriting as a mode of visual representation. The question here is: What role can the replaces igital texts invoke the fantasy of handwriting without being overtly disingenuous? I suggest that the answer is yes, as long as this is done with an awareness of the constitutive gaps that always exist within the fantasy of handwriting both those gaps th at necessarily exist a priori and those that are introduced thanks to the difference between handwriting and its digital remediations. In other words, in order to invoke the fantasy of handwriting without


45 dishonesty, graphical texts must acknowledge both that handwriting itself can never exist in a pure state, and that digital texts cannot emulate handwriting perfectly. In Chapter 5, I discuss invocations of the fantasy of handwriting in digital films. I of handwriting in a restorative way. They seek to emulate the handwritten nature of Disney films in a graphical form, but in doing so, these films fail to acknowledge their own status as examples of the sort of technology that renders handwriting obsolete In later films, especially Monsters, Inc. and Up takes into account an awareness of the irremediable loss of originary handwriting. I then Sco tt Pilgrim vs. the World which applies the fantasy of handwriting to both handwritten and computer graphical imagetexts. This film demonstrates the possibility, broached at the end of Chapter 4, that computer graphics could be a writing mechanism equivale nt to handwriting in certain respects that the difference between the two is more one of degree than kind. Chapter 6 discusses video games that use a handwriting interface. Such games appear to promise to offer players the opportunity to enact the fanta sy of handwriting in Scribblenauts such promises are unfulfillable because the fantasy of handwriting, taken to its logical extreme, is in conflict with the specific exigencies of the gaming situation: a game that allows the player to fully exercise the fantasy of handwriting does not provide a meaningful play experience. Moreover, inherent differences exist between originary handwriting and handwriting interfaces, and therefore any digital r emediation of The


46 World Ends with You for an example of a game that acknowledges these constitutive gaps in the video game version of the fantasy of handwriting and yet also acknowledges the continuing power of fantasies of handwr iting in a post graphical era. Now embark on this journey of handwriting (Figure 1 4).


47 Table 1 1. The four types of fantasies of handwriting Originary Nostalgic Critical Nave Example: Out of the Inkwell Restorative Example: Scribblenauts Uncritical Self aware Reflective Example: Felix the Cat Example: Up


48 Figure 1 9 Joey Ellis. Figure 1 WordWorld. 1995 2011 Public Broadcasting Service.


49 Figure 1 3. A sequence from by David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik. 2004 Paul Auster, Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli. Figure 1 4. A still from Harold and the Purple Crayon (David Piel, 1969). 1969 David Piel.


50 CHAPTER 2 OUT OF THE INKWELL: TRADITIONAL ANIMATIO N AS FANTASY OF HANDWRITING Felix and Fantasies of Handwriting In this first chapter I will define the contours of the classic fantasy of handwriting as it existed before the advent of digital technology. I begin from the premise that there is a general condition of nostalgia for handwriting in contemporary culture that many con temporary works of North American popular culture seek to remedy a supposed loss of the ability to write oneself into the world, a loss which the creators of these works attribute, at least in part, to the supplantation of print and handwriting by computer s. I will seek to more fully justify this premise in later chapters. First, however, I need to establish what exactly the object of nostalgia is in other words, to show what the fantasy of handwriting is a fantasy of and what nostalgia for handwriting i s nostalgia for characterizes modern animation in general, except in the sense that the former represents a more specific form of the latter. The fantasy of handwriting, ag ain, is the fantasy that by manually interacting with a writing surface, a writer can create letters or drawings that magically behave in the same way as other objects while at the same body and soul. In Felix and in all the other texts I discuss in this dissertation, handwriting comes to life; handwriting moves handwriting does stuff Handwriting in this sense is writing yourself into the world Clearly this sort of handwriting is not literally possible, because it violates the laws of physics. But it represents the logical extension and 21st century America, in which handwriting is taken to be a lit eral inscription of the self. The fantasy


51 of handwriting should be understood not as a magical alteration of handwriting but as the apotheosis of handwriting, as what handwriting would become if its potential could be fully realized. This, I argue, is why texts like Felix are seductive. And yet the fantasy of handwriting risks being a mere fetishization of handwriting. An excessive reliance on this fantasy leads to the creation of a false binary opposition in which handwriting is seen as an embodied, subje ctive and personal technology, while competing technologies (e.g., print, typewriting, word processing) are seen as disembodied, objective and inhuman. We need, therefore, to recognize the way in which fantasies of handwriting misunderstand handwriting. Th e difficulty with such fantasies is not just that they happen to violate accepted laws of physics, but that they necessarily do so. Under real world conditions, handwriting is dead. It represents a petrified or mummified trace of a body that was present bu t is now absent, as Derrida argues in and the written text; the latter is never a pure expression of the former. Moreover, because handwriting is inanimate, it can only be endowed with life by being subjected to some form of technical mediation the animation apparatus, for example. The precondition of bringing handwriting to life is the imposition of a medial layer between h the fantasy of handwriting is invoked. Fantasies of handwriting can be deployed critically and productively only when they acknowledge these paradoxical conditions. Felix the Cat cartoons provide a representative example of the fantasy of handwriting. Through a variety of visual strategies, Messmer and his staff seek to create the illusion that Felix is made of drawings in motion that the image


52 the raw m aterials of ink and paper. Yet the viewer of Felix always remains aware that this is an illusion, that Felix is really made of light rays filtered through a series of frames of celluloid film (or of digital data, under modern conditions of viewing), rather than of ink moving across a sheet of paper. Despite the best efforts of Messmer and his staff to control the layers of mediation involved in Felix the poignancy of Felix is an illusion. Felix is today often read as the apex of an earlier, more personal style of animation, but a correct reading of Felix needs to take into account that its apparent materiality was only an illusion. Felix resorts to trompe e very moment when its materiality becomes most visible. The genius of Felix illusion. Felix : The Kitties and the Critics Literature Review Felix the Cat cartoons were produced between 1919 and 1930, after which the character was revived on several occasions; these later revivals will not be discussed here. The Felix cartoons were produced by Pat Sulli studio, and Sullivan (1887 1933) was originally recognized as Felix the 1970s, animation historian John Canemaker demonstrated that Felix was in fact created by Otto Messmer (1892 ribution is now accepted by nearly all animation scholars, and will here be taken for granted. 1 The important formal properties of Felix will be discussed below. To understand


53 what follows it suffices to note that Felix employs a highly two dimensional st yle of animation, with extremely limited use of perspective or depth cues. Felix himself is depicted in an unrealistic manner and looks more like a conventionalized representation of a cat than a realistic drawing of a cat (Figure 2 1). Finally, in Felix l etters and typographic signs are often treated in the storyworld as real objects; for example, Felix uses the numeral 8 as a pair of spectacles, or converts exclamation marks into wings. Felix is one of the most widely discussed works of silent animation, but scholars have usually characterized Felix as an example of the carefree playfulness of animation, or of the freedom of animation from the constraints of live action cinema. This reading of Felix goes back at least to not a cat, he is the cat. I would readily say that he is a sur 2 The intent of this claim is to characterize Felix as illusory, immaterial, and therefore free from the constraints of affinities with Surrealism (Crafton 48, Leslie 22 Felix is lacking in material existence, that the material that composes him is irrelevant: We forget that a man created him, that Pat Sulliva for some instants an ephemeral and vagabond existence. 3 As soon as the screen brightens, Felix assumes the two dimensions that suffice for all his 1 In 2005, Judy Nelson, the curator of the New South Wales Library in Australia, claimed that Sullivan was actually Fel ix to Australian national pride, coupled with ad hominem attacks on Messmer and Canemaker. She suggests that Sullivan, an Australian citizen, was robbed of his proper credit b y two Americans (Messmer and Canemaker). The documentary evidence she presents is too flimsy to convince anyone not already persuaded of her case. It is unfortunate that this offensive nonsense has now been incorporated into the Wikipedia article on Felix. Feline Follies. f Felix 2 been translated into English. 3 Brion (and Balazs) of course believed that Pat Sullivan was the sole creator of Felix.


54 needs. He disappears when the light effaces him. Yet, we believe that he is returned to his house, in a suburb of the town of fairies, where he lives in a small transparent house constructed from the rays of the projector. (30) For Brion, Felix lives in fairyland; the material substrate that makes up his body is the light from the projec tor. Felix has the material properties not of paper but of air. Yet paradoxically, despite having no material support at all, Felix appears to be more lifelike than many live action performers. Brion seems uninterested in resolving this paradox. For him, t he interesting point about Felix is the quasi magical act whereby a construct of projected light takes on an independent existence. Brion was correct, of course, to observe that Felix here is a recognition of the crucial importance of handwriting we Similarly, writing in 1949, Bela Balazs observes that Felix is a construct of lines on paper as well as projected rays. Ho wever, he characterizes the line as having a lower The substance of this world is the line and it reaches to the boundaries that enclose the graphic art. Drawings such as these do not transform themselves into a natur al reality, which their creator might enter like the Chinese painter his landscape. For this world is peopled only by being drawn with pencil or pen. Their outlines do not depict a shape existing independently somewhere outside this world, but form their o nly actual body. Appearance is not transformed into reality here as in the Chinese story. Appearance is the sole reality here, and art is not made into reality (191). This implies that the drawn lines of which Felix is composed are not a part of reality that a clear virtue of being self evidently chirographic, Felix belongs to some second rat e


55 ontological stratum, in which handwriting is taken to be at one remove from the things it depicts. I find the same assumption in much recent work on Felix. While sometimes acknowledging that Felix was constructed with real materials ink and paper sc holars substrate. Esther Leslie, for example, observes that in Felix uff is. Her analysis focuses on how Felix resembles surrealist typography of the same period in that both are more ideographic than narrative. Again, Donald Crafton observes that rts Fe lix For Crafton, figuration. I propose, however, that if Felix is is material substrate in the way that a Disney character does. For reasons to be explained below, the reader aesthetic strategy.


56 The critic who pays the most attention to Felix 4 Felix typographic space, resembling contemporary print med ia and avant garde typography in its emphasis on two dimensional spatiality. However, Klein chooses to theorize sign that doubles as or evolves into a conventional sig n. 5 hieroglyphs are pictures that serve as conventionalized stand ins for the concepts they describe, Felix is simultaneously a depiction of a cat and a replicable, non As an ideogram within this grillwork, as the changeable ink spot, Felix usually does what he pleases. Starting from his feline character, he can turn back into an ink letter. He can contort his tail into a question mark. (7) In invoking the concept The hieroglyph is a sign which originates as a mimetic depiction of some object (e.g., a horse), b ut then gradually loses its graphic similarity to that object and becomes a mimetic copy of it. The ideogram is a sign that combines two or more hieroglyphs in order to produce a propositional meaning which is present in neither hieroglyph on its 4 Other importan t critical treatments of Felix in terms of early 20th spatial registers (169 17 8). 5 Ekphrasis: The Illusion of the Natural Sign.


57 subsequently notes, the same thing that occurs in his system of intellectual montage, which combines multiple signifiers into an emergent meaning that is irreducible to its component parts. the realization that even letters and hieroglyphs have their own materiality. Klei n considers the hieroglyph primarily as an element of a code, i.e., a body of signs that signify by their difference from each other; it just happens to be more iconic and less lphabetic letter. In other words, an ideogram say, an ideogrammatic picture of a cat looks like the thing it stands for. However, an ideogram is a sort of Platonic ideal, a form which transcends any of its individual instantiations. The precise visual appearance of an ideogram can be varied within a certain range without affecting its essential identity, just as is the case with an alphabetic letter. Felix could be drawn in several different ways while still remaining an ideogrammatic signifier of a cat visual appearance did evolve significantly throughout the silent period). An individual paper drawing of an alphabetic letter or ideogram, however, is a material object, a thing with its own weight and solidity, however neglig ible. When Klein relates Felix to contemporaneous avant garde typography, he misses that in the typography of this period, such as in the work of Filippo Marinetti, letters are employed for their visual and material properties as much as for their meaning. In an image like Aprs la Marne, Joffre visita le front en auto Marinetti exploits the letter M for its mountainous peaks and the letter S for its sinuous curves (Bartram 28) (Figure 2 2). The point here is neither


58 that M and S are pictures of mountains or snaky paths, nor that M and S are the first these letters, their insistent presence on the page. They communicate not merely by virtue of symbolic associations, but also by virtue of their visual substance. 6 When alphabetic letters or ideograms are put into motion, as happens in Felix they seem to be material objects given life. I want, therefore, to emphasize Felix lack of materiality. Felix can interact with letters because his world is an immaterial one. Its spaces lack depth, and i ts objects have two dimensions and can freely change into other objects. Felix can interact with typographic signs, like question marks and exclamation marks, because Felix is a typographic sign himself; he has no more thickness or weight than the letters in this sentence. By contrast, the world of a typical Disney cartoon is explicitly a simulacrum of a material dimensional space, populated by objects which are equally three dimensional and which retain their identity unless subjected t o magical influence. 7 I suggest, conversely, that Felix also appears to be a thing an insistently present object. 6 nd unquestioning acceptance of the concept of substance as self evident logical, 7 In Felix of an explanation. The viewer understands such metamorphoses to be permitted by the laws of physics that gover n the cartoon world. In Disney films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Pinocchio objects can be turned into other objects by magic, but such transformations are explicitly identified as magical. For example, when the Blue Fairy turns Pinocchio in to a real boy, she does so by altering the standard laws of physics.


59 at Felix forensic material substrate is silver nitrate emulsion on celluloid film stock (or patterns of magnetization on videotape, pits and lands on a DVD, etc.). 8 However, Felix formal material substrate the stuf f it seems to be made of is ink on paper. And ink and paper have a materiality of their own; they are three dimensional entities (albeit rather thin ones) with non trivial visual properties. If Felix can interact with typographic signs like question mark s and exclamation marks, then this proves that Felix is no more material than these signs, but also no less so : typographic signs have a weight and thickness of their own, which is not entirely negligible. Messmer seeks to convince the viewer that the grap hic and typographic signs in Felix are made of ink on paper, not light projected through celluloid, and that ink and paper are material objects. formal materiality of his carto forensic materiality. This awareness of materiality also includes the knowledge that the lines and dots on the screen are handwritten physical contemporaneous Out of the Inkwell series, Messmer is rarely seen actually drawing within his cartoons (although my central case study will be a cartoon in which Messmer is shown drawing). the images and words in Felix Felix himself is visibly hand drawn, and the letters in 8 modern forensic science and criminalistics), the idea that no two things in the physical world are ever


60 Felix are visibly handwritten, in that each instance of an individual letter differs slightly from eac h other. For example, in Figure 2 3). These letters, like handwritten letters in general, record the idiosyncrasy and inconsistency of the hand that produced them. The characters and typographic sym bols in Felix individual physical movements. What Felix presents, then, is a series of words and images which proceed from take on a life of their own. Of course it is widely recognized that the central act of animation is the illusion of life the illusion that inanimate drawings or objects can move freely but Felix specifically creates the 9 has come to life. In Felix Messmer creates the illusion that he has literally written himself into the world. This illusion is convincing wish our ow n handwriting worked. Felix therefore, will serve as my primary reference point for the fantasy of handwriting. This fantasy can also be seen (at least in retrospect) in other cartoons of the silent period e.g., Out of the Inkwell Alice se Felix is unique in its mobilization of the fantasy of handwriting. I do suggest, however, that Felix can be read as a paradigmatic example of this fantasy. This has much to do with the material conditions under which Felix was crea ted. 9 Or, from the point of view of the original audienc


61 Writing Surface and Medium in Felix The four material components of handwriting writing hand, writing tool, writing surface and writing medium are all present in Felix in much the same forms that they take in traditional handwriting with pen an d paper. At the level of its production process, Felix is literally a handwritten text in ways in which later cel animated cartoons were not. Compared to cel animation, the paper process used in Felix is more homologous to traditional handwriting on paper. This is why Felix convincing as it is. Felix was animated primarily with ink on paper; cels were used only for mainly on paper, and by 192 5 the Barr system of rip and slash was not used; instead, 106). 10 This was the opposite of a system invented by John Hurd in 1914, in which the background the cels with the characters, but i were drawn was a lower layer of the image than the cels on which the backgrounds were drawn (Figure 2 4). The cels were thus physically closer to the camera than the r and cel system represents a reversal of the usual terms): the background was the highest layer of the stack, while the foreground was the 10 As this implies, there must have been some use of the rip and slash system before 1925, and possibly even after. For example, word balloons must have been overlaid on top of the image.


62 lowest layer. This meant, furthe rmore, that the characters and other moving elements had to be drawn on paper rather than cels. Characters were necessarily rendered on an only way to depict characters moving w as to draw them in different positions, since camera antique camera which was incapable of any kind of movement, so the only way to create the illusion of camera movement i n or out of the frame was to progressively increase or decrease the size of the objects depicted in each image (106). In order to depict a character moving, then, Messmer and his animators had no other recourse but to draw that character on paper. Cost wa animate on paper even after the invention of the cel process (Canemaker, personal communication; see also Barrier 28). The use of cels for background overlays is obviously an effective cost saving measure, as it means that only one cel has to be created for each scene, and the bulk of the animation can be done with the cheaper material of paper. However, the use of cels for backgrounds creates certain unique technical problems. Canemaker exp lains: This method was inexpensive because of the limited use of cels, but it required special planning by the animators in order to avoid having Felix appear to walk through horizon lines or objects. The animators drew nonmoving elements on a cel, which was placed over the character action horizon or objects, the cel overlay was removed and the horizon line or the object was carefully traced onto each of the paper drawings containing the character (106). 11 11 lation of verisimilitude for Felix to interact with the horizon line, since he did such things routinely. However, clearly Messmer preferred not to have such interactions occur by mistake. Another obvious solution to this problem would have been to cut awa y the part of the


63 Because what appears as the background was actually the foreground, it became necessary to take precautions to maintain the illusion that the reverse was true. Moreover, the parts of the background with which the characters might inte ract had to be kept as simple as possible, so that they could be traced onto paper quickly if necessary. Thus backgrounds in Felix tend to be minimalistic assemblages of lines, and they often contain large expanses of blank space, within which characters c an move around without interfering with the background. 12 Because this blank space was placed over a white background, it appears in the films as white space. Characters tend to walk behind background elements far more often than in front of them. Because of the use of paper as the primary writing surface for the character animation, the process of producing Felix had many similarities with the process of handwriting. Both these processes involve the production of inscriptions on a surface, which is typical ly opaque rather than translucent. The paper used to produce the Felix cartoons was thick and opaque: Most [of the Felix drawings I have seen] are on a medium weight ledger stock. A few however are on a slightly heavier coated stock. This seem[s] to corre spond to larger images and my educated guess is that they used that coated stock for scenes with a larger scale to prevent buckling in the larger expanses of black ink (keep in mind all camera moves were hand drawn). This is [in] contrast to the Aesops Fab les cartoons of the era [by Paul Terry] which were animated on a tissue thin onion skin paper and then traced onto cels. The Hearst Intl studios art I have seen is similar to this heavier coated stock that Sullivan used (Newgarden, personal communication). celluloid overlay that threatened to interfere with the characters, while leaving the rest of the overlay in place. I cannot confirm whether Messmer used this method. 12 This is one reason why it was beneficial for Felix to be entirely bl ack: if his body interfered with a background line, it would be impossible for the viewer to tell.


64 Felix can be contrasted to a film like Gertie the Dinosaur where, due to the lack of a registration system, each drawing had to be traced onto the next one; therefore, the heavy enough to support the ink just like writing paper. The paper used in Fe lix then, is a thick and substantial material, a substance with weight and solidity. Moreover, whereas celluloid, onion skin and rice paper are clear, paper is colored. 13 Of course cels are not entirely colorless, especially not when stacked atop one anot which shot has the most layers of cels. Add clear cels so that every shot has the same amount of layers. This will ensure that your film maintains a consistent look. Even though the in the silent era were thicker than they are now, so that fewer cels could be used without visibly altering the color of the image (Furniss 2). However, even though cels have colo r, that color is supposed to be invisible; the viewer is supposed to see only the color of the ink and paint applied to the cels, not the color of the cels themselves. In Felix on the other hand, the color of the paper is consistently visible. Most frames in Felix contain large areas of white space (both for aesthetic reasons and, as noted above, to minimize interference between characters and background), and these bright expanses contrast starkly with the black ink used for the characters. Paper in Felix is not a neutral background but a crucial component of the color scheme of the image. 13 whereas Sullivan used white paper.


65 In Felix ink is the medium of inscription, presumably again due to a combination of aesthetic and technical reasons: ink is cheap and can be easily applied to paper. A similar logic explains the limited range of tonalities used in Felix Objects in Felix cartoons, including the protagonist, tend to consist of large undifferentiated expanses of Felix Messmer made animated drawings in pencil, then brought them to the saves making a lot of outlines, Inking and blackening in a pencil outline obviously takes much less time than painting it in a range of graytones, and this is especially significant in the case of the protagonist, who must be drawn more times than any other character. The use of pure black makes the character both distinctive and easily reproducible. 14 The reason why Felix is black and his paper is white is the same reason why ink is black and writing paper white. In order to be readable, a handwritten or printed letter has to stand out visually from its support. The Latin alphabet thus differs from writing systems such as cuneiform, in which letters are incised into or elevated above the writing surface, and can be distinguished from the surface by dept h cues or by patterns of light and shadow. Letters are readable because their color contrasts with that of the writing surface. Paper tends to be white and ink black because these colors present the 14 ess is often interpreted as a metaphor for blackness in the racial sense. As character Sammy Johnsin, who was a blatantly racist stereotype (Canemaker 38). Stefa n Kanfer claims twenties. Audiences saw a dark, big eyed, half primitive figure, clever and improvisatory in the tradition of dings of Felix are not limited to animation historians. Controversy erupted in 2009 when Niall Ferguson wrote a Financial Times editorial comparing President Obama to Felix, on the grounds that both were black and unusually lucky. The reading of Felix as a racist caricature is certainly not implausible, but it would be beyond the scope of this essay to consider this question in depth. Here I can only suggest that Felix


66 sharpest possible contrast. Brightness (the ability to re flect light) and whiteness (the of the quality of paper. Notably, brightness is a matter of how white the paper is while whiteness is a measure of how white it appears ; t he color of paper is both a material visual phenomenon which operates by visual discrimination between color s. The lettering in Felix itself offers a good demonstration of this. Letters in Felix are composed of thick, blocky fields of black, making them fully legible even under poor conditions of projection (cf. Figure 2 2). Furthermore, the purpose of written s igns (including but not limited to letters) is to represent a thing in repeatable form: a grapheme is meant to substitute for a given phoneme, morpheme or concept wherever it may occur. For ease of reproduction, written signs tend to be simple and stylized labor, [Messmer] decided to make [ Feline Follies ). Felix was made black for ease of reproducibility and for greater contrast with a bright making him easy to redraw. Moreover, in a basic ontological sense, Felix was an Felix Doubles for Darwin (1923) in which Felix transmits himself over the transatlantic tele graph cable. At the Cape Town end of the cable, Felix is received as a series of dots and dashes on a


67 paper tape. The dots and dashes metamorphose into their Morse Code equivalents F E L I X and the letters leap off the paper and metamorphose into Feli x. This sort of transformation is possible because the dots and dashes representing FELIX, the letters FELIX, and Felix the Cat are all black inscriptions on a white background. ept resemblance. He bears only minimal visual similarities to an actual cat, so we understand him as a cat because we have learned to associate him with catness (Figu re 2 5; cf. Figure 2 1). Therefore, Felix functions as a differential signifier, within a because he lacks the characteristic visual qualities of, for example, a dog. 15 However, typography is a visual and material phenomenon. A letter signifies by virtue of its physical, material substrate as well as by its function in a differential sy stem. The physical properties of the drawings and letters in Felix effect on the viewer as are the semiotic values of these drawings and letters. In various Felix rial resemblance to a typographic letter by having Felix interact physically with letterforms and other typographic signs, such as punctuation marks. As we will see in the next f handwriting. 15 Here independently developed) arguments that cartoon characters are like letters because of their abstract schematic visual appearance.


68 Letters and Punctuation Marks in Felix H owever, the simlarity between Felix and a letter works in both directions: this similarity suggests that letters are ma terial in the same way that Felix is. This will become evident We can divide the letters in Felix into diegetic and extradiegetic letters, and we can subdivide the latter category into extradiegeti c letters that represent sounds and extradiegetic letters that represent non auditory concepts. Diegetic letters are those that the viewer understands as representing letters that exist in the diegetic world. 16 When presented with diegetic letters, the view er understands that if s/he were transported into the diegetic world, s/he would continue to see those letters as letters. The signs in Figure 2 3 that read SHOES (partially obscured) and BANKRUPT are simple examples. The reader understands diegetic letter s to be physically bound to their material support, as real world letters are. The letters of this present sentence, for example, are physically instantiated as either patterns of pixels on an LCD screen, or arrangements of ink particles fused to paper by a laser beam. In either case, the letters are physically bound to a writing surface and cannot exist independently of that surface. Nearly all real world letters are bound to a surface in this way; the rare exceptions, such as the Hollywood Sign, are close r to sculpture than lettering. Physical connection between writing and the writing surface is to some extent necessary for writing to be easily producible and reproducible. If one wrote using letters that were independent of the 16 m sometimes called the film's diegesis


69 writing surface Scrabble tiles, for example then not only would the letters be in constant danger of falling off the writing surface, but the number of texts one could produce would be limited by the number of tiles (letters) available, and one might need to destroy an old text in order to write a new one. 17 letters to be bound physically to the writing surface. The fact that letters are dependent on their support, however, seems to imply that letters are not themselves physical objects that t heir material properties (weight, thickness, etc.) are negligible that they are in some way an attribute of the writing surface. What sometimes happens in Felix however, is that the physical continuity between writing and surface is either broken or si mply ignored. In Non Stop Fright (1927), Felix encounters a sign that reads 478 MILES (Figure 2 6). 18 He takes the 4 off the sign, inverts it, and sets it on the ground. Next he removes the 7, puts the long end in his mouth, and lights the short end. Felix starts to read the newspaper he has just picked up, but evidently unable to see it well, he takes the 8 off the sign and attaches it to his face (Figure 2 reading, Felix throws the 8, the 7 and the 4 back onto the sign in that order, so that the sign now reads 874 MILES, but with the numerals in incorrect orientations (Figure 2 8). 17 By contrast, moveable type can b e used to print multiple copies of the same text because the type itself does not become part of the writing surface, but merely serves as a template for the application of ink to that surface. For the same reason, the same type can be reused many times to print many texts, although the number of letters in any given text might be limited by the amount of type available, as Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (cf. Rogers). 18 This sign defies verisimilitude in several ways. It doe what is 478 miles away in the road, where such a sign would usually be found. Thus, the sign appears to have been introduced into the narra


70 A gag such as this reveals that their surface of inscription in the same way that real world, handwritten or printed letters able to sit on the number 4? One answer is because under Felix the number 4 is convertible into a chair. Accordingly, Crafton reads this scene as an transform into any other without violating the viewer's sense of the consistency of the diegetic world. Another answer is because Felix himself is two dimensional, and therefore he should have no trouble sitting on an object of negligible thickness. The numeral can support his weight beca use he has no weight to support. But I would also suggest that if Felix can sit on the number 4, this suggests that the number 4 is as solid also be potentially as solid and heavy as cats. For Felix, a letter is not an immaterial inscription on a surface, but a physical object which can be manipulated and used as a important s ense in which the same is also true in our own world. The materiality of letters is much less dramatically evident in real life than in Felix but watching Felix things as well as signifiers. These letters may not be capable of supporting my weight, correcting my vision, or even existing independently, but they are physical entities as well as elements in a differential system. The implication here is that letters are physically real entities and that if letters could move, this would represent the apotheosis of handwriting, not the opposite of handwriting. Writing and drawing must constitute modes of physical action as well as


71 thought or communication. To create words or drawings is to create things to p roduce act of material engagement with the writing surface. If words and letters are not as substantial and independent as other types of objects, this is only because act ual handwriting falls short of the true potential of handwriting. What makes the above gag possible, of course, is the characteristic illusion of animation: the 4, 7 and 8 were repeatedly drawn in slightly different positions, and the drawings were photog raphed and projected so as to create an illusion of motion. Therefore, the letters never actually become unmoored from their material support, and 19 This gag, then, is funny because it conflict manipulated in the way in which Felix readily manipulates them. More, this joke is predicated on the stillness and immobility of the letter; the illusion of motion results from the successive pre sentation of a succession of immobile drawings. A similar illusion is at work in the gags in which Felix interacts with extradiegetic written signs. In the context of a visual narrative, an extradiegetic sign is one that the viewer or reader understands a s existing outside the diegetic space of the narrative (e.g., a sound effect, caption box or word balloon). Extradiegetic written signs or letters may represent either sounds or affects. In a silent visual medium, such as comics or silent film, one importa nt purpose of extradiegetic signs is to convey information that is difficult or impossible to represent visually. Since, again by definition, the only sensory 19 Moreover, the letters were displayed on a celluloid overlay for the early frames of the shot, and for the later frames the overlay (or part of it) was removed and the letters were redrawn onto t he paper. So this shot takes advantage of the interchangeability of foreground and background.


72 channel available in such a medium is that of sight, nonvisual phenomena can only be represented by visual signs. 20 However, such signs are typically presented and understood as ontologically separate from the diegesis. For example, when a reader encounters a word balloon in a comic book or a silent animated film, the reader understands that if he or s see the word balloon or the words inside it, but would instead hear those words being spoken. The word balloon is necessary because of the lack of synchronized sound, but it stands outside the image. The border of the word balloon acts as a barrier between different types of signs; it separates drawings that represent sounds from drawings that represent things. If the reader imagines the word balloon as having any material existence, he or she probably imagines it as a sort of two dimensional overlay floating above the three dimensional diegetic world. 21 actually interacts with word balloons or the letters inside them, but this did happen in other cartoo Bobby Bumps Puts a Beanery on the Bum Alice is Stage Struck (1925), one character a word balloon d Extradiegetic signs representing affects seem to have even less materiality. These 20 This is an obvious oversimplification since silent animated cartoons often were accompanied by nonsynchronized sound. However, in silent animation, sound coul d not be relied upon as a channel for the presentation of narrative information. 21 For a more detailed theoretical account of word balloons, see Groensteen 69ff. In the Nintendo 3DS version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, oons really pop up from the screen, giving the impression that the game itself exists on one plane and the display elements are sort of


73 conventionalized symbols of emotion, such as the light bulb that appears over the head of a character who has just had an epiphany [Petersen 240]). When the reader encounters a sign of this type he or she understands that if he or she were inside the diegetic world, he or she would see nothing at all that corresponded to the sign. Such a sign stands not for a visual or aural phenomenon, but for an invisible and inaudible affect, whose presence can only be inferred indirectly (e.g., by the facial expression of the charact er who has had the idea). If the reader understands the conventional associations of the sign, he or she will not mistake it for a real image (such as by thinking that a light bulb is actually floating over esentations of affect are useful because they provide a convenient means of communicating narrative facts that would otherwise require many words or images. Emanata have the potential to be ontologically troublesome because they often consist of nondiegeti c images (i.e., iconic signs) that exist alongside diegetic images, but in most standard cartoons this ontological problem is glossed over. Again, there seems to be an unbreachable barrier between images of things and images of affects. When punctuation ma rks are used as emanata, as was often done in Felix the diegetic nondiegetic barrier is even stronger because the nondiegetic sign is not a mimetic image at all. On seeing an ? or a floating the character feels questionable or exclamatory, not that the punctuation mark is actually hovering over the character. This latter reading makes no logical sense, because the punctuation mark There is no real world object which i s signified by the symbol ? or !. 22 Yet neither does the punctuation mark represent an audible sound. As Tim 22 There are, of course, real world objects that look like punctuation marks, such as Richard


74 writing in Western Neither the question mark (?) nor exclamation mark (!) can be spoken; neither is a conventional substitute for a sound in the English language. 23 Such punctuation marks serve to indicate the tone of speech or the state of mind of a speaker, rather than to creation, the trace of the pre rather the state of the speaker or writer his affect or feeling that punctuation records/accords (Brody 12). Punctuation is a mark not so much of sound as of the affect associated with sound, the sense in which sounds are to be heard. For Brody, punctuation marks condition the way in which the reader imagines the speaker or in this way. When several flashing punctuat happens once in a while, we do not understand Felix as saying standalone question mark is unspeakable. The question mark, then, is nothing more than a conventional sign of an affect, and has no v isual or aural substance within the storyworld of the comic. phenomenology of punctuation. 23 In the transcription of some African languages, is used to represent a click consonant that does no t exist in spoken English. The International Phonetic Alphabet uses a different symbol that resembles for this purpose. In English, attempts to specify the pronunciation of are not unknown. For example, the official website of the dance punk band !!! s sound. Chk Chk Chk is the most common pronunciation, but they could just as easily be called Pow Pow


75 There is, then, an instinctive assumption that diegetic and extradiegetic signs are shocking when Felix interacts with extradiegetic signs, such as by manipulating question marks and exclamation marks. One common use of this device Feline Follies (1919) (Figure 2 9). This transformation obviously takes advantage of the visual breach of the dieg etic extradiegetic barrier because the question mark typically turns back into a tail after a few frames. We could easily read this type of transformation as representing a dreamlike state of mind. Far more ontologically confusing is the opposite type of transformation, in which a question mark or exclamation mark turns into an object. To take one of many possible examples, in Felix Follows the Swallows (1925), Felix wants to follow some migrating birds south for the winter. Being a land animal, however, h e has no obvious way to accomplish this. After a brief period of confusion, Felix has a sudden epiphany, as represented by the appearance of two exclamation marks over his head (Figure 2 10). He grabs the exclamation marks by the dots (Figure 2 11), then e xpands their vertical portions, turning them into triangular wedges (Figure 2 12), which he proceeds to use as wings (Figure 2 13). 24 In the next scene, a stereotypically depicted black human cook 24 What was the idea that Felix had? Apparently, the idea of using the exclamation marks as wings. until Felix had the idea. So maybe Felix had the idea of having an idea which would gene rate exclamation marks? Whether the idea or the exclamation marks came first is ultimately an unanswerable chicken and Felix the affect of having an idea is represented a s being identical with the typographic sign/physical object that stands for that affect.


76 sees Felix flying overhead, mistakes him for a game bird, an d throws a swordfish at him. The swordfish penetrates the exclamation marks/wings, which dissipate into reversal of fortune. After running in midair frantically for so me frames, Felix again grabs the dot of the exclamation mark, and the stroke turns into a parachute, allowing Felix to float to the ground in safety. 25 Again, we can interpret this sort of gag in two ways. The first way is to emphasize imilarity to a typographic sign. Felix can interact physically with exclamation marks because he himself is just a sign on paper, with no three dimensional extension. The second reading, however, is to emphasize the reality of the exclamation marks. In Fel physically manipulable objects. Now as discussed above, both of these readings were letters, by def inition, at least have some sort of necessary material existence within the diegetic world. Even before Felix interacts with the numbers 478, these numbers already exist in his world, although they seem to be bound to their material support. ctions with nondiegetic punctuation marks add a new wrinkle to the them as having no physical existence. They are merely conventionalized indications of with exclamation marks, we revise our initial assumptions about the immateriality of 25 Other cartoons in which Felix uses question marks and exclamation marks as tools include Felix Saves the Day (1922) (question marks as ladder), le (1925) (question mark as club) and Felix Out of Luck (1924) (question mark as tail extension). See also Feline Follies (1919) in which Felix uses musical notes as the roof and baseboard of a car, and Felix Lends a Hand (1922), in which Felix and Skiddoo the mouse look daggers at each other, then fight a duel with the daggers.


77 these signs. We realize that these are not just signs but objects, and objects which, moreover, are produced by Felix himself. When an exclamation mark appears over creating an object invisible affects can only be perceived if they are represented by graphic signs. This means that affects can only exist if they can be represented by graphic signs, because in this world, esse est percipi to exist is to be perceived, since the visual channel is gns have material existence. Anything which is perceptible is also, at least potentially, a thing that can be repurposed to some end that is not, conventionally, associated with its initial state. So when Felix has an emotion, he necessarily does so by pro ducing a sign, and this sign is necessarily also a thing In short, for Felix, to have feelings is to make things. For Felix, feeling confused entails summoning an object into existence ex nihilo an object which is simultaneously a thing and the expressi on of an affect. And again, I think we can read this as the liberation of a potential which was always implicit in handwriting. When I write by hand, I literally give physical form to my subjective emotions and affects. The logical next step in this proces s is for the physical concretizations of my emotions to take on a life of their own. Of course, again, Felix is able to interact with exclamation marks in this way only because of the characteristic illusion of animation. Both Felix and the exclamation ma rks are constructs of ink on paper, which are endowed with the illusion of motion by being repeatedly redrawn in slightly different positions. I suggest, however, that the point of the gags described here is to make the viewer forget this fact. The viewer is


78 literally the constructs of ink that are moving, as opposed to the diegetic objects they represent. Felix as Fantasy of Handwriting I now suggest that in its treatm ent of letters as material objects and in its identification of emotion with object creation, Felix expresses may be read as an idealized version of handwriting. As explained in the introduction, handwriting (including hand drawing) entails expressing one idiosyncratic patterns of movement, and thus handwriting, figuratively speaking, records the trace of t subjective affects and emotions (although as I also argue in the introduction, this asso ciation is historically contingent rather than necessary.) In writing by hand, one expresses oneself or writes oneself at least one and possibly in two senses by one f physical intervention. To write by hand is to write oneself into the world To this extent, Messmer performs when he draws Felix. read Felix subjective creation. Donald Crafton argues that Felix represents the high water mark of


79 what he calls self figuration reaches its end. Messmer no longer feels obligated to physically enter the image (although in Comicalamities enters the film through tota however, that the actual process of handwriting only matters in Felix when we actually see it taking place, as in Comicalamities For Crafton, Felix is the acme of self figuration because of the wa y in which Messmer interjects his own personality into the character: Only by viewing dozens of Felix films does one come to understand that very important) but primarily from t he consistency and individuality of the character. Unavoidably one sees Felix as a living being, whereas his only competitor in this respect, Koko, seems real because his motion is to a uch mimetic tendencies. Instead, he is an index of a real personality. After meeting Otto Messmer, one realizes that the personality is that of the creator (338). I want to suggest, however, that handwriting matters in Felix in a more general sense. Felix typographic transformations because both are acts of creating expressive objects understood in the sense of object oriented programming or oriented philosophy: an object is a thing that, within a certain context, has certain unique properties and that can enter into relations with other objects. The objects crea ted are not just brute blocks of matter, but are expressively charged are simulacra of


80 physical activity and th e subjective affects of their creator. 26 that Felix makes things out of thin air, whereas Messmer does so by interacting with a material substrate. 27 When Felix creates an ex clamation mark, question mark or musical from infradiegetic agency is responsible for producing the exclamation marks. They are literally created ex nihilo 28 apply. Messmer, on the other hand, can create things only by drawing them on paper or cels. Like Felix, Messmer creates expressive signs that are also material objects, but unlike Felix, Messmer creates them out of the r aw materials of ink and paper. However, this difference (creation ex nihilo versus creation from raw materials) is less significant ing. When Felix creates objects by having affects, he does literally what animation technology allows Messmer to do figuratively. handwriting. 26 See Philippe Marion, Traces en cases discussed in chapter 3. For an additional treatment of to what Chow calls importance of physical materiality. 27 graphiateur of Felix the subject position to which w e attribute the graphic enunciations of the cartoon. Obviously, Otto Messmer himself was not solely responsible for all the images in Felix 28 c, there is no need to explain how it can gain or lose mass.


81 This point is powerfully demonstrated in Comicalamities (1928). 29 The opening outline, with no tail. Felix an grily gestures to his posterior, and the animator draws a tail on him. However, Felix remains white rather than black, so he goes to a bootblack and has himself blackened in. Now that he completely exists, Felix goes off to seek satisfaction for his animal her face is ugly. Using body language, Felix asks the animator for an eraser, which he s face, and then for a pen, which he uses to redraw her face, making her beautiful. However, Kitty promptly begins to use her newfound beauty as leverage against Felix, demanding expensive gifts before she will submit to his attentions. Felix goes on sever al perilous adventures to obtain valuable gifts for her, with some treatment, and he r ips Kitty off the sheet of animation paper. He tears up the paper that formerly constituted her, and here the cartoon ends. Comicalamities starts off by mimicking the typical opening sequence of the Out of the Inkwell series, in which the prin cipal character is drawn into existence by the animator. Indeed, Out of the Inkwell sometimes does seem to deploy 29 My reading of Comicalamities is based on the version available on the Lumivision Felix! DVD. This version of the film is unfortunately incomplete as it lacks the title cards. However, I can fin d no version of the film that does have the title cards and that is easily accessible to a contemporary American audience. Therefore, my reading should be taken as an account of how contemporary viewers might respond to Comicalamities I am bracketing the responded to it. For a reading of Comicalamities that puts it into dialogue with its Modernist artistic context, see Tom 69 70.


82 the fantasy of handwriting in the same way that Comicalamities does; for example, in the 1919 Out of the Inkwell Koko uses a pen to draw objects into existence. However, the illusion of materiality in Comicalamities is more convincing. In Out of the Inkwell Koko typically exhibits a much lower degree of independence and insubordination relative to his creator for example, he gets stuffed back in the ink bottle at the end. Throughout this cartoon, By contrast, throughout Comicalamities Felix example, when an iris starts closing around h im, signaling the end of the cartoon, and Felix forcibly reopens the iris). Instead of being manipulated by the animator, Felix forces the animator to do what he, Felix, wants, and the cartoon only ends when Felix has had enough and signals for the iris to be closed. Moreover, when Messmer finishes of his status as a mark on paper. In Out of the Inkwell on the other hand, when Fleischer finishes drawing Koko, the clown seems to transform from a mark on paper into a living creature, thereby (temporarily) giving up his previous ontological condition. to emulate realistic motion. When Ko ko starts moving around, he becomes a surrogate for a real person, Dave Fleischer; he becomes attached to an extradiegetic object of reference other than the ink of which he is composed. Most seriously, however, the viewer of Out of the Inkwell has a much harder time dimensionality is in such stark contrast with the accompanying three dimensional live action footage of Max Fleischer in his studio (Figure 2 14). Lacking shadows and depth cues, Koko visibly see ms to belong to


83 a lower order of reality than his creator. Even if the viewer accepts that Koko can get off or thickness. One imagines Koko as a mere two dimensional paper cutout. Indeed, the two dimensional appearance of animated characters was a persistent problem in films that combined animation with live Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Robert Zemeckis, 1989), sixty years afte r Out of the Inkwell (See the discussion of this film below). To be effective, the fantasy of handwriting must make the viewer believe the handwritten signs are real, that they have the same weight and thickness we associate with everyday objects. Out of the Inkwell fails to convince the viewer of this. In Comicalamities on the other hand, Messmer circumvents the problem of two dimensionality by limiting the use of live action footage. All we see of the animator is his hand, and Felix never leaves the pla ne of the animation paper. Moreover, Calamities uses no camera movement (which was of course impossible) or parallel editing, so when real objects are shown, we only see them from a single perspective. (By contrast, an Out of the Inkwell makes extensive use of cross cutting in the scenes involving Fleischer.) Thus, objects dimensionality as the drawn objects in the cartoon; the principal difference be tween these two categories of objects is their respective degree of realism. For this reason, the viewer of Comicalamities is willing to believe (at least for a moment) that Felix can be both a drawing and an independently existing material object. The vi ewer accepts that Felix can behave independently of the animator, and that he can exercise the same power that the animator typically enjoys: the power to


84 manipulate the material substance of which his world is composed. As the bootblack gag demonstrates, manipulate ink on paper is the power to create objects. Conversely, the power to erase construct of in k on paper, this cartoon affirms rather than denies the materiality of that world. An ink drawing of a face may be thinner and flatter than a real face, but the drawing preten trace of ink on paper. In Comicalamities forget that the drawing is a trace of ink on paper, and that ink and paper are real, material o bjects. The strongest reminder of this fact is the closing scene, in which Felix rips Kitty out of existence. This effect forces the viewer to acknowledge that Kitty is a paper cat rather than a real one, but also that even a paper cat has more than a mere ly two beneath the animated sheet, he not only destroys the female character but also m uch transgressing the rules as revealing the implicit assumptions by which the game materiality of the animated image. And if the animated image is material, then the pro ducer of the animated image can literally write himself or herself into the world. To write by hand is not to draw lines on paper, but to make things Transition: Illusory Materiality and the Legacy of Felix The crucial aspect to recognize here, however, is that this is all an illusion of


85 the illusion that the Felix rays projected through a strip of silve r nitrate (or visual information recorded digitally, as is the case under contemporary conditions of viewing). Messmer and his staff resorted to deliberate artifice in order to create the illusion of interactions with materiality that are not only impossib le in the real world, but also never actually happened in the mediated orders in which they appear to take place. The strongest evidence of this occurs in the climactic scene of Comicalamities. At normal speed, it appears that Felix is actually tearing the paper. However, frame by frame viewing (an option not available to the original audience) reveals that the leading edge of the paper is holding, and that seems to extend above the plane of the paper is actually drawn rather than real (Figure 2 15). artwork is introduced at the very point where the cartoon is most invested in making the viewer acknowledge its own material existence. The viewer is asked to believe in the cartoon image as a three dimensional, mater ial construct, at precisely the point when it is least so. This scene is emblematic of how Felix promises a greater degree of self figuration, Felix is to convince the viewe r that the drawings are moving, that Messmer has literally made his handwriting come to life. If true, this would imply that Messmer had achieved the ultimate extreme of self expression, by giving independent physical form to the trace of his idiomatic sel fhood. Such an implication is at work in much recent work on Felix The standard critical consensus is that Felix and other cartoons of the silent era, succeeded in expressing the self and personality of the animator in ways which were not possible with l ater styles of animation.


86 For example, Klein characterizes Felix on the flatness of the image. The primary aesthetic influences o n graphic narrative animation were comic strips and other forms of popular illustration (N. Klein 12 15). d is therefore incompatible with the flatness of graphic narrative. Thus, sound turned graphic narrative Felix depended on a silent pantomime aesthetic and was action cinema became the primary influence on animation, or in other words, the primary medium that animation remediated. The style of animation that Paul Wells calls hyperrealism, or that Klein calls full animation, sought to emulate live action film but also to surpass its realism. 30 In full animation, the useful property of animation is not its flatness but its obligatory connection to a profilmic event. Therefore, animation can be used to depict phenomena that cannot be photographed, or to make things look more attractive and distinctive more like themselves, in a sense than they actually look. This last pr operty of animation makes it effectively suited to the aesthetic strategy that Eco and Baudrillard refer to as 30 Full animation and graphic narrative correspond, in a certain degree categories of cinematism and animetism (7). Lamarre specifically claims that he defines animation in terms of the relative lateral motion of layers, and distinguishes his approach from that of other critics, like Manovich, who define its hand drawn nature. However, I think this is simply a difference in em phasis.


87 hyperrealism. The hyperreal is that which resembles the real, but extends or enlarges on it to the point of being able to replace it. 31 For both t he aforementioned critics, hyperrealism has unfortunate political implications. It supplants authentic experience, distracts the viewer from daily life, and so on. The hyperrealist aesthetic thus serves as evidence for a more wide ranging critique of Disne y as capitalist, imperialist, impressive, etc. For authors like Eleanor Byrne and Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, Disney uses hyperrealism in service of its attempt to keep viewers content with the status quo: if one can escape into a magical world tha likely to ignore injustices of the real world. 32 By contrast, the graphic narrative style is frequently characterized as a liberatory style of animation; its freedom from the constraints of physical reality seems to be associated with freedom in a more general sense. Thus, more than one animation scholar has described the disappearance of graphic narrative as a tragic loss, a sacrifice of liberatory potential in the interest of book, for example, is pointedly entitled Before Mickey It begins by arguing against the dominant narrative in which pre 1928 animation is dismissed as a mere precursor to Disney (3 5), and ends with the claim that: it is this transportive function, the im animation, that made it gratifying and compelling and that established the expectations and desires of the audience long before Mickey boarded his first steamboat. (349) 31 Paul Wells describes the Disney style of animation as hyperreal (25 26), but without necessarily he hyperreal. Cf. Eco 43. 32 Deconstructing Disney for a more thorough discussion of liberal Elizabeth Bell et al., eds., F rom Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995) as well as Bell, Haas and Sells, eds., From Mouse to Mermaid South Atlantic Quarterly 92 (1993): 27 61.


88 For Crafton, Felix as the apotheosis of si lent animation, becomes emblematic of what brilliant Hollywood Flatlands what Felix represents is made even more explicit. Leslie shows that for intellectuals lik e Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, pre Disney style of animation was valuable precisely for its disconnection from mimetic realism. In Dialectic of Enlightenment three dimensional alternative w orld is castigated as a particularly effective tool for convincing its presentation of an authoritarian morality. By implication, critical attention to Felix becomes valuable everything. The anti realist style of Felix represents an alternative to the oppressive realism of Disney. A classic example of this understanding of animation history is opposed to rationalism. They ensured that justice was done to the creatures and objects they electrified, by giving the maimed specimens a second life. All they do today is to confirm the victory of technol 33 Critics therefore ascribe to Felix (and other cartoons of its era) a package of related properties flatness, antirealism, self figuration. After the analysis above, we could also add handwrittenness to these package. Al l of these properties contribute to apparently make Felix a more personal, authorial, subjective work than later animation, expression of selfhood is not precisely what Felix is about. Unlike Out of the Inkwell, 33 two sentences refer to.


89 Felix does not aggressively foreground the presence of its creator. A contemporary critic Out of the Inkwell we can forget everything but t hat. Felix is such an aggressive, lifelike personality as to overshadow his creator. Indeed, as Crafton argues (259, 298), Felix earliest animators, like Winsor McCay and Em ile Cohl, actually represented themselves filmic image, was actually present to the audience. In Out of the Inkwell when we see entire body remains visible in other shots. In Felix completely absent, and even when we do see him, he reduces himself to a disembodied hand. What remains in Felix but the handwritten trace of that but only appears to do so. What animation really provides is death 24 times a second, as Laura Mulvey argues in her book of that titl e. (Similarly, in his article on Who Framed Roger Rabbit Alan Cholodenko holds that death lies at the heart of cinema.) Furthermore, we need to remember that Messmer himself was the furthest thing possible from an aggressive self promoter. He worked in a nonymity his entire career, and seems to have been happy to do so. Even when he was able to sign his name to his work, he was so shy that he hesitated to do so. In his early career as a newspaper cartoonist, Messmer usually signed his work with his full n predicting the excessive humility which would lead in the near future to his self


90 used a nom de plume (Canemaker 14 15) This was a self that could only express itself indirectly, through the mediation of a fictional surrogate into the world, the writing surface and the medium of inscription are far more visible than the writing hand, which is concealed by the much more aggressive presences of Felix and Pat Sullivan. Even if we ignore the ways in which any handwritten text stand s at a Felix an unusually wide gap s frequently criticized for its reduction of the animator to an alienated assembly line worker, but this critique often seems to assume that labor conditions in earlier periods of animation were less alienating, which is not the case with Felix A reading of Felix as conceptualize traditional drawing and hand drawn animation as honest, personal and subjective in o pposition to the bland, mechanized perfection of digital imagery in which is correct in several respects, as we will see in Chapter 5. But this opposition equally misrepresents hand but neither can the former proc embraces and models the animator as the very limit case of the filmmaker, that is, as


91 evidently a metaphysics of presence that needs to be deconstruc ted. Cholodenko goes on, however, to read Felix death of the author, suggesting that the nonexistent author is a sort of spectral presence haunting the animated text. I think this formulation downplays the very real im portance of authorial presence in a cartoon like Felix even when that presence is known to be fictitious rather than actual. Even if and especially if Messmer is not physically present in the text of Felix the viewer still desires to read Messmer int o his text. What gives Felix its poignancy is precisely the simultaneous presence and absence of s. The not desire to see it as such. In important regards, that which makes Felix emotionally creation and yet the viewer wants to believe that this is possible. What matters in the fantasy of handwriting is not the actual presence of the desire for such presence. The ability to pull our question marks or exclamation marks off the page, and turn them into umbrellas or wings, is indicative of a mystical identity between graphic traces and the self that produces them. Because Felix has this ability, he can write himself into the world; he can externalize his subjective (cf. p. 79 above), a stable core of selfhood, and he can inscribe that self onto the world. Ab initio this fantasy is already appealing to some viewers such as myself but it


92 becomes even more appealing at times of competition from other media which make it more difficult to believe either in the possibility of externalizing the self, or to the very subjective identity. Competition between handwriting and newer media makes the fantasy of handwriting more important because it enriches that fantasy with the element of nostalgia, the longing to return home. Faced with a media ecology where words seem to have no connection to the self, and where the very existence of the self is not guaranteed, we desire for a return to a mythical condition where to draw or to write was to write ourselves into the world. 34 And yet we know this desire is never satisfiable, because that mythical condition never actually existed. Even in its nave state, as represented by Felix the fantasy of handwriting was already mediated by technology. The same technology that destroys the nave version of the fantasy of handwriting is me rely a more advanced incarnation of the technology that made this fantasy possible to begin with. Artists who attempt to revive the fantasy of handwriting, as well as critics who appeal to it, need to take this into account. When artists simply seek to res tore the nave version of the fantasy of handwriting or when critics lament the loss thereof, they are engaging in what Svetlana Boym calls restorative nostalgia the simplistic desire to resurrect a lost object, without acknowledging that this lost objec t never truly existed in the form in which it is imagined in the first place. In order to achieve the more critical and more politically useful effect that Boym calls reflective nostalgia, the artist or critic must acknowledge that the lost object was alwa ys already lost to begin with, that it was never fully present in the form 34 nt I'm not addressing the question of who (i.e. which segments of the possible viewership of Felix ) feels this desire.


93 with which our memory endows it, and that a return to this lost object must always be conditioned by our knowledge of its phantasmal nature. In the remainder of this chapter, I wan t to examine two more recent works of animation, from different periods, that achieve the effect of reflective nostalgia for handwriting although without always succeeding in avoiding restorative nostalgia. Road Runner cartoons and Robert Z Who Framed Roger Rabbit will serve as examples of how to read a text with an eye to its restorative or reflective invocations of the fantasy of handwriting. 35 Road Runner: An Acme Essay in Critical Theory As I suggested briefly above, writin g of any kind tends to be excluded from Disney animation because these films are committed to what Lamarre calls cinematism they eye view of a world composed in three dimensions. If the Warner Bros. (and MGM) films of the 1940s and 1950s represent an alternative to the typography, which, as suggested in the above quotation from Conley, gestures to the flatness of the screen. Lettering is everywhere in Warner Bros. and MGM films, These films are full of road signs, signs held up by characters, product labels, verbal tributes to members of the production staff, and other i nsertions of language into the field of the image. In the Road Runner cartoons, the emphasis on handwriting is strong enough that it can be analyzed in terms of the fantasy of handwriting. 35 Because my interest here is primarily theoretical rather than historical, I will not attempt to survey all the films that invoke fanta sies of handwriting. Other films I could have discussed include Gerald McBoing Boing (Robert Cannon, 1950) and Harold and the Purple Crayon (David Piel, 1959) (cf. Figure 1 4).


94 Disney films represent verbal discourse, including speech, exclusi vely by means of synchronized dialogue. Lettering, when it appears, is always diegetic. By contrast, signs held up by characters. In the Road Runner Coyote series, Jones use s signs 36 Like Felix word for the unavailability of synchronized dialogue. In Felix this unavailability is due to the simple fact that synchronized sound was not commercially viable until 1927. In the Road Runner Coyote series, on the other hand, this unavailability is due to a constr aint that the animator chose to impose on himself and his staff. Chuck Jones could have used synchronized dialogue, as he did in other cartoons; he simply chose not to. This was largely the result of personal preference. Like Messmer, Jones preferred to te ll stories via pantomime: 37 As he developed as a director, Jones became in effect a physiognomist, telling sually tried to tell 36 ad Runner cannot otherwise, claimed never to have heard of the rules (Barrier 496). 37 century before: thinking up silent visual gags for black Canemaker 146 but see Goldmark 10 43 for an extend ed examination of music in Warner Bros. cartoons.


95 our stories through action rather than words. My first films as director were too wordy, Moreover, as Goldmark suggests (37), the lack of dialogue in the Road Runner they can read, write, and operate complex machinery, the Coyote and the Road Runner are ultimately driven by animalistic drives by, respectively, the desire to eat and to avoid being eaten. Their nonhuman nature is emphasized by the pseudo Latin species descriptions that are applied to them at the beginning of each cartoon (e.g., Acceleratii Incredibus and Carnivorous Vulgaris ). The animalistic nature of these ch aracters also helps to justify the potentially disturbing violence of the series. On being asked to respond to a female viewer who characterized the Road Runner cartoons as sadistic, o chase a member would humanize the Coyote to the extent that his preda tory behavior would no longer be justifiable. The chain of causality here is not exactly clear did Jones eliminate dialogue from the Road Runner cartoons because the characters were animals, or did he decide to tell a story about animal characters so th at dialogue would be unnecessary? In either case, however, Jones rejects the use of synchronized dialogue, which was one of the major sounds would have brought the characters closer to three dimensionality; instead, the characters seem to inhabit a two


96 sufficient to note that the lack of the third dimension provided by sound, plus the traces of ink and paint on celluloid rather than actually existing characters. But suggests to the viewer that even ink and paint on celluloid are real objects. 38 I now examine the use of signs in the Road Runner cartoons. The Coyote and Road Runner usually communicate their though ts with body language. Usually their thoughts are fairly simple in nature and thus easily inferred from their physical language and facial expressions. However, on the rare occasions when one of the two characters has a complex thought that would be diffic ult to communicate visually, he does so by holding up a sign. For example, at the end of There They Go Go Go! (Chuck Jones, 1956), the Coyote tries to drop some rocks on the Road Runner, but the rocks get stuck and fail to fall. The Coyote tries to dislodg e the rocks by jumping on them from above. When this fails, he stands below the rocks and starts poking at them with a long pole. himself, he looks at the camera and holds up a sign (Figure 2 16). Here the sign suggests something more specific than the shocked facial expression: that the Coyote s about to have dozens of heavy rocks 38 16: a piece of paper with a message written on it.


97 inflicted ph ysical injuries automatically heal which makes this sign funnier as well as more informative than simple body language could communicate. The Coyote, then, communicates by handwriting by the production of graphic traces of his expression s are also physical physical objects. The Coyote communicates by spontaneously generating signs bearing handwritten letters. This is only one step removed from Felix generating the letters themselves. lettering, attached to white or light brown signposts (cf. Figure 2 16). The signs are usually lettered in a simp ler style than the other major instances of lettering in these cartoons: the labels on the packages the Coyote is constantly receiving from the Acme company. These signs serve much the same purpose as the word balloons in Felix : they serve as containers fo r speech or for verbalized thoughts, and they act as frames or barriers that separate words from the field of the image. Unlike the sign, however, the real world. As noted above (p. 72 ), when the viewer of Felix encounters a word balloon, see the word balloon but would instead hear the words contained in it But when the viewer of a Road Runner cartoon sees the Road Runner or the Coyote holding up a


98 sign, the viewer understands that if s/he were in their diegetic world, s/he would see the sign itself, rather than hearing the words written thereon. The sign b elongs to the same diegetic level or world as the character holding it, whereas the word balloon is both inside and outside that diegetic world. Nor does the word balloon originate from within the diegetic world. It makes no sense to ask what infradiegetic agent is responsible for drawing the word balloon or writing the letters inside it. By contrast, a white rectangular sign on a signpost is obviously an object in the diegetic world. The existence of this object implies that someone must have written the w ords on the sign (not to mention manufacturing the sign and signpost and attaching the one to the other). The sign must be a product of a prior act of handwriting. know o f any example in which the Coyote or the Road Runner is actually shown writing the words on the signs; the signs tend to appear with the words already written on them. norma l way. Moreover, in some cases the act of writing these signs is an act that logically have happened, because there is no time. In Gee Whiz z z z z z z (Chuck Jones, 1956), the Coyote pulls out a sign from behind his back while falling off a cliff (Figure 2 17). It reads HOW ABOUT ENDING THIS CARTOON BEFORE I HIT? 39 Therefore, if the Coyote himself wrote this sign, he must have done so after he began to fall, meaning that the sign could only have been written in the interval between this shot and th e previous one. This in itself seems unlikely, as the sound effects are continuous 39 This sort of casual breach of the fourth wall w as of course quite common in Warner Bros. and MGM cartoons, and helps to distinguish this tradition of cartooning from the Disney style, in which the fourth wall is typically respected as scrupulously as it is in the classical Hollywood cinema.


99 between the two shots, indicating that there was no temporal gap between shots during which the Coyote could have written the sign. What happens next is more inexplicable. A fter the Coyote holds up the first sign, the iris begins to close, and the Coyote pulls another sign from behind his back with his other hand; it reads THANK YOU. Since sec ond sign. And even if he wrote it beforehand, how did it get into his hand, since his hands were both holding the Acme Rocket Sled in the previous shot? The existence of these two signs is inexplicable. Now a sign, unlike a word balloon, is a hard, solid a nd material object; it cannot exist without being created by someone, and it occupies a consistent volume of space. Yet these signs come out of nowhere, magically appearing There They Go Go Go WHAT AM I DOING? sign off the left edge of the frame, and we never see it again. In some cases they car ry are incompatible with their very existence. In Fast and Furry Ous (1949), the Coyote paints a crosswalk across the road and puts up a sign reading SLOW SCHOOL CROSSING, hoping to trick the Road Runner into slowing down. But the Road Runner foils his pla is true, then how did the Road Runner write the sign? And if someone else wrote it, then 40 40 This gag is repeated in the second Road Runner Coyote cartoon, Beep! Beep! (1952), where the that other cartoons in the series offer strong evidence that Road Runners can rea d and write. In Zoom and Bored Ready Set Zoom (1955) and Scrambled Aches written messages.

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100 In these cartoons, then, much like in Felix the act of verbal communication is identical with the act of creating objects ex nihilo In the Road Runner series the objects created are not free floating letters, but letters bound to a writing surface; however, this still implies that a written message is an object, a physical entity with as much weight and solidity as anything else. And yet, as in Felix this material similarity between words he is, then the Coyote himself must be as immaterial as these written messages, which come out of nowhere and have no physical consistency. This of course is indeed the case. The Coyote is famously able to survive falls, explosions and other severe physical trau mas without suffering permanent harm. He may be flattened to a pancake or have his fur singed to a crisp, but he always recovers completely by the following scene. The HE (Jones 225). Whereas the viewer of a Disney cartoon like Snow White and Pinocchio viewer of the Road Run ner cartoons knows that the Coyote can survive anything (and 41 Similarly, the Coyote is constantly receivi ng Acme products despite having no permanent address 41 ith no purpose in life and attempts a series of unsuccessful careers before ultimately joining the Church of Scientology.

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10 1 and no money 42 and we never find out what happens to these products after the Coyote uses them unsuccessfully. The viewer never entirely forgets that all these things the characters, the signs, and th e Acme products made of wood or cardboard, but they are made of ink and paint traces on celluloid. The Coyote is not a creature of flesh, blood and fur, but he is a drawn and painted creature. Coyote is inert; rather than a self identical entity capable of independent motion and thought, he is merely an assemblage of still images. The Coyote is given life onl y through the intervention of technology the same technology that constantly frustrates his efforts to do something productive with his life (it seems only natural to regard the Acme Corporation as a parody of Warner Bros.) The liminal, shifting material ity of the signs and the characters is thus an allegory for the materiality of the Looney Tunes cartoon text itself. In drawing the Road Runner cartoons, Chuck Jones creates something which is more than just a series of inert marks on paper but also less than a living, breathing reality. The Road Runner cartoons gesture toward the desire for handwriting in their presentation of verbal communication as object creation. But they also suggest that this desire for handwriting will always ultimately be frustra ted, because it depends on an ethos of purity and spontaneity which is at odds with the technological apparatus that makes it possible. This is made abundantly clear by a running gag that appears in three of the classic Road Runner cartoons, which I will call the painting gag In Fast and Furry Ous the 42 One common theory among fans is that the Coyote receives these products for free because he is a beta tester for Acme.

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102 Coyote tries to trick the Road Runner into running into a solid wall by painting a picture of a tunnel on the wall (Figure 2 18). 43 The tunnel is visually continuous with the road that leads into the wall, s tell the painted tunnel from the real road and will slam into the wall at full speed. Instead, however, the Road Runner runs into the painting and through the tunnel, which has mysteriously chan ged from a representation of a tunnel to a real one. The Coyote tries to run in after him, only to slam into the wall at full speed, because now the painting is a painting again (Figure 2 19). (Note that in Figure 2 19, the painting is shown from a differe nt angle and no longer appears perceptually continuous with the wall.) Adding insult to injury, the Road Runner runs back out of the painting, which has now turned back into a tunnel, and knocks the Coyote down as he tries to get up. This gag is repeated i n Going, Going, Gosh! (1952) with slight differences. Here the painting is on a canvas rather than a mural, and the Coyote places it at the edge of a cliff, hoping to make the Road Runner run through the painting and off the cliff. Of course, the Road Runn er runs into the painting. When the Coyote leaves his hiding place to investigate, a truck drives out of the painting and runs him over. The Coyote tries to run through the e cliff. Here, when the Coyote tries to interact with his paintings, they remain flat screens or opaque two these paintings are perceptually continuous, but ontologically and material ly 43 In using a painting to fool a bird, Wile E. Coyote seeks to imitate Zeuxis, whose painted depictions of grapes were so realistic that some birds tried to eat them. However, the Coyote ultimately succeeds only in imitating Parrhasius, who painted a pict ure that was so realistic it fooled

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103 separation between the material surface of the wall and the view in becomes an open window into another world. The painting is able to shift freely and reversibly from a dead representation to a living reality. However, these shifts can a lso occur in the opposite direction relative to the two characters, as is proved by the third instance of the painting gag. In Gee Whiz z z z z z z (1956), the Coyote has apparently learned from his first two failed attempts at the painting trick. Thus he executes a painting that depicts a bottomless chasm in the middle of the road. If the viewer has seen the first two cartoons that featured the painting gag (and knowledge of those cartoons seems to be assumed), then the ects that the Road Runner will run into the painting and plummet to his demise. 44 Instead, of course, the Road Runner runs straight through the painting and continues on his way. Trying to follow him, the Coyote runs into the painting and falls into the rav that the painting was transparent when the Road Runner interacted with it, but material when he himself interacted with it turns out to be wrong. In fact, whether the painting is material or immaterial depends en tirely on which of these statuses happens to be most 44 The Coyote also puts up a sloppily handwritten sign he did this is not clear, since it would tip off the Road Runner to the trap awaiting him. A further problem befor e falling into the gap. Throughout the series the Road Runner shows an uncanny ability to stop on a

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104 advantageous for the Road Runner and disadvantageous for the Coyote. In simpler 45 The Coyote has the power to turn drawn representatio ns into living, breathing realities, and this is a form of the fantasy of handwriting. The Coyote has the same power to write himself into the world that Felix enjoys (we might call this the power of handwriting). The difference is that Felix exploits the liberatory potential of the power of handwriting. He uses handwriting to escape from danger, to solve perplexing problems, and to satisfy his desires. The Coyote tries to use handwriting for these purposes but invariably fails, because he lacks the ability to choose whether his handwritten traces come to life or whether they remain bound to their writing surface. His power of handwriting is exercised only at the whim of some invisible agency that is not favorably disposed toward him. Something similar happe ns in Duck Amuck (Chuck Jones, 1953), its creator. 46 power. But whereas Messmer and Fleisch er used their power of handwriting to help their respective protagonists, Bugs uses handwriting to humiliate and embarrass Daffy. In both the Road Runner cartoons and Duck Amuck the power of handwriting exists, but is of no benefit to the characters who n eed it most. 45 In their attempt to axiomatize the Road Runner cartoons, McCartney and Anderson expla in this in If Coyote believes something he and es that something is an instance, and he previously believed it to be a representation, then it is a representation belief is not the point; the real principle at work here is that things (including technological devices as well as paintings) always behave in whatever way is least favorable to the Coyote, and most favorable to the Road Runner. 46 Duck Amuck is obviously another example of the fantasy of handwriting. I discuss it here only in passing due to lack of space, and also because this cartoon has already been theorized extensively elsewhere.

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105 be applied to his use of technology. He seeks to exploit the power of technology for his own benefit, but never succeeds, because some invisible force always c hanges the reminds us that, as I suggested above, technological manipulation is what makes the power of handwriting possible, by creating the illusion of letters and drawings coming to life. The fantasy of handwriting is based on an ethos of naturalness, authenticity and self presence, but is only imaginable because of technological assistance; moreover, it becomes valued and cherished only as a result of technological change. Mastery over handwriting therefore requires mastery over the technological apparatus that makes the fantasy of handwriting possible. This latter form of control is something that Wile E. her did Chuck Jones. We could understand Bugs in Duck Amuck or the aforementioned invisible force that manipulates the laws of physics in the Road Runner cartoons, as a figure for the animator, the creative artist who can turn traces of ink and paint into reality. This reading is tempting and not entirely wrong. But at the same time, Jones is like the s the Road Runner cartoons demands corporate financing, state of the art equipment, and an assembly line production process. Jones was therefore able to exercise his power of handwriting only at the discretion of Warner Bros., a company which is often plac ed in binary opposition to Disney in terms of their respective animation styles, but which has become increasingly vulnerable to the same sorts of critiques that are often leveled against

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106 egun to rub off on 47 The Road Runner cartoons represent a critical use of the fantasy of handwriting insofar as they acknowledge how the desire for handwriting can only ever be incompletely satisfied, and then only through the medi ation of a technological apparatus which is difficult to imagine in terms of handwriting. Nowhere is this paradoxical condition more clear, however, than in the last text I will discuss. Who Erased Roger Rabbit? Who Framed Roger Rabbit is often credited with inspiring the late affectionate tribute to the past of animation; thus, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is explicitly nostalgic in a way in which the Road Runner cartoons, themselves being products of the classic era of Hollywood animation, are not. Who Framed Roger Rabbit might easily be read as a restorative nostalgic film which seeks navely to revive the golden age of animation, and with it the fantasy of hand writing, in a new and superior form. However, a closer inspection reveals that Who Framed Roger Rabbit is also a text driven by reflective nostalgia. At the same time that it revives the memory of hand drawn animation, it also gestures to coming technologi cal changes which will make hand drawn animation obsolete. Who Framed Roger Rabbit 48 Who Censored Roger Rabbit? This bizarre novel might be described as a hardboiled 47 See the other essays in Reading the Rabbit particularly those by Simensky and Mikulak, for an eting practice and its efforts to exert control over the legacy of its cartoons. 48 industry superstition teaches that

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107 detective novel about cartoon charact creature of nonhuman appearance who speaks in word balloons. Roger Rabbit and his of drawings but of photographs for the indestructibility of cartoon characters). When Roger is killed, his doppelganger hires private eye Eddie Valiant to solve his murder, leading to a convoluted plot which I will not attempt to summarize. The concept of characters speaking in word balloons represents a particularly pure lly have physical lapsed inside their balloon t the letters in these word popped, letting the question marks parachute to the floor. I was tempted to scoop them up and pocket them, since I knew a book publisher who bou ght them to cut type setting writing, the power to translate their subjective affects into physical form.

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108 However, there are also tantalizing hints (which unfortunately remain no more than hints) that the power of handwriting is something to be ashamed of that the power to write on eself into the world represents an older, primitive, atavistic means of themselves appear mo a magic lantern to transform themselves into humans. There is an obvious analogy here to real in the novel as an oppressed racial minority (Wolf even makes the tantalizing suggestion that the Amer Native Americans [113]). real world media ecologies as well as racial politics. In seeking to suppress her wo rd balloons, Jessica tries to undergo the same transformation that cartoons underwent in 1927: she wants to replace written text with synchronized dialogue. This seems like a mity of voice and being, of voice and the meaning of being, of voice and the ideality of Of Grammatology 12). According to this ideology, speech has a privileged connection to authenticity, originality, self presence, etc., whereas writing serves merely Who Censored Roger Rabbit? is actually the reverse. The claim made by the nave version of the fantasy of

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109 handwriting is that writing rather than speech, that represents the originary, privileged condition. This claim needs to be distinguished from Derrida's superficially similar argument that the original condition of language is arche writing, because the term that the alleged derivativeness of writing, however real and massive, was had never existed, never been intact and untouched by writing, that it had itself always been a writing An arche writing whose necessity and new concept I wish to indicate and outline here; and which I continue to call writing only because it essentially communicates with the vulgar concept of writing. (Derrida 1998 56) ralized condition of diffrance of non originality. In contaminated by what Derrida calls the metaphysics of presence. Writing, and specifically handwriting, connotes t o edit Derrida's quotation above In a text like Who Censored Roger Rabbit? that subscribes to this view of handwriting, writing oneself into the world has the same sort of privilege that, in phonocentrism, atta ches to hearing oneself precisely the problem. Handwriting represents the earlier, more (ab)original means of communication. Speech stands for civilization and technological progress, precisely not of voice boxes. It makes sense that creatures who are themselves made of ink on paper should communicate using constructs of ink on paper just as it made sense for Felix to use word b alloons instead of synchronized dialogue, even after the latter option

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110 became available. 49 physis techn bring itself forth and does not yet lie here before us, whatever can look and turn out now In seeking to suppress their word balloons technological progress that rendered Felix The above represents my own speculative reading of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? seriously explores problems of semio tics or writing and speech technology that are posed by his use of word ballloons. Who Censored Roger Rabbit? is ultimately little more than a standard detective novel which uses cartoon characters merely as a gimmick. We could describe it as an uncritical invocation of the fantasy of handwriting, to the extent that it never poses the question of what is at stake in its invocation of the materiality of handwriting. The film adaptation of the novel, however, goes much further in exploring the tense relation ship between the fantasy of handwriting and technological mediation. Set in Los Angeles in 1947, the film is a combination of live action and animated footage, with live action characters sharing the frame with animated Toons (the film uses this form rathe are handwritten, or more specifically hand drawn and hand painted, rather than using handwriting. They are remembered line, Jessica tells Eddie, 49 This is a slightly exce and blood creatures or constructs made of art materials. On the cover of the 1981 Ballantine edition, Roger is and more anthropomorphic version of a real rabbit.

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111 compromis barred from patronizing, the Ink and Paint Club. 50 Most notably, the Dip, the only thing that can destroy the otherwise invincible Toons, is a mixture of turpentine, benzene and acetone, all of which are paint thinners used to remove animation from cels. The Toons in the film are constructs of ink and paint, but they are specifically three dimensional material constructs of ink and paint. In earlier films where live action and animated footage were juxtaposed, such as Song of the South (Harve Foster and Wilfred Jackson, 1946) and Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964), a recurring problem for filmmaker s was the obvious contrast of two dimensionality and three dimensionality (Cotta Vaz and Duignan 124). We already saw this problem at work in Out of the Inkwell Thus, animation director Richard Williams said: The initial feeling I had about the picture w as that it would look a bit look false. They could vitiate each other, cancel each other out. Like a flat Tony the Tiger surrounded by live screen, as if on glass. (Clarke 198 8) In order to avoid this problem, the animators and special effects staff of Who Framed Roger Rabbit went to great lengths to synchronize the camera movement and lighting of 50 This is a clear reference to the real life Cotton Club in Harlem, where black people were welcome as performers but not as customers. Otherwise the film mostly ignores the racial subtext of the novel.

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112 the animated footage with those of the live action footage, and to ensure that th e animated and live action characters were able to interact believably. The specific techniques by which this was accomplished are not important at the moment (but see Turner 1988a and 1988b). What matters here is that these techniques worked. The viewer o f Who Framed Roger Rabbit has the sense that the animated characters and the live action characters are occupying the same space (Figure 2 20). As in the novel, who is responsible for drawing the animated characters; no animators are ever sh own in the film. 51 Even so, the film succeeds much more completely than any previous film of its genre in creating a plausible vision of what cartoon characters would look like if they came to life. Whereas the novel, in keeping with conventions of the har dboiled detective genre, with laughter, entertainment and emotion. This is not quite the same package of values that are typically associated with the fantasy of ha Toons make humans feel authentic emotion and inspire humans to meet higher standards of behavior. (For example, Eddie is able to quit drinking because his experiences with Roger and Jessica restore his sense of self re spect; earlier in the film, RABBIT [ sic ], the cartoon figures redeem their human counterparts from isolation and despair. Like performers in live action musicals, they celebrate energy, spontaneity and 51 ) includes an unfilmed scene in which Benny the taxicab operates a drawbridge by literally drawing it with a pencil.

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113 The story of Who Framed Roger Rabbit seems to demonstrate the triumph of Toons, and the values they stand for, over an oppressive ideology of corporatism, dehumanization and technology. The vi llain of the film, Judge Doom, seeks to use Dip to destroy Toontown, the district of Los Angeles where Toons reside. He plans to replace it with a freeway on ramp, which he will force the citizens of Los Angeles to use sit system. The freeway system will be a source of immense profit: Doom envisions it as a place where people get off and on the Freeway. On and off. Off and on. All day, all night. Soon where Toontown once stood will be a string of gas stations. Inexpensi ve motels. Restaurants that serve rapidly prepared food. Tire salons. Automobile dealerships. And wonderful, wonderful billboards reaching as far as the eye can see. In building the freeway system, Doom also intends to destroy the traditional urban communi ty of Los Angeles, a community based on the same sort of positive but anarchic values of which the Toons act as models. To accomplish this plan, he builds a giant, threatening dip spreader vehicle (Figure 2 21), a grim, inhuman technological apparatus whic h contrasts sharply with the more friendly, colorful and traditional mode of technology represented by the trolley cars. In short, Judge Doom seems to stand for organized soci ety, at the expense of the atavistic, regressive elements of the traditional society whose heart is Toontown. In the climax, it turns out that Judge Doom is himself betraying the novel, is a self hating Toon; he sees his own hand drawn identity as a vestige of a more primitive, aboriginal condition which he must overcome at any cost.

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114 Thanks to Edd appeared to be a blank s heet of paper, which Roger then used to write a love letter to Jessica; this plot twist further highlights the importance of handwriting. The film ends on song first fea tured in a 1931 Merrie Melodies cartoon). Handwriting triumphs over technological mediation; the values of community, tradition, and authenticity win out over the values of progress and sophistication. This ending seems like an uncritical use of the fantas y of handwriting, and to a large extent it is. The happy ending is saccharine enough to leave the viewer unsatisfied. In navely celebrating the victory of handwriting and the values that it represents, the film seems to ignore factors that conspire to mak e such a complete victory impossible in real life. And yet this is not quite true, because the viewer is constantly aware that in real Who Framed Roger Rabbit 1987 recall doubles as anticipation United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. helped precipitate the end of the studio system, which had guaranteed the commercial viability screens reserved for cartoons began to slip after the movie studios were forced to following decade, this crisis was crisis of 1953, animators began to leave in increasing numbers to work for TV

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115 commercials, while animation studios shifted toward TV as well, and toward stories more appropriate to a shopping medium, sto ries about department stores and spending the rise of the Interstate Highway System and the dismantling of the Los Angeles streetcar system. Theatrical animation and tr aditional public transportation were both emblematic of a sort of traditional urban community which collapsed shortly after 1947. 52 In the ending of Who Framed Roger Rabbit Zemeckis reverses this collapse and presents a utopian vision of an alternative re ality where Toons and their associated values were able to survive. The ending also implies that the film as a whole is engaged in a similar project. By ending the film in this way, Zemeckis signals that his goal is to reverse the stagnation of theatrical animation, to revive this moribund genre along with the positive values that the film associates with this genre. In this sense, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is engaged in restorative nostalgia. And yet Zemeckis also expects the viewer to realize that such a pr hand drawn animation, but als drawn animation is already a lost object. To this extent, Who Framed Roger Rabbit meets the criteria for reflective nostalgia. attit ude toward technology. Who Framed Roger Rabbit has difficulty disguising its 52 Cars (John Lasseter and Joe Ranft, 2006), to be discussed in Chapter 4, exhibits similar nostalgia for the traditional communities that were destroyed by the Interstate Highway System.

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116 dependence on the very corporate and technological apparatus that Judge Doom Roger Rabbit posed the same challenge ILM would face a few year s later when hired to create a liquid metal cyborg for Terminator 2 : the success of the movie depended on extending effects art and technology to create 126). The creation of the animation/live action blendin massive special effects apparatus. This did not go unnoticed by contemporary viewers: stress on technological wizardry (a further characteristic of Spielberg productions) only possible thanks to its use of the same sort of corporatist technological apparatus that typically represents the polar opposite of handwriting. Moreover, its effects were achieved primarily through optical printing, a technology which lacks the embodied and achievements is lar gely responsible for its appeal to viewers; therefore, the viewer can using a newer, more advanced technological apparatus to praise the virtues of an older, less adva nced mode of creation, the film engages in the sort of hypocrisy characteristic sic ] brings animation history Fr om the vantage point of 2011, however, Who Framed Roger Rabbit can also be viewed as the last great monument of the tradition of American theatrical animation, rather than as a departure from that tradition. Who Framed Roger Rabbit was perhaps

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117 the last the atrically animated major motion picture to be animated entirely by hand using traditional ink and paint processes. The following year, The Little Mermaid (Ron Clements and John Musker, 1989) made limited use of computer animation, and was the final Disney film to use hand The Rescuers Down Under (Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel, 1990), was produced using the Computer into a computer and color ed digitally, rather than being inked onto cels and painted . Who Framed Roger Rabbit were obsolete almost as soon as the film was released. Contemporaneous discussions of th e film do not indicate whether Zemeckis and Williams were aware of this fact (for example, Williams never mentions computers in his 1988 interview with Jeremy Clarke). Contemporary viewers, however, cannot forget ill necessarily remain one of a kind, that such a sophisticated combination of optical printing with traditional animation will never again be commercially viable. Viewing Who Framed Roger Rabbit with this knowledge in mind, we experience an effect of rest orative nostalgia. We realize that this film succeeds more than any other film in making us believe that ink and paint could literally come to life. Yet we also realize that this success is unrepeatable. The subsequent history of the fantasy of handwritin g in animation is intertwined with the history of computer animation, a topic I will explore in Chapter 4. In this chapter, however, I have defined the fantasy of handwriting and the difference between critical and uncritical uses of this fantasy. With the se analytical tools established, we proceed to consider how the fantasy of handwriting interacts with digital technology in various

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118 contemporary popular cultural media. The first of these that I will consider is the interactive fiction game.

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119 Figure 2 1. Still from Futuritzy appearance and lack of resemblance to an actual cat. All Felix images 2011 Felix the Cat Productions, Inc. Figure 2 o Marinetti. 2006 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome.

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120 Figure 2 3. A still from Felix in Hollywood (Otto Messmer, 1923). All Felix images are Felix the Cat Productions Inc. Figure 2 4. Diagram of the Hurd process, in which paper is used for the background and Patent 1,143,542, in the public domain.

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121 Figure 2 5. A black kitty. Compare to Figure 1 1. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Shar e Alike 3.0 Unported license. Figure 2 6. Still from Non Stop Fright (Otto Messmer, 1927) showing the 478 MILES sign in its original state.

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122 Figure 2 7: Still from Non Stop Fright Note the glasses (8), the chair (4) and the pipe (7). Figure 2 8. St ill from Non Stop Fright showing Felix in the act of replacing the numerals.

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123 Figure 2 9. Still from Feline Follies (Otto Messmer, 1919) showing Master Tom's tail transformed into a question mark. Figure 2 10. Still from Felix Follows the Swallow s generation of exclamation marks.

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124 Figure 2 11. Still from Felix Follows the Swallows showing Felix treating the exclamation marks as objects. Figure 2 12. Still from Felix Follows the Swallows showing Felix convert ing the exclamation marks into tools.

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125 Figure 2 13. Still from Felix Follows the Swallows. Here the exclamation marks have become Felix's wings. Figure 2 14. Still from A Trip to Mars (Dave Fleischer, 1924). Note the visual contrast between the anima ted and live action elements of the image. This film is in the public domain.

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126 Figure 2 15. Still from Comicalamities (Otto Messmer, 1928) showing Felix tearing Kitty out of the image. Note that the leading edge of the paper is drawn, not real. Figur e 2 16. Still from There They Go Go Go (Chuck Jones, 1956) showing a typical Coyote sign.

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127 Figure 2 17. Still from Gee Whiz z z z z z z (Chuck J ones, 1956) showing a sign that logically shouldn't exist. Figure 2 18. Still from Fast and Furry o us (Chuck Jones, 1949) showing the first use of the painting gag. Note that the painting is difficult to distinguish from the

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128 Figure 2 19. Still from Fast and Furry Ous From this angle the painting can be clearly recognized as a two dimensional representation. Figure 2 20. Still from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Robert Zemeckis, 1989). Note the seamless integration of live action and animated footage. Compare to Figure 2 14.

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129 Figure 2 21. Still from Who Framed Roger Rabbit s howing the clanking, mechanical doomsday device.

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130 CHAPTER 3 BECAUSE IT'S NOT THE RE: INTERACTIVE FICT ION AS FANTASY OF HANDWRITING Word and Image in Interactive Fiction Interactive Fiction as Handwriting In the previous chapter, I defined the basic contours of the fantasy of handwriting, then explained how this fantasy is affected by a transition from an older medium which appears to be more like handwriting to a newer medium which appears to be less so. In that chapter, however, the newer medium in question full animation was still significantly close to handwriting. Full animation still meets my definition of handwriting: it involves a writing surface, a writing tool, a writing medium, and a writing hand. The difference is that A) full animation includes other components which are irreducible to those of handwriting (e.g., the multiplane camera). And B) full animation makes its handwritten nature less visible; it presents itself as something different from handwriting. However, full animation is still imaginable as a process of handwriting, as we see in Who Framed Roger Rabbit which emphasizes the handwritten materiality of full animation. In this chapter, on the other hand, I examine a media transition in which an older medium which resembles handwriting is replaced by a newer medium which is not easily imaginable as handwriting. This chapter is concerned with the replacement of text based video games by graphical video games. I will suggest that the video game genre of interactive fiction is s usceptible to being imagined as a process of handwriting. 1

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131 playing interactive fiction can be, and often has been, characterized as being like handwriting as involv ing the production of inscriptions on a surface. Interactive fiction is therefore an appropriate site of originary fantasies of handwriting. Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, interactive fiction lost its former prominence and commercial viability due to competition from graphical adventure games. I will suggest that the graphical video game cannot easily be imagined in terms of handwriting in the same way that interactive fiction can. In the graphical adventure and other genres of graphical video game s, fewer opportunities are offered for the player to imagine the gameworld, and the physical connections between player actions and changes to the gameworld become less evident. It makes sense to imagine IF in terms of handwriting; it makes less if any, s ense to imagine a graphical adventure game in terms of handwriting. Therefore, whereas in the previous chapter I examined a transition from a more handwritten medium to a less handwritten one, here I examine a transition from a handwritten medium to a non handwritten medium. Pen and paper animation differ in degree; IF and graphical adventures differ in kind. Although the player of an IF game does not actually write by hand, the process of playing IF may be imagined as a process of handwriting in two int errelated senses: in terms of the representation of the gameworld and in terms of the interface. IF, thus, is a 1 Hereafter abbreviated IF. The genre of IF is also known as the text adventure, although the se a text of the ordinary undertakings involving risk and difference between these terms, see Montfort 2005, 6 uglass IF objects are sometimes games that are played, and sometimes stories that are read, and often both or neither. Further, their narrative and rule aspects interact continuously at a dee aesthetic experience and only secondarily as a ludic or gamelike experience, but it must be understood that the aesthetic and gamelike qualities of IF are inseparable.

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132 doubly handwritten medium. In the first place, IF, by definition, presents the diegetic world of the game through the medium of ekphrastic text, which I understand here to mean text that describes visual phenomena in sufficiently precise detail as to enable the player to imagine them more or less vividly. The process of reading an ekphrastic text and imagining the things it describes is analogous descriptions. In the second place, unlike in a classical ekphrastic text, the IF player not only imagines the world but also creatively intervenes in that world: the act of inputting textual commands enables the IF player to rewrite or redraw the world s/he has imagined. Moreover, the IF player does this using the medium of the keyboard, which, unlike other gaming interfaces, has strong preexisting associations with writing. The IF interface is not a pencil or even a typewriter, but it is less dissimilar to these than a mouse or a control pad would be. 2 Thus, in the commercial era, IF was the site of an originary fantasy of handwriting. As alternatives to IF became more sophisticated, the leading IF publisher, Infocom, deliberately marketed its games by appealing to the package of values associated with handwri ting. Ekphrasis represented the most immersive means available of presenting a large, explorable gameworld, while the text based parser represented the most efficient available means of interacting with such a gameworld. In 2 Here I am assuming th at the standard way of playing IF is via a computer with a keyboard. This assumption has generally been true throughout the history of IF. I am not taking into account the possibility of playing IF on a mobile device or tablet with a touch interface. Howev er, this possibility has existed for over a decade (see for example ). Clearly, such devices are even closer to handwriting than a keyboard would be, but see Chapter 6 for more discussion of such interfaces.

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133 the late 1980s, the availability of sophisticated computer graphics led to a change in these conditions. Graphics became superior to text in both immersiveness and efficiency, and the IF genre accordingly lost its commercial viability. The act of writing IF therefore had to be reframed a s a deliberate aesthetic choice rather than as a response to practical limitations of existing computer hardware. Authors who still wished to produce IF games had to justify their decision to do so by appealing to values other than visual verisimilitude. T hat is, post commercial IF authors were forced to argue that IF appealed to other desires than the desire to inhabit a transparent, three dimensional gameworld, and these were the same desires to which the fantasy of handwriting appeals. Thus, for certain sections of the player community, IF became an object of nostalgia and a site of nostalgic fantasies of handwriting. Contemporary IF authors have adopted two separate approaches for appealing to the fantasy of handwriting, corresponding to the two levels on which the fantasy of handwriting operates in IF games. (Therefore, the two approaches sometimes coexist within the work of a single author or even within a single text.) The first approach, which Ad Verbum (2000), is to emphasize the materiality of the IF interface. A game like Ad Verbum gives the player the sense that in IF, words (if not necessarily letters) function as material objects, and that writing in IF is a process of object interaction. The second approa City of Secrets (2003), emphasizes the ekphrastic aspects of the IF experience. In this approach, the player is asked to understand the process of playing IF as a process of creating and manipulating mental pi ctures. For an author like Short, IF is distinguishable

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134 from graphical video games in terms of the personal, idiosyncratic nature of the visual experiences it provides. 3 Literature Review IF has enjoyed increasing critical attention over the past few years particularly Twisty Little Passages : An Approach to Interactive Fiction (2005). turn based program driven by textual input from the player, respondi ng with output that paragraph 1]. In other words, IF is a program that (1) simulates a diegetic world containing various spaces and objects (the world model), (2) present s that world to the user/player through the medium of unillustrated or sparsely illustrated text, and (3) permits the user to interact with its simulated world by inputting textual commands. IF, then, is distinguished from other genres of video games by it s lack of images, and from other forms of recombinatory or procedural textuality by its inclusion of a world model. Up to this point, IF has typically been examined from the viewpoint of its textual and programmatic aspects. For Montfort and others, IF de scends from the canonical traditions of riddle making and ergodic textuality and participates in the contemporary movement of electronic literature. According to these claims, the value of IF for scholarly study lies in what it tells us about textuality, l iterariness, and the transformations of both in the digital era. The existing critical discourse presents IF as a primarily textual procedural and ludic phenomenon as an art form or communicative medium which A) is made up of verbal or linguistic signi fiers and B) subjects these 3 This argument is presented in somewhat different form in Kashtan 2011.

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135 signifiers to rule based manipulations, and which C) has historically been used to produce games. 4 With rare exceptions, critics have focused on the semiotic and textual aspects of the IF medium, ignoring its visual and material aspects. This may seem no more than logical since, by the second element of the above definition, IF consists mostly or entirely of words and letters differential signifiers par excellence and makes limited use of images. For most IF critics, IF is a verbal, textual and literary medium whose closest affinities are with the tradition of ergodic textuality that extends from the I Ching and the Exeter Book, through the Oulipo and Cortzar, to hypertext fiction. On this assumption, the visual aspects of I F, if any, are usually His reading of the Infocom game Deadline considers only its literary and ludological Twisty Little Passages he has y of Colossal Cave 5 In summary, however, most critics have been uninterested in the specific materiality of the IF text. This makes some sense because the materiality of any IF text seems to be contingent rather than absolute. An IF text is composed of signifiers whose precise visual instantiation is irrelevant to their semantic value, whether we understand 4 63 (explaining how IF descends from and is comparable to the textual riddle). Re examining historical and contemporary IF her suggests that the two primary critical perspectives on IF are electronic literature and games studies (14). 5 Zach Whalen discusses the visual aspects of IF text in passing (111).

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136 nifiers produced in the execution of that code, or both. Most IF games can be played on a variety of cross platform nature was one reason for its commercial success. Fu rthermore, contemporary IF interpreters give the player the option to alter details such as the font, text (i.e., the ordered string of signifiers) that the program g enerates (Figure 3 1, Figure 3 2). According to a common perhaps the string of signifiers produced in the execution of that code, but not the material instantiation of that code. Two players who pla y the same version of Ad Verbum using the two sets of interface options shown in Figures 3 1 and 3 2 are playing 6 Because IF is usually (navely) understood as a non visual phenomeno n, the examine IF from the perspective of either electronic literature studies or games studies ritical terminology and situate the study of IF in digital media without privileging either an Electronic options are imaginable. 7 Under either of these two frameworks, experience is understood as primarily semiotic and/or procedural in nature. The 6 This is of course analogous to the commonsensical but nave assumpti on that the identity of a literary text resides in the text the ordered array of signifiers and that the material instantiation of those signifiers is merely a cosmetic feature. See Jerome J. McGann, The Textual Condition (Princeton University Press, 1 991). 7 See Aarseth and Myers for more or less literal examples of each of these two approaches to IF.

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137 electronic literature approach considers IF in terms of its manipulation of textual signifiers in ways unavailable to printed literature. Under this ap primary activity is the interpretation of text and the generation of other text in response. The games studies approach considers IF in terms of its operational logics. Under this ssful play, to solve puzzles by working within a pregiven set of rules. Without denying the value of either of these approaches, however, I want to of the IF play experienc e (Drucker 1993 43). They give insufficient consideration to the materially situated and sensuous aspects of the IF experience. I, however, want to suggest here that these aspects of IF are important. More specifically, I contend that IF is phenomenologica lly similar to handwriting on a variety of levels; that IF is, or claims to be, enjoyable for the same reasons that handwriting is enjoyable; and, ultimately, IF deploys fantasies of handwriting. IF as Originary Fantasy of Handwriting Ekphrasis As Marie L aure Ryan argues (120ff), one of the basic affordances of narrative in any medium is the creation of a story world or a virtual reality, a hypothetical space in which the existents of the narrative are located and in which the events of the narrative take place. The simulation of such a world is crucial to the phenomenon of immersion, such world building is spatial immersion, or the simulation of the physical space in which the narrative occurs. In ergodic textual artifacts, the conceit of spatial immersion is also a necessary means of making the text traversable. I infer this from common

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138 sense: in order to accomplish tasks that require him or her to explore a fictional spac e and to interact with the objects in that space, the player must have at least a basic sense of the geography of that space and of the spatial relations of the objects found in it. In text adventure games, that sense of spatial immersion is conveyed to t he player by means of descriptive text, consisting principally of room descriptions and object descriptions. The basic purpose of both these types of texts is to enable the player to visualize phenomena described by the text. As Eric Eve explains, in IF th e physical world is generally modelled as a series of discrete locations known as rooms. The totality of rooms in a given work of IF is often referred to as the map. Such rooms could correspond to rooms in a building, but they need not and frequently do no segment of physical space that is immediately accessible to the player character (paragraph 7). In other words, the typical arrangement of space in IF is that the gameworld is divided or segmented into several discrete, mutually exclusive chunks. Such a spatial 8 In graphical video games dating back to the late 197 0s, such as Superman and Berserk spaces or rooms are displayed as a series of nonoverlapping static screens which cut 8 It is essentially the same spatial arrangement we find in graphical adventure games like Myst or in the LucasArts games developed using the SCUMM engine, except that in such games the individual chunks of space are represented in three dimensions, not two. As Wolf observes, this spatial structure is simi lar to the continuity editing style in film, whose purpose is to convince the viewer that the spaces depicted in the characteristic spatial arrangeme nt of comics and graphic novels.

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139 definition, these chunks of space canno t be represented by onscreen images. 9 Instead, a block of onscreen text is used to communicate the relevant properties of the present room, including the exits from that room and the objects it contains. The room description migh t be said to take the place of the absent graphical image of the room (although this formulation is anachronistic insofar as IF predates sense of having been removed or abstr acted, inasmuch as it never existed to begin with.) Consider, for example, the following room description from Zork I: The Great Underground Empire (Blank et al., 1980), one of the classic works of the commercial era of IF: Living Room You are in the livi ng room. There is a doorway to the east, a wooden door with strange gothic lettering to the west, which appears to be nailed shut, a trophy case, and a large oriental rug in the center of the room. Above the trophy case hangs an elvish sword of great anti quity. A battery powered brass lantern is on the trophy case. This text names the room and enumerates all the visible exits from the room (the doorway and the wooden door) and the visible objects in it (the door again, the trophy case, the rug, the sword a 9 Some IF games, such as the late Infocom game Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur (1989), do employ graphical depictions of rooms and objects. Usually, however, these depictions serve merely to illustrate the text, and the pl Arthur Mystery House (1983) was revolutionary because alongside its textual descriptions, it included vector graphical images which took up most of the screen space, and because these graphics included essential information not given in the text. It is these properties, especially the latter, that distinguish IF from the graphical adventure.

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140 of which is that the avatar may be able to interact with them. The description mentions no objects that a objects), and it does not fail to mention any visible objects that are implemented. There might be other objects in the room that are neither mentioned nor implemented. For example, becaus e the room is lighted, there must be some kind of light source. However, the player need not worry about interacting with any such objects. On reading this description, the player can assume that everything it mentions is potentially relevant to his or her goal of solving the game, and that the room contains no relevant objects besides those mentioned in the description. 10 Zork I the rug. This object is left unmentioned because on first entering the room, the avatar know about the trap door before moving the rug, perhaps from having played the game before, but such knowledge does not extend to the avatar. If the player inputs a door under the rug. Perhaps the avatar can even imag within his or her visual field. 11 Thus t he room description represents what the avatar, not 10 The claims made here about room descriptions can also be applied to object descriptions, since rooms are actually defined in game programming languages such as Inform 7 as a class of object. 11 oned in room The Mulldoon Legacy ( 1999), the avatar can open a secret passage by feeling a certain wall. However, this action only works if the avatar has alr eady learned, from information provided elsewhere in the game,

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141 direct visual experience into words. The primacy of seeing in IF is indicated by the ubiquitous presence of light sources in Adventure and games descended from it. transport are common puzzle themes. As Jeremy Douglass observes, this made sense in Adventure (132), but the need for light sources subsequently became divorced from its original Enlightenment xtinguish all the light sources in a Hunter, in Darkness (1999), where exploration takes place via senses other than sight, are deliberate reactions against this primacy of sight (Douglass 134). 12 The standard conceit in IF is that the avatar experiences the player. The player then has the opportunity to back translate those words by activating the faculty of readerly visuality by forming an imagi nary visualization of the things the avatar sees As translations of visual objects in the medium of language, IF room descriptions (and object descriptions, of which room descriptions are special cases) are examples of ekphrasis. In current critical disc ourse, ekphrasis is most often defined as the verbal about the existence of the secret passage. If the player tries to feel the wall before the avatar has 12 See also (Jack Welch and Ben Collins Sussman, 2009), which includes a section in which the player character is a dog and therefore has to navigate by scent.

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142 description of a visual work of art. 13 However, Janice Hewlett Koelb argues that this meaning of the term is a twentieth century invention, dating back no earlier than Leo ekphrasis was defined in terms of method and phenomenology rather than subject periegematikos ) bringing the subject matter vividly ( enargos ) before t that subject matter was. An ekphrasis is a description that permits vivid visualization. IF room and object descriptions clearly meet this defintion. Visualization In playing IF, the player uses (or, as I w ill explain below, must be given the creation of a mental image of the gameworld. The generation of a visual image from an ekphrastic description is metaphorically comparable to handwriting (or drawing). Visualizing a described space is an act of making an inscription on a blank surface. The absence of visual depictions in IF is comparable to the blankness of a sheet of paper. In playing IF, as in drawing or painting, one start s from nothing and creates a complete, vivid visual representation. Moreover, the precise way in which this image is realized is specific to oneself. Handwriting is idiosyncratic to each writer and to each occasion of writing. Different people with the sam e name will have different autographs, and even a single person will sign his or her name differently each time. Similarly, different players, or the same player on different occasions, will visualize a given ekphrastic description 13 The standard reference on ekphrasis is Krieger. See also Heffernan, Hollander and Lo izeaux, cited below; Wendy Steiner, The Colors of Rhetoric University of Chicago Press, 1982); and Grant Scott, The Sculpted Word: Keats, Ekphrasis, and the Visual Arts (University Press of New England, 1994).

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143 differently. For example in the above description, the shape, color and pattern of the whatever I want it to In my view, the incompleteness of room and object descriptions is central to the aesthetic effect of IF. Visual images, whether photorealistic or otherwise, have the spe of details. In a verbal picture, by contrast, details can only be included if they are specifically mentioned (Chatman 125). Chatman explains: is limited to three. In other words, the selection among the possible number of details evoked named precisely three. Thus the reader learns only those three and can only expand th e picture imaginatively (125). the text. Part of the appeal of IF is that it p rompts the player to imagine what the text her own unique stamp on the gameworld. For example, the opening room description of Zork I open fi is one of the most frequently quoted phrases in video game history. Its memorability is due to the simple yet evocative nature of the image it offers. The open field, the ma ilbox and the whiteness of the house suggest a sense of rural simplicity, but the boarded front door attests to either danger or dilapidation. Yet the description says nothing about many aspects of the house, such as its size, architectural style, and heig ht. The player

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144 is thus free to imagine this house as resembling whatever white house comes most readily to his or her visual memory. In November 2006, Jim Heckel posted a thread on rec.games.int fiction in which he asked readers how they visualized the whi te house, . learing, with a "field" as meaning a kind of oversized lawn (like many country houses have), unkempt and returning to nature (which goes well with a house that has been board ed up) . a ilbox with a house Clearly, there is no single right way to see the house. Different players (or the same player at different times) picture the house differently according to their repertories of visual and other sensory experience. This is true even though the game does provide a slightly more specific visual account of the house: the command EXAMINE HOUSE s painted white. It is 14 Even this more explicit description is not necessarily enough to override or replace mental images that players conjure up on reading the more famous incomplete description of the house (especially 14 I had never thought to try this command b efore reading the thread, probably because I saw the house as a scenic backdrop rather than an object that could be interacted with.

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145 false the boarded front door and windows suggest the house has become dilapidated, and it contains only two rooms and an attic). One of Zork st famous objects, the grue, is similarly underdescribed and therefore prompts the player to picture it idiosyncratically. If the avatar enters an unlit by a grue. and d solution to the procedural requirement that the player carry a light source when in dark repres enting movements in total darkness in a text structure in the gameworld or a pattern of play corresponds in a direct way to an underlying attribute of the program, representing it to the player in a form that is Zork described. Unusu ally, the game recognizes the nonstandard command WHAT IS A GRUE. 15 However, the answer to this question, instead of shedding any light on what a grue looks like, only intensifies the sense of mystery created by its strange name: 15 This works because Zork treats WHAT IS and WHAT IS A as synonyms for EXAMINE. Bizarrely, this means that in order for th e command WHAT IS A GRUE to work, there must be a grue object in every room. Therefore, commands like PUSH GRUE work in every room in the game, and produce humorous

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146 The grue is a sinister, lu rking presence in the dark places of the earth. Its favorite diet is adventures, but its insatiable appetite is tempered by its fear of light. No grue has ever been seen by the light of day, and few have survived its fearsome jaws to tell the tale. Because the grue flees instantly when exposed to light, it cannot be described visually. is wonderfully wordlike stubbornly non visual, a signifier with no signified, a legend, an abstract cause of death with unseen 16 In a sense, this is true there is a certain affinity between things and words, as I will discuss below. At this point, however, I also want to suggest that the grue is not jus t a verbal phenomenon but also a visual one, since the player is invited to visualize it. Because the grue is not described, the player is invited to imagine it as resembling his or her own image of a fanged, slavering monster (of course the player will no t necessarily do so). Because the grue is not described, it becomes more frightening than it would be if it were pictured, for the not directly depicted on screen: the p layer imagines it as whatever s/he happens to be most scared of at the moment. The white house, then, is a more evocative and interesting space than comparable spaces in early graphical adventures of the time, while the grue is a scarier monster than the enemies in contemporaneous graphical video games (the ghosts in Pac Man 16 The article that prompted Dou P.J. Hruschak. This article is no longer available online.

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147 for example). 17 graphics technology, spaces in games like Zork are arguably richer and more immersive than spaces in games like Mystery House 18 A still stronger claim could be made, however: that spaces in IF are richer and more immersive than spaces in any possible graphical game, because human imagination is unlimited, whereas graphics, however verisimilar, are nece ssarily subject to some sort of limits on their representational ability. Infocom made precisely this claim in their publicity. A 1983 Infocom advertisement MOST POWERFUL GRAPHICS T ECHNOLOGY. It continues: we produce. And there never will be. We draw our graphics from the limitless imagery of yo ur imagination a screen look like graffiti by comparison. And nobody knows how to unleash your imagination like Infocom. 19 nalities as (Infocom). The claim here is that text is more visually rich and immersive than graphics, bec ause the power of imaginative visualization, elicited by textual mimesis, is unlimited. An image represented graphically on the screen, or on any writing surface whatever, is obviously subject to the limits of the technologies used to produce it. The (deba table) 17 The thief in Zork is also sometimes cited as one of the classic video game villains. 18 Not to mention physically larger. Myste ry House features a much smaller gameworld than a typical Infocom game, presumably because of the greater amount of memory required to store images as compared to text. 19 This is a version of the standard and trite claim that reading requires more imagina tive effort than watching films (or playing video games or reading comic books).

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148 period emphasize the poverty of the computer graphics of the time another Infocom ad from this period displays a crude, pixellated sprite from a competing co graphical video game, followed by the caption WOULD YOU SHELL OUT $1000 TO MATCH WITS WITH THIS? 20 been a c omputer made by man that could handle the images we produce. And there never will be y to see that this claim is highly excessive. 21 In the first place, the domain of conventions the visual vocabulary of her or his culture which are not trivial c IF games have sometimes deliberately, interfered with visualization by employing objects for which the player has no visual referent; for example, in The Gostak (Carl Muck enhoupt 2001) all the nouns (and verbs) in the game text are nonsense words. But a more serious objection is that the sensitivity and vividness of imaginary images vary between players. Even those cognitive scientists who admit the existence of readerly vi suality would hardly claim that all people visualize with equal strength. 22 Indeed, IF is perhaps the only video game genre which is accessible to the blind and the visually 20 21 I thank Phil Sandifer for his assistance in helping me realize this. 22 See Esrock for a detailed study of the scientific debate over the existence and importance of ist and is important.

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149 impaired (thanks to text to speech software), and there is a significant constitue ncy of blind IF players. If such players form a sensuous concept of the gameworld at all, they must do so without reference to its visual aspects. This point helps us realize that despite the frequent visual bias of IF (as explained above), other sensory f aculties also Visual descriptions are only one small part of experiencing a location or an item. Authors should consider all of the senses. Describing the way something uncommon for blind and visually impaired persons to reference what they encountered, or with events and actions that are widely understood or easily experienced (Taylor). In making the claim that IF is more visually rich than graphics, Infocom is therefore both overstating the vividness of imaginary visuality, and ignoring th ose phenomenological therefore, is fantastic in nature, and it relies on assumptions similar to those that rizes the imagination as a site of unbounded creativity: through the use of the imagination, one can create a perfectly vivid picture of anything one wants. Infocom could even have gone further and made another claim that would have strengthened the argume nt of their ad campaign. It could be argued that imaginary images are superior to real images, not because of their respective immersive qualities, but because unlike graphics, imagination is personal The difference between images is that the content of the former varies for each user and is unique to that user. When I play Zork I see my version of the White House. The images I form in my head are not necessarily more transparent or visually pleasurable than the images I see on a screen,

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150 but the former images are my own creation. In forming them I personalize the text, taking a participatory role in its creation. By contrast, in playing Mystery House I see the same hou se every time, and so does everyone who plays the game. When I play a graphical video game, the images on the screen interfere with my ability to form my own images. This critique of graphical video games is an example of a common criticism of the effects of visual media on readerly visuality. Critics of visual media often argue that readerly visuality is an important skill and that it disappears when readers are supplied with preexisting images. In 1951, for example, Ruth Mary Weeks argued that the necess reading and keep clear in mind a large cast of characters, often of unfamiliar types and ing and to reading skill to picture from reading the unfamiliar setting of a story. This also is all done by the film indeed overdone leaving no room for the delightful embroidery one literary visualization as an individual activity, whose princ ipal charm is that it represents For Italo Calvino, this fear is not confined to the limited case of visualizing specific texts, but represents a more generalized cultural concern: We are bombarded today by such a quantity of images that we can no longer distinguish direct experience from what we have seen for a few

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151 seconds on tel evision. The memory is littered with bits and pieces of images, like a rubbish dump, and it is more and more unlikely that any one form among so many will succeed in standing out. If I have included visibility in my list of values to be saved, it is to gi ve warning of the danger we run in losing a basic human faculty: the power of bringing visions into focus with our eyes shut, of bringing forth forms and colors from the lines of black letters on a white page, and in fact of thinking in terms of images. (9 2) For Calvino, the ability to translate text into images, to turn marks on paper into marks on the canvas of the mind, is an indispensable cognitive skill. Therefore, in his novels, uld accustom defined, memorable, and self Zork could be seen as working toward the same sort of pedagogy. The claim that mental images are more personal than graphical images is more nuanced and more persuasive than the claim that mental images are more vivid than graphical images. Yet both claims are equally nave. The mental images I form when reading a text are never entirely mine; the y depend crucially on instructions given by the text, and also on my visual memory, my state of mind, and my repertory of cultural associations. The choice of how to imagine, say, the white house or the grue can never be an entirely free choice. Moreover, on reading the same text on two different occasions, I might form entirely different images. This suggests that mental images do not depend on an immutable core of subjectivity, or that if mental images are subjective in nature, then subjectivity itself is a time bound, mutable phenomenon. Therefore, the premise that the mental images of IF are absolutely personal is another nave claim. logical extension of claims they did make. Combining these two arguments that

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152 mental images are more vivid and more personal we get something close to the graphological view of handwriting. It can therefore be claimed that IF of the commercial era relied on (premises similar to those of ) the graphological concept of handwriting. According to the implicit based games because A) imagination is more vivid than graphics, representing an unbounded power of picturing the world, and B) the pictures that one creates while making IF are absolutely specific to oneself. It remains to be shown, however, that commercial IF deploys a nave fantasy images are m anipulated, made to come to life and to perform practical work. Visualizability white house, or the grue, or even whether I do so at all. Visualization of this sort is not s trictly necessary to gameplay. However, the ability to accurately visualize the gameworld is often essential to meaningful play in IF. 23 When visualizability breaks down that is, when room and object descriptions fail to accurately convey what the avatar can see meaningful play and the ability to traverse the game successfully may be impeded. 24 implemented. If the player tries to interact with such an object, the game is supposed to 23 action within the designed syste m of a game and the system responds to the action. The meaning of an 24 I want to distinguish here between visualizability and visualization Visualizability is a property of the IF text. Visualization is a faculty of the player, which represents one of several possible modes of nonvisual way. This is neces sarily the case with blind IF players, discussed above.

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153 r eply that the object is not important. However, sometimes the game fails to see that her looks very clumsy if, having told the player that the room is decorated with striped (Eve paragraph 15). 25 Such behavior creates a gap between the visual experience of the avatar and the verbal experience of the player. If the player can read represent problem here is that the game has prompted the player to draw a mental picture of a therefore the player An opposite but perhaps more egregious breach of visualizability occurs when the text fails to mention objects that are implemented and that the avatar should be able to see. For example, in +=3 (Da ve Baggett and Carl de Marcken, 1994), the avatar must give three objects to a troll in exchange for the right to cross a bridge. The INVENTORY contains no objects that can be acquired. The solution, not evident to many players, is supplying the missing two items. This solution, though perfectly logical, is cruelly unfair 25 Delightful Wallpaper in which the avatar is an incorporeal ghost, and is thus unable to interact with the titular wallpaper or with any other object. Nonetheless, Plotkin includes many implemented objects in the game and goes to the trouble of including descriptions for all these objects. According to one reviewer, it was precisely these descriptions that made Plotki

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154 because none o f these articles of clothing is mentioned anywhere in the game. 26 In EXAMINE ME. An experienced player would thus conclude that the avatar was wearing nothing important which is to say, her or his clothing are not significant objects in the gameworld because on looking at himself or herself, the avatar sees nothing worth mentioning (e.g., the parser reports nothing worth mentioning). The player would assume that the avatar w mentioned), but that the clothes had no relevance to gameplay. The underlying assumption here arguably a general convention of IF to which +=3 calls attention is that everything important the a vatar can see will be translated into descriptive text. and thus either nonexistent, or irrelevant to the task of traversing the game. In drawing a mental picture of the ga meworld and its objects, the player therefore focuses only on the objects specifically mentioned, because only these objects are worth the effort of picturing. +=3 however, tacitly instructs the player to draw no mental picture or a false mental picture o f the avatar; it neglects to provide the player with information that needs to be incorporated into this imaginary self portrait. Therefore, the player is unable to use this mental picture to facilitate his or her interaction with the game. These example s lead us to an important realization: in IF, ekphrasis is prescriptive In traditional ekphrastic texts, ekphrasis is a self contained, autotelic 26 In fact, this game was created specifically to prove that a puzzle could be simple and logical without being fair. During a debate on the rec.arts.int fiction newsgroup, Baggett asserted that such a puzzle wa s possible, and created +=3 to demonstrate this point.

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155 Salons 27 is invited to visualize the images described by the text, but only for the sake of doing so; the do anything with the images he or she forms. By contrast, the IF player object s in the gameworld. The IF player constructs mental images of the gameworld in order to productively intervene in these mental images, in order to determine how he or she might be able to transform the world that the images represent. In IF, then, the pict do work These are images that do stuff and they are also manual inscriptions, inasmuch as they carry the unique imprint of the IF obeys, and it meets my definition of a fantasy of handwriting a nave fantasy, because it predates the introduction of technologically superior alternatives to IF (i.e., transparent computer graphics), and because, at least in the Infocom era, it was offered in an uncritical, non self that IF involves. Mapping and Writing Playing IF also involves another process that resembles handwriting and that is often essential to the task of completing the game: the task of mapping the gameworld. Most IF games include many rooms or rooms with multiple objects in physical contact with each other. In order to productively interact with the gameworld, the player must possess at least a minimal understanding of the spatial relationships between objects in each room and between the rooms themselves. Some puzzles in text adventures even 27 For a discussion of these particular texts as examples of visual prose, see Wettlaufer, Alexandra K., (Editions Rodopi B.V., 2 003).

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156 require the player to figure out how non contiguous rooms are spatially related. For example, in Zork a treasur e is located in the Drafty Room, but that room is accessible only by a narrow passage that the avatar can get through only by dropping all his/her items, including his/her light source. In order to get a light source into the Drafty Room, the player has to realize that that room is located directly below the Shaft Room, where there is a shaft containing a bucket that can be raised and lowered. Knowing this, the player can go to the Shaft Room, put a light source in the bucket and lower the bucket, then ente r the Drafty Room with an empty inventory and collect the light source. 28 This puzzle depends on realizing how these two rooms, which are separated by many intervening rooms, relate to each other. Such mental operations require constructing a mental or phy sical map, which involves metaphorical or actual handwriting. In playing an IF game especially a game like Adventure and Zork that features a large explorable gameworld the player needs to literally or metaphorically draw a picture of the world. Indeed the very origins of the genre lie in an act of picturing a space. Adventure was created in tandem with a hand line plots of data gathered by Crowther and other cavers with com passes and original version of Adventure was the same artifact as this map (Jerz paras. 7, 61). Early IF players repeated this primal scene of handwriting by creating their own handmade maps of the gameworlds created by Crowther and others. As Eve observes, 28 Other puzzles that require similar acts of spatial visualization include the coal mine puzzle in Sorcerer (Steve Meretzky, 1984) and the puzzle of getting a light source upstairs in The Mulldoon Legacy ayer here, not my own experience I admit I used online walkthroughs to solve all these puzzles.

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157 map para. 7), ndful of rooms almost certainly needs to draw a map indicating their spatial relations before attempting to write the game, and players often find it useful to draw schematic maps as : Tracy Kidder noted that one Adventure maps. They consisted of circles, inside of which were scrawled names such as Dirty Passage, Hall of Mists, Hall of the Mountain King . . Webs of lines connected the circles, and eac h line was labeled, some with points of the compass, some with the words up and down. Here and there on the maps were notations (Montfort 2004, n.p.) Two decades later, when I started to play IF extensiv ely, I facilitated my own understanding of IF gameworlds by drawing maps in ink on printer paper, although by that time dedicated IF mapping software was available. Perhaps this explains my sense that the navigation of an IF world is in some sense an inscr iptive act. In its earliest period, IF also involved other forms of literal inscription. Montfort tape, on punchcards, and on print terminals and teletypewriters, with the ir scroll like For example, Crowther wrote Adventure on an ASR 33 Teletype, an interface that operated in a similar way to a typewriter. As described in the introductio n, typewriting seems less embodied removed from handwriting, but also less disembodied than word manual engagement and the appearance of text. Montfort even speculates t hat Crowther may have corrected his code in pen or pencil, as was common at the time: Adventure is likely to have involved not just computational

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158 o riginated in an era when paper, not the screen, was not only the standard medium of human computer interaction but also the standard surface used for reading and writing in general. At its origin, IF was substantially an inscriptive medium, and this fact c ontributes to my perception that playing IF is still, in some way, an act of making images so as to do things with them. Interface Finally, the IF interface is phenomenologically similar to handwriting. As I touched on in my discussion of the grue, words in IF are also things and actions To interact with a thing, the player must name it; to do an action, the player must name that action. Thus, that an object is implemen ted, the player has to notice that that object is mentioned in a room or object description. This is another reason why +=3 know s/he can interact with the shoes, socks, etc., because these words are mentioned nowhere in the g ame. Similarly, in order to play IF effectively, a player needs to know common verbs like LOOK, GET and EXAMINE, and some IF games even include special verbs that can only be used if the player has already learned them. The classic examples here are the ma gic words XYZZY and PLUGH in Adventure which teleport the avatar to the walls on which where they are written. As additional examples, in Arthur Merlin gives the avatar the power to transform into several animals, and the player triggers these transforma tions by using the word CYR. In Once and Future (G. Kevin Wilson, 1998), after the avatar provides assistance to an old man, the man gives magical power is equivalent to learning the word

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159 that triggers that power. 29 The conceit, at least, is that in IF, nouns are things and actions are verbs. In IF, then, to name an action is to do it, which seems to imply that an IF player can do anything s/ he can name. Because the text based parser allows the player to type any word in the Latin alphabet, the player can try any command s/he can think of, and this fact creates a perception that any verb in the English language might potentially be recognized by the game that the range of diegetic operator acts the player can based parser, as Mystery House and K did), the player can only choose from a limited menu by icons). The first such game, Maniac Mansion (1987), offered a list of 15 verbs (Figure 3 3), but in later games the number of available verbs got progressively shorter. In Full Throttle (an eye, a to ngue, a fist or a boot) whose meanings change depending on context (Figure 3 4). In Myst the player can choose an action is by deciding where on the screen to click. 29 This is not strictly true, as the commands just cited only work if the avatar has learned them. In Once and Future Arthur behaves similarly if the player tries to use the CYR command prematurely. Therefore, both these magical powers actually belong to the avatar, rather than the player. However, the (mis)perception still exists that these commands are triggered by the act of typing that to type a command is to enact that command. Note also that these two ly comparable, as one is a command used by the player, while the other is a phrase said by the avatar. See also footnote 9 to p. 136 above.

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160 This comparison suggests that IF gives the player more interactional freedom than in theory far larger. In IF, the player seems to have the ability to do anything. The logical consequence of this (seemingly) unbounded freedom of input is that whatever I do type seems to represent a choice out of an infinite number of equally possible outputs, and that choice must therefore be in some sense a subjective one. The words I type are uniquely my wor ds and actions. And since these words are also actions, playing IF involves making inscriptions that do stuff that come to life, and that simultaneously IF is the s consciously deployed the fantasy of handwriting in these exact terms, although Infocom ads do make claims that verge on such a deployment of the fantasy of handwriting; for ex imagination, because the actions you choose to take in them shape the course of nfocom Incomplete Works somehow inh erent to the IF gaming situation. At least to an inexperienced player, IF seems to offer unlimited interactional and expressive freedom. Again, this is a nave fantasy of handwriting because, of course, IF never allows anything close to perfect interactio nal freedom. In the first place, a given IF parser only ever understands

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161 necessarily represent an extremely limited subset of the verbs in the English language. 30 Thus, in any given IF game, the player is free to attempt any action s/he can name, but only a very small number of actions will have any effect on the game. This is a common source of frustration, as Matt Barton observes: Although adventure games [like] Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork may by the relatively small set of commands recognized by the parser. Indeed, one of t he most common complaints hurled against any adventure game (textual or graphical) is that only one solution to a problem has been implemented, when the player can easily imagine several very plausible alternatives (27). IF games may seem to an uninitiate d player as though they offer unlimited interactional freedom, yet they only ever recognize a very limited subset of all the possible inputs the player might enter. Even when an IF game does accept the verb that the player inputs, it may misunderstand the named after a command that he entered while playing Zork intending it in the sense of This definition of the game did understand in part some objects in the game could accept a screwdriver in this way but n ot as an action that could be applied to grues. Therefore, the game understand. 30 For example, see f or a list of all the standard actions included in the Inform 6 library. Note that some of these actions correspond to many irrelevant to gameplay.

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162 This example demonstrates that in playing IF, the player cannot expect to be able to take any action he or she desires, even though the IF interface seems to offer that ability. But Harpold goes further; he notes that the game properly understood the import acti directed him to play in an appropriate way, which does not include copulating with or insulting the grue. By complaining that Harpold was using commands improperly, the game forced him to adapt his play b an example of recapture; see p. 145 above.) In playing IF, then, a player gradually learns to impose limits on his or her own i nteractional freedom, an implicit contract between player and game develops, in which the player agrees to only use certain standard verbs, if the game agrees to underst and those verbs. At the same time, the game agrees not to require the player to use non standard verbs, at least not without notifying the player of these verbs in advance. Frustrating situations in verb, or when the game requires the player to perform an action, but only accepts a nonstandard verb. 31 Thus, IF never offers players the unbounded freedom associated with the s 31 Th the ending sequences of Once and Future where the demon Jolinaxas throws the avatar to the floor and breaks his leg, damaging the floor in the process. At this point, t he only way the player can win the game is by having the avatar use his other leg to break through the floor. However, in playing the game, I command was KIC verbs that I, as an IF player, expect to have to use.

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163 This is not a bug but a feature. As Karen and Joshua Tanenbaum argue, absolute interactional freedom is not compatible with the specific nature of the gaming situati on, which they understand as defined by productive constraints: I n fact, as Chris Crawford has pointed out, the ultimate interactive narrative software system already exists: Microsoft Word. If the goal of game design was to make games that were simply to ys, bereft of meaning or message, this notion of unrestricted agency would be sufficient. However, we need constraints in order to make interactive experiences meaningful and pleasurable. Most formal definitions of games rely on the presence of rules and c onstraints in order to define and bound the play experience. If the gaming situation depends on the pleasures of playing within rules and overcoming constraints created by others, then absolute interactional freedom the gaming situation, turning a game int o a software toy. Therefore, to the extent that it purports to provide such freedom, the commercial IF game promotes a nave fantasy of handwriting. IF as Nostalgic Fantasy of Handwriting Ekphrasis vs. Graphics In the commercial era, IF was the site of o riginary fantasies of handwriting. With the arrival of sophisticated computer graphics in the mid an object of nostalgia and therefore a site of nostalgic fantasies of handwriting Until about the mid 1980s, IF was superior to graphical video games in terms of its ability to represent a large, immersive gameworld. Graphical video games predate Colossal Cave by at least 15 years, but these games ran on mainframes or dedicated arcade machines. The creation of sophisticated grap hics was beyond the technological capabilities of contemporary home computers. Displaying text was much less difficult. For example, the first commercially successful personal computer was the Osborne 1,

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164 released in 1981. This computer had a monochrome scr een incapable of displaying building with keys, a brass lamp, food and water on the ground would have been out of nomena that could not have been depicted with the graphic resources available (Figure 3 5). IF also had an additional commercial advantage over graphics because of its cross platform nature. Infocom games were designed for the Z er [which] could be implemented on many different platforms, including almost all of the popular well as dedicated gaming machines (Montfort 2005, 126). Since any commerci al computer could display text, all the Infocom games could simultaneously be ported to any new platform simply by writing a new implementor for that platform. The use of graphics, by contrast, would have made cross platform availability an insurmountable obstacle. 32 For these and other reasons, the use of ekphrasis rather than graphics made the e. Over the course of the 1980s, as the graphical capabilities of home computers advanced, the new genre of the graphical adventure gradually rendered IF commercially obsolete. 33 The balance started to shift in favor of graphics after the 1984 release of th e 32 The most sophisti cated treatment of the text rendering capabilities of early video game platforms is Whalen 2008. Note that IF is still much less platform dependent than most graphical video games, which makes IF one of the easiest video game genres to teach. 33 See Montfo historical account by arguing that the commercial era was in fact an anomalous exception to the norm of independent development of IF [19 20].

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165 EGA graphics standard, which could display 16 colors simultaneously (M. Wolf 2008, 84). Mystery House the first graphical adventure, featured crude vector graphics drawn with a light pen, but in (1984), Roberta Williams took advantage of th e advanced rendering capabilities of EGA to create a world with numerous rooms and objects, which was displayed in a limited 3D perspective. From this point on, graphical adventure games were capable of depicting gameworlds analogous to those described in IF: worlds with numerous interconnected rooms, each of which contained numerous stationary and movable objects. Concurrently, the text adventure genre went into a state of commercial decline from which it has never recovered. Infocom stopped producing text based games after 1989, with the sole exception of Zork: The Undiscovered Underground (1997), which was ironically created as publicity for the graphical game Zork Grand Inquisitor The last successor to Infocom, Legend Entertainment, shifted its focus fr om text adventures to graphical adventures in 1993. Since then, for profit commercial text adventure games have been rare, and no contemporary game has come anywhere near the level of popularity formerly enjoyed by Infocom games. 34 It is often claimed that the commercial decline of IF occurred because the primary purpose of IF is to create a simulated, interactive gameworld; when graphics could do was eliminated. David Myers observes that in terms of gameplay After ADVENT [i.e., Adventure ], the adventure genre moved through several superficially distinct forms: the original text adventures; graphic adventures (e.g., Myst ); and third 34 Notable commercially releas Future Boy (2004) and Peter (2002), which was marketed not to dedicated gamers but to history buffs

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166 person graphic adventure s (e.g., ). The differences among these were the result of differences among game signifiers; each employed the same basic signification diegetic operator act s exploring space, acquiring and interacting with objects. Therefore, the purpose of textual descriptions in IF is the same as the purpose of graphics in graphical adventures: to show the player the spaces that the avatar can explore and the objects s/he can interact with. Critics typically assume that graphics serve this purpose more effectively than text, because of the superior transparency of graphics. For example, Espen Aarseth notes: ons of spatial relations than texts, and therefore this migration from text to graphics is natural and all text, at least initially, was the difficulty of doing gra that graphics, if available, would automatically be the preferred option. Julian Dibbell argues along similar lines in a discussion of Adventure : computer gaming. Where players of latter day quests like Myst point and click their way through complex graphical environments of an almost liquid Adventure was strictly hunt and peck its game space nothing more than a collection of laconic text descriptions navigated by means of simple two word commands ("go north," "climb beanstalk," "get coins," "open clam"). (135) Dibbell is dissatisfied with Adventure primarily because its text is written in an extremely sparse style (which is certainly true), rather than because it uses text as such, but his Myst and the bare textuality of Adventure Dibbell damns Adventure with faint praise by implying that it is important less in its own right than as a precursor to other more

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167 notable games. 35 Views like this imply that the gaming industry follows a teleological progression towards ever greater transparency, and that the decline of IF was therefore foreordained. O ideology of transparency as unfortunate, and describe IF nostalgically as having been sacrificed on the altar of progress. Aarseth regrets that the text adventure game, a f somewhat bland trad ition of textual entertainment . was quickly wiped out by 22). IF has now become an object of nostalgia. What all this ignores, however, is that the past two decades have seen an explosion of IF production. The creation of robust IF programming languages such as TADS ( Michael Roberts, 1987) and Inform (Graham Nelson, 1993) enabled individual programmers to write their own IF games. Curses (Graham Nelson, 1993) was a watershed text, serving as proof that individuals could write text adventures comparable in size and soph istication to earlier commercial works. The Usenet groups rec.arts.int fiction (created 1987) and rec.games.int fiction (created 1993) and the Interactive Fiction Archive (founded in 1992 by Volker Blasius and Dave Baggett) offered forums 35 installment in the Strong Bad Email series appearing on homestarrunner.com. On being asked what it would be like if he were in a video game, Strong Bad describes several old fashioned video games about him, the last of which is a text adventu re, Thy Dungeonman Strong Bad characterizes the game as being Thy Dungeonman games were later released, the last of which includes crude graphics. Thy Dungeonman might be read as a parody of or nostalgic homage to text adventures, but it also implies that the text adventure is an archaic genre, a thing of the past which deserves to stay there.

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168 for discussion an d free distribution of examples of this new breed of IF. Contests such as the annual Interactive Fiction Competition (first held in 1995) encouraged the development of new works in the genre. One might easily think that to create IF nowadays is to engage in restorative nostalgia. Indeed, nostalgia for the commercial era has played a significant role in contemporary IF production. A number of post commercial IF games are sequels or 30 different Zork and Enchanter series. 36 Even those games games; for example, it is very common for post commercial IF games to provi de a humorous response to the command XYZZY. 37 In a more abstract sense, any IF game that includes the standard tropes of the text adventure genre (e.g., treasures, a scoring system, a large explorable gameworld, or a fantasy setting) is likely to be percei ved as having been influenced at some level by Adventure and Zork Post commercial IF, then, might be seen as a restorative nostalgic medium which seeks to reverse the teleology of technological progress and return to an earlier era of video game history. As Zach Whalen and Laurie N.F. Taylor argue, this sort of nostalgia plays an important role in daily life becomes more sa turated with media techn ology, . early video games ha ve also become objects of nostalgia in that their low resolution aesthetics have come to be 36 Notable examples include The Meteor, the Stone and a Long Glass of Sherbet (Graham Nelson, 1996); Spiritwrak (D.S. Yu, 1996); Frobozz Magic Support (N ate Cull, 1996); Zero Sum Game (Cody Sandifer, 1997); and Enlightenment (Taro Ogawa, 1998). 37 Several hundred examples of such responses are catalogued at .

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169 aspects of IF would be one of the things for which contemporary IF authors and pl ayers are nostalgic. However, contemporary IF also often seeks to do something more than to trigger intentions. As discussed above, IF is now widely understood as a form of electronic literature, and IF games are often included in the developing canon of the latter genre; for example, IF games were included in both volumes of the anthology The Electronic Literature Collection 38 From being a commercial genre, IF has now bec ome, at least in part, an artistic or auteurist genre. IF authors now develop their works primarily for an audience of connoisseurs and of fellow IF authors, meaning that IF now follows what Bourdieu calls the autonomous principle of hierarchization (38); in simpler though obviously more reductive terms, IF has become an art that is practiced for its own sake. 39 If IF has become an auteur oriented medium, however, then that means it has to confront the question of its artistic legitimacy. IF can n o longer justify its existence on the grounds of the superior transparency of text as compared to images. It is usually conceded that graphics are now the more effective medium in terms of mimesis or transparency it seems counterintuitive to claim that Z ork offers a more vivid, immersive visual experience than Myst let alone more modern games like Grand Theft Auto IV or Final Fantasy XIII Alternative justifications must therefore be found for 38 See for example . 39 I make this point here only as a way of introducing the argument that follows. However, in future signifier of literariness.

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170 eschewing the use of graphics. In order to establish IF as a viable mode of artistic production, contemporary IF authors need (or believe they need) to show that text still has advantages over graphics, that text has affordances that graphics lack. I now want to argue that one way in which IF authors have sought to do this is by appealing to reflective fantasies of handwriting (though not, of course, in those precise terms). Compared to graphical video games, IF seems more conformable to certain privileged values such as subjectivity, personality and authenticity. Y et for precisely this reason, IF can be a way of encouraging players to think critically about these values and about their continuing importance in the contemporary era. I will demonstrate this with close readings of two post commercial IF works, Emily Sh City of Secrets and Ad Verbum I will argue that these games deploy critical fantasies of handwriting on two levels: respectively, the level of readerly visualization and the level of the IF interface. 40 City of Secrets and Ekphrasis Emily Short is among the most prominent IF authors of the post commercial era, having won the 2006 Interactive Fiction Competition and multiple XYZZY Awards. known work is her first game, Galatea (2000), which was included in the ori ginal Electronic Literature Collection and which could be described as a an animated statue. City of Secrets demonstration of her approach to IF visuality. The game was commissioned by a San 40 In Kashtan 2011, which derives from an earlier version of this material, I came to somewhat different conclusions about Ad Verbum

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171 Francisco musical group called Secret Secret, who provided Short with the basic plot, but Short finished the game on her own initiative when the commission fell through. City of Secrets is a game about spaces. The game takes place in a fictional world which bears some resemblance to the real world, but is clearly not the real world, as demonstrated by the fact that magic works. 41 The avatar in this game is a factory worker who is traveling to p ass the time until the next train leaves by seeing the local sights. Slightly later, the player is asked to locate a female rebel named Evaine, who is believed to be in the collect the objects located in a space, but merely to explore that space. Whereas the puzzles in a typical text adventure involve figuring out how to acquire objects, the puzzles in City of Secrets (which are deliberately simple, as this game was designed for beginning players) usually involve overcoming barriers to further exploration. The primary reward the player gets for solving these puzzles is the ability to explore previously unseen tourist destination, a place of great historical and cultural importance. Moreover, as an imaginary space, the City is just as unfamiliar to the player as it is to the avatar (if not more so), and therefore 41 For example, the bathroom in the hotel contains some complementary toiletry items. Most of these are unremarkable, but instead of a tube of toot p aint your front teeth meticulously with the polish. And now your canines literally twinkle when you smile. uncanny sense that the gameworld is superficially similar to the real world, yet operates by fundamentally different rules.

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172 the player is motivated by the same desire as th e avatar: to experience this unfamiliar and interesting place. To create a game like this seems like an odd decision, if we adhere to the argument that text is inferior to graphics in its ability to create immersive, mimetic representations of an explorab le, immersive gameworld. For example, City of Secrets came out two years after Grand Theft Auto III which featured a similar emphasis on spatial exploration and unlocking barriers to additional exploration, but which also featured state of the art graphic s. 42 Why bother representing a gameworld in words, when representing a gameworld is what graphics do best? This is the same sort of question that confronts contemporary ekphrastic poetry. Scholars of ekphrasis have often seen this trope as a means by which poetry, and verbal art in general, asserts its artistic legitimacy and cultural relevance relative to visual art. James Heffernan theorizes ekphrasis in terms of the paragone the struggle for supremacy between word and image (136). W.J.T. Mitchell argues that ekphrasis is the genre in which text (in the narrow sense given above) confronts its other: those rival, alien modes of representation called the visual, graphic, p suggest a less competitive relation between the so called sister arts: it may be or friendship, the models, however, ekphrastic literature expresses a certain anxiety about the value of 42 See Whalen 2006 for a detailed examination of spatiality in the Grand Theft Auto series (specifically Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas [2004]).

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173 words, a doubt as to whether words can do anything that images c (1). Moreover, in the present cultural moment, ekphrasis and visually oriented writing in general may express a certain anxiety for an earlier time when the cultural power of the image was less than it is now. Ekphrastic literature h as perhaps always been both as arbitrary and with a sensuous lack, is a disadvantag ed medium in need of emulating although he adds that r to increase in ubiquity and mimetic power, the more unequal the terms of this relation become. Loizeaux observes that twentieth the growing cultural importance of the image: The wi despread presence of ekphrasis in twentieth century poetry can be understood as both a response to and a participant in what W.J.T. Mitchell images that began in the late nineteenth century with the advent of photography and then film, and has accelerated since the mid twentieth century with the invention of television and, now, digital media. Excited and haunted poets hav e taken up ekphrasis as a way of engaging and understanding their allure and force. (3 4) At the same time that images have attained unprecedented cultural power, poetry has t

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174 confrontation with the image now becomes a way of justifying the continued appeal of poetry, if not its very existence. An obvious motivation behind this project of self definition is the desire to justify the continued existence of ekphrastic poetry (if not of poetry itself) now that the commercial and cultural importance of poetry have been usurped by visual media. One way to argue for the continued importance of visually argue that the images prompted by ekphrastic or descriptive texts are different in kind, not degree, from the images of visual media. This might entail claiming that ekphratic or her mind, and that by virtue of this means of production, such images are fundamentally different from the pre rendered images that are provided by works of visual media. ument, but they made this argument in a nave way, by claiming that mental pictures are more vivid and immersive than real pictures. I noted above (page 149 ) that this makes little intuitive City of Secrets offers a richer visual experience than Grand Theft Auto III Presumably most people are neither able nor inclined to create mental pictures that rival the transparency of contemporary computer graphics. Generally speaking, mental pictures are just not that vivid. At least in my experience, they are flickering and inconsistent; they are there one instant and gone the next. They are difficult to retain in memory, and seem to lack the level of detail found in photographs or computer graphics. 43 43 Whether this was always the case i s an intriguing question which is outside the scope of the present study. The classical technique of artificial memory involved the memorization of large and

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175 But perhaps what readerly images lack in vividness, they make up in personality. Readerly images may not be as vivid as direct perception, but they are specific to the individual reader: every reader of a given text sees something different. This is the point that Peter Schwenger emphasizes in his study of readerly visuality: that readerly images instructions as to what to visualize. to Elaine Scarry, imperatives that are often instructions to produce mental pictures. Yet no matter how detailed or precise those instructions may be, ory pictures, an obbligato of the unconscious, of memory and desire (Schwenger 4). (p. 150 above), and Schwenger supports this claim, suggesting that readerly images visuality is not a matter of personal choice summon images to my mind; rather, they seem to come of their own accord. As Calvino observes, writers from Dante to Douglas Hofstdter have observed that mental images var ious, often fanciful, conjectures as to where such images come from. Presumably, extensive artificial spaces (e.g. palaces) filled with a wide variety of objects. It's difficult t o imagine to try to imagine the memory of a trained orator of that period as architecturally built up with orders of memorised places stocked with images in however, is the feat of accurately visualizing all these places and images. A logical hypothesis is that the development of writing must somehow have made such vivid visualization unnecessary but I am not able here to explore this hypothesis further.

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176 8 2). But these images seem to come to mind of their own accord, and not as the result of a conscious act of will. Schwenger further complicates the claim that mental images are personal by arguing that mental images are also authorially determined. They de pend on the site of a complex and shifting encounter between authorial instructions and readerly visuality. Schwenger devotes an entire chapter to the uncanniness of the process in which readers give up part of their authentic selfhood to enter into the literary killed by the protagonists of the book he is reading, is a figure for the u ncanny absorption that reading involves (Schwenger 12); Schwenger also compares the reading experience to ghostly possession. At the same time, however, the reader never entirely aced at the service of an other, a fictional character that they become, though only up to a point. Neither one nor the other, readers are that third thing that hovers and hesitates, experience sufficiently vivid or insistent as to interfere with the process of readerly visualization, and this claim is also applicable to authorially supplied graphical images Roberta Mystery House Myst Readerly visuality, then, is like handwriting writing on a palimpsest. 44 44 comparable to? To ink inscribed on fresh paper. One who learns Torah in his old age, what is this

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177 In that case, if IF has any advantage over graphical video games in terms of visualizing activity to a lesser degree than graphical video games do. Although this is more a difference of degree than of kind, it suggests that IF can potentially be more effective than graphical games in facilitating an encounter between authorial alize, and more generally between the subjectivity of the author and that of the reader. In the room and object descriptions in City of Secrets Short tries to facilitate such an encounter. Her descriptive language is precise and detailed, but also delibe rately limited in terms of what it reveals. However, by deliberately limiting the visual information she provides, Short encourages the player to supply this information by exercising the faculty of readerly visuality. For example: Sun Court The courtyard is paved in stone, and inlaid at the center with a wheeling gold sun. Streets lead out north and south, and a narrow alley west. On every side the buildings rear back, all metalwork and awnings at the lower levels, sheer plaster above. The most magnific ent, however, is the white stone temple at the east side of the court, many stories high and faced with columns and statues. (Figure 3 6) This description accomplishes the practical purpose an IF room description: it enumerates the exits from the room and the implemented objects in it, thereby making ultraprecise; it provides insufficient information to permit the player to visualize exactly Pirkei Avot 4:20). The analogy, of course, is that the reception of new information is always conditioned by information already present. A more recent metaphor for the non

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178 what these spaces look like. Short declines to describe the architectural style of the buildings or to specify the number of buildings or the things depicted in the statues. This descriptions which a re obsessively detailed. Her 2000 game Metamorphoses for example, contains a number of murals which can be both examined and looked at through a magnifying glass, revealing additional details which can themselves be M etamorphoses I did think of what I was doing as the scenery, especially the murals: I was trying to capture a little of the sense, found in Ovid and Catullus, that work 45 In City of Secrets however, that the omission of details from the text creates gaps to f which, as Schwenger argues, operates on a visual as well as a propositional level: Of ld also be panels (66 68). 46 If the concept of closure was designed to account for texts that consist of 45 This post was a response to a blog post in which Nick Montfort discussed my paper at the 2009 and Short for their generous assistance with my work, including permission to reproduce images from their games. 46 Douglass claims that closure operates in IF at the level of the command line, where the player an attempt (which may be frustrated) to discover or solve the gap between the current state of the

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179 sequences of images, then it applies to the IF text insofar as IF, as encountered by the player, involves precisely such a sequence: in playing IF the player is p resented with a series of visual experiences translated into verbal terms. Closure is what sutures the gaps in this sequence of disparate images. However we define this process, clearly it operates in a different way for each individual player. Even if Sho example, however Short described the Sun Court temple, I would inevitably imagine it as looking like the U.S. Capi tol; another player, however, might imagine it as resembling visualizes, because these descriptions are not just sober, objective accounts of what the avatar sees. (An example of such a description would be a heraldic blazon or the set of impartial, objective commands as to how a given image ought to be realized.) often deliberately imprecise, emphasizing the affect and the atmosphere of a place rather than its exact visual appearance. For example, a bar called Scheherazade is described as follows: Despite the light that leaks in through the windows, the place seem s to be trying for a dark and anonymous ambiance, with high backed booths and wood paneling, a ceiling painted black, and hanging swatches of brocaded shady past as an outpost of thi eves and smugglers on the Vuine. retrospective (it operates only after the second panel is read) whereas closure in IF is prospective acting to fill a gap involved in IF; it operates to connect adjacent room or object descriptions, or even adjacent pieces of visual information in a single room or object description.

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180 The few details that Short does provide the black ceiling, high backed booths, and purple velvet player is invited to fill in the remaining details in his or her own way. The decorations, ambiance: it is a place of darkness, of secrecy and anonymity, a hideout for outlaws or at least for people who have something to concea l. A description like this is effective because of what it leaves out as well as what it is not employed for its own sake. The purpose of details in IF prose is to give the player the information he or she needs to complete the game. Players are expected not just to process the details but to use them as a guide for how to interact affectively with the distracting and tiresome. Short explains, however, that detail can do something else: Some of the most effective writers of mood create their effect not with a large number of common details (the flowers are red, the door is yellow, etc) but with a small number of very particular ones; and I think that that is especially true in IF. Words in interactive fiction individually carry more weight than they carry in static prose, if only because of the amount of closer to poetry than to conventional prose: it is worth taking more time to select fewer words, because each one will be inspected t loupe. (paras. 19, 20) Short suggests here that the purpose of details in IF is not to create a vivid, immediate and sensuously present mental picture of a scene, but to suggest the mood associated with that scene. Short does this by pro viding sparse but carefully selected details, which serve the player as building blocks around which a more complex and personal vision of

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181 the scene can be created. 47 looks like, but she provides us with affective lenses that we can apply to our own graphical video games, but to activate a mode of visuality which is affectively rather than sensuously vivid. 48 Ekph rasis has been used for this purpose since ancient times: (qtd. in Koelb 29). F or ancient rhetoricians, ekphrasis was not a transparent means of visual representation but a tool for augmenting the emotional resonance of the described scene. City of Secrets suggests that this effect becomes, if anything, more potent when the described scene is an interactive one. 49 about how the avatar is affected by what is seen, and here it becomes important that the avatar in City of Secrets is an individualized charact er with his own history and background The avatar in most classic Infocom games (and in Ad Verbum ) is merely a cardboard cutout, an empty shell for the player to inhabit. The graphical Zork sequel Zork: Grand Inquisitor (1997) coined the term AFGNCAAP, or Gender 47 48 Excessive use of detail also tends to be considered harmful when it occurs in prose fictio n; overly of detail are among the major factors in which film differs from narrative fiction (48] and this certainly also applies to IF and graphical video games. 49 A version of this process occurs in the science fiction film Inception from his or her memory.

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182 avatar. 50 Because the AFGNCAAP is simply a fictional surrogate for the player, s/he is deliberately deprived of any personal qualities that might make it di fficult for the player to identify with him or her. By contrast, in City of Secrets complete identification with the avatar is not the point. The avatar is not the player, and in playing the game, the player is required to adjust his or her thoughts and ac tions to those of the unfamiliar person s/he inhabits. an elegant job and executed in rich materials, but the design has a facile modern quality that does not entirely appeal in this area of the City, especially the faade painting, these descriptions suggest that the Sun Court is an insincere place. It is recognizably less ancient than it appears to be. of City of Secrets little bit different [as compared to Metamorphoses pe rceptual filters by describing styles and trends rather than straightforward physical player to create mental images that do stuff, that perform work In order to have a satisfying experience with City of Secrets the player must visualize. The player needs 50 See for an extensive list of games (including graphical games) that feature this type of avatar.

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183 game s to understand for himself/herself how different areas in the City are located relative to each other. Because City of Secrets re the player to visualize and to do so in an affective and critical way. In Savoir Faire (2002), a deliberately challenging adventure game, the player has the magical power to create perties of the other or is affected by events that occur to the other. In order to use this power effectively, the player has to observe visual and other similiarities between the two objects, and this may require a minute inspection of the two objects inv olved. For example, the first puzzle in the game is to open a locked door. The description of the A pair of white painted doors that lead into the upstairs corridor of the house. Each door panel is decorated with the family crest, picked out i n ostentatious room the player finds a teapot, whose object description In order to make the linkages possible, however, it has been painted a glossy white, and th e crest of the doors to the teapot, then open the lid of the teapot, causing the doors to open. This works because the teapot and the doors are both white, openable and decorated with the same crest. 51 To notice these similarities, the player has to read both these object descriptions carefully. The player might conceivably do this without visualizing, but the 51 The same example is used in a different context in Montfort and Mitchell.

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184 fairness of the puzzle depends on the two objects being v isualizable. In this case, then, Short requires the player to create mental images for the practical purpose of deciding irected toward a goal. Sh ort is deploying reflective fantasy of handwriting because of the crucial way in which Short acknowledges the non self games emphasize the way in which readerly visuality is always conditioned by factors between player and text. If this act of visualization an act of handwriting, then we can infer that handwriting is never a completely free, unconstr ained process (just as IF never allows the player complete interactional freedom); handwriting is a culturally and historically situated process whose execution depends on factors external as well as internal to the player. Short uses various other device s, including graphics, expressive typography and ities of the IF experience. In the first place, City of Secrets includes a frame containing images, located to the left of the main gameplay window. However, these images are more suggestive or symbolic than mimetic. They suggest the dominant mood or tonal ity of the scene the player is witnessing, rather than

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185 showing anything in that scene. Accordingly, Jeremy Douglass calls the images in this 6, for example, we see a stylized representation of the sun against depict anything in the Sun Court, except perhaps the sun symbol on the pavement, but it suggests the offputting, blinding sunniness of the scene. What we get here is a complex, synaesthetic interplay between the images described in the text and the images that the text is Furthermore, City of Secrets attends City of Secrets allows the player to change the font, text color and other such options, the title screen and the left hand window include text w hich is not affected by these changes (Figure 3 7). Without speculating on the precise associations of this font, I merely note that it was chosen deliberately. The player enters this game through the threshold of an image which is primarily composed of te xtual signifiers, yet contrary to my commonsensical City of Secrets was an even more material and visual experien ce than it is now. On releasing the game, Short offered players the opportunity to purchase a special edition of the game that came with a journals, maps, and artifacts, bu (Douglass 392). Commercial IF games were physical artifacts floppy discs packaged in boxes and sold in brick and mortar stores and the inclusion of feelies further

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186 intensified the physicality of those objects. 52 This physical side of the IF experience was lost when IF moved to a digital model of distribution. Seeing this as an unfortunate development, Short helped to create a website, feelies.org, that produced and distributed feelies for contempor ary works of IF: feelies.org started with a conversation that I had with some of my friends in the IF community, about how the one aspect of commercial IF we really missed (as players) was the feelies. Some modern IF comes with "virtual feelies" PDF fil es or fake Websites or whatever that are distributed in a Zip file with the game and I like those, but we were also missing the tangible physical objects. (Loguidice n.p.) The City of Secrets including map, digitally dried liontail in a labeled plastic bag, contained in velvet and/or satin gift bag from Light Rail from Valodsci not purchase the paper feelies, Short also created an online website for the Southern Light Rail company. 53 This website prominently features the sa me font used in the The fact that Short paid so much attention to the physical and material aspects of City of Secrets indicates that for her, the visual instantiation of an IF game is not an irrelevant cosmetic detail. It directly in experience which is visual in multiple senses. The visuality of City of Secrets results from a collaboration between the preexisting visual memory of the player and the visual 52 Feelies served the additional practical function of copy protection. Infocom games like Sorcerer Leather Goddesses of Phobos and Zork Zero were unsolvable without information which was printed on the feelies, and which, in a pre World Wide Web era, wo uld have been otherwise unavailable. 53 This website is now defunct, but is available via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine at .

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187 details, verbal and graphical, supplied by the author, as focalized through the who, unlike the avatars in Zork and Ad Verbum is a well defined character with a particular personality and history. The visual experience of this game depends on a comp memory, the details the author provides via the protagonist avatar, and the visual imagetextual aspects of the gaming itself. What we learn from the example of City of Secrets is that the arrival of g raphics does not render IF an artistically obsolete medium; IF still has the ability to offer experiences of readerly visuality which are difficult, at least, for graphical video games to provide. However, it no longer makes sense, if it ever did, for IF a uthors to claim that the use of this power, and the material conditions under which this power is exercised. Ad Verbum and Textual Materiality A second way way in which IF responds to the seemingly superior representational capabilities of text is by foregrounding the materia lity of the IF interface. In IF, as discussed above (p. 159 ), writing is equivalent to acting: the name of a thing is equivalent to the thing itself, and typing the name of an action is equivalent to doing the action. T his could be used as evidence for a nave fantasy of handwriting: because IF allows the player to type any word, it must therefore (potentially) enable the player to perform any action. That claim, however, is false, because it creates an unfulfillable pro mise of perfect interactional freedom. More generally speaking, the fantasy that words could be identical to things and actions is a utopian fantasy. It

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188 expresses a wish that the originary split between signifiers and signifieds, revealed in the arbitrarin ess of the signifier, could be healed, and that language could be restored to its Edenic and pre Babelian state. (On this point, see p. 31 above.) Clearly this is an impossible dream, not only because it assumed a prior state of li nguistic plenitude that never actually existed, but also because it denies the importance of language as such: if there were a one to one correspondence between words and things, then what would be the use of poetry? of fantasy of handwriting in a more critical way, by emphasizing the uncanniness of any possible attempt to identify signifiers with signifieds. If an object is identical with its name, for example, then the linguistic for example, the letters it contains must somehow be reflected in the object. And if an object is renamed, it must become a different object. used to express the action, an d if two different verbs are used to describe what appear to be two identical actions, then those actions must not really have been identical. The identity between words and their referents in IF may have confusing and bizarre results. The fact that nouns in IF are things, and verbs are actions, might open up a space for critical reflection on the materiality of language and the linguistically determined nature of our perception of things. Ad Verbum This g ame is similar to a standard adventure game, but its gimmick is that nearly all its puzzles must enter commands according to various linguistic constraints. Exploiting Bolter and

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189 text based computer program, rather than a window into a simulated world. This is evident immediately in the introductory text of the game: With the cantan kerous Wizard of Wordplay evicted from his mansion, the worthless plot can now be redeveloped. The city regulations declare, however, that the rip been removed. plains to you, anyway, as you stand penchant for puzzle solving and your kleptomaniacal tendencies, he hires you for the job. You hop into the bed of his truck, type a few Zs, and arrive boundaries between player and avatar, between typing commands and performing actions. Throughout the game the player is consistently reminded that he or she is simultaneously exploring a diegetic world, and typing commands in response to verbal descriptions. Some of Ad Verbum only manipulation of language. For example, on the first fl oor of the mansion, the player encounters a little boy, Georgie, who refuses to give up his toy dinosaur unless the player can name more dinosaurs than Georgie can. Georgie knows an arbitrarily large number of real dinosaur names, so the solution is to inp ut fake dinosaur names i.e., until Georgie gets frustrated and gives attention to the way in which IF is at one level a p urely linguistic experience. Other puzzles in the game do force the avatar to interact with rooms and objects, but in order to make the avatar do so, the player has to satisfy certain linguistic

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190 output text consists entirely of words starting with a specific letter. For example, the Wee warehouse warily warded wearable wares when wares were within. Wan, whitewas hed walls wait without woolens. Wooden, weathered wainscoting wobbles weakly. Within: . wooden weapon. Obvious commands like TAKE WEAPON are not accepted; if the pl ayer enters a avatar to take the two objects in the room and then leave, using only words beginning with W. ( One solution is WIELD WEAPON, then WHACK WAINSCOTING WITH This constraint applies even to nondiegetic commands like HINT, SAVE, RESTART, RESTORE and QUIT, an d on first entering a constrained room, the player must read a warning alerting him or her to this fact. The game also includes four other constrained rooms, as well as other rooms that behave similarly, such as one which only accepts commands where the no un and the verb are spelled identically. The constrained rooms call attention to the fact that the world of this game is a linguistic construct, a tissue of words and letters. Of course, this is true in a sense of the diegetic world of any IF game: the wh ite house in Zork

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191 the language that describes it. 54 Ad Verbum the linguistic nature of the IF gameworld. Since the spaces of Ad Verbum are called into that these spaces can have linguistic properties, like the property of only containing objects that start with W. In an earlier version of this project, I argued that by virtue of being defined in purely verbal terms, these spaces resist translation into images. What would a room given object may have various possible names. W e might imagine a space based on the physical form of a letter for example, an S room where the walls, ceiling and furniture have sinuous, snaky curves, or a V room full of sharp, severe triangles. However, the constrained rooms in Ad Verbum are organize d according to the linguistic, not the visual, properties of their corresponding letters. These are entirely linguistic spaces. In Ad Verbum a letter is defined purely in relational terms, as a member of a set with 26 members. Ad Verbum is thus resistant to the sort of typographic manipulation we encountered in Felix (and will encounter in Scott Pilgrim or Monsters, Inc. ). As Edmond Chang argues in an unpublished essay, Ad Verbum is, at some level, about the materiality of language; it shows that words hav e shape, words have weight, words have materiality. Ad Verbum recognizes that the player is reading and typing, that words describe places, spaces, things, and actions, that the player is the adventurer, that 54 To this extent, room descript ions in IF games are what John Hollander calls notional ekphrases 1995, 4].

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192 the adventurer is seeing, taking, touching, doi ng, and moving, and that through all of it, the words occupy literal, figurative, and cyber dimensions. 55 Language in Ad Verbum is not material in the same way as language is material in, say, Felix the Cat or in avant garde Modernist typography or in Rimb In those texts, letters have sensuous and material substance; letters are objects in the sense of occupying space in the world or having physically perceptible properties. Ad Verbum however, does not attend to the sensuous, material substratum of letters; it seems to indicate that letters and words are pure signifiers, the material instantiation of which is irrelevant. (This perception is supported by the fact that unlike City of Secrets Ad Verbum includes no graphics, feelies or sp ecial fonts.) To put this another way, in Ad Verbum it seems as though the act of writing is purely an act of manipulating signifiers, not an act of manually producing signifying marks on a writing surface. We could, then, argue, that the spaces and obje cts of Ad Verbum are fundamentally resistant to visualization. And to an extent, this is true. Ad Verbum employs the trope that James Heffernan, a scholar of ekphrastic poetry, describes as the trope of representational friction, in which the ekphrastic po em calls attention to the artificiality of the artwork it describes (4, 18 ploughmen] and looked like earth that has been plough Heffernan 2004 19]. At the same time that Homer celebrates the amazing power of art to reproduce reality, he reminds the reader that the work of art is ontologically dissimilar to the reality it reproduces. Homer celebrate . 55 The original URL for this essay is no longer valid, but it can be acce ssed through the Internet Wayback Machine at .

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193 (Heffernan 19). Because the shield is made of gold, not dirt, it can represent dirt only via artifice and convention. By analogy, because poetry is made of language, it can represent images or things only through a similar artifice. Representational friction, thus, is a trope that foregrounds the d issimilarity between the descriptive poem and what it describes. It reminds the reader that the poem is a poem, not a painting or sculpture: that the reader is not beholding a physically present picture, but imagining a picture based on his or her interpre tation of graphic signifers. Representational friction reminds the reader of the nature of the activity he or she performs in reading a poem. Therefore, representational friction serves as a useful device for defining the specificity of poetry as distinct from painting and sculpture, and in Ad Verbum Montfort seems to be using representational friction for a similar purpose. In Ad Verbum linguistic constraints and guess the verb puzzles serve to define the specificity of IF as opposed to graphical video graphics are more effective in some ways than words at representing the contents of games in terms of tran commercial appeal of graphical games. However, Montfort seeks to claim for IF another type of legitimacy in terms of aesthetic or academic appeal. Montfort does this by stressing that the visual an d spatial aspects of IF are metaphorical, not literal, because IF is a fundamentally linguistic medium. IF is an independent and aesthetically legitimate medium because of, not despite, its lack of graphics. Contemporary IF is not

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194 an atavistic throwback to the era before the graphical video game, but an artistic medium in its own right. By characterizing IF as a textual medium, Montfort is also able to connect Ad Verbum to earlier, more canonical forms of ludic textuality. Thus, Ad Verbum contains explicit Alphabetical Africa La Disparition and in Twisty Little Passages Montfort argues that the predecessors of IF include works of potential literature such as Raymond C ent mille milliards de pomes Composition no. 1 (71). These comparisons both connect IF to a preexisting avant garde cultural tradition, and suggest that Ad Verbum electro nic textuality. According to Terry Harpold, literary texts of the type just mentioned are examples of what Jean Grard Laplacherie calls grammatexts 89). With some modi fication, the concept of grammatext is also applicable to digital texts. Thus, Harpold places Ad Verbum characterized by structures corresponding to the (ideally) nonfigurative traits of alphabetic glyp Ad Verbum : Gameplay in the [constrained] rooms is alphabetically determined both in that the lipogrammatic constraint enforces a patterning of text generated by the gam e independent of its narrative or mimetic signification. (107)

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195 On this reading, Ad Verbum from its meaning. To this extent, Ad Verbum deconstructs the standard conceit that serves as the foundat to things or actions. Like the Oulipian authors whom he claims as influences, Montfort conceives of literature (in this case electronic literature) not as a vehicle for the communication of transcendent meanings, but as the result of a process of manipulating signifiers. Furthermore, Ad Verbum other common fantasy of handwriting in IF, which holds that writing is equivalent to doing, and that the unconstrained nature of the IF interface is indicative of absolute freedom of action in this game, Montfort reminds the player that all other works of IF are equally constrained, albeit in less obvious ways. This is in keeping with the Oulipian principle that all writing is constrained writing, at least in the minimal sense that all creative expression, but merely operates within a system of pregiven rules and constraints. Without denying the validity of such a reading of Ad Verbum I want to suggest that simple debunking of the nave fantasy of handwriting. At the same time that the reflective fantasy denies the possibility of any scenario in which wor ds literally come to life and become things, it also acknowledges the intuitively appealing nature of such a scenario. Thus, I contend that Ad Verbum depends on the fantasy of handwriting as well

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196 as debunking it. According to an orthodox reading, Ad Verbum discourages the player from visualizing and reminds the player that in IF, nouns are not things and verbs are not actions. But suppose we ignore this reminder and assume that in Ad Verbum the standard conceit of IF does apply, and that rooms and object d escriptions do represent translations into words of what the avatar sees. We must then conclude that in Ad Verbum unlike in the real world, the linguistic structure of an object or action is phenomenally perceptible. Objects in the Ad Verbum world are li nguistic in nature, and subject to linguistic manipulation. After clearing out the Sloppy Salon, the player is stuck with a sofa which is too heavy to move down the stairs to the dumpster. Luckily, elsewhere in the game the player finds a verbosifier, a de vice whose function is to change the name of a piece of furniture to a synonymous name which is one letter longer. By applying the verbosifier to the sofa, the player changes it successively into a couch, a daybed, a sofabed, and a loveseat. Each of these changes affects not just the name of the object but also its identity, so when the object becomes a loveseat, it also becomes small and light enough for the avatar to carry it down the stairs and throw it into the dumpster. In this world, then, objects are identical with their names, and the Ad Verbum be structured in such a way that their linguistic properties are phenomenologically perceptible. We Ad Verbum avatar can if we accept the conceit that IF room descriptions are verbal representations of what the avatar sees. I have argued elsewhere that Ad Verbum simply debunks this Ad Verbum follows this conceit, and then to f ollow this assumption to its logical conclusion. Perhaps the Wizard

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197 same name), where, say, a chair is literally made up of the letters C, H, A, I and R. Or perhaps obje because Ad Verbum confronts me with the true mysteriousness of the relation between words an d things. Another game that accomplishes uncanny effects through similar means is Earl Grey (Adam Parrish and Rob Dubbin, 2009), in which the player has the magical power to remove or add letters to words or rearrange the order of letters in a word. (These actions are triggered, respectively, by the special verbs KNOCK, CALL and STEEP). Doing any of these things produces corresponding changes in the objects described by the words. For example, at one point the player enters a room with a painting of a cave mouth on the wall and a piece of paper lying on the floor. The player must KNOCK the mouth, turning it into a painting of a cave moth. The player then acquires the letter U and can CAST it into the paper, which becomes a pauper. This mechanic suggests that within the diegesis of this game, at the same time that objects are made of flesh and blood, stone, paper, etc., they are also made of language The to its humor and a lso its scariness. Later in the game, having been injured, the player Owing to its medical nature, it hovers above the groun language is identical to being, then anything that we can name, we can also create

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198 Moreover, in A d Verbum not only words but actions are identical with their names. The standard conceit in IF is that when the player types a command, this is equivalent s the enter key, I may imagine that my avatar reaches out his or her hand and takes the lantern. Of course, what actually happens is that the game program succeed or n ot in the present condition of gameplay. If it can succeed, the lantern is And at some level, I know this; I realize that typing is not the same as acting. But in Ad Ver bum literally is to take that action. For example, one puzzle requires the avatar to acquire four books using commands that follow the linguistic constraints used in the text of th e second word starts with B, and so on. If the player tries to take these books using in Possible solutions include ACQUIRE BOOK and LIFT CASING. 56 In the context of obtaining a book, the words TAKE, GET, HOLD, and UPROOT all describe the same action. When I pick up a b ook, I can use any of these verbs Ad Verbum that governs the books will accept only some of these actions and not others. The force 56 La Disparition ABC words, which is the most common length of an IF comm and.

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199 allows the avatar to rip the casing or uproot the copybook but not take or get them, even though the four actions are not semantically distinguishable and can all be visualized in the same way. Here Montfort is deliber ately subjecting the player to the avatar to do, but has difficulty finding the specific verb that tells the avatar to do it. When this phenomenon occurs in games, playe rs typically see it a design flaw, because it violates the logic of transparency. In real life, if one knows what one wants to do and if one is physically capable of doing it, one can simply do it. Knowledge of the name of the action is not required. For e xample, if I want to heat some water so that it Ad Verbum this logic does not apply; performing an action entails knowing its name, and seemingly synonymous actions with di difficult to imagine how this might work. Maybe actions taken in the Wizard of of comic book sound effects. 57 In any ev ent, here Ad Verbum again confronts us with the bizarre implications of the premise that typing is equivalent to acting. These implications can be extended further. For example, what if a dyslexic person or a preverbal child were to enter the Wizard of Wor unable to successfully execute any action at all? 57 See for a discussion of non sonic sound effects, accompanied by numerous examples. This topic will come up again in my analysis of the Scott Pilgrim comic.

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200 As I argued in the introduction, one of the functions of the fantasy of handwriting is to heal the constitutive gap in language, to create a reassuring vision of a wor ld where language is not alienated from being and where linguistic ambiguity, equivocation and misunderstanding are not possible. The fantasy of handwriting plays on our nostalgic desire to return to an Edenic condition of language, where to name an action is to do it, and where an object and its name are one. However, my reading of Ad Verbum suggests that if we could return to such a pre Saussurean condition of language, we would be unable to recognize it. The gap between language and being is created, it can only be sutured, and not retroactively healed. To the extent that Ad Verbum simultaneously acknowledges and critiques this desire for linguistic plenitude, it expresses a reflective fantasy of handwriting. In conclusion, these two case studies show th IF, but it does force IF to adapt, and one way that IF can do so is by appealing to the reflective fantasy of handwriting. When facing competition from graphics, IF can no longer navely claim to offer perfectly tran sparent visuality or complete interactional freedom. What it can do, however, is acknowledge the desire for these things while simultaneously acknowledging the unsatisfiability of this desire. In the next chapter, I suggest that a similar pattern is at wor k in another traditional medium that now confronts the challenge of graphics: the alternative comic.

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201 Figure 3 1. Screenshot from Ad Verbum Reproduced by permission of the author. Figure 3 Ad Verbum but with a different fon t, font color and background color. Reproduced by permission of the author.

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202 Figure 3 3. Screenshot from Maniac Mansion (LucasArts, 1987). Note the menu of twelve verbs/actions. Figure 3 4. Screenshot from Full Throttle (LucasArts, 1995). Although thi s game uses the same engine as Maniac Mansion it replaces the menu with four icons whose meanings change based on context.

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203 Figure 3 5. Adventure running on an Osborne 1. Originally uploaded by Cetcom. Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Figure 3 6. Screenshot from City of Secrets Reproduced by permission of the author.

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204 Figure 3 7. Screenshot from City of Secrets Note the idiosyncratic font. Reproduced by permission of the author.

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205 CH APTER 4 IT'S ALL LINES ON PA PER, FOLKS: RESTORAT IVE AND REFLECTIVE F ANTASIES OF HANDWRITING IN AL TERNATIVE COMICS Opening Remarks and Literature Review Alternative Comics as Art In this chapter I examine the effect of computer graphics on fantasies of han dwriting in contemporary American alternative comics. In many ways, the argument state, prior to the arrival of computer graphics, the alternative comic, like commercial IF, was ideologically dependent on a nave version of the fantasy of handwriting. As in the case of IF, an appeal to fantasies of handwriting served as a way to establish the artistic legitimacy of the alternative comic, as well as its superiori ty to competing categories of texts (specifically, in this case, commercial comic books). In both cases, handwriting serves as a signifier of literariness and authorship; fantasies of handwriting are invoked in order to prove that IF and alternative comics deserve to be classified as literary and authorial genres. In alternative comics, as in IF, the encounter with computer graphics forces a rethinking of the premises behind the fantasy of handwriting by making it clear that this fantasy is based on false p remises. By confronting the supposed threat of to take a more critical perspective toward the fantasy of handwriting, while also acknowledging the seductiveness of this f antasy. However, although the general contours of my argument are the same in both these cases, the political stakes in each case are different. In a sense, handwriting explicitly matters to alternative cartoonists and their readers in a specific way; it has a particular symbolic resonance for this community that it does not have for IF authors

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206 and players. As I suggested in the last chapter, in the case of IF, the strategy of appealing to the fantasy of handwriting arose as a reaction to the planned obso lescence of the genre, which resulted from technological advances in video game graphics. Handwriting based strategies were initially adopted in IF on primarily commercial and practical grounds. It was only after the commercial collapse of the genre that I F programmers began to regard themselves, and to be regarded by their players, as principally artists or authors, and they appealed to the values associated with handwriting in order to justify their claims to this status. Thus, by the time that IF began t o conceive of itself as an artistically oriented medium or as a form of procedural indeed, these two events were temporally simultaneous and causally linked. A single e vent the arrival of sophisticated computer graphics 1 Thus, the most artistically advanced (or at least, the most self consciously artistic) In the case of alternative comics, on the other hand, the emergence of the medium as an art form is a separate event from the encounter with graphics. Alternative comics evolv level comics, but emerged as a separate category in the early 1980s; the key development that made alternative 1 As mentioned in the previous c hapter, Douglass argues, in opposition to conventional wisdom, The commercialization of IF, while foundational for the later commercial computer games industry, can be recast in this telling as an im portant anomaly, a brief big business deviation from the otherwise constant association of the IF genre would argue that Adventure and its immediate seq uels were not consciously intended as works of art; e.g., Crowther created Adventure as an amusement for his children. By contrast, works of the mature commercial era, including the two that I examined in depth in the previous chapter, often have explicitl y artistic intensions.

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207 comics possible was the rise of comic book specialty shops (Hatfield 2005, 25 26). 2 From the b eginning, the alternative comic defined itself as an artistically oriented medium and opposed itself to the commercial mainstream (i.e., superhero comic books). Indeed, this opposition is the key distinguishing characteristic of the alternative comic, as i ts very name suggests. Alternative comics creators, readers and critics are often indifferent or openly hostile toward mainstream comics (whereas contemporary IF authors and players are often affectionately nostalgic for the Infocom canon). However, when t he alternative comic defined itself as art, it did so by appealing to the nave fantasy of handwriting. Alternative cartoonists claimed to be authors in the same sense as literary authors, in the specific sense that their work preserved the unique trace of their gestural activity. In most comics criticism, this claim goes unchallenged. Critics often have observed that authorship and in comics is a complex matter not reducible to ion still tends to be that the alternative comic acquires authenticity by virtue of its physical In alternative comics, then, the nave fantasy of handwriting serves to guarantee the artistic legitimacy of the genre and to justify the claims of cartoonists to the status of artists. In what follows, I will argue that the encounter with graphics can lead the alternative comic toward a more reflective use of the fantasy of handwriting. In confronting the effects of digital tec hnology upon culture and upon artistic practice, 2 Direct Market, Part Two: Phil S Comic Book Artist 7 (Mar 2000), 116 125. See also Beaty for an account of the rise of a similar avant garde comics culture in Europe.

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208 cartoonists demonstrate the fantastic nature of the premises behind the fantasy of handwriting, but also discover the continuing appeal of that fantasy. Alternative Comics as Literature In a broad and tau tological that are alternative to the mainstream term has been critiqued on the grounds that superhero offerings in non superhero genres). In refer to the specific corpus of material which is published by North American companies like Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly, and which forms the principal subject matter of publications like the Comi cs Journal and conventions like the Small Press Expo. 3 According to historical accounts of comics scholars like Hatfield and of Sabin and Triggs, the alternative comics phenomenon evolved out of the underground comics of the 1960s but was catapulted to pr ominence by the development of the comic book specialty market in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Sabin and Triggs date the alternative comics movement as beginning in 1976 and as still existing at the time of category of comics production is debatable. The standard format of alternative comics 3 material. This the former category only includes a limited, historically and culturally specific body of material. For obvious reasons, I find this d istinction problematic. When I refer to the self conscious artistic intentions of alternative cartoonists, I do not mean to imply that other types of comics are not self consciously artistic, and I have no opinion as to whether such artistic intentions are a necessary or a sufficient criterion for defining something as art.

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209 was the serial comic book distributed through specialty stores, and Hatfield demonstrates that this publishing model crucially shaped both the economic development of the alternative comics industry and the narrative strategies it favored (153 158). However, the alternative comic book has now been largely supplanted by the standalone graphic novel and to a lesser extent the webco mic. Moreover, to a large degree the alternative comics movement has been co opted by the commercial publishing industry. American publishing firms like Random House and Macmillan now have their own graphic novel imprints, which publish work by artists who formerly were or might have been published by Fantagraphics or Drawn & Quarterly. Therefore, in a as well as critical and scholarly attitudes toward comics, have been shaped by the alternative comics movement; when artistically oriented cartoonists make comics, and when academic or journalistic critics write about comics, they operate under the same fr amework of assumptions that governed the alternative comics movement at its peak. Ideologemes associated with alternative comics were in large part the creation of Fantagraphics Books and its publication The Comics Journal (TCJ ). TCJ was the first publica tion to attempt to subject comics to objective aesthetic criticism, according to its editor in chief Gary Groth. In his role as both publisher of Fantagraphics and editor in chief of TCJ Groth played a pivotal role in defining the alternative comics aesth etic (a Fantagraphics: Creadores del Canon i.e., Fantagraphics, Creators of the Canon ). For this reason, my tributions to

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210 Reading Comics which reflects the influence tends to be highly polemical, and often presents a less nuanced view of artistic identity and creativity than we find in some alternative comics criticism or even in the comics offer a stark binary opposition between alternat ive and mainstream comics. However, ways in which the fantasy of handwriting operates in alternative comics, because their writings present this fantasy in its purest form. Although other critics (e.g., Charles Hatfield and Hillary Chute) provide more nuanced and critical accounts of alternative comics, I will suggest that these writers often implicitly rely on weaker forms of the same ritings rely A central goal of the alternative comics movement is to elevate the cultural status of comics and to dispel the prevailing stereotype of comics as lowbrow art appropriate only for children. Practitioners and theorists of alternative cartoonist s seek to establish since the medium of comics first came to the attentio n of highbrow critics in the early 20th century, most such critics have viewed comics as lowbrow art and as primarily intended for children. 4 The rare cases in which cultural elites have embraced comics, Krazy Ka t The Seven Lively Arts 1924, included in Heer and Worcester) are, or are 4 See Heer and Worcester for numerous examples of negative critiques of comics by highbrow cultural critics.

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211 perceived by the alternative comics community as, exceptions to a general disdain for the medium. The stated purpose of the Comics Journal was to change the reading represent the Journal y of the comics form as a bona x). 5 According to Bart Beaty, the contemporary European comics avant rded to artists by other 21, 30 31). T he American alternative comics movement seeks more or less the same thing. Publications like the Comics Journal seek to establish the superiority of the autonomous principle, and alternative comics themselves often participate in the same effort. Attempts to differentiate alternative and mainstream modes of production are often seen in alternative comics themselves, from Maus construction of an alternative comics canon in How to Be an Artist Beaty argues, however, that European avant garde cartoonists seek to legitimate their work by comparing it to visual art, and that in doing so, these cart oonists have 5 This effort entailed making an exaggeratedly sharp distinction between th e comics which the Journal promoted and the comics with which uninitiated readers were familiar. In arguing that their comics Journal conceded the claim that other comics were for kids. Paradoxically, then, the Journal sought (and sti ll seeks) to establish the highbrow credentials of comics by accepting precisely the condemned in the first place.

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212 deliberately declined to appeal to literature as a model for their work. In American comics, the opposite is true. For alternative cartoonists, the quest for legitimation via the autonomous principle often manifests itself as a deliberate effo rt to assimilate comics to literature. 6 However, the comics literature comparison is more often seen in comics Maus became popular, journalistic critics frequently tried to exclude it from the category of comics. Such critics often claimed that comics were a medium for children, and that because Maus was obviously not for children, it needed to be placed into some other category. One of these critics, Lawrence Langer of the New York Times therefore rial literature mine). In making this claim, Langer was echoing Maus cover blurb, which but something quite different. This is a new kind of The identifications of (adult, serious, literary, alternative) comics with literature has scholarly works on 6 The reasons for this cultural difference a re too complex to go into here. Beaty notes that in high/low distinctions the possibility of creating avant however, prior to the rise of the alternative comic there was no significant tradition of viewing comics through the lens of either lit viewed as having serious artistic intent, literature simply seemed like the natural category in which to place comics, given that comics are typically narrative in nature, and that the most widely read alternative comics in America typically employ genres (e.g., autobiography and journalism) that are conventionally associated with literary prose.

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213 Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature (2005) and This Book Contains Graphic Language: Comics as Literature (2007). The authors of both these books, like myself and my advisors, are academi cs based in English departments. Similarly, journals such as ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies first held in 2008) are sponsored by departments of English or comparative literature. At least in North America, literature departments have become the principal disciplinary locations for academic comics studies, rather than, say, departments of art hi story or media studies. As one final example, in the introduction to The Best American Comics Criticism corpus of texts most often discussed by the critical writings in his antho logy (10). In a philosophical discussion of the definition of comics, Aaron Meskin summarized the reasons why literature seems like a natural category in which to include comics: They [i.e., comics] are, after all, typically full of text, commonly found in literature classes, occasionally discussed in academic journals devoted to literature, and often reviewed i n the book review sections of newspapers and magazines. (Meskin n.p.) the works mentions here, Hatfield, Versaci, and Schwartz neither interrogate the category of li terature, nor offer an explicit definition of the term. In a more recent article, Hatfield does address the controversy that developed over his use of the term

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214 comics as literature had more to do with cultural politics than with the inherent nature of the medium. By calling comics literature, Baetens suggested, Hatfield was simply trying to elevate comics to the status of a respectable medium, at the expense of erasing the phenomenological distinctions between the reading of comics and the reading of culture can be subsumed under the rubric of literature, is there any sense in ca lling it Alternative Comics insists on framing comics in literary terms, not in a mere bid for status, but, from my point of view, as an incipient attack from within on hidebound ideas of what literature itself is or should In my view, this response leaves the original objections intact. Hatfield still asserts, without proof, that literature is the proper category in which to situate comics. He holds that if comics are not viewed as happens to have been defined in an excessively narrow way, and not because the term and Beaty suggest might be the case. Hatfield therefore still neglects to explain why it makes sense to view comics through the lens of literature in the first place. Finally, even comics by the same critical standards that they would use to evaluate traditional literary texts. For example, Douglas Wolk explicitly claims that comics are not literature (14), yet as I will discuss below, his standards for evaluating comics are similar to very traditiona l standards for evaluating literature. The question that none of these authors asks is:

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215 What does it mean to say that comics are literature? That is, what sort of assumptions about comics are implicit in this characterization? Authorship in Alternative Co mics I propose that one unexamined assumption behind claims that comics are literature (though hardly the only such assumption) is that comics are authored texts. A widely held unexamined assumption among comics scholars is that a literary text is an autho red text that the literary work is the product of a single, self identical subject. It goes without saying that the unity and singularity of the author have been challenged in academic criticism of literature and other media, but I would suggest that com ics critics have largely neglected this important critical shift and have taken for granted that 7 Therefore, a For example, comics is according to differences between their typical production processes, which correspond to differing conceptions of the creator as author. American commercial comics are typically prod uced on a work made for hire basis, without creator ownership, and involve an assembly line production process where a different person is responsible for each aspect of the comic. A typical mainstream comic book is the creation of a writer, a penciller, a n inker, a colorist, a letterer, and one or more editors. Often all of these are different individuals, and usually none of them has an intellectual property interest in the comic or its characters. Some of them, especially the colorist 7 h of the specific reference to cinema studies.

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216 and letterer, are m ore often viewed as hired help or as craftspeople than as artists in their own right. 8 Writers who sympathize with alternative comics often refer to this productivity deman d of the comics industry necessitates an assembly line approach to production process as Fordist and Taylorist, and as motivated by a desire for efficiency rather than artist ic quality. Creators who work in this assembly line system can and often do become superstars; even some letterers and colorists (e.g., respectively, Todd Klein and Dave Stewart) have achieved star status. However, star creators of mainstream comics are mo re comparable to Hollywood stars than to art cinema auteurs. Their names sell comics, but they themselves are not viewed as the primary creators of those comics. 9 By contrast, alternative comics creators typically do everything themselves, including writin g, artwork, and (crucially, we will see) lettering. Alternative comics creators are also almost always the sole owners of everything they create. This (non)division of labor is often understood as having inherent aesthetic merit, as Wolk explicitly states: [C]omics produced under the sole or chief creative control of a single person of significant skill are more likely to be good (or at least novel enough to be compelling and resonant) than comics produced by a group of people assembly naturally coincides with the observation 8 I suspect that women have been employed in commercial comics as letterers and colorists more often than a s writers, pencillers, or inkers, and that this is related to the lower artistic stature of the former 9 See Wolk 32 34 for a confused discussion of the difference between auteurism in comics and in cinema. A order to adopt the even more essentialist notion of Romantic authorship that I discuss below.

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217 that a comic owned by its creator is more likely to be stylistically adventurous than one produced on a work made for hire basis .(31 32) uch a and artist is acceptable only when one of the two figures is clearly dominant, or when the two creators work together so closely as to become essentially a s ingle creative entity. 10 Harvey Pekar appears to be an exception to this rule, but actually is not. He may not have drawn his own material, but he exercised such creative control and collaborated so closely with his artists that he deserved to be recognized as the sole creator, the author of American Splendor 11 For Wolk, collaborative authorship, when all parties are equally responsible for the outcome, no matter the qualities of the contributions of individual collaborators, is less genuine or authentic th an sole authorship. According to Wolk, the alternative comics author is a singular, self identical author, and this is what makes his or her comics more artistically authentic than those of the mainstream. For critics like Groth and Wolk, the singularity and self identicality of the alternative cartoonist is a function of his or her idiosyncratic style and his or her desire for self we define a hack by his [ sic ] willi ngness to subordinate his talent to purely commercial 10 In a 2007 conference paper, I critiqued this claim for reasons other than the ones I provide here. 11 This is of course an oversimplification, as American Splendor often engages critically with the fact American Splendor face to

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218 dictates, we find that the comics industry has been dominated by hacks since its New Comics was the only time in the history of the comi c book when meaningful change was not the result of predominantly economic motives; the underground cartoonists worked out of an inner need, from the social and cultural matrix, not the economic one. (xi) For Groth, whereas the mainstream cartoonist uses h is or her talent for purely 12 The alternative cartoonist continues the project of the underground cartoonist, using comics as a vehicle for self expression rather than for monetary enrichment. Thus, the alternative cartoonist is defined negatively as one who is unconcerned with financial success or mass appeal, and positively as one whose work expresses his or her personality, subjectivity, or self. Wolk argues along similar more the point of art comics than characters or plot points; they privilege the published at Amazon.com, Wolk expression, and superhero comics are primarily about the characters and their shared fictional history 13 In summary, then, the alternati ve comic is an authored work insofar as A) it is the product of a single, self identical individual, and B) its purpose is to 12 The elit ism and snobbery of this formulation are obvious. See Pustz, M. J. Comic Book Culture: Fanboys and True Believers (Univ Pr of Mississippi, 1999), 98 and the Journal ics readers as snobs. 13 See
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219 to be defined. (Note that these two r easons why the alternative comic is an authored work are analogous to the two cherished properties of handwriting, existence and uniqueness.) This conception of the alternative cartoonist echoes a very traditional concept of literary authorship, and here the common association between alternative comics and literature becomes important: even though critics like Wolk deny that comics are literature, they still rely implicitly on a literary model of authorship. As Janet Staiger explains, the concept of autho rship as self expression has a distinguished history: Coming from Romanticism and the theorizing of John Ruskin, expressive realism is not just the conveyance of a faithful representation of nature; the overflow, utterance or pr expresses feelings (rather than ideas), is mimetic to a internal state of mind rather than the external world, and is its own end. (3 3 34) To this extent, the alternative comics auteur is a throwback to the figure of the Romantic artist conservatism of this concept is a clue to why it proves appealing to critics like Groth and Wolk. Writing about the use of authorship as personality theories in cinema studies, Staiger notes that one major reason for such an authorship approach to cinema is because it allows films to be treated as art. If individuals impart aesthe tically sophisticated insights through movies, then art exists. Conversely, if scholars find such insights in movies, sentient beings are assumed to have put them there. (34)

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220 Personality based theories of authorship define art tautologically as that which proceeds from an artist, i.e., a singular and self identical creative subject. Thus, claiming that the ternative comics have artists, they must be art, which is precisely the point that critics like Groth and Wolk are seeking to demonstrate. The emphasis on the alternative comics auteur as a singular, self identical and temporally consistent figure may hel p explain why autobiography has typically been the dominant genre of alternative comics, as well as one of the most widely discussed genres among comics scholars. 14 Autobiography can be understood, at least navely, as meaning, for example, the idiosyncratic As Hatfield argues, autobiographical comics implicitly purport to be authentic factual representations of the aut autobiographical comics inevitably fail to achieve such factual accuracy, because their honestly acknowledging this, the autobiographical comic promises to be an authentic techniques to us with such self critical candor that implied claims to truth though now bracketed, still inform our reading. These tales bear out Paul 14 On autobiography, besides the references previ ously cited, see Hillary Chute, Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics (Columbia Univ Pr, 2010), which I was not able to read in time to incorporate its insights into this chapter; and Michael Chaney, ed., Graphic Subjects: Critical Esssays on Autobiography and Graphic Novels (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011).

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221 doubt, this radical self quest ioning, reinforces rather than corrodes the the question of trustworthiness to a new level, that of creation. (124 125) Despite its inevitable lack of factual authenticity, the autobiographical comic purports, at least according to a nave understanding of autobiography, to offer a unique mode of access to authorial subjectivity. The appeal of the alternative comic comes from its ity. I now suggest that this subjectivity is a specifically embodied subjectivity. Authorship as Embodiment in Alternative Comics Although this claim is obviously far too complex to be more fully documented here, I would observe that at least since the Ro mantic era, the physical activity of the writer has often been an important signifier of literariness. The Romantic concept of authorship as self expression implies that the author is the sole creator of his or her work, that the work comes into being thro ex nihilo This act of creation is often figured as a physical act. Blake makes a rural pen and stains the power, descending down the Nerves Keats fears that he may cease to be before his pen has gleaned his teeming brain. 15 Moreover, the physical activity of the writer is often mythologized; stories often circulate visitor from Porlock, who interrupt 15 I thank Donald Ault and Judith Page for suggesting some of the above examples.

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222 put away, or covered with a pi Neatness Counts physical writing spaces (e.g., desks) serve as metaphors for the creative activity of writing. 16 In short, then, one mi ght say that the literary author is frequently depicted as a figure who writes by hand whose work is the product of his or her hand as well as his or her heart and mind. This model of literary creation is clearly recognizable as a nave fantasy of handwri ting. It has affinities with the graphological view of handwriting, which identical core of personal identity. Of course, handwriting is only one of many possible metaphors or figures for the poetic act, and even among the Romantics, the image of literature as handwriting st of Wordsworth himself often composed while walking outside and then later dictated his to suggest that the alternative comics community has chosen to emphasize this particular model of authorship, and that the reason is because a model of authorship based on handwriting is particularly well adapted to the political purposes of this communit y. The model of authorship as handwriting implies that the author is a singular, self identical 16 See also D. Chandler, The Act of Writing: A Media Theory Approach (Aberystwyth: Univers ity of Wales), 159.

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223 figure Handwriting guarantees the existence of the author; this is the first of the t wo relevant properties of handwriting that I discussed in the introduction. But handwriting also has another relevant property: it reflects the uniqueness of author idiosyncratic handwriting, the writer reveals that which is particular to him or her. The use of ha ndwriting as a metaphor for authorship therefore also serves to guarantee that alternative comics are about self expression that the alternative cartoonist has a unique self which is distinguishable from that of other people, and that this self is expres sed in his or her comics. This is another key distinction between alternative and a critic like Groth would likely argue that the style of a mainstream cartoonist does not truly reveal his or her personality. 17 Such a critic might note that mainstream cartoonists often try to draw like the latest popular artist of the moment; the appearance of a mainstream cartoonist with a genuinely innovative style, like Neal Adams, ty pically leads to a wave of imitators who draw in the same style. Moreover, mainstream cartoonists are often required to follow the house style of the company they work for. Thus, for example, one famous instructional textbook on superhero comics is called How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way (Stan Lee and John Buscema, 1984). 17 A Grothian critic would, however, probably admit the existence of certain exceptions to this rule. 214 above), Groth notes that Harvey Kurtzman and Carl Bark s were not hacks, implying that despite working in the commercial comics industry, they succeeded in developing unique styles that reflected their personalities.

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224 By contrast, in alternative comics each cartoonist is expected to develop an individual graphic style, which is perceived as reflecting something about the reflects the uniqueness of his or her selfhood. Wolk makes this point seemingly involuntarily when he observes, as quoted above, that art comics (i.e., alternative hand the alternative comics community, stylistic idiosyncrasy is an inherently valuable trait in an artist much more valuable than mimetic accuracy, and probably also more valuable than technical competence or visual appeal. Many celebrated alternative cartoonists, like Jeffrey Brown, Mat Brinkman or David Heatley, have graphic styles that are highly idiosyncratic but would be considered extremely crude by the standards of commercial comics. (Figure 4 1) In alt ernative comics, the highest goal is not to present a perceptually realistic or exciting rendering of an imaginary scene as is the case in commercial comics but to develop a unique, idiosyncratic style. Moreover, another standard expectation is that a should be visible not just in the images inside his or her panels (i.e., diegetic images), but in every aspect of his or her comic, including letters, panel borders, word balloons, and other nondiegetic lines. Speaking of t he Canadian alternative cartoonist Seth, Wolk declare that they were made by the same Here Wolk unknowingly rediscovers a principle observed by the Belgian comics theorist Philippe Marion:

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225 The lettering of comics tends to obey a principle of homogeneity : the manuscript trait corresponds in a mo re or less solidary manner to the drawn trait. Inasmuch as they conjugate themselves visually, they tend to produce upon the reader spectator the same effect of trace. (61) 18 In the work of an artist like Seth, diegetic and nondiegetic images share the same teneur en trace term for the property by which a drawn line records or reveals the idiosyncratic physical and psychological activity of the hand that drew it. The homogeneity of dieg etic and nondiegetic lines therefore indicates the presence of a single subject responsible for both. Notably, Marion does not claim that this figure, whom he refers to as the graphiator ( graphiateur ), is identical with the actual physical person or person s responsible for the artwork and the lettering. The graphiator is a notional construct, the monstrator (in film). However, authors like Wolk tend to make the nave ass umption that the graphiator and the physical author are in fact identifiable, that the homogeneity of integrity. These beliefs in the identity of drawing with handwriti movements with the states of his or her subjectivity, are visible not only in alternative comics criticism but also in the comics themselves. In their work, alternative cartoonists often emphasize the intimate connection betw 19 Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary 18 : le trait manuscrit rpond de produire sur le lecteur 19 A full discussion of this trope is beyond the scope of this chapter. I h ope to explore this topic in more detail in future work.

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226 (1972), a seminal (pun intended) inspiration for alternative comics, the frontispiece shows the artist drawing with a pen hel d in his mouth, while a scythe is positioned dangerously close to his groin (Green 10). 20 As Hatfield suggests, the pen represents tobiographical Blankets (2003), he depicts himself masturbating while reading a handwritten letter from his girlfriend Raina (146) (Figure 4 2). The curvaceous lines of her letters remind him of those of her body (and provide his only means of access to he r body, from which he is separated both by making a connection between the flo ejaculating on a sheet of paper, an other process which involves marking a blank surface with fluid ejected from a hand held tool. Both of these texts represent drawing as an essentially masculine act, setting up a circuit between the pen, the penis, the drawing hand, and the self. At the s ame time, however, female alternative cartoonists also often insist on the importance of writing and drawing. In Fun Home handwriting, and draws an extended contrast between the intimacy of handwriting and the impersonality of typewriting. When Alison comes out as a lesbian to her mother, she 20 Anecdotally, I have a friend, a very talented artist and also a paraplegic, who actually does draw quit after a month due to the tremendous bodily strain imposed by extended sessions of drawing with his mouth.

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227 does so by writing a typewritten letter. Her mother responds with a disapproving letter which is also typewritten (77). This is unusual insofar as most of the priva te writings depicted in the book (e.g., letters and diary entries) are handwritten. As Alison writes in o transmit my anguish drawing (170). 21 and therapeutic aspects of drawing. For example, in Picture Thi s steady kind of writing with a paintbrush made a state of mind available to me and a All these examples suggest the centrality of the drawing act t o the way in which alternative cartoonists imagine and represent themselves. For alternative cartoonists, drawing is not a purely mimetic act; instead, it is valuable for its own sake and for the 22 A pos sible objection here is that mainstream cartoonists also often show The Brave and the Bold #124 (Figure 4 3), or the backup story in Amazing Spider Man Annual Lee and Steve Ditko Crea te Spider object that references like these tend to be introduced for humor value, and that in 21 Fun Home also emphasizes the link between drawing and writing in the sequence where Alison 143). Bechdel also shows herself drawing in the introduction to The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For Again, an extended discussion of handwriting and topic in later work. 22 I thank Joanna Davis McElligott and Corey Creekmur for their assistance with the references cited in this paragraph.

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228 mainstream comics the act of drawing is most often understood as having purely mimetic value. An artist like the late Curt Swan is remembered for the exciting and realistic way in which he rendered the adventures of Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes, and not for the idiosyncratic qualities of his graphic style, or for the idiosyncratic personality revealed ther eby. According to the Grothian perspective, for mainstream cartoonists, drawing is a mimetic act and is pursued in order to make a living; for alternative cartoonists (to paraphrase Salman Rushdie), drawing is life itself. In summary, then, the discourse of alternative comics relies heavily on the nave fantasy of handwriting. The standard notion is that in creating an alternative comic, the cartoonist writes him or herself into the world. His/her text faithfully records his or her bodily and spiritual un iqueness, while also, in a sense, taking on a life of its own. Tisseron, a comics theorist influenced by psychoanalysis, argues that cartoonists are hand makes it possible to place outside oneself the object that was previously in the 23 nce in the drawing activity of children (21). Moreover, continuity with oneself shades into continuity with another 23 fantasme de dc

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229 appreciation by a reader or viewer, who thus becomes able to understand t artist desires to externalize his or her self, while the reader desires to incorporate that self into his or her own. Ideally, in reading an alternati ve comic, the reader undertakes thentic (if mutable and multiple) self Authorship as Fantasy This concept of authorship as handwriting, however, remains fantastic rather than real; its importance to alternative cartoo nists does not depend on its factual accuracy. duplication. This aspect, linked to the context of a mass communication, will not be discussed here. I take into consideration only the graphic nature of the message of BD, as it appears to the reader spectator 24 In most cases the reader encounters the comic as an always already reproduced artifact. Except in the reader consumes, and this gap is necessitated by the business model of alternative comics, which depends on mass publication rather than gallery exhibition. Emma Tinker suggests that alternative cartoonists are aware of these facts, but that they wish things 24 aspect, li au co

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230 production, they are nev ertheless curiously nostalgic for the personal, the handmade, I suggest that the alternative comics ideology often seeks to forget the existence of this gap, both by not mentioning it, and by creating extratextual means of ac cess to the embodied subjectivity of the artist. One of these means of access is actual in person contact between creators and fans. Such contact happens often at comics conventions and festivals, which, as Beaty explains (120ff), are a standard feature of both the American and European alternative comics scenes. Events like the Alternative Press Expo or the MoCCA Art Festival offer opportunities for readers to encounter comic creators in person, as well as receiving sketches or signatures, which function a s comics text and comics creator is through the exhibition or sale of original art pages, which are the holy grail of comics collecting because they represent the act ual physical 25 At least partly for this reason, the original art page functions and contested signifier of creative agency. Indeed, the histo ry of the circulation of original art in the American comics industry closely parallels the history of the evolution of the auteur status of the comics artist. In the 1980s, one of the principal rights that the r artists was ownership of their original art 25 te the same light as a drawing that was not made with publication in mind. It is perfectly acceptable for artists to use Tipp ex, or white out, on comics originals, and to leave outlines in pale blue pencil which are not picked up in minds us that visual differences are often, perhaps even always, introduced between the original and the reproduced page, even in the absence of digital production tools. Of course, an even bigger problem with the auratic status of original art is that it

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231 pages. At the time it was common practice to withhold and even deliberately destroy original art, precisely because this art had significant value both financially and as a timacy and agency, which were denied by the figures. 26 In alternative comics, artists retain their own artwork as a matter of course, and often exhibit it in galleries. Furtherm ore, even when the artwork of alternative comics is reproduced rather than original, the comics themselves often appear to be, or actually are, hand crafted artifacts. In the introduction to Unpopular Culture Bart Beaty describes Nadia book a hand 5). This comic emphasizes the fact o f the physical intervention of the artist and printer in its production. In reading this comic, the reader feels a physical connection with the hand that not only is a Swiss comic book, many American alternative comics reveal a similar concern with materiality and manual production. For example, the anthology (2008) was a volume of 16.3 x 21.1 inches which was printed on expensive paper and hand bound ( although not by the artists). 27 The first 200 copies included a signed and 26 This is another topic that is unfortunately outside the scope of the present discussion. For a historical discussion of policies surroundin g original art in mainstream comics, including valuable see . The debate over original art Evanier, Jack Kirby: King of Comics (New York: Abrams, 2008). 27 The decision to bind the book by hand was taken for practical as well as aesthetic reaso ns: there were no binding machines large enough to handle a volume of that size (Spurgeon and Harkham n.p.).

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232 numbered letterpress print, and the book was released in a limited edition of 3500 copies at a price of $125. By virtue of its rarity and its physical impressiveness, this volume has of the price scale, the minicomic, a format in which many successful alternative comic artists have gotten their start, is a small format comic which is photocopied, folded, hand sta pled, and personally distributed by the creator. Alternative Comics and the Digital Mechanical Lettering Given the degree to which alternative comics privilege handwriting and on other forms of manual intervention, it is no surprise that alternative comic s have historically eschewed mechanical modes of production. According to Marion and others, the fact typically relied on hand lettering rather than mechanical typography, which is standard in nearly every other kind of printed matter. It could be argued (somewhat reductively) that tenor of the trace is coextensive with the qualities of a drawing that are irreducible to or excessive of its semiotic value. In writing letters by hand, for example, a cartoonist Seth, for example follows a series of predetermined patterns, but also improvises on these patterns, investing them with idiosyncratic and personal qualities that are specifically his or hers. Thus, the differences be indexical of the differences between Seth and Chester Brown. Moreover, because the human hand is an inconsistent tool, no cartoonist can consistently execute the same letter in the sa me way every time. Within a single comic or a single word balloon, subtle variations will exist between each instance of the same letter; note, for example, the

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233 subtle dissimilarities between the various instances of lower case Y in Figure 4 4. The variati ons between different instances of the same letter, within a single comic or even a single word balloon, are evidence that those letters were drawn by an imperfect hand, and therefore by a human hand. With the use of mechanical lettering, differences betwe en individual instances of the same letter are erased, resulting in a homogeneity between letters that strips out the personal touch of the artist. Atkinson explains, citing Marion: it can in the images, and it is notable that comic books and la bande dessine rarely use typeface in the speech balloons and captions, preferring instead hand ypewritten fonts, by contrast, have a regularity that erases the trace of their own production. (271) Similarly, Joseph Witek claims that hand Versaci 171), fonts, because it is much easier to achieve a visual unity of word and image if both e different names for the element that is destroyed by mechanical lettering All these terms, however, refer back in one way or another to the uniqueness of the or herself. What mechanical lettering seems to destroy is a visible trace of the subjectivity of the artist. The classic example of the supposedly disembodying effects of typograp hic lettering is Leroy lettering, used at various times by DC, EC and Charlton, which uses a

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234 LeRoy lettering device was invented for jobs like architectural renderings pla ces where you want uniformity and precision, not personality. It consists of a stylus and a pantographic lettering form; no matter who uses it, the lettering comes out essentially 5). Like traditional hand lettering, the LeRoy device works by direct manual intervention; however, like the Palmer method of penmanship, it greater mechanical perfection and consistency than are achievable wit h the unaided human hand, but imperfection and inconsistency, as we just saw, may be taken as those attributes which make hand lettering of artistic value. Therefore, the LeRoy appears to have been used only for practical reasons (lower cost or the unavail ability of competent hand letterers) and has typically been seen as ugly and overly mechanical. because he had a skilled hand letterer, Ben Oda (Mark Evanier, personal communication). There are examples, mostly more recent, of more intelligent uses of mechanical d suggest that the alternative comics ideology, taken to an extreme, logically implies that all mechanical lettering resembles LeRoy lettering in its suppression of the specificity of s used in a more aesthetically appealing way, it still differs from LeRoy lettering only in degree, for two main reasons. First, as noted, mechanical lettering seems inevitably to strip out visible does not testify to the uniqueness

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235 of the writer. Second, mechanical lettering imposes an extra layer of mediation; it intermediary. An important objection here is that th e LeRoy device is in fact no different from a pen or pencil in this sense; a pen or pencil already acts as an intermediary hand and its trace. Drawing with a pen is alre ady far removed from fingerpainting or writing with bodily fluids. In order to respond to this objection, a Grothian critic would have to claim that the pen, pencil or brush is a uniquely privileged writing tool that because of properties such as their h andheld nature or their pressure sensitivity, these incorporated into it. The pen, pencil or brush is a nearly seamless extension of the hand, whereas the LeRoy device is a repl acement for the hand. Of course, McLuhan argued that all media are extensions of the body in one way or another; but the Grothian critic's argument would be that the pen, pencil or brush is an extension of the body in a far more intimate sense than is the case with other media (why exactly this is the case, however, is not clear) For the two reasons here stated, mechanical lettering seems (from the viewpoint of the alternative comics ideology) to strip out the subjective idiosyncrasy of the artist, both by between artist and text. Digital Lettering and Post Production These critiques can clearly be extended to digital lettering and other forms of digital manipulation. Digital letterin g seems to be destructive of uniqueness in the same

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236 a far greater degree than i s the case with mechanical lettering. When an artist uses a digital tool, in the first place, the amount of medial layers increases significantly. These metaphorical. A s triking example of this is a page where the artwork is reproduced pencils have so much tenor of the trace that the reader almost feels s/he is actually watching him at w ork, but the word balloons appear to float on top of the pencils, or to exist in a zone entirely removed from them. If the comic had been lettered in pencil, the lettering and the artwork would have seemed organically unified; because of the use of digital lettering, the comic seems like an assemblage of disconnected parts. Digital Of course this is merely a more dramatic version of the effect produced by LeRoy lettering. However, processes such as digital lettering also differ from LeRoy lettering in degree as well as in kind (or at least seem to do so). Even when a comics artist uses a page in a clearly perceptible way; all that changes is the number of layers of mediation between the hand and the page. However, when an artist uses a tool like a mouse, a keyboard or even a stylus, the medial association between the hand and the page beco mes so complex as to be difficult to envisage (cf. Harpold, qtd. on page 10 above). The problem here, in short, is that digital tools disconnect the embodied practice of the artist from the comic or appear to do so, but as the above discussion should ind icate, the alternative comics ideology is based on perception at least as much as on reality.

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237 The apparent lack of physical connection between hand and writing surface also leads to other problems. When digital lettering or other digital tools are applied to preexisting, hand drawn original art pages, the published version of each page becomes blatantly dissimilar from its original; a visible gap develops between the original page and its reproduction. As Tinker observes (footnote 25), no published page ev er looks exactly like its original, but with digital manipulation, the differences between the original page and its reproduction become large enough to have practical consequences. When a page is digitally inked, lettered or colored, this means that there is no physical artifact that contains the same visual information as the published page does; the complete page (i.e., the assemblage of pencils, inking, coloring, etc.) only and, therefore becomes difficult, if not impossible, to exhibit or sell. As letterer Todd Klein the story. Selling a page of comics art with lettering is usually ea 28 The logical extreme here occurs when pages are drawn entirely on a graphics tablet, as some artists, notably including industry veteran Brent Anderson, have now started to do. 29 Compared to a mouse or keyboard and a screen, the combi nation of tablet and stylus is more easily imaginable in terms of manual contact between the hand and the drawing surface (I will elaborate on this claim in chapter 6). However, when this tool is in a form which bears no resemblance to its intended appearance. Indeed, since one property of digital 28 29 (
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238 information is the indistinguishability of different copies of the same data, it might be For all the above reasons, we might expect alternative cartoonists and critics to hold negative attitudes toward digital lettering and other forms of digital production. Such attitudes are less common than one might expect, but are nonetheless easy to locate. For example, the alternative cartoonist James Romberger mentioned in a 2009 thread on the Comics Journal discussion board that: Digital lettering removes the human hand from the finished product and it is to see the work of the human hand that made me look at comics in the first bother to learn lettering skills. I would prefer to see even wonky lettering, if it is the artist who drew the pages doing it. Fortunately, many independent artists 30 Similarly, Lynda Barry observed that the use of digital lettering (along with slick paper ort of For Barry, older commercial comics were enlivened by the evident presence of the human hand, and their liveliness has been destroyed by processes like computer lettering. Even main stream comics professionals, who might be expected to hold less purist views than their counterparts in alternative comics, have expressed similar 30 discussion agreed with him.

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239 reservations. For example, in an article on comics lettering, Michael Thomas quoted the celebrated hand lette rer Tom Orzechowski: and acq uire the skill . . [Fonts] can be manipulated, but the user is just cutting, pasting and modifying in order to simulate the look of people who created this art form with pen and ink, and maybe a love of what they were In the same article, Richard Starkings, the preeminent digital letterer in American comic No one I know uses their hands to letter; they use a tool called a pen. I use a tool call ed a hand lettering is an emotionally charged subject. Elsewhere Starkings felt forced to respond Roshell 63). Although he makes the same objection to the premises behind this question suggests that hand community of comics readers widely accepted now than ever before. However, that the view represented by these criticisms of digital lettering is logically entailed by the alternative comics version of the f antasy of handwriting. When handwritten ness is defined as necessary in order for a comic to make claims to the status of art, then inevitably, comics that are made without direct bodily involvement must be denied that status.

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240 In summary, then, the altern ative comics movement is a frequent site of nave and restorative fantasies of handwriting. In the second section of this chapter, however, I want to argue that the alternative comics movement (or its fringes) can also be the site of a more reflective way of thinking about the relation between digital technology and embodied selfhood. The best place to look for such reflective examinations of handwriting is in alternative comics themselves. 31 I begin with one case study of an alternative comic that takes a m ore reflective approach to the fantasy of handwriting. I then proceed to another comic that invokes the reflective fantasy of handwriting while abandoning some of the guiding assumptions of alternative comics. Handwriting in the Comics of Kevin Huizenga H uizenga and the Fantasy of Handwriting Kevin Huizenga is an American cartoonist born in Illinois in 1977. Most of his comics are about Glenn Ganges, a character similar in background to, but not to be confused with, Huizenga himself. He may be characterize d as an alternative cartoonist in that his work is published by the two leading publishers of the alternative movement, Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics, and he belongs to the faculty of the Center for Cartoon Studies, run by fellow D&Q cartoonist James Sturm. alternative comics deploys fantasies of handwriting. His comics offer a particularly clear lette red and feature hand 31 It is my impression that comics scholars have not yet considered this issue in depth, and that this is because the field of comics studies, at least in the North American academy, tends to be uninterested in problems of mediality. However, it would take me too f ar afield to demonstrate this.

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241 borders and word balloons are all composed of lines of uniform graphic quality. All these lines have the same tenor of the trace, appearing to have been drawn wit h a firm but slightly shaky hand. A typical Huizenga page gives the clear impression of having been created by a single hand, and by a hand with distinctive physical qualities (Figure 4 7). His work therefore records and testifies to the activity of the ha nd that produced it. of his work originally appeared as minicomics. Indeed, when I asked Huizenga what school of thought that 32 fantasy of handwriting and its associated critique of digital technol ogy. For example, the appeared in Ganges comic is mass produced, it emulates the appearance of a hand craft significantly larger than a standard comic book and features a dust jacket and quality pleasure (Figure 4 8). Almost every line of text in the book is hand lettered, apparently by Huizenga himself. The very name of the Ignatz Collection testifies to its emphasis on is rare in American comics, but common in Europea n avant garde comics; it holds specific associations with the pioneering French avant 32

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242 Fantagraphics combined this signifier of avant garde publi shing practices with the name Krazy Kat the classic American comic that perhaps best exemplifies the status of the cartoonist as artist. In short, the book presents itself as an example of a manual mode of production and as an object to be com startup company, Requestra.com, from 1999 to 2001. Requestra.com, which metony mically represents Internet culture of this period in general, is the acme of inauthenticity. We never find out what goods or services Requestra provides, where its revenue comes from, or what kind of work its employees do. At work, Glenn says things like to make sure the XML integrates with ICQ. Check the FTP because there should be 33 and unprincipled nature is abundantly clear. The ng seems like a harsh condemnation of the dot com bubble and the Internet as a whole. The Internet is here presented as a lot of flash concealing no substance. It lacks the authenticity we associate with handwriting. 33 Page numbers are not provided because this comic book does not include them. The name ICQ is interesting in that it paradoxically suggests both inauthenticity and nostalgia. On one hand, ICQ is an with my online friends. I

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243 After work each day, Glenn and his coworkers play Pulverize a first person Quake mostely [ sic ], then some Unreal, and maybe a little Halo P ulverize seems to be based on a model of subjectivity which is antithetical to that of the prototypical alternative comics author. The alternative cartoonist has a singular, unitary self which is authentically expressed in its work. Games, however, are typ ically understood in terms of their lack of connection to the real world situation of the player. As ludologists Johan Huizinga and ordinary life. 34 Often this entails taking on the role of a fictional character within the gameworld, as Glenn does when playing Pulverize That gameworld, moreover, is often a constructed and artificial environment, and this is especially true in the case of Pulverize As noted, alternative comics tend to employ a style which privileges the transparency. Even some video games feature gameworlds whose constructed, artificial nature is obvious. For example, Glenn compares Pulverize to Yipper Yap World a game he enjoyed as a child. Mostly based on the Super Mario series (Huizenga, personal communication), this game features two dimensional graphics and a wildly of Rasta By contrast, Pulverize follows the logic of transparency typical of many computer games: it depicts a fictive world in such a way as to seemingly erase cial nature. Its gameworld is represented in 34 This is of course an oversimplification, which will be nuanced further both he re and in the final chapter. Scholars like Alexander Galloway have emphasized the extent to which games are situated, physical phenomena.

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244 such photorealistic detail as to seem as convincing and immersive as the real world, or perhaps even more so. 35 place in the Pulverize gameworld a re depicted in the same style that Huizenga uses to Pulverize we can tell that the scene takes place in a video game only because we already know (Figure 4 9). In a sequence where Glenn falls Pulverize the transition from real world to dream is signaled only by a change in the Pulverize begins to seem like a prototypical experience of disembodiment, of severance from authentic selfhood. For Glenn, Pulverize becomes much more fulfilling than his work or even his life at home. He stays after work to play Pulverize and lies to his wife about it, claiming he has to work late. During the working day, he a nd his coworkers call each other by the names of their Pulverize avatars. Glenn even has dreams in which the Pulverize gameworld replaces the real world: had really bee launcher (Figur e 4 10). 35 This quality of seeming more real than actual reality is the characteristic property of the hyperreal aesthetic. Ho real than real order that is usually employed in a nave, unselfconscious way. The hyperreal of which the classic example is Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland typically does not acknowledge itself as participating in the logic of the hyperreal. Indeed, for Baudrillard, one purpose of the hyperreal is to conceal the absence of authentic reality. See footnote 30 to Chapter 2 as well as the discussion of hyperrealism in Chapter 4.

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245 to be seduced by its promise to provide the user with a simulated subjectivity, a simulated embodiment, to replace his actual subjectivity and embodiment. Here again we might see a rather shallow critique of digital culture, which would opposite it to the model of consistent and authentic selfhood on which the fantasy of handwriting is d igital culture. In the second phase of this encounter, Huizenga questions the guiding premises behind the fantasy of handwriting and suggests that handwriting and the digital have more in common than it appears. Huizenga vs. the Fantasy of Handwriting Muc behind the fantasy of handwriting that the hand drawn image offers a privileged means of access to the authentic self of the artist. His work repeatedly demonstrates that authenti city is an elusive notion, in that things which appear authentic are often contaminated by the inauthentic or the fake, and in particular by artificial techniques of reproduction. e title character is a theologian who believes in the doctrine that the unsaved will suffer Bible says so, and that the Bible is the infallible word of God. For Jeepers, the Bible is, access to the authentic nature of its divine author. In his own writing, Jeepers tries to similarly use handwriting as a means of access to authenticity. H e writes his article by hand, in one sitting, making remarkably few erasures or corrections. However, things

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246 start to go wrong when Jeepers realizes that his philosophy implies that non churchgoing people like Glenn Ganges (and his hero Tiger Woods) will b e condemned to eternal conscious torment. Jeepers thus starts to realize the basic unfairness of his belief that a unique and absolute privilege attaches to the handwriting of a single divine author. Nonetheless, Jeepers attempts to proselytize to Glenn, b ut instead of telling Glenn the truth about Hell, Jeepers instead, against his own better judgment, ends up 36 the line traced by his own life, above the narrative trajectory t raced by God. Moreover, it turns to become a theologian was as much the result of random chance as of his desire to love is actually golf rather than theology, and he would probably have become a professional golfer except that, in his final attempt to qualify for the PGA Tour, he was disqualified due to a trivial error. His own life, then demonstrates that decisions wh ich seem to derive from conscious subjective choices may instead be the result of random chance. Subjectivity is a matter character is not always a simple task. appear to express the authentic, idiosyncratic nature of their source, they may unknowingly be complicated by factors external to that source; and that sometimes, a h appears to be privileged above all others is not actually so. Following this principle to its logical conclusion, we realize that no special privilege can 36 In Ariadne J. Hillis Miller cites this phrase in order to emphasize the similarities among narrative trajectories, written lines, and drawn lines.

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247 therefore potent ially alienating as well as reassuring. 37 The homogeneous quality of indiscernability of one type of line from another. then this implies the quintessentially postmodern claim that no type of line can be uniquely pri vileged above any other. Certain instances of linework signatures, for example seem to provide privileged means of access to the authenticity of the sources responsible for them. However, when viewed simply as visual phenomena, or in the absence of any information as to their source, such lines cannot be distinguished from random scribbles. That suggests, furthermore, that handwritten lines are not inherently privileged above lines which are rendered mechanically. This point is demonstrated in Huizenga chirping of starlings. As the story explains, the starling was introduced to America in 1890 by an eccentric naturalist, Eugene Schiefflin, who wanted his country t o have examples of all the birds mentioned by Shakespeare (73). 38 appearance in Shakespeare is in 1 Henry IV where Hotspur petitions the king to release his imprisoned brother in law Mortimer. When the king refuses, Hotspur angrily 37 The End Will Be Graphic: Apocalyptic Imagery and Themes in Comic Books and Graphic Novels (working title), ed. Dan Clanton (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, forthcoming). 38 The correct spelling of this name is actually Schieffelin. The story about how he introduce d starlings to America is found in many sources, but there is some controversy as to whether he did so for the reason Huizenga gives.

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248 says rod anger, and in a case of life imitating art, it had this effect in real life. The starling, the quintessential non native, invasive species has proven to be a nuis ance, driving out local bird populations and causing millions of dollars worth of excrement related damage per year (Huizenga 2006, 74 75). ngbirds often function as privileged signifiers of thy full heart / In profuse expression which emanates from a natural source. By hearing the bird sing and by reproducing its sp eech in poetry which is literally or metaphorically handwritten, the poet seeks to endow his or her discourse with a comparable degree of authenticity. gramophone record. All it been programmed into or recorded upon its memory. Like a gramophone record or MP3 file, the bird reproduces its recorded message without any conscious understanding of its semantic intent. 39 It does this, moreover, in order to fulfill a practical purpose devised 39

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249 poet is unaware.) Even if the purpose of someone else an instrument o f mechanical reproduction. Indeed, in the specific context of comics, the talking bird has been read as a symbol of precisely the severance of language from its origin. Thierry Smolderen argues that the juxtaposition of a parrot and a phonograph in the Ye llow Kid strip of October 25, 1896 was a pivotal moment in the shift from the nineteenth century label to the twentieth century word balloon (Figure 4 11). For Smolderen, the label of pre modern comics did not serve the same purpose as the modern speech ba lloon. Instead of representing written speech, the label was intended to be read as an inscribed banner that the character carried. The speech balloon, by contrast, is meant to be understood as figuring an embodied speech act; it indicates that the charact er is actually speaking the words it contains. However, at the same time, the speech balloon is graphically balloon thus resembles the parrot and the gramophone in that it seve rs speech from the sound pictures really of human statements. It is also the only example in nature of a speech act than an image, but it thus prefigures the phonograph, which, for Smolderen, is what makes the modern word

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250 only because a phonograph will record and reproduce human speech as temporally encoded patterns of acoustic impulses that this sequencing of the action seemed the natural course for h balloon have in common is the severability of speech from the embodied act of its performance, the reification of speech that strips it of its original ontological link to the scene of speech and the speaker. In comics, this severance of speech from the utterer is doubled by the severance graphiational act in comics is always at least at two removes from the embodied self of r stresses this fact by mentioning that the song of the starling, the privileged symbol of pure naturalness, can also be a consisted of 30 50% sounds related to automobiles. [The ornithologists] heard distinctly tires screeching . the whine of power windows . e s and brackets in original). 40 it might just as easily have expressed mere mechanical noises. What both these stories suggest is that the romanticization of comics handwriting involves a deliberate forgetting of the constitutive gaps that alwa ys operate between the cartoonist and his or her work. In the first place, as observed above, almost all comics 40 Huizenga attri further citation. By a curious coincidence, Groot is also the name of a Marvel Comics character who, like

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251 are created with mass reproduction in mind, meaning that there is always already a gap ed by the reader. Still more property holds for any sort of handwritten document, but Marion suggests that the absence of the creator is particularly significant in comics, because it is precisely this the fisherman, to identify a trace is also to imagin e that a being is no longer where it was previously. With the trace one always arrives at the same virtual narrative 41 Marion goes on to argue that the reader of a comic, through his or her act of looking, reactivates the graphic filling the gaps between panels, which, as Scott McCloud famously argued, is what makes comics narration possible. A comic is an assemblage of discrete images. What allows us to connect these images into a single plenitude (e.g., to understand multiple images of Glenn Ganges as referring to a si ngle character at different moments) is closure. By imagining the absent moments between two successive depicted instants, disappear; the gutter divides as well as uniting. McCloud seems to hold the simplistic view that the reader takes the depicted images and uses them to assemble a 41

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252 none of our senses are required at all. Which is why all of [89]). This, however, is an extravagant claim which ignores the fact that comics reading is always an experience of fragmentation as well as unity. As Donald Ault brilliantly argues: This fragmentation of the gaze allows comics t o participate in two different ontological and semiotic fields at once: as multiple appearances of the same character at different places at the same time on the page and as a representational sequence of windows that show the same character at different t imes a unified embodied consciousness residing in a world that exists independent of the actual drawings. In the former sense, a comic "character" is analogous to an alphanumeric letter or piece of punctuation in a conventional language that takes on sign ificance only relationally or differentially as it is repeated and gathered up into signifying clusters. (paragraph 8) This is the type of character that Glenn Ganges is. Glenn is explicitly not Kevin Huizenga. Unlike such fictional alter egos as Eddie Cam author of the comic in which he appears. Even his name testifies to the differential rather than the substantial nature of language. The nam e was created by chance when Huizenga saw a road sign that listed the distances to two Michigan towns called Glenn and Ganges; its orientalist connotations of Eastern religion are accidental. If comics characters are assemblages of fragmentary images, and if comics reading is a fragmentary experience, then perhaps the same is true of comics authorship whether or not it involves digital manipulation. Despite the hand drawn continuous process of creative inspiration, but as the result of multiple, discontinuous

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253 acts of redrawing and revision. In an interview with me, Huizenga explained how he uses Photoshop to edit each of his hand drawn pages: I fix mistakes and fill black areas and even occasionally shrink a head or the drastic changes, because they tend to be unique to unique situations. Occasionally a page will need major surgery panels ch anged and swapped out and rearranged. Other times the page needs only minor fixes. making very frustrating wit (Huizenga, personal communication). imprint is permanent and cannot be removed, that the handwritten line is an in delible 42 Huizenga, however, ng and art, and his fans from connecting with him by buying original art: that the page only really exists digitally. The original art exists on several different pieces of paper, often with major mistakes, and the lettering sometimes is on the back of some scratch paper. Some artists are peed and flexibility (Huizenga, personal communication). be sold, nor can it be exhibited in a gallery or museum. For Huizenga, the loss of 42 This ties in with permanency is one of the virtues of handwriting (or typewriting) beca (157). Because of the difficulty of erasing what has been written, the writer needs to think carefully about recollected moment of a given experience.

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254 revenues from original ar t sales is presumably offset by the ability to produce work at a faster rate, but the idea of original art that exists in no stable, integral form is a challenge to the idea of the cartoonist as a unitary, embodied hand writer. All of this suggests that t he fantasy of handwriting in comics is not objectively true that it represents the expression of a collective desire for authenticity, selfhood, etc., rather than a factually correct description of authorship in comics or other fields, and that its effic acy does not depend on its correspondence to factual reality or lack thereof. which depend s on the desire to escape from reality. Pulverize (the game) presents a fantasy of immersion which is similar in structure to the fantasy of handwriting. This is true because Pulverize gaps in the structure of simulation. Glenn is never completely fooled by claims of transparency, and in order for the logic of transparency to operate, he be fooled. During the first of two Pulverize playing sessions depicted in the story, the narrator observ image of a valley that rushes up to you, growing more pixelated, and you even start to Pulverize may appear to its players, it can never present a fully seamless experience of appreciate a transparent media experience, one must understand that it is a mediated

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255 experience and not a real one. In order to appreciate the effectiveness with wh ich a film like Avatar or a video game like Grand Theft Auto (or Pulverize ) generates an illusion of only an illusion. The viewer or player must constantly and the real world. If the viewer or player becomes fully absorbed into the diegetic world to the point of forgetting its artifice, the consequences can be disastrous. Fictional demonstrations of this include A Mind Forever Voyaging (where young people immerse themselves in Holodeck like simulators to the Inception who spend all their time dreaming and never wake up. These examples involve fictional works of immersive art that vastly exceed the power of real life representational technologies. However, a similar if less dramatic phenomenon allegedly occurred in real life, when viewers of Avatar allegedly contemplated suicide because they were dissatisfied with the inferiority of the real world to Pandora (Piazza n.p.). Glenn therefore knows he dare not not know that Pulverize is only a fake world, that its graphics and sounds are merely the result of human artifice. He realizes that in a purely formal sense, Pulverize is at bottom the same game as Spacewar Pulverize but essenti

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256 only to intensify the emotional appeal of the game. 43 Perfect immersion is no more achi evable a phenomenon than perfect transparency. I Know Well, but All the Same However, both these fantasies are appealing fantasies. They depend on powerful desires the desire for authenticity, for intersubjective connection, for escape from a harsh reali ty. We may know very well (i.e. on a conscious level) that the fantasies of handwriting and immersion are merely attempts to satisfy these desires, but these desires remain all the same (See p. 42 above.) For Glenn, the non Pulverize are precisely what make it Pulverize can be an an attempt to rationalize his disturbing addiction to the game. The second ellipsis in the reason why Glenn might feel guilty about his enjoyment of Pulverize : she alludes to the Columbine High School massacre of 1999, suggesting that players of games like Pulverize may become, through their playing the game, desensitized to real life violence. 44 Glenn is visibl y troubled by this idea, although he tries to brush it off (Figure 43 This is equivalent to the hardcore ludologist position in games studies, which holds that the identity of a game resides in i ts formal aspects, and that its narrational aspects (e.g., characters and aspects: (1) rules, (2) a material/semiotic system (a gameworld), and (3) gameplay (t he events resulting from the application of the rules to the gameworld). Of these three, the semiotic system is the most 48). See Sandifer 2009, paragraphs 11 12, for one possible critique of this claim. I will s uggest another critique below. 44 Wolfenstein 3D and Doom violent behavior is beyond the scope of this discussion, but there is some scholarly literature suggesting

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257 4 Pulverize then, can be divided i nto three moments or phases. In an initial moment of his encounter with Pulverize Glenn is spellbound by the fantasy of immersion that the game offers. In a second moment, Glenn sees through this fantasy, recognizing it as the expression of a desire rathe r than as a factual account of video game phenomenology. In a third moment, however, Glenn discovers that even Pulverize Pulverize is addictive because it appeals to a fundamen tal desire the desire to escape than real life. This desire is irrational as well as inherently impossible to satisfy, and Glenn knows this. Yet this knowledge Pulverize perhaps because this knowledge exists on a rational level, whereas Pulverize appeals handwriting (such as by quitting Pul verize doing so, Glenn would merely be attempting to deny his desire for escape, rather than directly confronting this desire. For Glenn, a more psychologically healthy option might be to acknowledge his desire f or immersion but to turn that desire to more positive ends. This is what we might call a reflective use of the fantasy of immersion; it involves using the fantasy of immersion under erasure, i.e., in the full knowledge of its artifice. This is what Glenn and his coworkers succeed in doing at the end of the story. The Pulverize that video games may have this effect. See for example Barlett, C. P, C. A Anderson, and E. L Swing, Simulation & Gaming 40.3 (2009): 377.

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258 playing session as a complete group. They play the game knowing that one of them, Bob Bilson, will be fired t mismanagement and because of the inevitable coming collapse of the dot com bubble. The emotional power of the g ame is intensified by the knowledge that this is the last time the game can be played by this community that this means of escape from real cceptance and denial of Pulverize his simultaneous knowledge that Pulverize the sky is a JPEG. Not hing is ever added to or subtracted from the zeroes and ones that make up the buildings or mountains, so nothing changes Pulverize improves on the real world in that it never changes, but this very f act marks Pulverize as an unsustainable escape from the real world. For Glenn, these two contradictory realizations (that Pulverize is superior to the real world bet ween them is what makes playing Pulverize an emotionally fraught experience. That same antinomy characterizes the action that Glenn and his coworkers subsequently take. Matt Lewis, whose job is in no immediate danger, logs out of the game and logs back in 45 Clearly becoming Candypants in this way is of no practical consequence 45

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259 Bob in any practical sense, nor does their action save his job. But the affective resonance of this action is increased by its practical inauthenticity: affection and a k expresses are genuine. It thereby reveals that authenticity is not an all or nothing authentic. Jus t like Pulverize itself, this action in fact benefits from its paradoxical combination of authenticity and artificiality. of the fantasy of handwriting. As factual nature of the Grothian fantasy of handwriting. It reveals that the comic can never be a fully embodied trace of the presence of a unitary, singular artist. Ye simply debunk the fantasy of handwriting; his work also depends on the fantasy of it only exists in digital form. And yet re aders still think because it looks handwritten; his use of Photoshop is sufficiently well disguised as to go unnoticed. (Compare for example the recent work of Scott McCloud, where the use of graphics software is immediately obvious). He plays upon the assumption that the comic is a hand drawn text, that the published comic is indexically connected to an they will identify their leader Spartacus. All of the slaves claim to be Spartacus, expressing solidarity in Candypants will win the game, even though the original Candypants is not a particularly skilled player.

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260 The hand work, the unsatisfiability of t hat desire makes it all the more compelling. Finally, latter as a fictional surrogate for the former. We may know, for example, that Huizenga Huizenga, then, deploys the fantasy of handwriting in a reflective way. On one hand, he demonstrates th at the fantasy of handwriting is not a factual account of comics authorship, but merely the expression of a desire. On the other hand, he simultaneously handwriting is a p desire. Therefore, an uncritical rejection of the fantasy of handwriting is only slightly desire for handwriting while recognizing it as a desire. Transition: Huizenga and Cultural Politics Grothian alternative comics ideology is primarily a matter of cultural politics. Critics lik e Groth and Wolk describe comics authorship in terms of handwriting, not because this is actually how comics authorship works, but in order to advance a specific agenda about scrutiny,

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261 supposed one. 46 realization, and opens up a space for critical engagement with the fa ntasy of handwriting, is the encounter with digital technology. The fantasy of immersion offered by digital texts offers an appropriate metaphor for the fantasy of handwriting offered by alternative comics, because these two fantasies are structured simila rly. But if comics and digital technology have this in common, perhaps they have other things in common as well. And if critics like those cited above (p. 238 ff) criticize the use of digital technology in comics, perhaps they do so at least partly on political grounds. The combination of these two insights leads to a further interesting question: What happens if we combine digital technology with the fantasy of handwriting? If these two things are not, in fact, mutually exclus ive, then can digital technology be used as a tool in the service of the (reflective) fantasy of handwriting? This is of course what Huizenga does, but his use of digital technology is mostly invisible. If a work makes more prominent use of digital technol The answer, I suggest, is yes. Recently, when a poster on the comixscholars l listserv complained about the lack of handwritten qualities in digitally colored and lettered comics. Sharif Bitar replied 47 46 In this, the Grothian account of handwriting has certain similarities with the extreme ludologist account of games. According to my understanding, the reason why critics like Aarseth and Markku Eskelinen seek to de fine games in a purely formal and ludological sense, is because their political agenda is to define games studies as a separate field independent from the perceived narratological emphasis of literary studies.

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262 possibly even because of it, is still enjoyed by people (understatement intended). The computer, or digital middle man here, cannot be equaled to the hand of the artist. It can be equaled to the pens, brushes, colors and what have you. So what digitalism does is not exchanging the artist but the tool. And even though people tend to refe r to non digital music as "hand made despite the hand having operated a computer. The same, I from the very heart of the age of digitalism would like to suggest, applies to comics :) the same way as pens, pencils and brushes. I proposed above (page 235 ) that a Grothian crtiic might hold that these latter tools are un iquely privileged in some way, but clearly this claim is another instance of the fantasy of handwriting. Ultimately, a mouse, thumbpad, or stylus accomplishes the same purpose as a brush, pen or pencil: to serve hic activity can be communicated to and recorded upon the surface of inscription. The differences between these two categories of tools are a matter of degree rather than kind. Digital tools may seem to strip out those y activity that are preserved by traditional tools. But this is only an illusion, insofar as even traditional tools can never completely succeed in preserving or communicating the unique traces of the artist. To this extent, digital and traditional tools a re different in degree rather than kind. Neither type of tool can fully reveal the presence of the author. But both types of tools can be used to create the effect to respond to the desire for such presence, without claiming to ever be able to fully satisfy this desire. 47 I thank Sharif Bitar for permission to repr oduce the quotation which follows. I prefer not to identify the author of the original comment.

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263 Scott Pilgrim versus the Fantasy of Handwriting Scott Pilgrim and the Apparent Absence of Handwriting Scott Pilgrim was published as a series of six graphic novels, in the characteristic digest format of manga, from 2004 to 2010. Around the same time as its completion, the series was adapted into a movie and a video game. The series was published by Oni, which is neither a leading co mmercial firm like Marvel Top Shelf. Its output typically fits into neither the superhero genre, nor standard genres of alternative comics such as autobiography, history owned rather than work for hire, and tend to feature a non transparent style of artwork that testifies to the presence of an artist. Hopeless Savages #1 (2001) is a good example of the Oni house style, to the extent that Oni has one (Figure 4 get in line with what the rest of the world necessarily committed to the alternative comics ideology or to the assumptions it makes e.g., that cartoonists are authors in a li terary sense, or that the most interesting thing about a given comic is the way in which it reveals the unique trace of the artist. Nonetheless, I will argue below that Scott Pilgrim does subscribe to notions of authorship as handwriting, but in a reflecti ve and non dogmatic way.

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264 Initially Scott Pilgrim appears to be a simple romantic comedy focusing on the love affairs of the title character, a Toronto slacker in his early twenties. As the series advances, however, readers discover that while Scott Pilgri life Toronto in many ways, it operates according to video game logic. In the first volume, Scott discovers that in order to date his new love interest, Ramona Flowers, he has to defeat her seven evil exes. 48 This is recognizably a v ideo game plot, a sort of combination of two ubiquitous cross genre video game tropes rescuing the princess world is governed by video game physics. In a brilliant bu t surprising moment at the end boyfriend, the latter turns into a shower of coins (worth $2.10, not enough for cab fare). This occurrence mimics how in classic video games, enemies simply disappear wh en defeated, leaving behind money or items. As the series continues, instances of video game like behavior proliferate, until it becomes clear that Scott is a video game character living in a video game world. 49 This becomes most prominent in the fourth vo lume, where, early on, we see that Scott has a 14). Each of these meters resembles the conventional vertical thermometers t series of numerical values. This is further emphasized when Scott gains experience 48 49 The series is also full of incidental video game references, for a lis t of which see .

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265 points for doing difficult things. T hat is to say, his acquisition of superior knowledge, maturity and competence is quantified numerically. Scott gets 500 experience for getting a job (62) and 1000 experience for getting his job back after being fired (149). In the climactic scene of the bo ok, Scott earns 9999 experience for telling Ramona he loves her. 50 experience points to pass a threshold beyond which he becomes significantly more competent, and this is quantified as a n increase in his GUTS, HEART, SMARTS and WILL scores (Figure 4 15). comic using jaggy type. As Whalen explains in depth, jaggy type was the characteristic means of rendering text in early video games. It is characterized by stair stepped angles and curves instead of smooth arcs, a sharp distinction between foreground and background colors, (on screen) pixels aligned flush with the actual s which build each letter shape out of uniform bits or pixels and imply a containing grid. (Whalen 2008, 187) Jaggy type (like pixelated graphics, which share many of the same graphical properties) evolved as an adaptation to the limited text rendering cap abilities of early video game hardware. Self evidently, jaggy type is the product of an inscription mechanism that can only render text as an assemblage of discrete parts, and that is incapable of producing smooth lines. Jaggy type therefore announces itse lf as a product of computational processes and pixel based rendering, rather than a record of the trace of a human 50 The use of the number 9999 is a subtle reference to material parameters of graphical display. In the Final Fantasy video games, value are typically either completely arbitrary, or due to the amount of screen/display available for the value. If the score counter only has enough space for four digits, then your highest displaya determined by the number of bits used to store these values.)

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266 hand. It appears thus to be the (digital) antithesis of (analog) handwriting; the aesthetic represented by jaggy type is precisely what the f antasy of handwriting arose as a reaction against. Texts set in jaggy type look as if they were automatically generated se texts to some authorial agent, we can only conceive of this agent as some kind of robot or computer some sort of inhuman Other fo nts used in the series also emphasize their divergence from handwriting. Most of the captions in volume 4, for example, are set in a lower case, sans serif font 51 Like Helvetica, a and mechanically precise; it bears little resemblance to handwriting (Figure 4 16). This font is usually used for captions that represent the voice of the narrator. This narr ator appears to be a singular figure, as he or she has a distinctive style of diction and often never seen on panel. 52 hanical font suggests that the narrator belongs to a different order of reality from the characters. S/he is an impartial observer who is not subject to human foibles or irregularities, and 51 has not made this information public and is currently unavailable for interviews. 52 Narration in Scott Pilgrim is discussed at length in a 2005 review of volume 1, posted by a is the same figure as the makes sense with respect to volume 1, but becomes questionable by volume 4, where these two figures fonts respectively, slick type and jaggy type. However, these figures do

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267 ts on the characters. mimics the standard style of comic book lettering. Actual hand lettering in the comic is used mostly for sound effects, and represents a small fraction of all the lettering in the series. On a simplistic reading, then, the typography in this comic seems to offer a perfect example of how the use of digital technology destroys the fantasy of handwriting. Scott Pilgrim and Nostalgia What this readi ng fails to consider, however, is that jaggy type has nostalgic memories of adolescence. As Whalen observes, jaggy type is commonly encountered in works that appeal to nostalgi a for old style console video gaming (as will be discussed widespread in logotype and graphic design meant for use in a videogame context, and its exaggerated pixeliza Jaggy type thus gestures to a past condition of materiality. Jaggy type recalls an earlier period when the medial and technological parameters of computing were more obvious, and thus it perform s a similar function to the nostalgic fantasy of handwriting. video game references pertain to 8 bit, 16 bit or 32/64 bit games, popular during a period from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. References to more recent console games, such as those for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or Wii, are almost completely absent. Similarly, although the series rarely makes explicit references to other comics, when it

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268 does do so, the comics referenced tend to be from the mid to 41), Scott tells Ramona a story which a knowledgeable (or obsessed) reader will immediately r ecognize as a summary of the plot of Uncanny X Men from about 1988 to 1989. In the 2003 Free Comic Book Day special, Scott wears the same 4 T (1981 e of references comes from a very specific era of pop culture history, dating roughly from 1987 to 1999. 53 interest in video games from before that era (e.g., Atari 2600 games) or after. There are a few jarring exceptions in v olume 5, where Scott wears a Rock Band T shirt and earns game was released in 2007, and the latter term was first used in this context, with reference to Xbox 360 games, in 2 005. These references are surprising and possibly jarring, however, because they fall outside the usual temporal domain of the video game parodied. In volume 6, he says was six years old at the time the volume was released. Scott Pilgrim then, is a heavily nostalgic work, and it expr esses nostalgia for a very specific period the period when the protagonist and his creator (as well as this writer) were children and adolescents. (Indeed, reviewer Josh Tyler criticized the film adaptation of the comic to be discussed in the next chap ter on the grounds that its nostalgic references were too specific and would go over the heads of many viewers, 53 I choose 1987 as a starting date partly because this is the earliest year I can personally remember, and Scott is more or less my age

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269 inherent to such nostalgia is that it might become simply restorative. Whalen associates jaggy type with restorative nostalgia: In other words, there is a kind of restorative nostalgia for videogame technology. Although the appearance of so characterize computer generated type, the low resolution (particularly of curves of letterforms were actually more fuzzy than jaggy (Whalen 2008, 3 9 40). Scott Pilgrim certainly does use jaggy type in the way that Whalen describes, and its nostalgia is in some ways purely restorative. I would argue, however, that as the plot of Scott Pilgrim develops, its nostalgia becomes reflective. Scott Pilgrim I suggest, can be read as a story about engaging with and working through nostalgia for childhood and adolescence. When we first meet him, Scott wallows in restorative nostalgia; as the he learns to use it productively in his quest for adulthood. At the beginning of the series, Scott Pilgrim is 23 years old and is therefore technically an adult. However, he has no source of income and apparently lives off his or activities include playing video games and rehearsing with his rock band. He lives in an unfurnished apartment and shares a bed with his hinted, is part of the reason for his lack of initiative); as volume 1 opens, he has just started dating Knives Chau, a 17 year old high school girl. Clearly, Scott is a character who is not successfully negotiating the transition to adulthood. According to sociologists Sarah Hayford and Frank Furstenberg:

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270 The end of adolescence, and the entry into adulthood, is signaled by a series of transitions, such as finishing school, entering the work force, leaving the parental home, marrying, and becoming a parent (Hogan and Astone 1986). Tak en alone, none of these transitions is either necessary or sufficient for the achievement of adult status, but taken together, they mark the adult stage of life course development. (1) At the beginning of the series, Scott has accomplished only two of the five transitions mentioned by Hayford and Furstenberg or rather one and a half, since, despite having left the parental home, he is still financially dependent on his parents. Scott is suffering from a delayed transition to independent adulthood. 54 At th e beginning of the series, he shows little embarrassment about any of this, even though his friends openly mock him for dating a high schooler. Scott appears to be content to remain a teenager, and his romance, such as it is, with Knives Chau is the cleare st expression of this: he is romantically involved with a 17 year old because he himself is still a 17 year old at affection for video games and comic books that date from th e period of his adolescence. 55 Why not? One obvious explanation is because Scott is a lazy slacker; but it would be more charitable to suggest that Scott is afraid of grow ing up. For Scott, childhood is associated with a certain concept of personal identity as stable and unchangeable. As a child and an adolescent, Scott knew who he was. Scott had a consistent core of identity. Or rather, he imagines that he did: in volume 6 Scott learns that his childhood 54 to go through the full set of transitions in becoming the new 20. 55 been used informally by both laypeople and some psychology p rofessionals in popular psychology since the 1983 publication of The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up

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271 memories have been playing him false. For example, Scott remembers that heroically saved his ex girlfriend Kim Pine from a bully named Simon Lee, but actually it turns out that Scott himself was the bully and Simon Lee was fabricated in this way, then his memory of the type of person he was in childhood might kernel of identity is factually correct fantasy at least, is that as a an adult, this stable kernel of identity will be lost, and he will become someone else. This view of selfhood is, of course, comparable to the concept of selfhood that the to persons who feared tha from a model of selfhood based on character in the social understanding of personality: Character, a fixed nucleus of identity, had best served the interests of a society in which production was th e imperative, but the shift to a consumer society demanded a new form of the self. That new self, personality, consisted of a series of carefully managed presentations, each designed to please a different audience. But as the ever changing mask of personal ity displaced the solid core of character, some experienced the eerie sensation responded to was the fear that there was no face behind the mask. (131, 132) People who bought into the ps eudoscience of graphology did so because they wanted to believe that they had an essential and stable core of identity, now that selfhood had become defined in a way that seemed to exclude such stability. In assuming that selfhood was essential and immutab le, the graphological fantasy of handwriting sought to assuage fears that selfhood was becoming lost in a shifting play of transitional identities.

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2 72 This is an understandable fear, but it rests on a mistaken assumption that these two models of the self, as an unchanging essence and as a succession of transitional states, are mutually exclusive. Citing Paul Ricoeur, Andreea Deciu Ritivoi describes these two models of the self as the idem self and the ipse self: In Latin, two terms stand for the idea of ide ntity, and, as one would expect, they are not perfect synonyms. Idem the first term, signifies identity as something permanent in time, while ipse tolerates change, degrees, and variation, and thus includes difference and otherness. (44) The idem self is the self that remains stable across time, while the ipse self is the self integrationist model of the maintain that personal identity evolves in time, but it evolves within certain limits and in 45). On one hand, the self passes through a series of changing states; on the other hand, all these states are understandable as variations on a sort of underlying pattern. Ritivoi argues, furthermore, that what ensures the continuity of the idem self across the succession of ipse states is nostalgia rative nostalgia could be thought of as a simple mourning of the loss of a previous idem self. In reflective nostalgia, however, one understands that the old ipse self is gone, but that the permanence of the idem self enables the new ipse self to be concei ved of as continuous with the old one. Nostalgia, then, can be a tool for allowing the self to mechanism designed to maintain a stable identity by providing continuity among various

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273 the need for, and the elusive nature of an idem self in the nature of which the ipse self ory of nostalgia was developed to account for immigrant experiences, Creating continuity from childhood to adulthood is exactly the challenge that confronts Scott, and no stalgia is his way of meeting this challenge. He conceptualizes the transition to adulthood in terms of the vocabulary of the texts of his childhood. In volume 4, Scott levels up, not for defeating enemies, but for accepting adult responsibility. He gains experience for getting a job, for humbly begging forgiveness after being fired, and, . And I know that we can make this and not a mere infatuation. Less dramatically, Scott decides that his job at the Happy Avocado Final Fantasy V that characters in anime and manga often make. Scott finds a way to frame the process of growing up in terms of his own cherished complex of cultural references, and thereby assures himself that even as an adult, he can still be Scott Pilgrim the video ga me character/player. Nostalgia for video games acts as a way of reassuring Scott that survive but rather his fantasy of having an essential self, or his desire to have an essential self.

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274 What matters is not so much whether Scott really has an essential self, but whethe r he is able to imagine that he does. Scott Pilgrim and the Handwriting Effect I now suggest that the same holds for handwriting in comics. What matters is not so much whether comics actually are handwritten, but whether they create the effect of handwrit ing, or whether they can be productively imagined in terms of a desire for through hand writing, or that readers should give up their desire to connect with necessary is to respond to the desire for handwriting without claiming that this desire is ever fully satisfiable. making use of digital tools in many ways, Scott Pilgrim is deeply concerned with its own materiality and analog mediality; it emphasizes its own status as a const ruct of ink and several removes. For example, i could is that the characters are actually handwritten constructs. By convention, the reader assumes that even though the objects in Scott Pilgrim depicted in black and white, these objects may be understood as having color within the storyworld that if than in black and white. Ramona, however, is just as unaw are as the reader of what

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275 colors are represented by the various graytones, and this suggests that the world of Scott Pilgrim actually is what the reader perceives it as a construct of black and white drawings. A similar awareness of materiality occurs wh en lines appear around sense. that Ramona is a with your head?" and Scott cries out, "You can see it TOO?" Whoah, wait. You mean those lines coming out of her head are more than just c omic book visual symbols to show the reader that Ramona is feeling certain emotions but that these lines are actually something that the other characters in the book can SEE? Holy cow. Whut? are initially perceived as mere graphic conventions, but turn out to have an infradiegetic materiality (i.e., they exist as objects within the diegetic world). A final example occurs in volume 3 when Lynette Guycott punches the highlight On one level, these metafictional references are just introduced for humor value, but they also remind the reader that Scott Pilgrim words and images are constructs of ink and paper. Scott Pilgrim seeks to suggest that even various digital and mechanical processes, at the bottom of all these processes is Bryan Scott Pilgrim is entirely hand drawn. ce, in that it testifies his unique 91). Besides the digital lettering, every thing in this text appears to be the product of

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276 Ancheta. 56 A typical page from volume 6 is fa r more slick than one from volume 4, involving much more use of digitally applied textures and filters. As noted above, most of the lettering in Scott Pilgrim is digital. However, ncerns. An earlier work of his, Lost at Sea does in fact feature hand hand lettering for the most part because it hurts my wrist, so now I just use Comicraft 08). Moreover, the artist. Comicraft (as well as its competitors, such as Blambot) markets fonts which, despite being digital, are designed to appear handwritten and are o ften patterned after lettering (Figure 4 17), and Comicraft offers many other fonts designed to resemble the lettering of notable cartoonists. Besides us ing fonts based on handwriting; Jeff Smith was one of the earliest cartoonists to do so (Figure 4 18). the above quotation that he is interested in the possibility of doing so. Handwriting based fonts strike a delicate balance between actual handwriting and the appearance thereof. Clearly, such fonts are mechanical; they have a certain 56 assistance presumably his contribution was much less substantial than those of Kantz and Ancheta to volume 6.

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277 Figure 4 The first is similarity in t, are identical to each other: every instance is the product of a consistent indeed, the same mathematical description in the underlying computer fiels. This is a basic and usually unavoidable difference between handwriting and typographic lettering: [R]andomness plays a significant role in real handwriting. As noted, no two individuals have identical handwriting and no single individual writes the same letter, wo signature, typically his or her most repeated writing, contains slight variations in every occurrence. (Loeb 2008) In writing a letter, a human writer may attempt to follow a mental model for what that letter should look like, but s/he never completely succeeds in doing so because of the between individual letters that humans outperform computers in deciphering handwrit ten texts. 57 In typographic lettering, by contrast, any two instances of a given piece of metal type or a bitmap. This is one reason why handwritten letters testify t o the trace of the hand that produced them. Variations between individual instances of the same letter testify to the variability, and therefore to the human nature, of the hand that produced the letters. second sense: in terms of the precise appearance of individual letters. Because humans 57 In a 2007 dissertation, Amalia Rusu described a CAPTCHA technology inferior handwriting recognition capacities in order to distinguish humans from machines.

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278 handwritten letters tend to feature irregular line s and imperfect curves. When mechanical tools are used, however, it becomes possible to draw letters that appear perfectly executed than a failed attempt at the same. Handwritten lette rs, by contrast, record the imperfect These two aspects of regularity are separable: one does not necessarily imply the other. A technology such as LeRoy lettering combin es both types of regularity (perfection and lack of variation), featuring letters which are identical one to another and which are excessively regular in appearance. This sort of dual regularity does indeed create a sense of disembodiment and mechanicity, which can be disturbing if we see it sort of disembodiment is precisely what prompts the fantasy of handwriting in the first place. In contrast, a font like the one ba look the same) but not perfect (i.e., the letters lack machinic perfection and appear to have been executed by a hu man hand). Therefore, even though this lettering is not typewritten, it conforms to exaggerated appearance of the letters matches that of the artwork, and the lettering and artwork both appear to be composed of lines of the same weight, produced by the same production, nor is it the same mode of regularity as in LeRoy lettering. 58 Comicraft and 58 Even so, Smith still faced some criticism over his use of this font. In 2003, Alexandra DuPont How do you respond to the cries o f purists who say that the computer lettering of comics is

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279 Blambot fonts work t he same way: despite their typographic and digital nature, these fonts evoke the appearance of the hand drawn artwork with which they are intended to be paired. We can even imagine a digital font that would have both types of irregularity, in which individ ual letterforms would be based on the handwriting of a specific person and would be subject to random variation. As early as 1995, Luc Devroye and Michael several methods for creating a random printed handwriting font based upon a smal 59 eproduction associated with digital technology, but he seeks to do so without compromising the appearance informed by the (reflective) fantasy of handwriting despite its digitally alt ered nature. For example, often for quite high prices and exhibits it in galleries. A 2010 Portland Mercury blog post described an exhibition of understand what people are talking about in general because I believe that a person who draws a strip he then proposed that digital lettering makes translation easier and that the insistence on hand lettering was just an arbitrary rule. DuPont also alluded to the labor saving effects of digital lettering. 59 I focus on lettering here, but similar arguments could be made about digitally produced artwork. Astro City sense, since he produced it on a tablet PC. However, this artwork has the same tenor of the trace as Astro City tell that Anderson had start not so much the appearance of the artwork as the ontological fact of its means of production.

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280 Scott Pilgrim originals where each page was on sale for $1 000 (Henriksen 2010). 60 sively emphasize his own role as an artist, at least not within the boundaries of the texts. Scott Pilgrim is not an autobiographical comic in the sense of being a memoir or a Knstlerroman ; it his development as an artist. 61 parodying. The about the author page in Scott Pilgrim been alive since he was born and will live until he dies, which will probably be pretty soon. His dying wish will be eground his personal involvement with every aspect of the text in the same way that the stereotypical alternative cartoonist does. He does, however, try to keep the reader aware that his work is the product of a human hand, however many layers of mediation exist between that hand and the final 60 See < http://blogtown.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2010/08/06/bryan lee omalleys original scott pilgrim art at floating world> 61 For example, Scott Pilgrim and cultural background. By contrast, in the work of other Asian American alternative cartoonists (e.g., ,Gene Luen Yang, Derek Kirk Kim, Adrian Tomine), Asian identity is often a primary concern even in t exts the question of Chinese identity, but only in a parodic way.

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281 probably not claim otherwise. But the handwritten appearance of his artwork can still be reassuring, especially when we compare this artwork to more transparent computer generated art or lettering, because the appe arance of handwrittenness suggests that at the origin of the text, there is a desire for materiality, subjectivity, embodiment, and the rest of the package of values that handwriting signifies. Again, the fact that this desire is unsatisfiable does not mak e it any less compelling. Even Scott Pilgrim though, is more handwritten than not. It was produced primarily by traditional drawing tools rather than digital tools, and cannot be accurately described as a born digital text. What happens to the fantasy of handwriting when even the appearance of handwriting vanishes when texts are produced with digital tools rather than pencils, pens and brushes? Can the fantasy of handwriting be preserved under such conditions? These questions will be examined in the last two chapters.

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282 Figure 4 1. An example of Jeffrey Brown's highly crude drawing style. Figure 4 2. Page 146 of Craig Thompson's Blankets in which Craig masturbates while looking at Raina's handwriting.

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283 Figure 4 3. Jim Aparo's cover to The Brave and the Bold #124, in which he shows Figure 4 4. Panel from Seth's Clyde Fans Note the differences between individual

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284 Figure 4 5 Example of LeRoy lettering, from William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter's Wonder Woman Figure 4 6. Page from a variant version of Captain America #601, reproduced directly from Gene Colan's pencils. Note the incongruity between pencil artwork and dig ital lettering.

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285 Figure 4 style of drawing and lettering. Images by Huizenga are reproduced by permission of the author. Figure 4 8. Cover of Ganges #2. Note the highly idiosyn cratic lettering and the lack of any evidence of digital production.

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286 Figure 4 gameworld. Compare with the following figure and note the lack of graphic distinction between Figure 4

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287 Figure 4 11. The conjunction of the parrot, the gramophone and the word balloon, from Richard Outcault's Ye llow Kid strip of October 25, 1896 Figure 4 to the idea that video games cause violence.

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288 Figure 4 13. The cover of Hopeless Savages #1, by Andi Watson. An example of Oni Pres Figure 4 14. Scott's pee meter, full and empty. (O'Malley 2007 79)

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289 Figure 4 15. Scott levels up. Note the jaggy type. Figure 4 16. An example of the font used in O'Malley's captions. Compare to t he font used for the word balloon.

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290 Figure 4 17. Comicraft's Hedge Backwards font, based on Richard Starkings's hand lettering. Figure 4 18. Example of Jeff Smith's pioneering handwriting based font. Compare the

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291 CHAPTER 5 WRITING IN THE AIR: FANTASIES OF HANDWRI TING IN DIGITAL CINE MA Opening Remarks In the previous three chapters I discussed media which are primarily non graphical in nature. More specifically, these media are all sites of originary fan tasies of handwriting; even before the arrival of computer graphics, these media were understood and imagined in terms of their handwritten properties. The question in these chapters, then, was whether and how these media could continue to promulgate the f antasy of handwriting after the arrival of graphics. In this chapter and the one which follows, I (pre graphical) fantasy of handwriting because they do not predate com puter graphics. The question to be considered here, then, is as follows: Can the fantasy of handwriting be sustained in media which, in some degree, are antagonistic to handwriting because they depend on other means of inscription? If so, how? I contend t hat digital texts can in fact sustain fantasies of handwriting of both the restorative and the reflective type. The restorative fantasy of handwriting is at work when a digital object attempts to replicate qualities of handwritten texts, failing to acknowl edge that such an attempt can never fully succeed both because no text is ever purely handwritten, and more specifically, because of differences between handwritten texts and digital objects. The reflective fantasy is at work when a text acknowledges the inevitable failure of any simple restoration of handwriting in digital form, but is nonetheless informed, in a self aware and critical way, by fantasies of handwriting.

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292 In this chapter, I will begin by arguing that both these modes of the fantasy of hand appeal to fantasies of handwriting in a nave way, and tried to ignore or cover up the fact that such an appeal to handwriting always coexisted uneasily with their simultaneou s promotion of the logic of transparency. Restorative fantasies of handwriting support a project of restorative nostalgia which is prominently visible in films like Toy Story (1995) and especially Cars (2006), and which sometimes has unfortunate political implications, as in The Incredibles (2004). Other Pixar films, however for example, Monsters, Inc. (2001) and Toy Story 3 (2010) use the nostalgic fantasy of handwriting in a more honest and reflective way. In these films, the desire for handwriting an d handwrittenness is tempered by the realization that pure handwriting is unrecoverable, largely because it never existed, in the form in which it is imagined to have existed, in the first place. Yet this opens up the possibility that handwriting can be de moted from its exalted status and used instead as an element in a more general ecology of writing systems, a possibility that is explored by Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (Edgar Wright, 2010). Pixar and Restorative Fantasies of Handwriting Pixar and the Nave Fantasy of Handwriting To return to an idea I suggested near the end of the last chapter, the use of digital tools might be regarded as a form of handwriting. This is true to the extent that the use of a tools presently essential to digital artistic practices (e.g., a mouse, keyboard or stylus) is still an act of manual interaction with a writing surface. Traditionally, analog handheld tools such as brushes, pens and pencils have been considered the only possible tools that allow for handwriting. This however, is a belief based on prejudice,

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293 and the difference between, say, a pen and a stylus has more to do with perception rather than reality. As Harpold suggests (cf. p. 25 above), when one uses a keyboard, there seems to b e a lack of continuity between the act of manual intervention and the appearance of text on the screen. But this is not actually the case; the act of manual intervention is still the direct cause of the appearance of text, and the only thing that changes i s the perceived closeness or continuity between the one and the other. To that extent, the use of digital tools can be viewed as merely another form of handwriting. use my hands to do my work. In fact, no one I know uses their hands to letter; they use In a larger sense, then, it could be argued that there is an essential continuity between traditional handwriting and digitally remediated versions of handwriting that these two processes have the same goals and accomplish the same results, despite using different tools. This is essentially the argument that John Lasseter Creative Officer and the di rector of four Pixar films makes in his 1987 article several new digital animation systems, Lasseter observes These systems will enable people to produce more high qual ity computer animation. Unfortunately, these systems will also enable people to produce more bad computer animation. Much of this bad animation will be due to unfamiliarity with the fundamental principles that have been used for hand drawn character animat ion for over 50 years. Understanding these principles of traditional animation is essential to producing good computer animation. (35) These principles, each of which Lasseter describes in detail, are those developed largely by Disney for example, squas h and stretch, slow in and out, and appeal.

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294 the earliest students in the animation course at the California Institute of the Arts, which was founded by Walt Disney, and 1 sic ] changes due animation are the same, in that artists working in these media need to obey the same principles. The principles an animator needs to follow are unaffected by the transition from one medium to the other; all that changes is the application of these principles. This is more or less analogous to the claim that, for example, Starkings makes about hand lettering versus digital lett ering. Both Starkings and Lasseter claim, essentially, that traditional and digital media share an essential core of identity, differing only in accidental details such as the nature of the tools employed, or the precise way in which general principles nee d to be applied. its publicity, on the drawnness of its products. In a 2008 article, Pixar production designer Harley Jessup argues at length that computer animation is a t heart a drawn medium: In the creation of a computer graphic animated film, a team of designers 1 number appear in every Pixar feature as well as in many other films created by CalArts alumni. Another Pixar director,

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295 the basic storytelling process based on thousands of drawings, remains the board and I often remind the artists on our team that the ability to express an idea in a drawing is a ver y powerful skill. (170) rtists in Pixar working in traditional media hand drawing, painting, pastels, sculpture as we do in digital The act of drawing continues to be the standard medium for communicating visual ideas at Pixar, and although the thousands of drawings we create never appear directly on the screen, they remain the foundation of every feature film we create. The computer is a miraculous tool, but a great story is, in fact, the heart of a Pixar film and to tell that story we always begin with a drawing. (181) To support this claim, Jessup illustrates his essay with numerous production drawings from Pixar films. The overall message this essay sends is that the production of a Pixar film is, at least initially, a process of drawing. Various additional layers of mediation, as well as various additional steps in the production pipeline, may be interposed between at the heart of each Pixa tool and a writing surface. Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995) and Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, 1999), often feature a similar emphasis on drawing and drawn ness. In these films, drawing has ideological associations that are by now familiar: drawing stands for personality, creativity, selfhood, and imagination. Handwriting and hand drawing both appear in the first scene of the first Pixar film. Like

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296 its two sequels, Toy Story opens with a scene in which Andy, the central child character in the trilogy, plays with his toys. The film opens with a shot of a cardboard box which drawn sign (note the backwards N) and a crude drawing of a door. 2 The camera pans to the left, showing sic ], and a childishly hand drawn lings, incorrectly Here and elsewhere in Toy Story handwriting and drawing are associated with childhood; most of the instances of writing and drawing shown on screen are obviously the work of children. This is obviously not surprising given that Toy Story unlike its sequels, takes place in a milieu of children. All the significant characters in the film are the adult world and the fact that children eventually grow up. But moreover, this film also associates drawing with creativity and imagination. It implies that these values are inherent in drawing and in (healthy) childhood, to the extent that childhood i s valuable largely by virtue of being the period of life when people learn to draw. 2 Similarly, in Calvin and Hobbes the child protagonist converts a cardboard box into a variety of fantastic devices (a transmogrifier, a duplicator, and a time machine) by writing labels on it. Here, as in Toy Story empty and blank object, as something other than what it is.

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297 pl (122). She observes that there are indications that a high level of imaginative play in childhood is sted that creativity in the long term. (122) The ability to engage in imaginative play indicates the ability to imagine the world as it currently exists. Therefore, imaginative play is analogous to drawing and storytelling, both of which also involve the creation of original phenomena that need not correspond to real world referents. In the opening scene of Toy Story Andy engages in all three of these phenomena at once, proving that he possesses a healthy (perhaps even unusually healthy) faculty for creativity and imagination And the implication is that the creators of the film are like Andy in this sense. Toy Story of the expression of creativity through drawing a nd storytelling. Moreover, drawing functions in Toy Story as a signifier of selfhood. The plot of the toy, Buzz Lightyear, who threatens to replace the cowboy doll Woo permanent marker, on his boot, indicating that Andy has accepted Buzz as a cherished possession. Seeing this, Woody looks at his own boot, and we see th al. n.p.); it also appears to be drawn in the childish medium of crayon (Figure 5 1). e superior

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298 The obvious reason why Andy writes his name on his toys is to identify them as his property, as h is material possessions. But by this act of self inscription, Andy also identifies his toys as products of his creativity, as objects which are in some sense his creation. Andy of course did not literally create his toys; a poignant moment in Toy Story occ urs when Buzz notices the words MADE IN TAIWAN stamped into his arm. But in playing with his toys, Andy invests them with something of himself, using them as outlets for the expression of his creativity and his subjective compulsions. His toys are physical sites of his creative activity. He testifies to this by signing his name to his toys, affixing his name to his films (albeit in simulated and reproduced form). Thus uses of handwriting in Toy Story serve to reinforce the perception that the film, despite its computer generated nature, is essentially a handwritten and hand drawn object. To this extent, Toy Story relies on the nave fantasy of handwriting. Its constit succeeded in giving life to inanimate objects. There is an obvious analogy between the its elf, which creates the illusion that inanimate drawings (or sculptures, puppets, etc.) have come to life and acquired the capacity for independent action. The way in which 3 3 Critical Inquiry 24.4 (1998): 935 964, for an examination of the uncanny aspects of the illusion of in

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299 Pixa r and the Fantasy of Immersion paradigmatic example of the latter: Computer graphics proce ssing is rapidly taking over the animated cartoon; Toy Story (USA 1995). And here too the goal is to make the computer disappear: to make the settings, toys, and the human characters look as much a s possible like live action film. (Bolter 2000, 68). precisely about replicating the look of the live action film. Objects and characters in ggerated and distorted in various ways; indeed, the ninth of anything or any idea and develop its essence, understanding the reason for it, so that the audience will also understand it. If a character is sad, make him sadder; if he is paradoxically, to heig hten the verisimilitude of the depicted scene, to create effects of hyperrealism and cinematism. Wells defines the hyperrealism of Disney films essentially in terms of verisimilitude and resemblance to live action cinema. His criteria for hyperrealism inc design, context and action within the hyper realist animated film approximates with, and corresponds to the design, context and action within the live e hyper realist 31.2 (2006): 109 131, for an Toy Story films.

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300 Hyperrealism, therefore, is animation that seeks to mimic live representation of reality. 4 By making characters three dimensional but still recognizably not flesh and blood physical actors, Pixar takes animation one step closer to live action film, thereby increasing the effect of hyperrealism. Similarly, Lamarre defines cinematism in terms of movement into depth, in contrast to the lateral, sliding movement is a voyage into the landscape, which entails a push for greater mobility and velocity, for the ability to turn on a penny or to stop on a dime. Animetism is into depth but movement on and between surfaces (7) into or out of the imag erase the gaps between planes of the animated image (30). Computer animation erases this problem, enabli ng camera movement that mimics that of live action cinema; an Toy Story tested methods of camera sion of movement into depth, especially at high speed, has become a staple of American digital animation, exemplified in the action sequences of Pixar productions which is where hyper (Lamarre 126). 4 It action noted that the influence between Disney and Ho llywood probably goes in both directions; it is likely that the way in which Disney films represent reality has had at least some influence on the way in which Hollywood films do so.

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301 The troub le here is that hyperrealism is not value neutral. Wells takes the term from Eco, who uses it to describe something more sinister than more true than true verisimilitude. For Eco, the hyper real is that which, though entirely fake, presents itself as super ior to actual reality ; the specific example he cites is the ertsatz boulevard of Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland. Disney, for Eco, is the classic example of artifice that fraudulently presents itself as real, at the expense of actual reality. The hyperre al is the negative form of transparency in its most sinister form. It offers a superior alternative to a messier, less conceptually rigorous real life, with the consequence, often intentional, of distracting the consumer from paying attention to real world problems. Baudrillard to be rational, because it no longer measures itself against either an ideal or negative instance. It is no longer anything but operational. In fact, it is no longer really the real, because no imaginary envelops it anymore. It is a hyperreal in this sense functions as a tool o hyperreal aesthetic is often used as evidence for various critiques of Disney as (for example) antifeminist, colonialist, or anti liberal. 5 cinematism is associated wi and Western modernity. As a means of producing real images without referents, digital animation is obviously open to such critiques of hyperreality. Digital animation seems at risk of becoming pur 5 See the sources cited in Chapter 2, footnote 31, as well as Andrew Ros s, The Celebration (Verso, 2000).

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302 real one and thus facilitating a purely escapist mode of spectatorship at best, or serving as a means of indoctrination at worst. Perhaps the clearest evidence for such a critique is a film like Avatar (James Cameron 2009). This film is set on an alien planet, Pandora, and its title refers to a technology which allows Jake Sully, a human paraplegic, to n compensating for its unreality. 6 Similarly, the film itself promises to transp ort viewers into the world of Pandora, which is better looking, less ecologically spoiled, more internally coherent, etc., than the real world, and which can also be seen in (a hyperreal) three dimensional format if screened in an appropriately equipped th eater. As presented in the film, Pandora is so much better than Earth that no rational person hetic. What Avatar celebrates about Pandora is its organic ness, in the sense of both its unspoiled natural beauty and the cohesiveness with which everything in the world is linked to everything else. All this is contrasted to the ugly and lifeless technol ogy employed by the humans. 7 In an article on Avatar and Neoplatonism, Ken Hillis succeeds to a surprising degree in recuperating this reading of the film as politically useful. Without engaging 6 For a far more nuanced treatment of the same theme, see Alan Moore and John Totleben's Miracleman: Olympus 7 See Hillis 2010 for a more While Hillis does a better job than I would have thought possible of recuperating the politics of this film, something about his argument still leaves me unconvinced.

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303 with this claim, I simply suggest that such a discourse of t echnology as hyperreal is not exists in a state of tension with nostalgias for handwriting, inasmuch as the former depends on transparency while the latter depends on n on transparency. At the same time that Pixar explicitly and implicitly stresses its commitment to handwriting, its technological apparatus seems to militate in the direction of hyperrealism. Its public statements often confirm its commitment to the latter; papers often draw attention to how technologies described in these papers help to make major technical challenges in the animated film Ratatouille well as in Cars (2006) which I would characterize as a regressive work Pixar often tries to conceal this tension between handwriting and hyperrealism. In later works, this tension is reduced, but Pixar becomes willing to confront it directly. It is only then that Pixar and Restorative Nostalgia ly deal with the question of nostalgia for the past or for old media. However, they continue the project of restorative nostalgia which was begun by the Disney Renaissance films of the late 1980s and early 1990s. M. Keith Booker explains: [I]t means one th ing to make Snow White in 1937 and something entirely different to remake it half a century later. Thus, the element of nostalgia for an earlier and presumably more authentic time that was already present in the earlier films becomes significantly stronger in films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast (1991), and The Lion King (1995), because these films now have the added element of being nostalgic for the earlier films. (37)

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304 a quest for similar to the mainstream ideology of Disney films, especially in their emphasis on the with nostalgic references to American culture, specifically American culture of the 1950s, and often express a longing for this time period. Moreov er, a central theme in lost moment of plenitude. Toy Story is primarily an exciting adventure story, but as [T]he obsolescence suggested here becomes particularly poignant because we are (79). Buzz threatens to body is plastic and battery powered. Toy Story however, deals with questions of obsolescence and transience simply Woody survives the arrival of Buzz. The fact that Andy will eventually grow up, and that his toys will eventually break or that we may lose interest in them, is not directly confronted.

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305 In Toy Story 2 however, obsolescence and transience the factors that create the conditions of possibility for nostalgia do become explicit themes. At the beginning of film, where the p rincipal danger to toys was intentional destruction by cruel children. Through a series of misadventures, Wally becomes the property of an unscrupulous toy collector, and encounters a female cowboy doll, Jessie. There follows one of the most emotionally po werful sequences in the Pixar canon, as Jessie reminiscences on her Emily, are accompanied by the lines: When somebody loved me / Everything was beautiful / Every hour we spent together / Lives within my heart. // And when she was sad / I was there to dry her tears / And when she was happy, so was I / When she loved me. // Through the summer and the fall / We had each other, that was all / Just she and I together / Like it was meant to be. / But from under the bed, it is only in order to donate her to charity. evocation of a former plenitude with the knowledge of the irretrievable loss of that plenitude. Yet something about this scene seems disingenuous. The lost plenitude whose disappearance is being lamented, is lost because of the same teleological ideology of progress th growth is what causes the severance of her bond with Jessie, and this growth is subtly

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306 analogized to the steady progress of technological development when Emily acquires a car at the end of th e scene. But technological progression, in the sense of teleological advancement from less to more advanced means of representation, is what makes this scene and its stunning emotional impact possible. An even clearer demonstration of this point is offere d by a similar scene in Cars when Sally tells Lightning McQueen how the creation of the interstate highway system destroyed the traditional community of Radiator Springs, located on the old Route 66: through land like that Interstate. It moved with the land, you know? It rose, it ove on it to have a great time. 8 We see a series of idyllic scenes of small town life, depicted in slightly faded tones so Long ago, but not so very long ago / The world w as different, oh yes it was /You settled down and you built a town and made it live / And you watched it grow / It was your ues, as we see the crowds vanish and the shops go out of business: Time goes by, time brings changes, you change, too / Nothing comes that you / On your town / Nothing you can do. 8 It is probably no coincidence that both Cars and Who Framed Roger Rabbit depict the interstate highway system as having destroyed traditional American urban communities. For a detailed examination of the interstate highway system from a cultural studies perspective, see Cotten Seiler, Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America (University of Chicago Press, 2008).

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307 The scene ends on a note of explicit restorative nostalgia, as Lightning comments, How great would it . in ne gative terms, as a force that destroys traditional notions of community and renders authentic experience impossible. The solution, implicitly, is to reject the logic of efficiency that informs the interstate system just as Sally gave up her fast paced li fe as an attorney in order to live in Radiator Springs and to seek ways of returning to the state of plenitude that existed in the past. And the ending of the film suggests that such a restoration of the object of nostalgia is actually possible. Lightnin g gives up his chance Winston Cup) in order to assist an injured opponent, thus affirming that communitarianism and respect for others is more important than competitive su ccess and expediency. Having become famous for this act of sportsmanship, Lightning capitalizes on his fame by moving his racing headquarters to Radiator Springs, thus Toy Story 2 seems similarl y (This reading, however, needs to be nuanced, and I will do so below.) The implicit message here is that you can return to the past that, as Sven Birkerts suggests with respect to handwriting, it makes logical sense to imagine a future in which the direction of technological progression is reversed, allowing for the return of obsolete technologies and the restoration of the utopia associated with them. But the obvio us trouble here is that Cars is itself a product of the very ideology of progress it

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308 critiques. Like all Pixar films, Cars of the art technology. se used in The Incredibles [the previous Pixar film] and 1,000 times faster than those used in Toy Story To build the cars, the animators used computer platforms very similar to those used in the design of real ). In particular, Cars 1). Cars r accurate depiction of reflections, including interreflections where shiny objects reflect other shiny objects (n.p.). In order to depict the nostalgic story of Cars then, it was necessary not only to take advantage of a vast technological apparatus, but also to make state of the art improvements to the apparatus. Or rather, the direct ion of causality was the opposite. For all its nostalgic evocation of a vanished past, Cars apparatus more efficient and transparent through the inclusion of ray trac ing. Pixar (Christensen et al. n.p.). Cars disingenuous. 9 More specifically, Sally praises the old Route 66 fo r promoting less goal 9 It's also worth noting here that Cars was Pixar's most successful film in terms of merchandising, having generated over $8 billion in merchandising revenue (Szalai n.p.). Probably at least in part for this reason, Pixar has developed a sequel to Cars (to be released in June 2011), even though the first film was poorly received relative to Pixar's other films. If Toy Story may be viewed c Cars

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309 oriented, more reflective uses of time. Yet computer animation tends to be chosen over traditional animation precisely because it saves time and labor costs, just as the primary advantage of typewriting or word processing over handwri ting is greater efficiency. Moreover, Sally observes that Route 66 followed the natural contours of the landscape, perhaps in the same way that handwriting follows, and authentically records, the natural physical movements of the hand that produces it. The use of a James Taylor song for this scene is also a mark of naturalness or authenticity, in that his voice exhibits a high instantly recognizes it as such, and feels t hat one is in the (phantasmal) presence of a singer with an absolutely unique, irreducibly embodied performance practice. And yet, all of these signifiers of embodiment, of tenor of trace, coexist with digital animation, which is often critiqued precisely on the grounds that it strips out the unique, embodied, authentic properties of its creator. Therefore, there is something highly disingenuous about the evocation of nostalgia in Cars and also in the first two Toy Story films. (This is why Cars deserves to be discussed alongside the earlier Pixar films, despite having been released as late as 2006.) But Toy Story 2 contains hints of a different relation to nostalgia. Although the film is emotionally manipulative in much the same way as Cars it also sugge sts that obsolescence, transience and technological and medial progression are not simply reversible, and that, therefore, restorative nostalgia represents a dishonest way of confronting the past. Reflective Nostalgia in Toy Story 2 The villain of Toy Sto ry 2 is Al, an unscrupulous toy collector who seeks to complete a collection of toys related to the fictional TV series

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310 including Woody himself desire, like that of his Japanese co lleagues, is to preserve toys in amber, to keep them in an immaculate state so that they can serve as permanent symbols of a vanished CHILDREN ALLOWED sign outside the door, sugges preserving the playthings of childhood is incompatible with actual childhood. Jessie, who was traumatically separated from her child owner, and Stinky Pete, a toy who was never removed from his original packaging and has thus never seen actual signifiers of nostalgia. Stinky Pete convinces Wally to agree with his position by reminding him that he himself is transitory, as the damage to his arm i ndicates, and that y. You can go back, or ANDY on his boot. As in the previous film, the ANDY handwritin authenticity and naturalness. But it also stands for the transitory, momentary nature of that authenticity. The faded quality of the crayon, as well as the childishness of the handwriting, remind us that Andy is already no longer th e person he was when he signed his name on Woody. This handwriting is the symbol of a former presence, the trace of someone who no longer exists. By not resisting when the name is painted over, Woody signals his rejection of the transience that the name im plies.

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311 But that, of course, is not the end of the film. When Woody explains his decision to ransitoriness as something which must be accepted, because it is necessary for authentic experience. The transitoriness of such experience is what makes it experience which is necessarily time bound. As Graeme Gilloch observes: Play, for the toys, involve s confronting risk in various forms: the risk of accidental or deliberate damage, the risk of obsolescence, the risk of falling out of favour [ sic ], the risk of ending up discarded and buried. But such risks are worth taking because they are life itself, b ecause, as Buzz observes: Toy Story 2 what Woody chooses is the uncertainty and transience of life with Andy rather than the living death of museumified, mummified immortality, 11) Therefore, Woody scrapes off the paint on his boot, revealing the name ANDY. Woody accepts the fact that Andy is already a much older child than when they first met, and that Andy will soon be an adult. At the end of the film Jessie and her horse, Bullseye, case). (Figure 5 commodification of toys and the postmodern unmooring of images from their historical cont happy time, the enjoyment of which should not be marred by the fact that it is inevitably temporary. The question of what will happen to Woody and his cohorts after Andy grows

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312 was released, as the book predates Toy Story 3 which poses that very question. Toy Story 3 as it fails to give due weight to the fact that unlike its predecessor, Toy Story 2 at least acknowledges the importance of nostalgia. It gestures to the what is known in Japanese as mono no aware the awareness that the beautiful object one is present ly enjoying is destined to be irrecoverably lost. Yet there is still a step missing here. Toy Story 2 still assumes that even if the object of nostalgia is not recoverable after its loss, that object of nostalgia still unequivocally exists, and actually d oes possess all the cherished properties with which it is retrospectively invested. It ignores the question of how the object of nostalgia is rewritten or reimagined, or how it gets changed by the very process of remembering it. Moreover, although handwrit ing plays an important symbolic role in Toy Story 2 it Toy Story 2 handwriting or drawing. For a more direct exploration of these themes, we have to turn to the next Pixar film, Monster s Inc. (Pete Docter, 2001). Monsters, Inc. : The Monsters and the Kiddies Monsters, Inc and Imagination Monsters, Inc. is set in Monstropolis, the city of monsters. As depicted in the film, monsters are much like humans except that they use human children source of power. 10 harvest their scream energy. Because monsters believe falsely, as it turns out that 10 and funnier that wa y.

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313 human children are deadly, scarers are the bravest and most respected citizens of Monstropolis (at one point, the film parodies a famous shot from The Right Stuff and thus compares scarers to astronauts). This premise seems to provide an entirely mun dane, prosaic explanation of why the dark by first assuring us that there really are monsters in the closet; and then monsters are afraid of children appears to be motivated by a similar logic: the monsters seem more human when we understand that they are as afraid of us as we are of them. But the reason why the premise of Monsters, Inc is interesting, especially from the perspective of this discussion, is because the monsters feed on imagination specifically children The monster in the closet, like the essentially identical trope of the monster under the bed, is scary unseen Much like the grue (discussed in chapter 2), the monster in the closet inhabits a space withdrawn from direct visual access. Moreover, the monster typically operates at night, when sources of light and visual stimuli are minimized. As Calvin and Hobbes comic strip 11 Because it is not visible, the monster can be imagined as anything at all. Its ap pearance is potential or virtual rather than actual, and this makes it scarier than if it were fixed into one precise form. When monsters under the bed are depicted in popular culture, their invisibility is often emphasized. Or rather their non visibility, 11 For a Lacanian reading of imaginary ness in Calvin and Hobbes see Sandifer 2007.

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314 man; they could be seen under ordinary viewing conditions, except that they conceal 12 parents sue the monster under his bed for personal injury. The monster spends the tr ial hiding under the defense table, and is never seen directly. Of course, in Monsters, Inc. the monsters are visible. However, they still exist in an environment of limited visibility (they visit children at night, by teleporting into their closets). And, as I will explain below, each actual monster is, in a sense, ontologically preceded by a hypothetical monster that the child imagines into existence. Moreover, again as with the grue, traits of the monster in the closet must be filled in by imagination Because the monster is not visible, it needs to be visual ized ; the child can perceive it only by imagining it. This is why the monster in the closet appeals to children, and why, in Monsters, Inc ., scream energy can only be generated by children. Conventio nal wisdom holds that children are imaginative and suggestible. Children have an incomplete understanding of borders between reality and fantasy. They have a greater power of imagining the unseen. With adolescence and adulthood, the child becomes more awar e of distinctions between reality and fantasy or, as developmental psychologist Paul L. Harris suggests, more willing to deploy such distinctions when evaluating fictional material (79). Thus, the emotional impact of fantasy decreases with reasonably expect emotional engagement with an imaginary creature, 12 writes itself.

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315 whether it is fear of an encounter or distress at its absence, to decline with age as children become more adroit at recruiting an appropriate strategy whenever their emotional reaction be itself from sight is thus related to another common trope, the creature that can only be in which a boy, ri ding with his father late at night, sees a mysterious crowned creature and hears the creature enticing and cre ature is merely a wisp of fog and that its voice is only the wind. However, it turns out ior imaginative capabilities allow him to perceive things which adults rationally dismiss. As harmful as well as beneficial; the Erlknig boy might have survived if he ha d been able sometimes an uncanny process. However, the conclusion to Monsters, Inc. does confront this fact, as we will see below. 13 13 rious other fictional examples of phenomena only perceptible by children. A clever example not listed there occurs in Dragon Quest V (1992/2009), in which only children can see fairies. Early in the game, the then six year old protagonist encounters a fair y, who the player is able to see. Later in the game, when the protagonist is an adult, his eight year old son encounters a fairy, but the fairy does not appear on screen. This is a game which insists upon the connection between the player and the protagoni ability or inability to see fairies apparently also extends to the player. Another example, which is interesting in light of footnote 10 above, is the unauthorized Calvin and Hobbes B

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316 In other words, as children get older, they become less afraid of monsters because they become capable of applying their rational knowledge that monsters are not real. This is presumably true even if, a s in Monsters, Inc. monsters are real; in the world of the film. If an older child or an adult saw a monster, it is likely that he or she would refuse to believe it was real, or would find it silly or cute rather than scary. Or, if an older child or adult did scream on seeing a monster, he or she would do so out of a purely pragmatic fear for his or her own safety. Thus, in the Monsters, Inc. comic, when an adolescent human villain is apprehended by the monsters, he is afraid of them because he thinks they As Harris argues, children, to a greater extent than adults, can become emotionally involved in experiences without regard to whether those experiences are real or event can be independently analyzed for its ontological status on the one of monsters not for purely pragmatic or self interested reasons, but also because for child ren, events carry an emotional charge which is independent of their practical significance. This is why children are the only viable source of scream energy both because children are more willing to imagine, and because children, compared to adults, are more effective at investing emotionally in their imaginative experiences. Moreover, as children grow older, they become more focused on real world concerns progressivel y declines. By this time, school achievement starts to gain prominence in Toy Story films explicitly indicate that this

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317 is why ch ildren stop playing with toys as they grow up. With increasing age, children simply have less time to make their toys come to life. At the same time, children are discouraged from engaging in fantasy play, which is seen as incompatible with the practical a ttitude toward life required of adults and proto adults. As the above references to scientific sources indicate, there is practical evidence that imaginative ability, along with emotional investment in imaginary phenomena, diminishes with adulthood. Howev er, independently of whether this claim is actually Monsters, Inc. is the same as that of the Toy Story films: that imagination is specifically linked to childhood. Monsters. Inc. and Visualization Like Toy Story furthermore, but to a still greater extent, Monsters, Inc. insists on a link between childhood and handwriting or drawing. To this extent, Monsters, Inc. can be characterized as a text that deploys fantasies of handwritin g. As explained in a TV commercial shown at the beginning of the film, the scream generation process is personal and idiosyncratic: We power your car. We warm your home. We ligh Carefully matching every child to their ideal monster to produce superior scream refined into clean, dependable energy. Every time you turn something on, Monsters, Incorporated is there. (emphasis mine) The scream generation process depen ds on a careful matching of each child to her or preconceived notion of ideal scariness, predating any encounter with the monster that matches that ideal. The accompanying imag es depict a little boy being shown multiple monsters in rapid succession, each of which elicits a bored reaction (Figure 5 3). At the

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318 scream; this causes a canister of scr eam energy to fill up (Figure 5 4). Why did this final monster succeed in scaring the child when none of the others How was that concept formed? Presumably by the proc ess described above: given an unseen space and a healthy imagination, the boy visualized what might be in there. it into existence just as the Pixar animators did, as I will discuss below. Moreover, and have been scared by one of the monsters p resented earlier, while remaining indifferent to the monster that scared the boy. Imagining a monster is an idiosyncratic process analogous to handwriting. In a sense, the child writes the monster into existence, and does so in a way which is specific to personality: our private, idiosyncratic fears testify to who we are, just as our private, idiosyncratic desires do Moreover, for a child the ability to imagine monsters in a personal way might be seen as an index of the acquisition of a certain sense of individualistic thought and creativity, and thus, the arrival at a certain stage of selfhood. A child who can imag ine things specific to himself or herself is also capable of understanding himself or herself as an individual, as someone with an interiority inaccessible to others. The ability to draw in an idiosyncratic style is indicative of the same developmental mil estone. Thus,

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319 in the film, the principal child protagonist, Boo, is pre verbal, but she nonetheless emerges as a distinctive, individuated character thanks to her playful and affectionate interactions with Sulley 14 intersubjective connection with Sulley helps us see her as a distinct individual. Moreover, Boo actually of disposing of her, Boo draws a picture of herself and Mike and holds it up to the camera (Figure 5 5). This 15 Monsters, Inc and Drawi ng by my 4 year Monsters, Inc. (180). Even though this drawing plays a pivotal role in the plot of the film, M onsters, Inc. drawings is ironic, Jessup implies that Monsters, Inc. is informed by drawing on other, non literal levels. In the first place, the way in which the children in the film create to create Monsters, Inc. actually exist, their visual appearance cannot be researched. According to Lasseter and 14 Not to be confused with Jake Sully, the protagonist of Avatar 15 This is not just a pun: in the second half of the film Boo does dress up as a little monster, and th e real monsters. In this sense, this is very much a film made by parents for parents, whose fear a nd horror of their offspring, of the responsibility that comes with

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320 The Art of Monsters, Inc ., released in tandem with the film: When we start to develop a film at Pixar, we like to do a lot of research. For Toy Story we spent lots of time in toy stores. (It wa s hard work, but someone had to do it.) For we crawled under plants and burrowed through biology books, studying insects and how they live. Monsters are harder to come by, and hours of sitting in the closet and lying under the bed yielded not hing but dust bunnies in our hair. (6) According to this account, the production team surveyed children about monsters and serious study and just making it up . We decide are therefore purely imaginary, and in many respects whimsical, creations. According to that none of the monsters were based on recogni zable animals. Why should they be be [ sic Art of Monsters, Inc. book, which Sulley was a composite of the features of various animals (Mills n.p.) In either case, however, the monsters are imagined into existence, whether by creating them completely ex nihilo or by using diverse real creatures as a basis for their visual appearance. The Art of Monsters, Inc. drawing them. Like the Jessup article mentioned previously, The Art of Monsters, Inc. volume reprints many pieces of hand drawn or hand painte d concept art that were used

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321 to visualize the appearance of the monsters and their world. This book insists on the hand drawnness of the artwork it includes; every piece reproduced is annotated with the name of the conceptual artist, the medium used, and t he size of the original. Surprisingly, the book includes almost no computer generated artwork. The effect of this extended paratext is to emphasize Monsters, Inc. handwriting and hand drawing, both mental and physical, and to downplay the computer generated nature of the finished film. Although Monsters, Inc. is ultimately the product of computerized technologies of spectacle, it claims to be, at bottom, the riting. But which kind of fantasy of handwriting restorative or reflective? Both answers appear in any Pixar film. It was designed by Geefwee Boedoe, much of whose work appears in The Art of Monsters, Inc It begins by depicting a series of abstract shapes that move in response to the background music, recalling the work of Oskar Fischinger or Norman McLaren. The shapes then assemble into a closet door, which opens once t a monster. Next, a series of pink and purple doors appear, each of which opens to ich opens once revealing a giant eye, then closes and opens again revealing the letter P). A chalk. Yet another, much larger door appears, and a larger monster arm emerg es out of this door and collects all the other doors as well as the chalk inscription that reads 6). The stick of chalk metamorphoses into a door, and the letters of

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322 ur monsters, resembling snakes with Venus flytrap mouths, come out of four other doors and devour uppercase M and defends itself bravely before being carried off by the last monster (Figure 5 7). Next, a number of other doors open and deposit a heap of letters. Four more monsters, all different from each other, come out of four more doors and arrange the letters into the words ONSTERS, INC. The snakelike monster from before co mes out of another door with the letter M in its mouth, depositing it at the start of the word ONSTERS. Exiting, the monster whacks the words with its tail, causing them to transform into the familiar logo of the film. The title sequence ends as we zoom th rough one last door into the black space beyond. This title sequence is notable, first, for its experimental aesthetic and its divergence from the hyperrealist ethos that governs the rest of the film. As Deborah Allison argues, the title sequence in Holly wood film is often a site where the dominant codes of classical cinema can be safely transgressed: Already appealing to the audience directly by virtue of the title lettering, and by the promotion of extratextual features, some films seek to make the most of the opportunities offered by the impossibility of showing only a diegesis and to make a feature of their exhibitionism instead. Such an attitude has mainstream film do not apply, Accordingly, novelty title sequences by artists like Saul Bass often exhibit self reflexive uses of materiality and problematize the illusion that the screen is a window into a three dimensional world existing behind it. A s John Cayley observes: In his most innovative work Bass used the paratextual features of letter and word forms both to define graphic space and to dwell and move in and over the surfaces of the illusionistic naturalism within the already well developed

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323 v isual rhetoric of narrative cinema. He recast the surfaces on which he The usual strategy of the classical Hollywood film is to conceal its own constructedness; it presents the screen as a transparent window into an independently existing diegetic world and denies the status of the screen as a material support for writing or images. The title sequence is a space in which this ethos need not be respected. This, as Georg Stanitzek argues, is because of its peculiar position: it is a paratextual threshold to the main film, but it must also be a film in its own right. The title sequence exists primarily for the purpose of introducing and explaining the film proper, yet it must not simply repeat the film proper. The cha even the most conventional of Hollywood movies entails, in this space, a miniature Monsters, Inc. does not feature a digitally animated title sequence. In a featurette included on the dimensional film. To do that again with the title sequence would almost, I think, be Thus, the Monsters, Inc. title sequence is strikingly different from the film proper. It includes letters that act like living things, moving around and being rearranged letters that do stuff that take on an existence independent of the (unseen) hand that drew them. Letters in this title sequence are material objects, in the same sense in which Felix and his quotation m arks and exclamation marks are material objects. This sequence creates the same illusion of materiality we saw in Felix giving us to believe that the letter M is a real object, a construct of ink and paint on celluloid which has an

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324 auratic link to the ani sense, the letters in the title sequence, as well as the drawn monsters, seem very different from the monsters in the film proper. The monsters in the title sequence are modeled in two dimensions only, and seem only weakly realistic. The monsters in the film proper are rendered in three dimensions and are intended to look more real, to have the weight and solidity we associate with real objects; this is the point of the hyperreal aesthetic as Wells defines it. Paradoxically, in a physical and material sense the monsters in the film are less real than the monsters in the title sequence. The latter origin ated as physical constructs of ink and paint on celluloid; the former originated as indexical link between the images of monsters appearing in the title sequence and the material, auratic d rawings on which these filmic images are based; by contrast, the monsters in the title sequence have no such indexical link to any similarly material or auratic piece of original art. 16 Furthermore, although the monsters in the title sequence are clearly no t look pretend to be mimetic images of actual monsters. By contrast, the monsters in the film 16 As defined by Charles Sanders Peirce, indexicality is the property by which a s cinematic specificity, that elusive concept that has played such a dominant role in the history of film m studies, indexicality is often understood specifically as the property by which film, by means of chemical processes, records the reality of the counterexam teneur en trace (Doane critiques the claim that animation is nonindex ical on other grounds [148 149].)

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325 are intended to seem more real than they actually are this is what hyperrea lism means. The title sequence thus emphasizes its own divergence from the film proper by highlighting differences between cel and digital animation, and in so doing, it nostalgically identifies digital animation with the disappearance of the material, ma nual properties of cel animation. By virtue of its stylistic contrast with the film proper, the title sequence gives the viewer a sense of anxiety for the fate of hand drawing; it makes the viewer afraid of the possibility that hand drawn animation might v anish, taking with it the fantasy of handwriting. At the same time, of course, the title sequence is also meant to the film originally began with the sequence in whi ch some trainee monsters attempt to scare a simulated child, but: What we were realizing was, this is the first part of the film, it's really setting the tone for the film, and a lot of the things that were happening later were not funny to people because they were reading this as, this is gonna be a spooky, dramatic movie. So we had the idea to back up from there: do a little title sequence that just sets the tone and says, this is going to be fun The title sequence is meant to reassure the viewer th at Monsters, Inc. is a fun movie, not a scary one. But such reassurance wouldn't be necessary unless there was also something scary and anxiety provoking about the film. Monsters, Inc. proper works in much the same way as the title sequence: it creates a s ense of anxiety (about handwriting and the values handwriting represents) in order to replace that anxiety with reassurance. In this sense, Monsters, Inc. comes close to the sort of restorative invocation of the fantasy of handwriting that we see in Cars. However, I will argue that

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326 the anxiety never quite goes away, and that for this reason, Monsters, Inc. transcends Cars by offering a more reflective view of handwriting. The central conflict of Monsters, Inc. involves an energy shortage. Scream energy is becoming steadily scarcer, threatening the Monstropolitan way of life. The TV displays a child starin g with a glazed expression at a TV set which appears to be showing some sort of violent news or entertainment. Screams and police sirens can be heard coming from the TV. After a moment, the child falls face first into his bowl of what we assume to be sugar y cereal (Figure 5 8). Implicitly, the reason children are getting harder to scare is because of the violent and frightening phenomena represented in popular media, television in particular. The voice over track highlights the fact that the unscarable by exposing them to real things which are scarier than (imaginary) monsters. However, this in itself does not explain why the media interfere with the scare process. According to the logic I outlined above, children are ideal scream producers because they have active imaginations. Therefore, if the rise of the modern childhood media ecology has created a scream crisis, this can only be because visual media n. By providing children with ready made, transparent and vivid images of scary things, television as well as related media like video games and, yes, CGI films otherwise, on their own.

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327 faculty: the power of bringing visions into focus with our eyes shut, of bringing forth form s and colors from the lines of letters on a white page, and in fact of thinking in terms exactly what children do when they imagine what might be lurking in the closet. The ability to do this, or so Monsters, Inc. personal imagination is increasingly interfered with by products of the mass media. as majority of studies suggest that television in general and television violence in particular a Belton also creative imaginative activity. She cites earlier sources which blame this effect on made visual images, which leave little room for the recipient to create his or her own images. A number of writers have drawn attention to the ready madeness of screen images and contrasted this with an impli ed onus on readers and are not directly comparable to televisual images, but the difference is such as to actually prove the point just cited: My visualizations are mu ch less formed and more fluid and dreamlike than the continuous, hard edged, detailed and finished pictures of the screen.

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328 is conceivable that the less concrete quality of personal, imagined images, is as critical to the creative process as their self generation. (814) The logic here is that a less completely rendered image is more evocative; it has the pot ential to support a wide field of potential images, without settling into a definitive form as any particular one of those images. The more realistic an image is, the more cation of my use of this term, see chapter 2). argument, and is frequently presented in a much less nuanced and specific form than in in the context of reactionary critiques of visual media. For example, in The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future a book whose polemical commitments are obvious from its title, Mark Bauerlein compla ins that excessive exposure to screen 17 This is the same general mentality that lies behind the rest orative fantasy of handwriting. It implies, not only that old media were superior to newer media, but also that a reversal of the direction of technological progress is possible and even necessary. The reduction hypothesis is not necessarily even supported Toy Story 2 we discover that Andy has acquired a video game console (recognizable as a Super course be because his imaginative potent ial was already well developed before video 17 Everything Bad is Good for You: How (Riverhead, 2005), which argues for the positive cognitive effects of contemporary media.

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329 games had a chance to interfere with it. Furthermore, on a practical level, it would be unwise for Pixar to display overt negativity toward video games since their own intellectual properties are often repurposed for that medium. 18 that it threatens to involve the film in a self contradiction. If modern media are harmful to extend to Monsters, Inc. itself. The imaginary monster in the closet looks more like the drawn monsters in the title sequence than the CG rendered monsters in the film proper, and by contrast, the latter degree than the former. Elizabeth professors when we complain that our students, with their iPods and cell phones and a long Henry James sentence like they Monsters, Inc. to ropolis actually existed, then Monsters, Inc. would contribute significantly to the scream crisis in the first place, by demystifying monsters, and in the second place, by providing children with a ready made, one size fits all image of the monster under the bed, thereby making it harder to match children to monsters that appeal to their personal fears. (Probably Randall would have to scare all the children.) 18 There was in fact a Toy Story video game for the SNES. Though that system was already obsolete by the time Toy Story 2 appeared, video game adaptations of the latter film were released for the PlayStation, the Nintendo 64, and other systems.

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330 Moreover, Monsters, Inc. is itself deeply invested in notions of transparency and immersion, whi contemporary visual media interfere with imagination. Like Cars Monsters, Inc. serves extended demo of P previously presented a problem for digital animation, as George Avgerakis explains: Hair and clothing are still major concerns in animation art because they require complex motion to appe legs move, they usually do so according to a rather simple set of rules (except for an octopus). An human elbow joint, for instance, can move si ngle strand of hair can move like a snake, with infinite axes, rotating nearly 360 degrees in three dimensions. Clothing gets even more complex when you consider that the surface of clothing is like a patchwork of hair strands (82). 19 Accordingly, Monsters, Inc one of its other principal characters spends the entire film dressed in a loosely fitting nightshirt. More generally, part of the appeal of the film, as with other Pixar films, derives from its realistic depiction of phenomena which are neither visible nor photographable; the promise this film makes is to show the viewer what the monster in the closet would actually look like. In order to avoid simple disingenuousness, then, the Monsters, In c. creators need In Monsters, Inc. the Pixar creative team is ideologically committed to arguing that Monsters, Inc. and Pixar generally is not that kind of me dia (in the same sense in 19 Tangled (Nathan Greno and Bryon Howard, 2010), another film whose plot seems motivated by the desire to demonstrate new technologies for graphically rendering hair, which are surprisingly realistic.

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331 which Sulley is not that kind of monster). The film must therefore present itself as a than supplanting it. The title sequence may be read as an attempt to present this claim. as an effective introduction to the film, and mu st therefore communicate the same message as the film proper, albeit in a different way. The title sequence is formally distinct from the film proper, but similar to it on what we might call a spiritual level. 20 Under the dominant model established by Saul Bass and continued by designers like in a paradigmatic way, an agenda that the narrative to come will carry out he major preoccupations of the film to come. That suggests a deeper connection between film proper and title sequence, in which both gesture toward the same themes using different styles. Accordingly, the viewer of Monsters, Inc. may be expected to unders tand the title sequence as anticipating some attributes or messages of the film. The title sequence posits that letters and representations of monsters are ontologically and materially equivalent ice versa. Since the title sequence is thematic summary or anticipation of the film as a whole, the viewer is then supposed to understand that the monsters in the film proper have a comparable 20 The title sequence is com parable in this respect to video game box art, especially the box art for A Mind Forever Voyaging (1985), reproduced at . Even in graphical video games, packaging design often features a visual style that differs strikingly from that of the game. A notorious example is Mega Man (1987), in which the box art displays a character who looks not hing at all

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332 ontological equivalence to letters. The fact that the title seq uence is hand drawn suggests that Pixar has not forgotten about traditional animation or about the values with which it is (retroactively) associated. The fact that the title sequence is presented alongside the film proper suggests that there is a certain stylistic affinity between the one and the other. 21 The title sequence reassures us that even though these versions of Sulley, Mike, Celia, Roz, Randall and Waternoose are made of magnetic valences rather than ink and paint, they are lovingly hand crafted i n the same way as the hand drawn monsters in the title sequence. The monsters in the film may be purely computational constructs, but they are products of imagination filtered through manual creativity, just like the monsters and letters in the title seque nce. We are expected to believe that these digitally animated characters are handcrafted in the same way as traditionally animated characters, only with different tools. 22 Therefore, Monsters, Inc. sets up a conflict between, on the one hand, a package of positive values that includes imagination, hand drawing, and childhood, and, on the other hand, a package of negative concepts that includes modern media, transparency, violence, and premature adulthood. And the viewer of Monsters, Inc. is asked to underst and Monsters, Inc. itself as belonging to the former side of this binary opposition rather than the latter. This conflict is staged most clearly in the struggle between the ins, Mr. 21 The Lady Eve about The Lady Eve ?). However, as already explained, there is ample evidence that Pixar wants viewers to see their films as figuratively or ideologically hand drawn or as comparable to hand drawn animation, and we can therefore conclude that the Monsters, Inc. title sequ ence participates in this same effort. 22 obviously relevant here.

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333 which artificially extracts scream energy from children, at the expense of traumatizing them. As Richard Stamp observes, the struggle over the scream extractor reen acts the venerable father of the animated feature film and innovator of a Fordist model of industrial production in Hollywood and its increasingly more successful, lauded heir itself is a Fordist production methods. More specifically, the scream extractor does what I often suspect Disney of doing: it employs state of the art technology (compar seems reasonable to conjecture that it works by presenting its victi ms with horrifying happens to me when I watch the Pleasure Island sequence in Pinocchio ( Ben Sharpsteen, 1940). 23 Nor does the scream extractor require any emotional involvement or active effort on the part of the victim. It encourages the same position of passive spectatorship as exhibited by the TV viewing boy at the beginning of the film. It provides an emotional experience which is sensuously complete (like Avatar pretends to be), Thanks to his friendship with Boo, Sulley is appalled by this scheme, and he and M ike eventually succeed in apprehending Waternoose and Randall, and Sulley inherits 23

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334 children is an ethically questionable means of generating energy. Therefore, Sulley reinvents Monsters, Inc. as a company focused on community and respect for its employees, whose primary activity is making children laugh. As Stamp comments, the new Monste This ending has always struck me as a little disappointing; it offers an excessively clean resolution, an excessive degree of what Susan Napier would call reassurance (469). St if taken as such are in fact false. Always false because the apparent opposition between values of community and the inhumanity of capital, like that between the human and t he monster, is the product of the failure to recognize their structural complicity restorative in my sense, insofar as it does not simply recreate a previous condition of handwrittenness. The s cream crisis is not solved, only circumvented. Monsters, Inc. the linchpins of the Monstropolitan economy. To this extent, the ending of Monsters, Inc. is closer to that of Toy Story 2 than to those of Toy Story or Cars and Monsters, Inc. can be seen as a transitional work anticipating later Pixar films with explicitly bittersweet endings, as I will discuss below. Moreover, the ending of Monsters, Inc. l out the uncanny nature of Monsters, Inc. demonstrates that handwriting is uncanny For me at least, a large portion of the appeal of the film comes from its

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335 uncanny combination of the cute and the scary. As Stamp obse less (75). 24 And yet Sulley is certainly no Bambi; his appeal as a protagonist comes from his traits (claws, horns, fangs). In this, Monsters, Inc. differs radically from most traditionally animated Disney films, where characters tend to have either cute or scary traits but not both, and where heartwarming and fright ening moments are carefully demarcated. Contrast, for example, Pinocchio or The Princess and the Frog (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2010), where even the alligator character is in no way frightening (Figure 5 9). Sulley is more spiritually akin to the ti My Neighbor Totoro (1988), whose cuteness is balanced by his/its alien nature (Figure 5 10). Although the creatures in Totoro are more cute than scary, this character is not that Spi rited Away (2001), which reverse the ratio of scariness to cuteness. Moreover, as cute as Sulley, Mike or Celia may be, these characters are not versions of actually existing animals, whose cuteness or scariness is a matter of interpretation; they are mons ters i.e., creatures whose defining property is that of being scary and bizarre. Moreover, the central joke of the film is that the monsters are at once so bizarre and so much like us a striking example of this occurs in the first shot that features Sul ley, which juxtaposes his perfectly normal looking bed with the bizarre creature sleeping in it (Figure 5 11). The reassuring ending of the film does not erase the emotional impact of its promotion of an uncanny aesthetic especially considering that this film, in the age of DVD culture, may be viewed multiple 24 Randall, in particular, is probably the creepiest villlain in any Pixar film.

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336 times, and that its paratextual materials, like The Art of Monsters, Inc. or the Boom! Studios comic books, emphasize the uncanny parts of the film as much as the reassuring parts. Uncanniness contri butes significantly to the appeal of the film. I suggest that this is the same sort of uncanniness on which the fantasy of handwriting relies, and which only the critical fantasy of handwriting acknowledges. It is no accident that in this exploration of fa ntasies of handwriting, we keep encountering monsters Earl Grey the grue. Monster Theory nues: monsters generally: they are disturbing hybrids whose externally incoherent bodies resist attempts to include them in any systematic structure. And so the monster is dang erous, a form suspended between forms that threatens to smash distinctions. Because of its ontological liminality, the monster notoriously appears at times of crisis as a kind of third term that problematizes the clash of extremes (6) The monster resists established categories, it combines both halves of binary oppositions, it crosses gaps. This is why the fantasy of handwriting is so appealing, as I argued in the introduction because it reconciles the oppositions or gaps between the living body and the dead letter, and between the arbitrary signifier and the concrete referent. But the fantasy of handwriting, the written or drawn image that comes to life, also violates that opposition; it refuses to respect the principle of the arbitrariness of the signifier, or the gap between the animate and the inanimate. In this sense, we can conclude that handwriting is monstrous It combines things which we feel more ngth.

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337 But if handwriting is uncanny because it juxtaposes things we would prefer to keep separate, it is also uncanny for the opposite reason: it reminds us of the existence of difference where we would prefer to see identity. As we have seen throughout t his dissertation, by virtue of its incomplete success, the fantasy of handwriting often ends up calling attention to the constitutive gaps in handwriting the gaps between the cal remediation at the same time that it claims to overcome those gaps. The fantasy of handwriting becomes restorative when it acknowledges its uncanniness in both these senses that is, when it acknowledges that it cannot fully bridge the gap between t he body and its writing, and that therefore, the possibility that it could do so is potentially disturbing rather than reassuring. Up as Reflective Fantasy of Handwriting In its more recent output including, roughly speaking, the four films released aft er Cars Pixar has tended towards more reflective uses of the fantasy of handwriting. I focus here on only one of these more recent films, Up (Pete Docter, 2009), for reasons of space and because it is this film that most clearly frames the problem of nos talgia in terms of handwriting. However, analogous arguments could be made about Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007), WALL E (Andrew Stanton, 2008), and Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010). 25 25 Although Monsters, Inc. and Up tween the two films. I prefer to think of Pixar films as collaborative or collectively authored works rather than single authored works.

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338 As in Toy Story Up begins with a sequence in which handwriting plays a pro minent role. 26 The film begins with a newsreel sequence describing the deeds of explorer and adventurer Charles Muntz, apparently based on Charles Lindbergh. The newsreel is in black and white and features prominent film grain and scratches, which call atte ntion to its materiality and associate it with an earlier period of cinema. 27 We year old, watching with rapt str marker; for a moment, the clumsily handwritten text fills the screen (Figure 5 12). Passi the door, again in childish lettering. He follows the voice and finds the speaker, Elli e, a girl his own age. As Ellie pilots her pretend blimp, she stands in front of a drawing or watercolor of Paradise Falls (an exotic location in South America; as explained in the f Paradise 13). In the next shot we see a cardboard box which Ellie has painted with lights and radio dials; other drawings or paintings are faintly visible on the walls. 26 See Metz 2010, especially pp. 65 66, for a discussion of how this sequence relies upon intertextual references to cl assic Hollywood films. 27 Film grain is often cited as an example of the sort of material properties of film that vanish when cinema becomes digital. Similarly, the digital simulation of film grain is a standard example of a way in which digital cinema att empts to replicate the sensuous material aspects of photographic film. For for this texture by adding a grain effect to digital images so they can look more phot o realistic. But such an act cannot replace the erratic quality of change of life in motion

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339 Carl sub Besides various memorabilia of Muntz, the book contains an engraving of Paradise Falls, with a childish drawing of the abandoned house taped to it; I will call this the clubhouse drawing (Figure 5 ( sic ) in crude handwriting (Figure 5 In this scene, handwriting takes on many of the same metaphorical associations it has in Toy Story is highly specific and recognizable, testifying to her creativity and her passion for adventure seem to both be manifestations of her exuberant lust for life. Moreover, Elli positive sense, in that they testify to her innocence, her imagination, and her lack of shows that Ellie retains her creativi ty and navet well into adulthood, and succeeds in drawing the shy Carl out of his shell and infecting him with her passion for adventure. Carl and Ellie marry and move into the abandoned house where they met. Ellie paints Admiring her handwriting, Carl accidentally leaves a handprint in paint on the mailbox, to which Ellie adds her own handprint (Figure 5 16). direct registration of establishes an intimate link between Carl, Ellie, and their house, identifying the latter as

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340 the symbol of their shared personalities and ambitions. As the scene continues, they paint th e house so that it matches the clubhouse drawing. They plan to have a child, and Ellie paints a picture on the wall of the nursery (Figure 5 17). But contrary to what was suggested in Toy Story the values of childhood and creativity are not necessarily su stainable. Ellie loses the baby. Carl and Ellie try to react to this trauma by rededicating themselves to their childhood dreams: Carl comforts Ellie by showing her the Adventure Book, and the next shot shows Ellie painting a picture of the house resting o n Paradise Falls the same image as in the house drawing, but in a more mature style. Carl and Ellie start adding money to a jar with a handwritten money in the jar for more based on someone who, as a young man, was vivacious and adventurous. But as he grew older, his small h grown old togethe r still happily married, but without having achieved the adventures they dreamed of. Eventually Carl looks at photos of himself and Ellie as children, then looks at the Paradise Falls painting, and decides to buy plane tickets to South America. But just before he can show them to Ellie, she is hospitalized with a terminal illness. In a the Adventure Book in his hands. The opening sequence concludes by showing Carl

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341 disconsolately. This part of the opening sequence leaves the impression that, to paraphrase Les Miserables life has killed the dream they dreamed; the positive values associated with handwriting and childhood adventure, creativity are unable to survive realities of dreams. In the next sequence we see Carl, now 78 years old, using an elaborate, poorly functioning motorized chair to get down the stairs, and when he walks outside his house, we discover that all the surrounding land is now occupied by construction sites on which ultramodern skyscrapers are being built. As Carl leaves the house, he importance of the tactile aspect of handwriting to this film: by making physical contact wi herself is gone. Moreover, the handprint is a symbol of the intimate association between memories and their dreams of adventure. Over the course of the film, the house takes on metaphorical associations with all of these values handwriting, childhood, adventure, memory. Thus, when a construction vehicle knocks over the mailbox and a constr uction is again the crucial issue here. Steve is only trying to help, but for Carl, his indelicate indifference to everything Carl associates with that handwriting. Thus, Carl proceeds to

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342 hit Steve with his cane, injuring him. For this offense, Carl is committed to a nursing home, and his severance from the world of imagination r handwriting seems complete. Of course, since this is a Disney film and since that film has only just begun, we childhood, handwriting, and adventure. This assumption is reinforced because the opening sequence also introduces Russell, an enthusiastic 8 year accepting his fate, Carl attaches a giant bunch of balloons to the top of the house and flies it to Paradise Falls, inadvertently bringing Russell along (Figure 5 18). 28 On arriving there, Carl does in fact encounter his childhood hero Charles Muntz, and the restorative fantasy seems to be complete: desp ite having lost Ellie, Carl has succeeded in achieving his childhood dream of adventure. pursuit of the Monster of Paradise Falls, which he has sought unsuccessfully for s even decades, has driven him to murder every previous visitor to the area. Before meeting Muntz, Carl and Russell have already encountered the Monster, a giant bird who Russell named Kevin, and therefore Carl and Russell are forced to flee from Muntz in or cruelty but, more specifically, his inability to let go of childhood. According to Docter, 28 The animation of the balloons is the most obvious technical challenge involved in making this film, are over 10,000 balloons, and the movement of eac h balloon is dependent on that of the others. Therefore, animating each balloon independently would have been impossible, and Pixar instead developed an algorithm for simulating the behavior of the balloons. Other important but less obvious technological a

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343 29 Presuma bly, in order to have achieved worldwide fame at such an early age, Muntz must have been gripped by his all consuming passion for adventure since childhood. Therefore, in his singleminded pursuit of the Monster, Muntz is pursuing his childhood dream to the indicates that the threshold between childhood passions and unhealthy obsessions is all too easily crossed. Subsequently, Carl himself crosses the same threshold. After an exciting chas e sequence, Muntz captures Kevin in a net, but as Carl is trying to cut the net, Muntz sets his house on fire. We briefly see the Paradise Falls painting, then the scene cuts to childhood dreams. Carl stops cutting the net in order to put the fire out, allowing Muntz ccessfully reaches Paradise Falls with the house, and looks at the clubhouse drawing, which has now become a reality. However, Russell interrupts his moment of triumph by throwing down his Wilderness Explorer sash and going off alone to rescue Kevin, sugge sting that lost sight of more important principles. 29 This explains the implausible premise that Muntz is still alive during the main time frame of the film, which takes place almost 70 years after the events depicte explanation, I assumed that Muntz was taking some sort of immortality elixir. Note also that with regard to q identity (Russell gives the bird a masculine name, then discovers her to be a female) does make her the site of a mild category crisis.

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344 The climax of the film comes when Carl finally understands this. Reentering the house, Carl sits down on his ol Adventure Book and returns the clubhouse drawing to it. He had earlier put it in his pocket to protect it from being touched by Russell again, as demonstrated in the mailbox incident, Carl is fierc and drawing, as well as souvenirs related to the theme of adventure (Figure 5 19). testifies only to her former presence and to her present absence ; it reminds Carl that the hand responsible for it is no longer a living hand. But as Carl closes the book, he notices that the rest of the pages are no longer blank. Turning the pages, Carl discovers photographs of himself and Ellie at various stages of their life together. Pictures of Carl and Ellie as children are juxtaposed to pictures of them as elderly people. These photographs are on traditional photographic film and feature highly visi ble film grain (cf. p. 468 above), but despite these visible signs of an obsolete materiality, these photos emphasize the importance of the future rather than the past. Looking at these photos, we realize that Ellie, unlike Mu ntz or Carl, was able to accommodate her childhood dreams to the realities of her adulthood, by understanding everyday life as another kind of adventure. To return to vocabulary introduced in the last chapter (p. 272 ), Ellie was ab le to negotiate her transitions between the ipse selves of her childhood, adulthood and old age, because she was

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345 able to understand them all as incarnations of a singular idem self. (Muntz, on the other hand, seems to have understood his idem self as entir ely identical with the ipse self of his youth; this led him to waste most of his life pursuing the desires of his youth, and to kill anyone who he saw as interfering with those desires.) The scene concludes by altering the symbolism of handwriting in orde r to accommodate this new understanding of Ellie and of adventure. Below the last photograph, which shows an elderly Carl and Ellie in their armchairs, is a handwritten 20). No handwriting symbolizes her personality, then contrary to the graphological view of handwriting, that personality was not stable or fixed but was capable of evolving a nd handwriting of the dead. Merely by virtue of being read, it testifies to its auth inaccessibility, as Ellie did not expect Carl to see this message until after her death. 30 goodbye rather than fetishistically seeking to hold on to the traces o f her former crosses his heart (which Ellie taught him to do) and goes out to help Russell. After the typical extended action sequence, Carl and Russell succeed in defeatin g Carl and saving Kevin, and Carl becomes a surrogate grandfather to Russell. The film 30 This is a partic ularly powerful example of the popular culture trope that TVTropes.com calls

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346 eating ice cream and counting red and blue cars. This is what Russell said earlier that he missed doing with his father, who left him and his mother for another woman. But this ending, although relatively happy, is not purely restorative. At the end of the film, still gone; at the ceremony where Russell receives his Senior Wilderness Exporer award, Russell is the only awardee whose father is absent. 31 Instead of recovering the object of nostalgia, Carl and Russell learn to cope with its absence. The ending of Toy Story 3 is a variation on this same theme: a now 17 year old Andy plans to take Woody with him to college, but ends up giving Woody and his other toys to a little girl, Bonnie. Both endings suggest that the desire to infinitely retain the symbols of the pa st (i.e., restorative nostalgia) is not psychologically healthy. Although the films display a sympathetic understanding of this desire, they ultimately argue that this desire must be recognized as unsatisfiable. We can clearly interpret this as an allegor or, more Monsters, Inc. as another staging of the polemic between Pixar and Disney. As Booker argues (cf. p. 303 above), Disney has used digi tal technology merely as a way of preserving the hand drawn aesthetic of their pre digital films. Disney used digital tools like the Computer Animation Production System merely to create computer animated films that looked like their traditionally animated films, with extra bells and whistles. As I suggested above, Pixar started out doing the same thing, using 3D technology to create digital versions of 31 As Kate Flynn observes (440), the fact that this ceremony is exclusively for fathers and sons is an characters are Kevin, a nonhuman, and Ellie, who is less a character than a structuring absence. The scarcity of adult women in Pi xar films is a hotly debated topic, a full discussion of which is outside the scope of this chapter.

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347 Disneyesque films. With a film like The Princess and the Frog digital technology be came explicitly restorative, as Disney deliberately made a 2D film which eschewed the advances in hyperrealism made possible by 3D technology. Animator Andreas Deja commented that the former notion of competing with CGI by making hand drawn characters loo k a little more like CGI has been abandoned. "I always thought that maybe we should distinguish ourselves to go back to what 2D is good at, which is focusing on what the line can do rather than volume, which is a CGI kind of thing. So we are doing less ext ravagant Treasure Planet Princess and the Frog is hook up with things that the old guys did earlier. (Hetherington and Desowitz n.p.) The commerci al and critical success of The Princess and the Frog indicates that this approach can work, but one has doubts about its intellectual honesty. 32 This sort of aesthetic, whic h relies on what Harpold calls the logic of the upgrade path: hyperrealism demands the development of ever newer technologies in order to make animation more transparent. For Pixar, restorative nostalgia involves even more of a contradiction, as one specif ic function of each Pixar film, Up not excepted, is to demonstrate the nostalgia which, in this case, is the 2D style of traditional animation leads only to disingen uousness, to unacknowledged contradictions. Disney and the early Pixar were like Muntz or like Carl before his epiphany, refusing to abandon traditional animation despite clear evidence that it was no longer the most effective means of achieving the purpo se (i.e., hyperrealism) that it was 32 computer animation, but to develop this comparison fu rther would take me too far afield.

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348 supposed to serve. The late Pixar is like Ellie or like Carl after his epiphany, acknowledging the legitimacy but also the unsatisfiability of the desire for traditional animation. In my opinion, this is an intellectuall y consistent position, and the ending of Up if less happy than the ending of Toy Story is for that precise reason more honest. Up relies on the fantasy of handwriting to the extent that it acknowledges the importance of handwriting and the values it conn otes, but its fantasy of handwriting is one which acknowledges both the gaps in the logic of handwriting itself, and the tensions that exist between that logic and the logic of the digital. Scott Pilgrim vs. the Restorative Fantasy of Handwriting However, Up a 3D graphical style, and all the drawings and handwritten texts that appear on screen are of an infradiegetic nature. The film is about handwriting without itself looking like han dwriting. Therefore, the film seems to suggest that the graphical and the handwritten are not compatible, that a binary opposition exists between these two medial logics. As we observed in the previous chapter, this is not necessarily true. These two logic s are often structured in remarkably similar ways, and the difference between them is more one of degree than of kind, insofar as computer graphics software may be viewed as merely a more complicated type of writing tool. The question then becomes, is it p ossible to make a digital film with a handwritten ethos, but without triggering the restorative fantasy of handwriting? Can digital and handwritten visual styles be set in dialogue visually as well as thematically? My last case study, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright, 2010), suggests that the answer is yes. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an adaptation of the series of graphic novels discussed in the last chapter. The film is relevant to the present context, and deserves

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349 to be discussed independent ly of the comics, because it uses comic book visual devices in such a way as to invoke the fantasy of handwriting. The film mimics the visual style of comic books in numerous ways. Split screen shots, recalling the appearance of panel borders, are used on numerous occasions. On at least one occasion, the gutter between the split screens takes the form of a lightning bolt (Figure 5 21). The frame occasionally contracts or expands horizontally, mimicking the way in which comic books vary the size of panels fo r dramatic effect (see again Figure 5 21). The film uses textual captions for purposes which in other films, even those based on comics, would be served by voiceover narration. When characters first appear, they are usually accompanied by a caption box sta ting their name, age, and additional relevant information. Many scenes begin with a narrative caption (RAMONA COME CLOSER, ABOUT TO E X P L O D E), and these captions are depicted in an instantly recognizable font, consisting of blocky capital letters (Fig ure 5 22). In a few instances, a voice over narrator reads these captions aloud, but this is the exception rather than the rule and is used primarily for extra dramatic effect. (Notably, the voiceover narrator has the same voice as the narrator in the Ninj a Ninja Revolution video game that Scott plays with Knives.) More importantly, the film includes many typographically figured sound effects: when a phone rings, the word RIIIIIIING appears; DING DONG appears when a doorbell rings; PAF appears when the ninj a Roxy Richter vanishes in a puff of smoke (Figure 5 actual sounds: other sound effects include GLARE and ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR! Finally, the film makes extensive use of emanata i.e ., nondiegetic images intended to

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350 depict emotions or other non visual phenomena. Purple hearts spill out when people kiss. When musicians play, rays of light emanate from their instruments, as well as symbols such as skulls, hearts, stars, and the letter D (Figure 5 24). This effect mimics the use of onscreen sound effects in the 1960s Batman TV show, but in that show (and the feature film based on it), the sound effects typically occupied the entire frame, which separated them from the live action world o f the characters. When the sound effects did share the frame with the characters, they appeared to have been pasted on (Figure 5 25). In Figure 5 25, the BAP! visibly belongs to a different world from the people in the frame. A shadow is added under the le tters in an evident attempt to give them a minimal appearance of three dimensionality, dimensional, and therefore appear to be floating on top of the three dimensional world depicted in the image. In Scott Pilgrim the special effects team specifically sought to avoid this effect: from the graphic novels," said [special effects director Frazer] Churchill. res versions from Ph otoshop into Shake and split them out into different colour [ sic ] channels and re combine them into slight offsets so that the edges of the graphics had a slight rainbowy aberration to them with slightly reduced opacity. You feel the set lights shining thr ough the make it feel like they were just laid on top. (Failes n.p.) Accordingly, the sound effects and caption boxes never seem merely to be floating above the diegetic world; the y have solidity and occupy material space in the storyworld. At the beginning of the film, Scott walks in front of the caption box announcing his name, suggesting that the caption box exists in the same three dimensional space as his body. When Knives Chau spies on Scott through a window, there are several successive shots of her face from progressively closer perspectives.

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351 changes scale in the same ratio as everything else i n the shot. On two occasions in the effect appears next to her head, then the letters of the word BLAM disintegrate into smaller chunks (Figure 5 26). Most spectacularly, when Knives tells Scott she loves him, the word LOVE emanates from her mouth as a gaseous vapor, and Scott literally brushes her off by waving his hand to make the word cloud dissipate (Figure 5 27). This is a classic example of the fantasy of handwriting, in that it involves handwritten letters that have weight and solidity, that do stuff that have as much solidity as any other objects. However, a crucial difference between Scott Pilgrim and other texts that invoke this form of the fantasy of handwriting e .g., Felix is that in Scott Pilgrim such effects also occur with letters that are not handwritten. Handwritten text and hand drawings do appear on screen at numerous points in the film. Several times superimposed over the live action using drawings (Figure 5 place exactly 431 days ago, three hours before hi a picture on the screen showing Scott after that haircut (Figure 5 29). When Scott dies (temporarily), an unseen hand writes DEAD on the screen, followed by an arrow pointing to his corpse. However, these handwritten te xts are not assigned any special privilege relative to the other types of onscreen texts in the film. There is no suggestion

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352 computer graphical imagetexts to the same trea tment as handwritten imagetexts. 33 For example, in Figure 5 dimensionality of this word, and the way its letters shift and shimmer, indicates that it hic texts appear on the screen throughout the narrative. Every time a fight starts, a pixelated FIGHT logo appears, mimicking the start of a round in a fighting game. Whenever Scott defeats an enemy, jaggy lettering is used to depict the amount of points h e had earned in the fight. These digital imagetexts typically have the same degree of materiality and solidity as the handwritten imagetexts described above. Early in the film, when Scott goes to the raphic device is taken directly from the comic (as mentioned in the last chapter), but in the film, the pee bar is reflected in the bathroom mirror. Finally, if written texts in the film take on the qualities of real objects, then the reverse is true: the characters in the film are more than a little textual. The film Scott initially misinterp rets as representing kisses, but his roommate, Wallace Wells, informs him that they actually represent seven evil ex es. In the following scene, Scott 30). They hover around him ominousl exes, moreover, is closely associated with his or her number in the sequence of 33 texts and images.

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353 of their romances wi th Ramona and the order in which they fight Scott. Todd Ingram Scott lands on some trash cans decorated with a graffiti 3. Similar prominent uses of numbering occur in typography even comes up in more subtle ways. In an unsuccessful attempt to impress Ramona with his knowledge of video games, Scott tells her that the classic arcade videogame Pac Man was originally titled Puck Man but that the name was changed for an F. have a visi ble writer. Handwriting simply appears on the screen without being referred back to any particular source or point of origin. The handwritten imagetexts are in the the film. We can only attribute these texts and images to the figure that Andr communicative effects that derive from manipulation of the filmic apparatus. 34 This narrator, h owever, is a disembodied and hypothetical figure who cannot necessarily be identified with the aforementioned voice over narrator. What we have here is subjective identity of i ts writer. 34 Gaudreault distinguishes the narrator from the monstrator, who is responsible for those effects th at derive from manipulation of the profilmic elements of the film. He subsumes both of these figures under the overarching figure of the mega narrator. For Gaudreault, the privileged activity of the filmic narrator is editing (84), but clearly the narrator must be responsible for the appearance of text on the screen which is not part of the profilmic scene.

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354 And yet the film is not uninterested in the association between handwriting and personality. Handwriting is prominently featured at various points in the film. As noted above, Ramona gives Scott a handwritten card with her phone number and seve n (evil) (his first name is only mentioned in the comic), who, according to an onscreen c aption, Comeau recognizes it and tells Scott that the drawing is of Ramona and that she is at the party. It would certainly be an exaggeration to claim that Scott summons Ramona int o existence by drawing her, but it seems notable at least that Scott chooses to identify her with a drawing rather than a verbal description. On two different occasions, characteris tic style, of their upcoming opponents in the battle of the bands. Most importantly, at the point in the film when Scott reaches his lowest ebb when Ramona Ramona leaves him with a gli mmer of hope by giving him a handwritten list of her seven evil exes. The the evil e xes. The film therefore invokes handwriting frequently, sometimes in ways that gesture to the graphological view of handwriting. However, it cannot be said that handwriting is uniquely privileged above computer graphics, or drawings over CGI images. To th e extent that the film subjects computer graphical imagetexts to the same sort of

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355 manipulation as handwritten imagetexts, this sort of manipulation does not indicate that s the premise behind the fantasy of handwriting. Or alternately, the implication could be that graphical imagetexts can function as externalizations of subjective essence in the same way that handwritten imagetexts can. But by the same token, the film does not uniquely privilege computer graphics as a means of achieving transparency, immersion or hyperrealism. The use of CGI in the film tends to be highly non illusionistic. Typical n wields in the last battle (Figure 5 31), or the creatures made of pure sound that Sex Bob Omb and the Katayanagi twins use to fight each other (Figure 5 32). Handwritten imagetexts This indicates that, again, both these types of imagetexts are equally subject to manual manipulation; ultimately, Wright is not particularly interested in the fact that the tools used for this manipulation are different in each case. I would suggest, t hen, that in Scott Pilgrim Wright successfully invokes the fantasy of handwriting without hypostatizing handwriting as a uniquely privileged means of access to subjectivity. He succeeds in doing so because he treats the difference between the manual and th e digital as one of degree rather than kind. And this works ontological status as graphical imaget exts; both types of imagetexts are simply components of the filmic image. As Lev Manovich observes: Once live action footage is digitized (or directly recorded in a digital format), it loses its privileged indexical relationship to pro filmic reality. The

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356 computer does not distinguish between an image obtained through the photographic lens, an image created in a paint program or an image synthesized in a 3D graphics package, since they are made from the same material pixels. (254) This same logic can be perspective, handwritten and graphical imagetexts are ontologically equivalent, since both consist of pixels or projections thereof. However, this claim does not imply that the processes of producing h andwritten and graphical imagetexts are equivalent only that these texts, once produced, can be made equivalent in terms of their materiality, ontology, or phenomenological appearance. Therefore, the strategy of equating handwriting with graphics is not guaranteed to work in texts that are given to be played rather than read. If the recipient of a text is asked to produce handwritten and/or graphical images, rather than merely looking at them, then might the differences between the two types of texts beco me chapter.

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35 7 Figure 5 1. Still from Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995). Note the childish handwriting. Figure 5 2. Still from Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich a nd Ash Brannon, 1999). Note the more mature handwriting.

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358 Figure 5 3. Still from Monsters, Inc. (Pete Docter, 2001). The child is indifferent to this Figure 5 4. Still from Monsters, Inc This one, however is.

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359 Figure 5 5. Still from Monsters, Inc. Boo's self portrait with Sulley was actually executed by Harley Jessup's four year old son. Figure 5 6. Still from the title sequence of Monsters, Inc. showing a monster interacting with letters.

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360 Figure 5 7. Still from Monsters, Inc. showing a battle between a monster and a letter. Figure 5 8. Still from Monsters, Inc. suggesting the effects of television upon children's imaginations.

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361 Figure 5 9. Still from The Princess and the Frog (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2010). Note the utter lack of scariness. Figure 5 10. Still from My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988). Note the uncanny combination of cuteness and scariness.

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362 Figure 5 11. Still from Monsters, Inc. Note the incongruity between the normal bed and the monster in (not under) it. Figure 5 12. Still from Up (Pete Docter, 2009). Note the childish lettering.

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363 Figure 5 13. Still from Up Note Ellie's childish painting of Paradise Falls. Figure 5 14. Still from Up Note Ellie's childish drawing of the house.

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364 Figure 5 15. Still from Up Note the childish lettering and inconsistent capitalization. Figure 5 16. Still from Up writing.

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365 Figure 5 17. Still from Up showing another act of hand draw ing. Figure 5 18. Still from Up The giant bunch of balloons was the major technological showpiece of the film.

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366 Figure 5 19. Pages from the Adventure Book combining handwriting, hand drawing and photography. Figure 5 20. Handwriting from beyond t he grave. Compare Ellie's handwriting in this image to that in Figures 5 15 and 5 19.

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367 Figure 5 21. Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright, 2010). Note the internal, apparently hand drawn, panel borders. Figure 5 22. Still from Scott Pil grim vs. the World This font resembles one used in the graphic novels.

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368 Figure 5 23. Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Note the apparently hand lettered sound effect. Figure 5 24. Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Music is here represen ted as symbols emanating from instruments.

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369 Figure 5 25. Still from Batman (Leslie H. Martinson, 1966). Note the obvious incongruity between the sound effect and the live action footage; the former seems to float above the latter. Figure 5 26. Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Although the same sense of incongruity exists, the viewer is meant to perceive the BLAM! as existing on the same ontological register as Kim's body.

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370 Figure 5 27. Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Scott physicall y interacts with the word LOVE. Figure 5 28. Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World This image is part of a flashback sequence narrated with static drawings rather than live action footage.

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371 Figure 5 29. Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World showi ng the juxtaposition of live action footage with handwriting and hand drawing. Figure 5 30. Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Seven evil X's.

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372 Figure 5 31. Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World The pixellated sword is an example of the film' s non illusionistic style of graphics. Figure 5 32. Still from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Another example of the same.

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373 CHAPTER 6 FORWARD TO THE PAST: NOSTALGIC FANTASIES OF HANDWRITING IN VI DEO GAMES Video Games and Transparency Video Games and th e Desire for Transparency In the previous chapter, I argued that digital cinema may rely upon the reflective fantasy of handwriting. However, I ended by raising the possibility that its ability to do so might be contingent on its non participatory nature. Because both digital and handwritten imagetexts in a film have the same phenomenological status (from the spectator's perspective, both are components of a single 2D image), film is capable of manipulating digital imagetexts in ways that I have associated with the fantasy of handwriting. However, the question arose as to whether the gap between digital and handwritten imagetexts might becoJme significant if the player were actually called upon to produce such texts, rather than simply observing them. In thi s chapter I will explore this question by discussing a class of video games that make use of a handwritten interface. As its name indicates, the purpose of the handwriting interface is to mimic the phenomenological experience of handwriting, and video game s that employ this interface often claim to also be able to reproduce the cherished properties of handwriting. However, when video games make this claim in an uncritical way, they often fall into the trap of the restorative fantasy of handwriting. In order to invoke the fantasy of handwriting in a reflective way, video games need to acknowledge the gap between originary handwriting and its digital remediation. I explained in chapter 2 that in the IF era, gaming involved both physical and metaphorical handw 157 ), in a typical gaming session an IF player might have had recourse to handwritten

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374 to visualize the world. Even after complex graphics became the norm in video games, the video game experience continued to involve various embodied acts of writing. In terms of reception, mapping the gameworld on paper was still often necess ary even when the gameworld was visually rendered. For example, in Wizardry (1981), the offers detailed instructions on making such a map and lets player [ sic ] know that is indeed one of the most important skills that successful Wizardry players other relevant information not tracked automatically by the game. In games like Wizardry and Ultima the non and (Myers 16), whose very name comes from the fact that it employs handwriting as a system of record keeping. Finally, in what is an interesting coincidence if nothing else, Mystery House the first graphical adventure game, featured graphics rendered with a crude light pen, and the images rendered in this way included several representations of handwritten notes (Kirschenbaum 131 132). Mystery House symbolically represents the end of one tradition of video gaming that depended on metaphorical handwriting, and yet it dep ends crucially on remediations of actual handwriting. As I have also suggested, an orthodox reading of video game history would suggest that the literally and metaphorically handwritten aspects of video games were shunted aside as video games achieved gre ater graphic complexity. The increasing

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375 visual richness of the gameworld deprives the player of the need or desire to imagine it. A game like Myst gameworld in his or her mind, because that world is already prerendered in immense detail. 1 ) Figuratively, as graphics become more transparent, one of the condition of possibility of handwriting, the existence of a blank writing surface, is lost. An analogous development was the introductio n in the late 1980s of automapping, where areas of the gameworld were automatically added to an in game map once the player had visited those areas. This feature made games easier and more user friendly and made the gaming experience more self contained, b ut also deprived players of the (supposed) pleasure of rendering the gameworld on paper. This (conventional) narrative implies that graphical video games are devoted primarily to the logic of transparency that the primary purpose for which commercial ga mes use graphics is to create the illusion of a three dimensional, immersive gameworld. I accepted this assumption temporarily in chapter 2, and I believe that in the case of the most popular, state of the art, big budget video games, this assumption gener ally holds; it shapes predominant popular and critical discourses associated with these games. Games of this type tend to be characterized by large three dimensional environments, photorealistic graphics, frame rates of 30 fps or more, stereo sound, etc. V ideo games typically offer what I described in Chapter 3 as a fantasy of transparency, in which the game promises to present an experience as compelling as that of the real world, if not more so. 1 This is ironic, as the premise of Myst is that one can transport oneself into other worlds by writing about them, and the infradiegetic texts in the game are handwritten.

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376 The fantasy of transparency also implies the desire to expe rience the gameworld in a maximally direct and unmediated fashion, without the interposition of reminders of the mediated nature of the gameplay experience, such as extradiegetic onscreen texts. For example, some recent games have attempted to eliminate th e heads up display (HUD), the onscreen textual overlay that provides game critical information. (In a re examples of an HUD.) In the 2008 third person shooter game Dead Space the HUD is integrated into armor, the amount of ammunition remaining in a weapon is indicated by a display located on the weapon itself, and so on (Figure 6 1). In a 2009 presentation, Nicholas an example of recapture (see above, p. 145 ). For Ware, the purpose of this was to (n.p.), and to make the game experience more chaotic and horrifying or, in summary, to augment the effect of immersion. After the HUD, the next extradiegetic parameter of the video game experience to released in November 2010, allows users to interact with games using hand motions. It thereby elim inated the need to communicate with the system via a material proxy. effort to better market the Xbox 360 to non gamer audiences (i.e., to users other than the stereoty pical video game demographic of young males). Early publicity for the

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377 Kinect was therefore targeted toward families and children. 2 For Microsoft, the Kinect was capable of appealing to non gamers precisely because the controllerless interface was (it was c friendly: the 30 million Xbox 360s sold since November 2005 have been snapped up by avid young males drawn to c omplex shooter or adventure games such features 12 buttons and two joysticks, far too many . for the novice user. "The controller is still a barrier," [Microsoft executive Shane] K im said. "But once you remove the controller, what do you replace it with? So we came up with a way people can play games by doing what they do naturally by moving and talking." (n.p.) greater transparency and immersion, which presupposes a corresponding desire on the part of video game audiences. Both of the other two major gaming consoles, the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PlayStation 3, now have peripherals which perfor m functions similar to that of the Kinect: the Wii MotionPlus debuted in June 2009, and the PlayStation Move in September 2010. Popular Science included the latter on its list of The impression one gets from all this is that a desire for naturalness, immersivity, etc., is the principal motive force to which the contemporary gaming industry caters, and that to do so, it must erase those aspects of the video gaming experienc e that are more closely associated with the scriptural and the handwritten. 2 See .

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378 Gaming and Fundamental Paradoxes of Transparency According to this account, gaming history is an example of what Terry Harpold calls the conceit of the upgrade path: Because tech nical innovation in popular computing is driven more by the allure of expanding markets than by something so quaint as a sense of responsibility to historical continuity, commercial discourses of the upgrade path will inevitably promise consumers new and m ore satisfying interactions, and encourage them to see the older ones as outmoded or no longer relevant. (3) The first problem with such discourses of the upgrade path is that, empirically, they ist viewing older modes upgrade path is the very definition of nostalgia, and nostalgia is an important force in the contemporary video game industry, as explained in depth in Zach Whalen and Laurie reflective in nature, merely arguing that old gaming technologies were better than newer As game technology has improved and as daily life becomes more sa turated with media technolo gy . early video games have also become objects of nostalgia in that their low (Whalen and Taylor 7). Video game nostalgia b ecomes reflective rather than restorative when game creators acknowledge that earlier video games are retroactively altered in the process of remembering them. Reflective nostalgia can even be aided by the use of the same new gaming technologies that made the old ones obsolete; the superior affordances of new video gaming technologies can be used to open up ways of rethinking and reimagining older gaming genres and technologies. For example, Retro Game Challenge (Namco Bandai Games, 2007/2009) offers a coll ection of eight video

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379 games that parody or pay homage to various NES games of an earlier era. Although it depends on nostalgia for games of the past, this game also takes an ironic attitude toward those games, and is possible only because of the same techn ological advances that rendered older gaming genres obsolete; for example, it takes full advantage of the superior storage capacity of DS data cartridges in comparison with NES cartridges. Similarly, as I will suggest in the main section of this chapter, c ontemporary DS games often employ nostalgia for handwriting in reflective (as well as restorative) ways. But a second problem with the video game version of the conceit of the upgrade path, which helps to explain the first problem, is that this upgrade pa th is necessarily Ganges in Pulverize completely transparent media experience of any kind, is a contradiction in terms. Such an experience would be indistinguishable from actual, non mediated experience, and would therefore cease to be enjoyable as a media experience. Speaking of one famous fictional example of a fully transparent media experience, the Holodeck of St ar Trek: The Next Generation Harpold writes that its spatial and computational limits are homologous with the crude backlighting and plaster of Star Trek soundstages: the viewer grasps on the evidence of each that a real l imit of the representation is encountered within the obvious mediality of the television or theatrical presentation. Her pleasure in the representation depends on this encounter; without it, she would be confronted by a true mise en abyme more likely to i nduce anxiety than pleasure. (123 124) When Glenn realizes that he is beginning to confuse the world of Pulverize with the real world, he reacts precisely as Harpold suggests. In order to avoid such a vertiginous distingu ish between real and mediated experience, the boundaries of the latter need to be carefully delimited, and the player or viewer is made

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380 aware of this in some way. To put it another way, there need to be gaps in the media experience. argument before, but in the specific case of games, it takes on a further level of importance because of the need for meaningful interaction. In film, transparency operates on one level, that of the representation of the diegetic world. In games and other strongly interactive media such as graphical user interfaces, transparency operates on two levels, that of representation and that of interface. A maximally transparent interface is one which minimizes its own visibility as an interface, providing the use r with at least as much interactional freedom as s/he would enjoy if s/he were interacting with the real object (e.g., a file system) of which the media object no buttons, windows, scroll bars, or even icons as such. Instead the user will move through ). One implication here is that the goal of a user interface is to allow the user to interact with the same freedom interaction in this sense is one which is minimally constrained Whether this is true in the case of non game user interfaces is a question beyond the scope of this chapter, although I suspect the answer is no. However, in the context of games, maximally free and minimally constrained interaction is not a desirable goal, becaus e it involves another contradiction in terms. The game experience depends on gaps in what the player character is able to do.

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381 For example, as I observed in chapter 2, IF pretends to offer complete interactional freedom in the sense that any verb which the player might type is at least potentially understandable by the parser. IF therefore seems less constrained than graphical adventures, which restrict the player to a pre given set of actions. However, this is not actually true; as Barton observes (above, p. 121), IF games only ever understand a very limited subset of the verbs in the English language. Even for those verbs that IF games do understand, they sometimes fail to respond to those verbs appropriately. Moreover, IF games often implement only one or a few solutions to each puzzle, failing to recognize alternative solutions even when those solutions are logical and expressible in language the game understands. As Barton observes, this is a common source of frustration for players (27). But suppose the re were an IF game that understood every verb in the English language, provided meaningful responses to every such verb in every possible game state, and accepted every conceivable solution to every puzzle. This is an obviously unrealistic assumption since the source code of such a game would have to be larger than the universe. But even if that such a game could exist, what would be the point of playing it? If a player could take any action whatsoever, then s/he would have no way of evaluating whether to t ake one action rather than another. And if every puzzle accepted every imaginable solution, then where would be the pleasure in finding a creative or original solution? Recognizing this difficulty, Karen and Joshua Tanenbaum argue that player agency in gam rather than freedom (1), because absolute interactional freedom is incompatible with the Most formal definitions of games rely on the

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382 presence of rules Those rules and constraints are what the game designer is responsible for, and thus a understand Chapters 2 and 3, the pleasure of reading is often understood (e.g., by Schwenger and and th e same must be true of the gaming experience, even if the relative proportions of the fantasy of a perfectly transparent interface is neither achievable nor desirabl e. Such a fantasy is both self contradictory, and incompatible with the particular type of pleasure handwriting. The physical parameters of the handwriting experienc e, such as the writing medium, writing surface, and writing tool, necessarily impose constraints of one sort or another on the ability of the writing hand to express itself. In the absence of any such constraints, handwriting would be unthinkable; for exam ple, given a sheet of paper of infinite length and width, how would one decide where to start writing? At a certain level, the fantasies of handwriting and transparency start to blur together. In a metaphorical sense, then, the video game experience neces sarily involves a i.e., personalized, expressive interaction. At the same time, this handwriting is never perfectly free and unconstrained, and games that promise complete handwriting are bound to disappoint. I now examine some games that employ handwriting in a literal sense.

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383 Handwriting in Video Games Representations of handwriting and drawing are of course quite common in video games, going back at least to Mystery House. Space does not permit me to cover the history of such representations fully. One game which is worth discussing, as an example among many others, is Comix Zone (Sega Technical Institute, 1995), a side scrolling action game for the Sega Genesis. Comix Zone cartoonist Sketch Tu rner, is transported into the pages of the comic book he is drawing. Thus, each section of the game takes place within a comic book page, and each of the 2). Since the world is made of paper, powerful attac ks cause the paper to rip, and Sketch can even tear out a piece of the background and use it as a paper airplane. When enemies appear, they are drawn 3). (This hand belongs to Mortus, the principal villain of th e game, who escaped from the comics page to the real world when Sketch traveled in the opposite direction.) Thus, on a thematic level, Comix Zone is a perfect example of the fantasy of handwriting. Its characters and objects are both drawn and real; Sketch status as traces of the hand that drew them. The game even comes close to the critical fantasy of handwriting in that it suggests the frightening possibilities of a scenario in which handwri ting is brought to life. The fantasy of handwriting usually serves to affirm the self of the writer: the fact that handwritten creations can come to life and move around is proof of the creative power of the writer responsible for them. In this case, howev creations try to kill him and usurp his place in the real world. If the player achieves the optimal ending, then the game resolves this conflict in a restorative fashion: Sketch k ills

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384 Mortus and escapes the comics page along with Alissa Cyan, a character from the takes too long to win the final battle against Mortus, then Alissa dies and the comic book is destroyed. Sketch is then faced with the dilemma of whether to redraw the comic book in order to bring Alissa back to life, at the risk of also resurrecting Mortus. 3 Comix Zone therefore raises fascinating issues about the materiality of the video game experience and the relation of the writer artist to his/her handwritten creation. However, these issues are staged entirely on a thematic rather than a procedural level. The central conceit of Comix Zone (i.e., that the game takes place in a comic bo ok) has little if any effect on gameplay. This is partially the result of the premise that Sketch stops being the creator of his comic book when he becomes a character in it. Like Daffy in Duck Amuck (and in contrast to Felix in Comicalamities ), Sketch kno ws he is a character in a drawn text, but this knowledge does him no good, because the person who is (currently) drawing that text is his enemy. In terms of its core mechanics 4 Comix Zone is simply an example of the very common beat em up genre, and not a particularly effective example at that; the game is so difficult as to not be particularly fun. 5 The distinguishing itself from dozens of other formally similar games. It make s no use of 3 Therefore, this ending challenges the player to restart the game in hopes of achieving the good ending. 4 of a collection of batting, r 5 Sketch only has one life, the combat system is very difficult to master, healing items are scarce, and the player is often forced to take damage in order to make progress. Also, Comix Zone is disappointingly short; a successful playthrough of the entire game might take less than 40 minutes.

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385 handwriting or drawing as an interface or as a means of control. This is particularly disappointing since, according to the plot, Sketch is a comic book artist, and it therefore seems odd that he never takes advantage of his artistic ability. A lthough Sketch is trapped in the world of a comic book, he certainly has the ability to affect the physical substrate of that world such as by tearing the paper background, as Felix does at the end of Comicalamities Therefore, logically it seems he shou ld also be able to draw useful objects into existence, like Felix or like Harold with his purple crayon, and yet Sketch apparently never thinks of trying this. None of this means that Comix Zone irrelevant. I story of a game are irrelevant, and that analysis of a game should take into account only its formal and procedural aspects. However, the example of Comix Zone does raise the qu estion of what it would mean for a game to invoke the fantasy of handwriting on a procedural as well as a narrative level. What would a game look like if it enabled the player to actually write things into existence, instead of merely interacting with thin gs with the case of kami as Nave Fantasy of Handwriting Cel Shading (2006) was released in 2006 for the Sony PlayStation 2, and was porte d to the Nintendo Wii in 2008, without the involvement of the original developer. 6 Differences between the two versions will be discussed below, although 6 Like several other games discussed in this chapter, kami was developed in Japan and was originally marketed to Japanese audiences. As the present dissertation is princ ipally concerned with the

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386 here I will focus primarily on the PS2 version. The game is important in this context because of its i mplementation of handwriting recognition technology in the context of a commercial video game. Whether matter of opinion 7 but an analysis of will give us an idea of both the reasons why a handwriting interface is appropriate in a video game, and the challenges of implementing such an interface i n a way which respects the fantasy of handwriting. is most obviously similar to the Legend of Zelda series, particularly the 3D Zelda games beginning with The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time ( Oot ) (1998). director, Hideki Kamiya, has sa Zelda freak -say that I created because of Zelda OoT represented a major advancement in video game transparency and immersion; it featured realistic graphics and sou nd and permitted the player to explore a series of unique environments rendered in three dimensions (Figure 6 4). The success with which OoT deployed the immersive aesthetic can be measured by the degree of disappointment that greeted the initial announcem ent of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (TWW) that imitated the visual aesthetic of 2D animation (Figure 6 5). As Tom Hurlbutt has observed in an unpublished undergraduate paper, this decision led to a massive fan operation of fantasies of handwriting in North American culture, in this chapter I will consider Japanese games like kami primarily in terms of their reception by North American audiences. To explain kami in terms of the differe nces between Japanese and Western notions of handwriting would take me too far afield. 7 kami may in fact be the first game for a commercial video game system that used a handwriting interface. I have not been able to identify any earlier examples, altho ugh this by no means implies there Giraffe (1997) a game which was packaged with the Palm Pilot PDA and whose

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387 representation of Link, which fans where [ sic ] quick to use as a ruler for comparison to the NPR [i.e., non ). The realistic gameplay and immersive three dimensional environments of OoT seemed to demand depiction in an equally realistic graphical style. The difference between the three dimensional photorealistic style of OoT and the cel shaded style of TWW migh stylistic qualities of the cel shading technique. Cel shading, as its name implies, is directly inspired by traditional cel animation. The key distinguishing feature of the technique is that in place of three dimensional modeling of light and shadow, cel shading renders objects in a limited range of flat colors. Optionally, cel shaded objects may be rendered with dark outli nes. In short, then, cel shading produces objects that appear to have been drawn with ink and paint, rather than rendered algorithmically. The close connection of the cel shaded style with drawing is emphasized in one of the first important games that use d this style, Jet Set Radio (JSR) Dreamcast system in 2000. 8 comic book fashion, posits that the player characters in this game are members of the Rudies, rollerblade the city with their personal graffiti, claiming that it is their way of expressing themselves ave started to crack down on this subversive behavior. Therefore, 8 This game was released in North America under the title Jet Grind Radio A sequel, Jet Set Radio Future was released for the Xbox in 2002, and a Game Boy Advance port of the orig inal game appeared in 2003; this latter is the only version of the game I have actually been able to play.

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388 spray cans and using them to tag buildings and objects, while running from police officers and members of rival games. Jet Set Radio face of authoritarian repression. 9 reflected in its non realistic means of visual representation, its use of a non photorealistic graphic style is clearly an appropriate choice, as Brett Nicholls and Simon Ryan observe: The aesthetic style of this game sets it apart from the realist orientated graphic style of JSRF has been a point of contention in on line discussions, and noted in interviews with the game?s prod ucer, Takayuki Kawagoe, as "driving towards a very different feel of gam ing" . . The cel shaded graphic style resists graphic realism and simulation, and serves as a visible marker of the messiness of thirdness (n.p.). In cel shading, then, lack of tran sparency is not a bug but a feature. Rather than trying to achieve immersive realism, the cel shaded style celebrates the expressive act of drawing. Jet Set Radio and the Handwriting Interface Jet Set Radio is also comparable to and its successors i n another important way. Its interface attempts to simulate the creativity of tagging by allowing the player to engage in creative and expressive behaviors comparable to those of the player which allows the player to use a crude paint program like interface to design the tags displayed during 9 However, the game is careful to specify that this is only true in the gameworld and not in real life. The GBA version begins with a disclaimer tha

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389 gameplay. The Dreamcast version originally allowed players to share tags via an online service, thereby exposing their creative acts to a wider audienc e, although this gaming acts. The definition of the expressive act is that it outward from (Galloway 24). In other words, the expressive act is a specific action that the avatar performs upon some object in the gameworld; typical examples include shooting enemies, opening d oors, talking to non player characters, etc. In order to direct the mechanism in a particular predefined way, such as by pressing a button or moving the joystick. Thus, the e xpressive act has two components: an act performed by the avatar within the gameworld, and an act performed by the player in the real world, which expressive act with in the diegesis of the game, there is also a physical form of the same hat act. As a simple example, the light gun shooter game Duck Hunt (Nintendo, 1984) was packaged with a controller in the shape of a toy gun, so that

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390 pulling the trigger on the toy gun. Similarly, driving games often feature a controller shaped like a steering wheel. Often, however, the physical and imaginative forms of the expressive act have much less in common. For example, in very many games the pl ayer is asked to press buttons in order to direct the avatar to perform acts which are entirely dissimilar to pressing buttons, e.g., jumping, punching or kicking. All versions of JSR involve a similar disjunction between the physical and imaginative form s of the expressive act of tagging. T he player of JSR executes tags by performing various motions with the analog stick, which become increasingly complex as the game progresses. In the version for the GBA, which lacks an analog stick, the player instead i nputs commands with the directional pad (D pad). This means that the physical form of the act of drawing a tag is much less complex than, and physiologically dissimilar to, the imaginative form of that act. Therefore, the handwriting interface is not the c ore mechanic of the game but merely a recurring minigame, and the player spends the bulk of the game time skating and avoiding police. Moreover, drawing a tag involves little if any actual expression on the part of the player, since in order to draw a tag, the player simply has to perform predetermined analog stick or D pad movements in a predetermined order. Whereas tagging, according to the game, is an act that expresses ity for the player to express any individual uniqueness. Even if the player is drawing a tag s/he designed, the player has no ability to affect the way in which that tag is executed. Thus, although JSR expression, its handwriting interface is not implemented in a way which is consistent with those values.

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391 This is not a crippling problem because handwriting is not the core mechanic of JSR essentially a skating game, in the mold of the series which uses handwriting as a gimmick or as a non minimal handwriting interface provides a useful model against which we can measure other attempts to simulate handwriting in a video game context. The first such atte mpt I will discuss is and the Celestial Brush As noted above, resembles a 3D Zelda game in its gameplay and in the style of its environments. The player character of is Amaterasu (nicknamed ed as a wolf. Her 10 mission is to defeat the demons plaguing the land of Nippon (), and to repair the damage that the demons have inflicted upon the land. In as in OoT, the player spends most of the game exploring three dimensional environments (divi ded into dungeons and overworld areas), fighting enemies, collecting treasure, solving puzzles, and interacting with NPCs. However, like TWW employs the cel shaded style, and it does so in a s are three dimensional, objects and characters in those environments are two dimensional. Walking around them does not reveal different perspective views of them. Objects and characters tend to have thick black outlines (Figure 6 6), which contributes to the perception that they 10 unambiguously female, b ut the designers of kami have explicitly stated that the Amaterasu of the game character is occasionally referenced with female pronouns, but this is an a rtifact of translation, since gender specific pronouns are harder to avoid in English than in Japanese. Again, in Okamiden (discussed another artifact of translation. For convenience, I will refer to Amaterasu as female and Chibiterasu as male, but I do so under erasure.

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392 are drawn rather than rendered in 3D and that they are drawn in ink, which is a traditional medium of both painting and writing in Japan. More generally, the graphics are inspired by the traditional East Asian art of ink painting known in Japan as sumi e a highly non photorealistic style of artwork. The game augments this effect of two dimensionality in its extensive use of nondiegetic imagery and text and in its emphasis on the visual similarities between words and images. Not only is there a heads up display, but word balloons, thought balloons, and emanata frequently appear over sky. When characters are seen from afar, a thought balloon conta ining the henohenomoheji symbol appears above their heads (Figure 6 7). This traditional Japanese symbol consists of seven hiragana characters arranged in the shape of the face; its name comes from the pronunciation of the characters. The seven characters making up the henohenomoheji symbol are meaningless in this context spell anything when arranged in this order and so the henohenomoheji employs these characters purely on account of their graphic properties. Other Japanese characters often appear onscreen. When the player successfully executes a brush technique, this is indicated by the appearance of a giant Japanese character (5 8). In combat, other Japanese characters when a player deals or receives damage or when an enemy successfully blo cks an attack. For players like myself who cannot read Japanese, these characters are semantically meaningless. Yet Capcom chose not to replace them with English words for the North American localization, perhaps because the graphic appearance of the chara cters is more important than their meaning. And indeed these characters are visually striking; they appear to have been rendered with great care (cf.

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393 Figure 6 8). Sometimes, such as when the player is executing attacks quickly, the characters flash by too quickly to be seen, yet they still contribute to the overall aesthetic of the battle. One final way in which resists transparency, and gestures toward handwriting, is by creating the impression that the gameworld is literally rendered with were painted with ink, largely bec ause of their heavy black outlines. A paper filter is of rice paper. This filter is especially visible during blank loading screens and on white surfaces, including th 11 title screen, a brush held by an offscreen hand literally draws the village of Kamiki into existence: as the brush draws buildings and other objects, they take on solid form. Explicit refer ences to paper appear throughout the game. One minor villain, Tobi, is an animated slip of paper, which gets erased after being defeated by Ammy. Another minor character, the dragon god Yomigami, is partly real and partly a drawing: its tail emerges out of a paper scroll on which a tail is drawn (Figure 6 9). One optional subquest involves a little girl who draws pictures on the ground and a kimono maker who is in need of new designs. When Ammy gets some charcoal for the girl to use in her artistic efforts, she creates patterns which Ammy can then give to the kimono maker. Finally, drawing plays a crucial role in the climax of the game. In the final battle, Ammy is distribut ing drawings of Ammy to all the people of Nippon. Seeing the drawings, the 11 One of the significant differences between the PS2 and Wii versions of the game is that the paper filter is much less prominent in the Wii version.

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394 people realize that Ammy is the goddess Amaterasu and pray to her, providing her with source of power and salvation. This is also true in a more literal sense, as we will see when we examine the other aspect that distinguishes from OoT : the Celestial Brush. W hen the player holds the R2 button, the screen is covered with a paper like overlay. The player can then use the right analog stick to draw on the screen with an ink brush the so called Celestial Brush 10). each of which allows the player to influence the gameworld in some specific way by drawing a particular pattern on the screen. For example, the Power Slash technique allows the player to slash enemies or cut stationary objects i n half by drawing straight lines across them. The Bloom technique enables the player to make plants grow by drawing circles around them. Other techniques allow the player to manipulate fire, water and electricity, create paths up sheer walls, turn day into night and vice versa, etc. The Celestial Brush differs from an actual ink brush in many ways, as will be discussed below (including, notably, the impermanence of the designs it creates: when his/her brush techniques, the ink simply falls off the screen). Taken at face value, however, the purpose of the Celestial Brush is to emulate or simulate an actual ink brush, which, in East Asian culture, is the most traditionally privileged tool of both writing and drawing. Instead of being a simple remediation of an ink brush, however, the Celestial Brush is a sort of fantastic apotheosis of the ink brush. Its drawings have even greater power,

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395 persistence, and materiality than actual ink drawings, becau se they exact concrete effects on the gameworld. This, however, does not indicate that the Celestial Brush is different in kind from an ordinary ink brush. The player is supposed to see the Celestial Brush not as a drastic alteration of the functioning of the normal ink brush, but as an unleashing of a magical potential that was always already latent in the normal ink brush. Let me explain how exactly this works. When the player uses a brush technique successfully, he or she leaves a permanent trace on the which often remains visible for the remainder of that playthrough of the game. 12 In Zelda, when the player uses a bomb to destroy a wall, s/he is merely manipulating an item that already existed in the gameworld. In by contrast, the player accomplishes the same effect by drawing a circle on the wall with a slash through it (the Cherry Bomb brush technique), creating a bomb which then explodes and destroys the wall. By drawing on the gameworld, the player changes it. Thi s is a standard example of the fantasy of handwriting. In affect the world. Instead of being merely inert traces of ink on paper (or, really, not even do stuff adding new objects to the world or changing the world permanent ly in other ways. Compared to Felix or Harold and the Purple Crayon invokes the fantasy of handwriting in a slightly less literal sense. Instead of the gamewor ld. For example, when Cherry Bomb is used, the drawing itself does not explode (as would presumably happen if Harold drew a bomb). Instead, the drawing 12 Sometimes. Some brush techniques have permanent effects; for example, when a player uses Cherry Bomb to blow up a wall, for example, the hole in the wall persists for the remainder of that playthrough. Other effects, however, are more temp orary; for example, when the player destroys objects using Power Slash, those objects are often restored almost immediately.

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396 summons a bomb into existence, one which resembles the drawing but is not identical therewith. In drawings cause things to happen rather than actually being things. This also implies that when a player executes a drawing successfully, the drawing itself vanishes; the magical effects produced by the drawing remain, but the drawing itself is gone. Howev that when s/he uses the Celestial Brush, s/he is literally drawing or redrawing the world. It makes perfect sense that this world is susceptible to being redrawn or repainted, sinc e, as we have seen, the world of is composed of ink and paper. In a world where everything is drawn or painted, the ability to redraw and repaint the world is equivalent to godhood. Appropriately, then, the hero(ine) of is a goddess. Amaterasu, The Amaterasu in the game is not precisely identical with the Shinto sun deity after whom she is named; for example, as noted above, there is no question as to the mythological 13 Nonetheless, the Amaterasu in the game is explicitly identified as the paramount deity of her world: other characters address her as then to i nscribe with ink on paper is literally to remake the world. Amaterasu exercises Comicalamities and by Bugs in Duck Amuck : the power to remake the world by manipulating the material that composes it. Since Amaterasu 13 r to avoid potential accusations of blasphemy, but I have no evidence of this.

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397 mischievous ends as Bugs or Felix (with some rare and trivial exceptions). 14 seek to conquer it. T Amaterasu and her sidekick Issun are called upon to defeat the demons and repair the damage they have inflicted on Nippon, and they are uniquely equipped to do so because Amaterasu possesses the power of the Celestial Brush. Both literally and ns that the game gives the player to draw things into existence, to create objects ex nihilo. The game frames this act of creation as an act of writing or drawing. Japanese audiences would be expected to recognize the Celestial Brush as the characteristic tool of an artist working in paper and ink. In traditional East Asian culture, the ink brush is one of the primary tools used in the creative visual arts of calligraphy and ink painting. Western audiences may not understand the ink brush as a writing and d rawing tool in quite the same way, since in Western culture the corresponding privileged writing and drawing implements are the pencil and the pen. However, the game clearly expects the player to understand the use of the Celestial Brush as a form of writi accompanying Amaterasu is to complete his artistic education by learning all the brush techniques. In this game, then, to use the Celestia l Brush is to create or recreate the 14 kami kami er game comes sic ].

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398 world by painting or drawing it. Moreover, in there is no clear distinction between Japanese culture the formal and cultural dis tinction between painting and calligraphy is far less clear than in Western culture. These two arts use similar tools and artistic techniques, and they both enjoy significant cultural prestige. The latter, in particular, is a much more privileged art form in East Asian than in Western culture, where it has traditionally been considered only a very minor art. 15 However, the resemblance of the Celestial Brush, the player draws on the screen, but s/he draws designs that are intended to be easily repeatable and that have only a conventional resemblance to the things they represent. For exa mple, in order to turn day to night, the player draws a crescent shape in the sky to represent the moon, rather than a realistic rendering of the moon. Because of their weakly mimetic nature and their repeatability, the brush patterns in can be under stood as letters or graphic characters as well as pictures; they are more indexical and symbolic than iconic. The use of the Celestial Brush may therefore be defined as a process of handwriting, to the extent that it involves the use of a writing tool, wri ting surface and writing medium to create signs which are susceptible to being read, rather than purely iconic. To the extent that these signs also take on an independent existence and affect the gameworld in permanent ways, Brush represents a fantasy of handwriting. 15 All these claims are effectively common knowledge. I cite them not to emphasize the differences between Western and East Asian concepts of handwriting a topic which is outside the scope of this project but simply to emphasize the extent to which this game blurs the distinction between writing and drawing.

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399 as Uncritical Fantasy of Handwriting: General Problems However, presents a fantasy of handwriting which is primarily uncritical and restorative. There are crucial differences between actual handwriting, differences which the game does not acknowledge. Some of these differences have already been noted (e.g., that drawings made with the Celestial Brush instantly disappear, even when successfully exec uted), but others still need to be mentioned. In the first place, fails to allow the player to use the Celestial Brush in a genuinely personal, self expressive way. To put this more precisely, enable the expression of subjective uniqueness, which, as I argued in the introduction, is the key to the fan tasy of handwriting. Instead of enabling the player to use the Celestial Brush in a way that reflects his or her personal idiosyncrasies, allows puzzles typic ally only have a single solution each, so the player rarely if ever gets to choose which brush technique to use in order to solve a given puzzle, and the game has no way to reward players for using brush techniques in creative ways not thought of by the de velopers. Moreover, not all brush techniques are equally effective in combat; the player is effectively required to use certain predetermined brush techniques to fight particular enemies. There are only two occasions in the game in which the player has com plete freedom to draw anything he or she wants, and in both of these occasions the outcome is the same no matter what the player draws. In the Moon Cave, Amaterasu disguises herself with a mask made of a blank sheet of paper, and the player is given the op portunity to draw a design of his or her choice on the mask. However, the mask is equally effective as a disguise no matter what the player draws. In the village of

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400 Seal. She freedom of drawing and the subjective expression that this freedom makes possible. However, th closing credits. 16 Even in these instances, the clunkiness of the user interface made it difficult for me, at least, to draw the design I had in mind. I suggest that this factor has in contrast to its emphasis on creation. The difficulty of executing brush techniques correctly with the analog stick may explain why the game has a fairly limited repertory of brush techniques and why the player has little choice as to which of them to use at a given moment. In the second place, when the player uses the Celestial Brush, in a sense s/he is actually producing differential signifiers, signs which are valued according to their dif ference from other signifiers rather than according to their inherent, immanent properties. The particular way in which a player executes a brush technique is a matter of subjective choice. For example, when drawing an O, the player is free to make it as l arge or as small as s/he wants, and the O can have any shape as long as it forms a any effect on gameplay (with a few exceptions: when the player uses Galestorm, the win d blows in the direction in which the symbol is drawn, and with some brush 16 Purchasing the seal has literally no effect in the Wii version, since the closing credits were removed from that version of removed because they were a pre rendered movie that contained the Clover logo. We have no legal right to use the Clover logo in a game they were not involved with directly. We also d game so deeply concerned with authorship and self inscription, this absence of credits is deeply ironic, and designer Hid eki Kamiya publicly expressed regret that the credits were removed (Remo).

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401 techniques, a larger drawing produces a more powerful effect at the expense of the Galestorm de sign, but ultimately all the game checks for is whether or not the image drawn by the player was sufficiently similar to the Galestorm pattern stored in the happens. Individua l idiosyncratic touches that the player adds to the design are not relevant to the success of the drawing, or to subsequent gameplay. works, I assume it operates on the same g eneral principles as other handwriting recognition systems. According to two experts in the field, handwriting recognition is don and Srihari 64). It operates by recording the temporal and spatial parameters of handwritten traces, preprocessing them to eliminate noise, and then comparing them, by one or more of various methods, to a set of predefined letterforms stored in memory. 17 Its purpose is to extract the semantic value of a handwritten message, precisely by abstracting out the excessive and recognition and interpretation are processes whose objectives are to filter out the then, the player appears to player is doing is producing differential signifie rs. more robust than that of Jet Set Radio and plays a far more important role in gameplay, 17 On the specific algorithms that handwriting recognition systems use to identify handwritten characters, see Tappert et al. 791 793.

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402 ability to express his or her idios yncratic uniqueness. This is a fundamental property with digital handwriting recognition, which we will return to throughout this chapter. In order for handwriting to be used as a source of input for digital processes, it has to be digitized, which involv es stripping out its immanent, idiosyncratic aspects and reducing it to an example of a differential pattern. doomed to failure; it does mean, however, that a fully reflective approach to the digital fantasy of handwriting must somehow take into account the gap between the handwritten and the digital. fails to do this and can therefore be categorized as an uncritical example of the fantasy of handwriting. Despite its prai se of creativity, it ultimately ignores the ways in which handwriting interfaces are constitutively unable to completely satisfy the desire for creativity. kami as Uncritical Fantasy of Handwriting: Specific Problems. Again, this problem is perhaps inhe rent to the technology of handwriting recognition, and is therefore not unique to However, there are also specific issues with discussed below, offers a less effective me ans of digitally simulating the experience of handwriting. The first problem wth two dimensional and three succeed; tensions often exis t between the two dimensional handwriting interface and the three dimensional interface used for exploration and combat. is an example

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403 dimens The view displayed onscreen at any given moment is only one of many possible 2D perspectives on a 3D landscape, and the player can freely rotate the camera at any moment to display a new perspective. However, when the player presse s R2, the world becomes frozen into a static 2D configuration. The player can still rotate the camera while R2 is depressed, but this option becomes unavailable as soon as the player starts drawing. The conceit of ies a physical connection between the drawn line and a (conjectural) surface of inscription, and this connection requires the writing surface to be immovable (since brush techniques can only be executed successfully when the object that needs to be brush technique, the player needs to find a ca mera angle from which s/he can see the object to be drawn upon, or both of the objects in the case of the multiple brush techniques that involve drawing lines between two objects. Finding the right camera angle is often challenging, especially when one of the objects that needs to be connected is unusually small, and the game often has to take control of the camera away from the player in order to ensure that a brush technique can be executed correctly. In rare but annoying cases, executing a brush techniqu e properly requires using a camera angle which is suboptimal for the task the player is trying to accomplish. In Okamiden the DS version of the game (to be discussed below), these problems are ra. For most of the game, the camera moves automatically and only when the game directs it to do so. This

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404 means that the camera angle is always appropriate for whatever the player is trying to do. But it also means that offers a less three dimensi onal experience of perspective from which s/he views the gameworld. In both games, the screen functions simultaneously as a two dimensional writing surface and as a window i nto a three dimensional world, and these two functions of the screen are often at odds with each other. In the second place, the interface is a highly abstracted, schematized simulation of writing with an ink brush, to the extent that it strips out the specific material features of the writing medium, writing surface, and writing tool. In the writing is entirely two dimensional and immaterial. Being composed merely of pixels on a screen, it has none of the specific physical properties of real ink; it has none of the individual properties that distinguish one kind of ink from another, such as thickness, viscosity, texture, shininess, etc. Although these properties of ink might seem negligible, they play a crucial role in both the sensuous experience of the writing process and the quality of the finished product, and a professional calligrapher would pay careful attention to such physical parameters in choosing which brand of ink to use. (The quality of the inkstone, the surface on which the solid ink is mixed with water, is also of immense importance.) In all these physical parameters of the writin g medium are abstracted out. The game similarly abstracts out the materiality of the writing surface. The paper in is a purely two dimensional surface with only one side and no thickness. Because of the paper veneer (mentioned above), the screen look s like a sheet of paper, but it lacks the tactile and haptic features of paper. There is

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405 no haptic feedback when the player moves the Celestial Brush; the PS2 DualShock controller does have the capacity to supply vibration feedback, but the game neglects t o use this functionality to simulate the feedback that results when a brush is moved across paper. Finally, the Celestial Brush is a very different sort of writing tool from an actual ink brush. Clover Studios does succeed in making the Celestial Brush lo ok like an ink brush. As the player moves the Celestial Brush, the brushstroke becomes lighter and coarser. With a real ink brush, the thickness of the stroke varies according to how many of the bristles are in contact with the paper. ush behaves in the same way, and this is an impressive visual effect; it gives the player an active sense of mere simulation of what happens with actual ink and paper because there is no actual physical contact between the brush and the rice paper. Moreover, again, there is no haptic feedback. In using the Celestial Brush, all the player is doing, essentially, is moving a cursor around on a screen. A more serious pro blem, however, is that the physiological process of manipulating the Celestial Brush is very different from that of using an actual ink brush. The brush in handedness. This is necess ary because the buttons on the right hand side of the PS2 controller are needed to control the brush, but it forces most (i.e., right handed) players to draw with the non dominant hand. More significantly, the left analog stick is controlled by the thumb, whereas an actual brush or pen is typically held between the thumb and either the index finger or the first two fingers. In contemporary controller practice, the

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406 traditional function of the thumb is to press buttons. The ubiquity of mobile phones in presen t day Japan has resulted in a notable development and refinement of this function, as Sadie Plant observes: The gentle touch involves holding the mobile in one hand and accessing the keypad with the thumb. These users are nimble, even ambidextrous, and oft en so proficient that they barely need to look at the keys as they make their rapid entries: their knowledge of the la yout h as become second nature. . Because the thumb is usually assigned the function of exerting p ressure, mobile phone users and video gamers use the thumb to send series of discrete signals by pushing buttons in other words, to generate digital input. It could be argued, somewhat to quote the title of 18 order to exercise the fine motor control required for handwriting. Because the Celestial t be manipulated with the same precision as an actual brush or pencil. The PS2 analog stick is so short that the thumb can only exert a limited amount of leverage on it: the thumb can move only a limited distance before running into the palm of the hand. T he limited responsiveness of the analog stick is a problem not only in but also in other games such as first person shooters 18 In that case, the culture of handwriting co my finger and my thumb grandfath

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407 (FPS), where precise control is essential. 19 The analog stick has certain limitations as a tool for precise movement and contr ol, especially when compared to the mouse and keyboard, which are the preferred control mechanism for desktop FPS games. Richard Ham, the developer of the FPS game Brink we work on it to make the perfect analogue [ sic ] stick controls and as an aside we have got really good analogue stick controls ptoelectronic sensor is physically separate from any surface, meaning that the player has greater freedom to move it in any direction. In hard to draw diagonal lines at the correct angles, to make the endpoint of a line coincide with the start point, or to make parallel horizontal lines line up with each other, as is required by the Veil of Mist and Whirlwind techniques. When I try to use co mplicated techniques like Inferno (an infinity symbol) or Whirlwind (three parallel horizontal lines), I fail about half the time. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that I controlling the Celestial Brush with my non dominant y person who has these kinds of difficulties with controls: on the popular TVTropes website, is the first example given for the demand an unfair level of physical dexterity from players. 20 All of this makes it difficult to 19 specifically designed to address this p roblem. The FPS Freek consists of a second pair of analog sticks that attach to the tops of the analog sticks of the PS3 or Xbox 360 controller, thereby doubling the lengths of the sticks and providing more leverage. 20 The games criticized on this page al so include several Nintendo DS games that make extensive use of stylus controls, such as Trauma Center: Under the Knife, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom

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408 use the analog stick to execute intricate drawings, which is probably one reason why even the more complex of especially in comparison to certain Engli sh language letters, let alone Japanese characters. In summary, then, represents a specific, digitized videogame bound version of the traditional artistic technique of writing and painting with ink. In enabling the player to use this technique, mi draws upon the association of the ink brush with creation and, less significantly, with creativity. However, completely reproducing the effect of ink painting, because of the clunkiness of interface, and because of certain inherent differences between ink painting and its digital remediation. If this does not render because the fantasy of handwriting is not the entire point of the game. It invokes the fantasy of handwriting not simply for the sake of doing so, but as a component of a does not depend on the success or failure of its evocation of the fantasy of handwriting, i.e., of its effort to convince the player that s/he is actually writing objects into existence. This is because the game also provides other sources of satisfaction that are independent of the fantasy of handwriting, such as the satisfaction of exploring spaces and collecting t reasures. handwriting, both because of the specific inefficiencies of its handwriting interface and because of the intrinsic ways in which digital handwriting interfaces are generally unable to satisfy this desire. Nonetheless, it still offers a successful gaming experience; the Hourglass and The World Ends with You (to be discussed later). This is anecdotal evidence that analog con trol systems often require unusually high levels of precise dexterity just like handwriting.

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409 gaps between its handwriting interface and the fantasy of handwriting do not destroy the However, these gaps might become more significant if the fantasy of handwriting were presented as the entire point of the game that is, if a game presented itself in such a way that its success or failure was predicated on whether it enabled the player to enact the fantasy of handwriting. This is exactly what occurs in Scribblenauts (5th Cell, 2009), a game for the Nintendo DS. In the next section we will see how this game invokes a restorative fantasy of handwriting in a video game context, and thereby reveals the inherently unsatisfying nature of such fantas ies. III. Scribblenauts: Write Anything*, Solve Everything Scribblenauts and Handwriting Scribblenauts great commercial successes. Its popularity was such that a sequel, Super Scribblenauts w as released for the same platform a year later. Whereas the remediation of writing is only one part of Scribblenauts explicitly presents itself as a game entirely about writing. The fantasy of handwriting is foregrounded in the game and in its paratextual materials, to such an extent that the player is invited to judge the game on the basis of whether this remediation succeds or fails. Scribblenauts invokes the fantasy of handwriting in a brilliant and provocative way, and th fantasy of handwriting is incompletely satisfying, insofar as that the game places limits on

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410 unique way, and to this extent Scribblenauts ultimately reveals the contradictions inherent in the restorative fantasy of handwriting. Scribblenauts revolves around a p remise which is brilliant in its simplicity. When the player writes the name of any object, within certain limits, that object is created. In een keypad or a handwriting interface), that object appears in the gameworld. The player can then move it around with the stylus, and it can interact with other objects and with the player character. This simple premise creates the possibility of an arbitr arily large number of object interactions and puzzle solutions. Scribblenauts object the player can think of is quite likely to be included, creating the impression that imagination and vocabulary. The power to create objects by naming them is not unique to Scribblenauts. Every object oriented programming language, by definition, gives the programmer the abili ty to define a class and then create instances of that class. 21 Thus the core mechanic of Scribblenauts is one that is already implemented in numerous other software Scribblenauts is relevant in the present context, however, because it frames the act of generating objects in terms of writing and specifically handwriting The Scribblenauts writes objects into existence. 21 On object oriented programming, see Barnes, D. J, and M. Klling, Objects First With Java: A Practical Introduction Using BlueJ (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006).

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411 This is evident in the name of the game, in its paratextua l materials that show the Oxford English Dictionary 1. trans. To write hastily or carelessly. a. To write in an irregular, slovenly, or illegible hand throug h haste or carelessness; also, to produce (marks, a drawing, etc.) or portray (an object) by rapid and irregular strokes like those of hurried writing. b. To write hurriedly or thoughtlessly, so that what is written is faulty in style or worthless in subst ance. content rather than the materiality of writing: the second OED write something hastily or carelessly, either as to handwriting or co the word clearly connotes writing by hand, and doing so in a carefree, enjoyable way. A scribble naut then, is one who writes quickly and playfully, by hand, as a means of exploration the realm of scribbles. In the second place, logo is set in a font that is either handwritten or designed to emulate handwriting, as indicated by the fact that the two instances of the letter B look significantly different (cf. Figure 6 use the handwriting based Comic Sans font, which mi mics the stereotypical style of comic book letters. Finally, in the game itself, the visual motif of wide ruled notebook paper, which appears on the handwriting interface screen, alludes to elementary school handwriting exercises (Figure 6 12). Scribblena uts thus connects handwriting with childhood, and thus promises to return the player to an idyllic former state when handwriting represented a new way of expressing oneself both visually and linguistically. The DS itself is often denigrated as a

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412 system for children, perhaps due to this very association of its handwriting interface with childhood (more on this in a moment) as well as to its large library of educational software. Scribblenauts seems to accept this characterization and to turn it into somethin g positive, as indicated by one artistic response to the game (Munroe 2009). (Figure 6 Scribblenauts is a o f pretentiousness. The point is that Scribblenauts It partakes of the optimism of childhood and reminds the player of the moment of tive agency and self expression. (This is, of course, restorative nostalgia, as it ignores that the study of handwriting is usually stigmatized in American culture as tedious busywork, and may only be remembered fondly in hindsight.) To put it another way, Scribblenauts presents itself as being fun for the same reasons that handwriting is fun; accordingly, I think for the journalists specifically, it has to do with Sc ribblenauts and the DS as Handwriting Interface Scribblenauts specific properties of the DS. A portable gaming system releas ed in 2004, the DS is unique among such systems in that it features two screens (Figure 6 14). The top screen is a conventional LCD screen, while the bottom screen is overlaid with a resistive touchscreen which accepts input from a stylus or other pointing device. A resistive touchscreen consists of two sheets of electrically resistive material with a gap between them. When the stylus makes contact with the surface of the screen, the two sheets are compressed together,

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413 creating an electrical impulse, and th e X and Y coordinates of the location of the impulse are registered, allowing them to be used as input for various processes Not all DS games require the use of the stylus at all. For example, Final Fantasy IV (2008) and Drago n Quest V (2009) use the stylus only for optional minigames. In some DS games e.g., The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (2009) or Dragon Quest IX (2010) the stylus is used merely as a pointing device, and the player uses it only to perform acts that Gal loway would characterize as nondiegetic operator acts (e.g., selecting items from menus) or move acts (i.e., telling the avatar where to go) (Galloway 12, 22). In other DS games, however, using the stylus represents a more specific expressive act. The acti on expressed by using the stylus is often the act of using a tool, and the stylus often represents this tool, in the sense in which a theatrical prop sword video game c ontrol mechanisms. As we have seen, players always engage in some avatars to perform expressive acts; that is, the expressive act always has a physical as well as an exp ressive component. However, we have also seen that in most games, including Jet Set Radio and these two components of the expressive act are clearly differentiated: the player typically performs one type of physical act (e.g., pushing a button) to m ake the avatar execute a very different type of physical act (e.g., swinging a sword). By contrast, with the DS stylus, the physical form of an expressive act often resembles its imaginative form much more closely, because the player uses the stylus an e longated, hand held tool to simulate an act that is performed using

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414 just such a tool. A literal example of this occurs in Trauma Center: Under the Knife (Atlus, 2005), where the player uses the stylus as a scalpel, simulating the act of making an incisio literal example, in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (Rockstar Games, 2009), the player hotwires a car by using the stylus to unscrew the ignition switch. The player draws a circle o n the screen, simulating the act of turning a screwdriver. Other contemporary gaming systems the Nintendo Wii, the Sony Move, the Microsoft Kinect make similar use of analog control mechanisms in order to erase the gap between the physical and the ima ginative form of the expressive act. For example, in Kinect Sports (2010), the player plays table tennis using his or her hand as a paddle, or throws a javelin by making the appropriate arm motion. However, the DS differs from these three platforms in that it requires physical contact with a two dimensional control surface. Using the Wii, Kinect or Move entails making gestures in the air, whether with a control device or without. Using the DS entails making inscriptions on a surface. This makes the DS uniqu ely appropriate for the simulation of physical acts that involve engagement between a hand held tool and a flat surface and one principal example of such an act is writing which I have defined in terms of the production of inscriptions on a surface by m eans of a hand held tool. More generally, using the DS stylus feels like handwriting. This perception is reinforced by the material qualities of the system itself, which is about the size and shape of a small paperback volume. Some games (e.g., Hotel Dusk: Room 215 [Cing, 2007] or certain sequences in Inside Story [Nintendo, 2009]) even ask the player to hold the DS sideways, so that the

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415 player feels he or she is holding a small datebook or planner in one hand, and writing in it wi th the other. The DS is thus particularly well suited to the simulation of handwriting and the promulgation of fantasies of handwriting, and Scribblenauts uses the DS for exactly this purpose. In Scribblenauts i n order to name an object, the player can c hoose between two interfaces: an onscreen QWERTY keyboard or a handwriting interface. When using the latter interface, the player writes letters by inscribing them one at a time on the touchscreen, which displays an image of a sheet of notebook paper (cf. Figure 6 12). Scribblenauts thus insists on the resemblance of the stylus touchscreen interface to the older writing technology of pen and paper, emphasizing that the former interface is a remediation of the latter. Ironically, in Scribblenauts the handwri ting interface is less user friendly than the keyboard interface. Writing letters one at a time is far slower than selecting letters from an onscreen keypad, and this problem is compounded by the y difficult to execute specific writing technology that the DS seems uniquely equipped to enable. Nonetheless, even if Scribblenauts does not effectively support the handwriting interface, in some sense the presence of that interface is what makes Scribblenauts thinkable. In developing Scribblenauts tivated by the unique affordances of the DS platform, including its capacity to simulate handwriting. Interviews with Scribblenauts director Jeremiah Slaczka testify to this. In an

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416 interview about his previous DS game, Drawn to Life which asks the player to draw on the screen, Slaczka said: features, and the touch screen was the obvious choice. From there, we kept coming up with different ideas that used the touch screen in a unique way 22 Scribblenauts where what you write comes to life, is obviously the next logical step. Even if Scribblenauts does not make the most effective use imagi capacity to remediate handwriting, the existence of this capacity is what makes the game possible. Of course, Scribblenauts offers the player something more than handwriting itself provides, since it turns handwriting into a means of gen erating magical effects. However, the suggestion is that the differences between actual handwriting and the Scribblenauts interface are differences of degree rather than kind. If Scribblenauts gives the player the magical power to summon objects into exist ence (or the same level of existence enjoyed by the other preexisting objects in the gameworld), then this is precisely what handwriting does, according to the classic fantasy of handwriting. In such fantasies, handwriting means writing things creating wr itten signs that are also objects and that have the ability to do stuff Scribblenauts therefore enacts the same fantasy scenario we have seen in texts like Felix Harold and the Purple Crayon or Ad Verbum 22 Drawn to Life in a future revision of this project, but space limitations prevent me from addressing it here. At the time of its release, Drawn to Life was praised for being innovative, but reviewers held that its handwriting interfa ce was overly restrictive and poorly implemented (Navarro n.p.). Moreover, unlike in Scribblenauts gameplay; Drawn to Life is effectively a platformer (in the style of the 2D Super Mario gam es) that uses drawing as a gimmick, and therefore it teaches us much the same lessons about the handwriting interface as kami does. Compared to Drawn to Life Scribblenauts features a handwriting interface which is both more integral to gameplay and offer s greater opportunities to creativity, and therefore Scribblenauts represents a more significant test case for the question of whether the DS can successfully invoke the fantasy of handwriting.

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417 In Scribblenauts as in this scenario is presented not as an uncanny transformation of the nature of handwriting, but as a liberation of the magical potential that was always latent in handwriting to begin with. Again as in handwriting in Scribblenauts is not exact ly identical to object handwriting interface allows the player to write only one letter at a time), so the handwritten word never even exists as a complete entity, and all of its constituent letters are already gone by the time name and the creation of the object itself are two separate events, despite being causally linked to each other. However, the that the name of an object is identical with that object. For ex simulated shovel comes into existence and, within the diegetic world, has at least as game suggests that this simulated object does not merely replace, but is instead identical to, its handwritten name. By toggling an onscreen magnifying glass icon, the player can tap any object to see its name. When this is done with a player created object, the game displays the name that was us ed to create that object, even if it has other possible names. For example, if I write PACHYDERM, then toggle the magnifying glass and click on the creature, I see the name PACHYDERM, even though the beast itself looks more like a RHINO. If I then write a RHINO and use the magnifying glass to

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418 see its name, it remains a RHINO even though it looks identical to the PACHYDERM, since both beasts are represented by the same sprite. Ad Verbum or WordWorld ), this scenario represen ts another variation on the fantasy of handwriting. In normal contexts of writing that is, actual world contexts of writing there is a clear cut distinction between the d actual tree. The materiality of writing is distinct from the materiality of that which is written about. In Scribblenauts however, words are identical with their referents. To write a word is to bring into existence the thing that the word designates. 23 And vice versa: to make a thing is also to inscribe the name of that thing. Ian Bogost gestures to st recognize terms: (n.p.). In Scribblenauts words are operationally, literally things somewhat like the question marks in Felix which operate as both expressions of affects and objects that can be manipulated within the storyworld. Every object in Scribblenauts has a unique name which is inextricably linked to the object, to the extent that the object literally is the name and vice versa. 24 Thus, to transform an object is also to transform its name. 23 Sc ribblenauts does not recognize verbs, thing Super Scribblenauts adds the option of writing adjectives. 24 Another video game that employs a similar mechanic is the Squaresoft role playing game Rudra no Hih ou (1996, fan translated as Treasure of the Rudras ), in which the player creates magic spells, or mantra and has some s ort of effect when used in battle. However, most of the possible mantras are useless, so the player has to learn what mantras are actually useful by reading in game texts, or by The Syste which features puzzles that require the user to change objects into other objects by subjecting them to various linguistic operations that alter the letters of their names. As a simple example, in one such puzzle the

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419 Although Scribblenauts allow the player to do the reverse, transforming objects into other objects, and when the player does this, it also changes the name displa yed when the magnifying glass icon is used. Watering an ACORN turns it into a TREE; using a BRUSH to interact with a CANVAS turns it into an ART. In Scribblenauts then, to write is to create things. Moreover, Scribblenauts promises the player that by wri ting objects into existence, s/he can express his or her idiosyncratic existence and uniqueness; therefore, Scribblenauts represents an example of the restorative fantasy of handwriting. Scribblenauts appeals to the graphological understanding of handwriti ng as the external manifestation of the internal idiosyncracies and compulsions of the self. As with the IF interface (see above, p. 121), the Scribblenauts player has the ability to write any word at all, which creates the illusion, at least, that the pla merely an illusion of total interactional freedom: the Scribblenauts lexicon explicitly excludes cert ain categories of words (e.g., proper nouns, vulgarities, and references to drugs and alcohol, and even those words that Scribblenauts does include are not always implemented. However, the illusion of interactional freedom is even stronger in Scribblenauts than in a typical IF game, since Scribblenauts contains vastly more nouns than even the largest IF game has verbs. 25 It is unlikely the player will be able to think of player is given the word FISH, but some unruly outlaws demand to see a FIST in order to let the player 25 This is probably because nouns are much easier to implement than verbs. In Scribblenauts addi ng a new noun to the game merely entails designing a sprite for the object represented by the noun,

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420 Ind (McElroy). It turned out that nine of the ten words were included, and the 5th Cell staff promi sed to include the tenth word, PLUMBOB, in the finished game (this promise was kept). Again as in IF and, if anything, to a much greater extent this perception of total interactional freedom creates the further perception that whatever the player write s is absolutely specific to him or her. gameplay. In the player is usually constrained to use the Celestial Brush only in such ways as the game dictates, but in Scribblenauts the player has much more so players ar e encouraged to find solutions that involve lateral thinking or that reveal their personal preferences. (As a simple example of the latter type of solution, suppose a puzzle requires a player to kill an enemy. Some hypothetical player might choose to do so by summoning CTHULHU, simply because she is a fan of Lovecraft.) Indeed, the game even actively rewards creativity and lateral thinking. After each of Scribblenauts pla yer to complete the level three times without reusing any words. By challenging the player to find multiple ways of meeting a given constraint, Advance Mode promises to interactions with all the types of objects in the game See Nelson and Short 308 309 and 351 for examples of the effort required to define new verbs in Inform 7.

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421 e, but to solve it in ways which are specific and idiosyncratic to him or her. Scribblenauts therefore promises to offer the player the freedom to express his or her unique creative potential, and it reinforces this promise by drawing on the preexisting a ssociation of handwriting with subjective uniqueness. The objects the player creates in Scribblenauts are linked to the player in two ways: they are created is a subj ective, idiosyncratic choice. Therefore, Scribblenauts object oriented programming system; its interface claims to be a tool with which the player can literally write himself or herself into the gameworld, creating objects that partake of his or her subjective uniqueness. Scribblenauts and Barriers to Creativity Scribblenauts therefore promises to satisfy the fantasy of handwriting on two levels, through its handwriting interface and through its provision of puzzles with multip le solutions. On both levels, however, Scribblenauts desire for handwriting, because it fails to acknowledge the ways in which this fantasy is at odds with the practical requirements of the gaming situation. To this extent, S cribblenauts is an example of the restorative fantasy of handwriting. As noted, Scribblenauts offers two different interfaces: a handwriting interface in which the player writes one letter at a time, and an onscreen keypad. Of these, the handwriting interf original design of Scribblenauts called for writing letters, with the stylus to serve as the main method of word input -we loved the visceral feeling of writing and watching an

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422 Scribblenauts would have provided the same pleasure as handwriting, only in an even more magical form. It would have drawn on the f writing and watching letters appear out of nowhere, but would have provided a still more pleasurable experience, by allowing the player to write and watch objects appear out of nowhere. Accordingly, 5th Cell used the keyboard interface hile designing custom handwriting recognition software. However: than a keyboard. We still spent time refining the letter recognition, but it was clear keyboard input wou Greater speed is the primary affordance of the keyboard interface in Scribblenauts over the handwriting interface, and indeed, of typing over handwriting more generally. Despite the best e compete with the mechanical efficiency of typing. Indeed, this is one major reason for the contemporary privileging of handwriting. For Arts and Crafts calligraphy revivalists, handwriting w as valuable because it represented conscious, thoughtful craftsmanship, in contrast to the soulless efficiency of the machine (Thornton 179 181). This valuation of handwriting as a sign of individual creative labor is closely allied to Scribblenauts ideo logical project. In keeping with the nostalgic fantasy of handwriting, Scribblenauts seeks to return the player to a moment when handwriting provided him or her with a technologies. Yet as a fast paced action game, Scribblenauts cannot afford the loss of gameplay speed that handwriting entails, and it gives the player no incentive to use t he

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423 handwriting interface rather than the keyboard. The properties on account of which handwriting is cherished its slower speed, its decreased efficiency, its greater labor intensiveness are the same properties that make handwriting an inefficient gami ng interface. It would obviously be premature to conclude from this that touchscreen technology if this incompletely present in recognition technology is not intended istic tool like a Wacom tablet, but of a gaming interface. It therefore has to enable both player agency, which includes creativity, and efficient interaction which often operate at cross purposes, as demonstrated when 5th Cell ceased development on the Scribblenauts handwriting interface. When 5th Cell used the DS to present a DS specific version of the fantasy of handwriting, they failed to do so in a satisfying way, because they invoked the fantasy of handwriting in a restorative way, ignoring the gap between DS handwriting and originary handwriting. That is to say, the differences between DS handwriting and originary handwriting are essential or necessary, rather than accidental to or contingent upon Scribblenauts dwriting interface. In the case of Scribblenauts the particular difference that matters is the difference between handwriting as an autotelic phenomenon and as a gaming control mechanism. (Other differences also exist between DS handwriting and originary handwriting, including

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424 some that are inherent to any handwriting interface and others that are specific to the Similarly, at the level of Scribblenauts ns exist between the fantasy of handwriting and the need for meaningful play. What Scribblenauts do not acknowledge is that as Tanenbaum and Tanenbaum define it, gaming involves interaction with an authored framework, meaning the gamer has to wo rk within the contours of constraints which were not of his or her creation. Therefore, absolute and unconstrained creative freedom is not compatible with the gaming context. m. On the title screen, the player has access to the writing interface, and Maxwell is invulnerable to being killed. Thus, the title screen acts as a sandbox in which the player can experiment with objects and object interactions. The trouble is that the t itle screen is not a game because it offers the player no goals to achieve. Definitions of the concept of game typically specify that a game must have a definable outcome. Of the eight definitions of games collected by Salen and Zimmerman, five of them in clude the property of goal (73 me (7). 26 This definition rules out the title screen of Scribblenauts where no goals are made 26 Crawford goes on to distinguish between games and puzzles on the grounds that puzzles lack identifiable opponents. I do not agree with this dist inction, which, as Crawford goes on to note, has the effect of excluding many things that are commonly thought of as games (8).

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425 explicit, other than user defined ones such as finding ways to kill Maxwell on the title screen. 27 In order to understand how Scribblenauts integrates the fantasy of handwriting with gameplay, therefore, we have to consider the game proper. Scribblenauts includes 220 levels, each of which challenges the player to obtain a McGuffin object called a Starite by creating and manipulating objects. These levels are divide d into puzzle levels, in which the player must satisfy certain conditions in order to make the Starite appear, the avatar to it. Thus, both types of levels require the player to satisfy certain constraints generating the appropriate objects. As Tanenbaum and Tanenbaum argue (above, p. 122), the existence of constraints on player be havior is necessary in order to transform a software toy into a game. In order to be enjoyable, a game must provide constraints that encourage the player to exercise agency in interesting ways. A successful game is one that forces the player to engage in m eaningful behavior in order to satisfy its constraints. As a combination of a game and a handwriting mechanism, Scribblenauts attempts to satisfy this requirement while also permitting the player to exercise creativity. It tries to balance these competing requirements by providing constraints that can be satisfied in many different ways, so as to provide players with the opportunity to find and implement their own solutions. 27 In Super Scribblenauts objects together or riding a c as well as during normal gameplay. However, the player can continue using the title screen even after

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426 Unfortunately, Scribblenauts does not fully succeed in achieving this delicate bal ance. The strength of Scribblenauts with creation and creativity is precisely why many players found it disappointing as a fun t gamic component of Scribblenauts was more fun than the gamic component. Scribblenauts and its paratextual materials arouse a desire for the expression of subjective uniqueness, but the complete satisfaction of this desire is impossible in the gaming situation, which is defined by the existence of barriers to absolute creative freedom. Scribblenauts ols. 28 shoddy implementation, and were satisfactorily resolved in Super Scribblenauts A much more serious objection to the game was that its range of possible actions was arbitrarily limited. Especially in Action Mode, the game asks players to perform a relatively narrow set of tasks: killing enemies, flying, hauling objects, breaking ice, digging through dirt, etc. Only a limited subset of the words in the game are required to accomplish these tasks, on ly and an even more limited number of words can Maxwell can use to fly, but only some of these objects are actually useful; others, like SPACESHIP, are too bulky to man ipulate properly. Therefore, when I play the game I often end up overrelying on words like WINGS, WINGED SHOES, and JETPACK. 28 For example, the camera would automatically snap back to Maxwell's position after a couple of seconds, and the physics model was inaccurate, so that ropes and similar objects were much heavier than they logically should have be en; attaching a rope to something resting on the edge of a cliff would cause both the rope and its attached object to fall off the cliff.

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427 (Notice also that the name of an object can limit its usefulness, because an object with a long name is cumbersome to write.) Simil arly, many Action Mode levels require the player to collect a Starite at the bottom of a body of water. There are only a few logical ways to do this drain the water, attach a buoyant object to the Starite, fish the Starite out with a ropelike object, or have Maxwell dive underwater to get it. In my own solutions, so I had to rely on the latter two, and there are only a limited number of words that can be used as fishing rods or underwater breathing devices. Besides DIVING submarine and that allows Maxwell to breathe underwater. Over the course of the 110 Action Mode levels, the player is asked t o do tasks such as this repeatedly. Thus, the player ends up overrelying on certain words, creating a repetitive gameplay experience. 29 It may not even be possible to complete the game in Advance Mode without reusing any object, and one player allegedly com pleted all the Action Mode levels using only six words. 30 Although he did this by exploiting several glitches, the fact that such an achievement is even possible is evidence of the repetitive nature of the tasks Scribblenauts assigns the player. Furthermore 29 As a final example, the player often has to pull a lever that Maxwell is unable to reach. I can only find two ways to do this: shock the lever with electricity, causing it to switch positions; or summon an ENGINEER, MACHINIST, MECHANIC or ELECTRICIAN, the only non player characters who can pull levers. 30 The objects were AIR VENT, METAL BOX, ORNITHOPTER, SHRINK MAGIC, PLASMA and NAVAL MINE. The latter two were only used on a total of three levels. See . Another player managed to complete all b ut one of the Puzzle Mode levels with only nine objects, although one of those was SANTA, who has the ability to generate objects randomly. The other eight were COW, PICK AX, AIR VENT, UFO, MUSICAL SAW, COFFIN, LIGHTNING and GAUZE. See . Such feats would probably not be possible in Super Scribblenauts because its puzzles tend to require more specific solutions.

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428 to kill fish by dropping an electrically conductive object into their water. In this context a TELEVISION and a HAIR DRYER are functio solve a puzzle three times using three objects that have different names but produce aged in a creative process. Notably, in Super Scribblenauts this problem was solved by removing Advance Mode from some of the action levels. In other words, Super Scribblenauts contains levels where the player is not rewarded for coming up with multiple so lutions, because there is only one reasonable solution or class of solutions, and it would not be fun to solve such puzzles three times in three trivially different ways. By making this change, 5th Cell deprived the player of opportunities for creative thi nking in the interest of avoiding repetitive two goals: to provide meaningful gameplay and to offer the player opportunities to write ew of Super Scribblenauts testifies to the same tension between creativity and meaningful play: One of the problems with the original Scribblenauts was that the levels were so open ended you could use just about anything to complete them. Players could re ly on the same words over and over, such Scribblenauts was that it offered too much creative freedom, meaning that pu zzles were trivially solvable and therefore not Super Scribblenauts goes too far in the opposite direction: in order to make puzzles meaningful, it arbitrarily limits the number of

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429 solutions to each puzzle. 31 That is, it fails to give the player enough creative freedom; it The game is more genuinely innovative in the Puzzle Mode levels, precisely because these levels often involve tasks significantly different from those required in Action Mode. These tasks include retrieving a cat from a tree, providing a farmer with livestock, cleaning up a city park, and making a flower grow. These levels are more satisfying because they offer the player opportunities to engage in creative thin king, to do things that no other level requires him or her to do. When Scribblenauts succeeds, then, it succeeds because it provides the player with a novel and meaningful constraint or framework within which to exercise his or her creative agency; convers ely, it exercise creativity. And I suggest that this is what must be done in order to accommodate the fantasy of handwriting to the gaming situation. Absolute, unconstrained creativity is not compatible with the writing situation. In Scribblenauts the opportunity to enact the fantasy of handwriting to write things into existenc e, and to do so in an innovative and idiomatic way is the primary reason the player is offered for wanting to play the game. The massive critical and commercial success of this game suggests that among contemporary North American gaming audiences, such a ppeals to the fantasy of handwriting have great persuasive power. (Prior to its release, Scribblenauts 31 have to recruit teachers to work at a college. You have to fill a wide pool of subjects, but only the most obvious, general make a Spanish or chemistry

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430 2009 E3 show. It was the best selling third party DS game of 2009 and fifth best selling overall, won three Inte ractive Achievement Awards, and was listed by Time as the Scribblenauts the inefficiencies of i ts particular implementation of the handwriting interface, but also because of inherent incompatibilities between the gaming situation and the restorative fantasy of handwriting. In order to become reflective, the gaming version of the fantasy of handwrit ing must take these gaps into account. What would a game look like if it did this if it invoked the fantasy of handwriting under erasure, with full knowledge of the tensions that necessarily exist between handwriting and gameplay? To answer this question I examine the final case study of this dissertation. Handwriting Begins with You Fantasies of Handwriting in The World Ends with You Developed by SquareEnix and Jupiter, The World Ends with You ( TWEWY ) was released in Japan in 2007 under the title Subara shiki kono sekai resembles a traditional SquareEnix role playing game (RPG) in many ways. 32 It features separate interfaces for combat and for exploration. Outsi de of combat, TWEWY employs a standard graphical adventure interface in which the gameworld is modeled as a series of two dimensional spaces with static camera setups. The avatar moves through these locations, talking to people and examining objects. 32 See Barton 208 228 for an account of the history and distinctive features of this genre.

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431 Howe ver, TWEWY of both of the distinctive features of the DS: the touch screen and the dual screen. In combat, the player controls both screens at the same time, using one hand to manipulate the appears on the touch screen, which is the bottom screen (Figure 6 15). Over the course ability to use magical powers when equipped in combat. Each psych is triggered by performing a specific action with the stylus. 33 These actions include touching an enemy, slashing an enemy (i.e., drawing a line across it), drawing a circle on the scree n, picking up and dragging onscreen objects, and rubbing the screen game) appears on the top screen. The player uses either the D pad or the action buttons, depending o n his or her handedness, to make the partner attack either to the left or to the right and to fly or descend to the ground. Unsurprisingly, it takes some time to learn to play on two screens at once, but in practice, the top screen typically requires much less attention than the bottom screen. Moreover, when the player successfully character on the other screen. The light puck multiplies the damage output of attacks, an d if the player executes a successful combo with the character holding the puck, then the puck passes back to the other screen with its power further increased. The effect of this mechanic is to encourage the player to use both screens, and to indicate whi ch 33 The exception is several pins that are activated by shouting or breathing into the DS microphone. The DS microphone raises an interesting comple x of ontological issues which do not take up here. I would simply note that I find it difficult to use the microphone, because to do so, I have to hold the DS so The Legend of Zel da: Spirit Tracks this fact produces significant control issues.

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432 screen the player should be focusing on at any given moment. Because the DS has four the action buttons and the D pad, and this enables the player to use both the b uttons and stylus at once, without needing a third hand. In other DS games, the player typically uses one of the methods of control almost exclusively, or uses the two methods of control at different times. 34 Playing on the bottom screen is functionally si milar to writing or drawing, even though the game does not explicitly use these terms to describe this action. The game the same physiological actions that he or she would use to write with a pen. To control Neku the player draws lines, circles and dots, or drags heavy objects over enemies, as if using a pencil eraser. Controlling the bottom screen is a matter of writing or drawing on it. Although the game does not str ess this connection explicitly, it does so implicitly through its emphasis on the theme of creativity. In TWEWY the use of the stylus is not coded as writing or drawing to the same extent as in Scribblenauts jargon, being killed is referred indications that using the stylus constitutes writing or drawing. However, the game implies a connection between stylus use and handwriting through its constant insistence on the themes of design and creativity. TWEWY is set in the Tokyo district of Shibuya, the fashion capital of Japan. Shibuya is characterized in the game as a battleground, a space where different fashion styles clash and compete and interact productively. 34 For example: In The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks the player uses the stylus almost exclusively; the buttons only play a peripheral role. In Final Fantasy IV and Dragon Quest V the but tons are used almost exclusviely. In Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and the buttons are used most of the time, but the stylus is frequently used for minigames. In the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series, the stylus and the buttons have identical functions.

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433 Shibuya is a space where Ne ku and the other protagonists are free to define their own styles, to make their visual appearances express their personal idiosyncrasies. first partner, Shiki, is an aspirin player characters, Sanae Hanekoma (a.k.a. CAT), is a graphic designer whose style is personal hero. 35 Creativity is the guidin dimensional environments and objects, TWEWY features two dimensional sprites and backgrounds which are rendered in a classic manga or anime style. Two dimensional the touchscreen is a perfectly flat surface. In order to be touched, objects must have flat surfaces and the player must have an unobstru cted view of them. Therefore, objects dimensional virtual space behind the screen, or else the player would be unable to touch them. In order to be touched, objects must have two dimensional surfaces. The art style of Japanese animat ion is appropriately suited to this requirement because, as Lamarre argues, it emphasizes animetism, or the movement of two dimensional layers relative to each other, rather than cinematism, or ballistic movement into depth. Moreover, the 2D style emphasiz es expressivity and graphic style rather than transparent immediacy, as TWEWY 35 Forget about philosophy on the grounds that it leads to intolerance of other people. This point will be discussed in detail below.

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434 Modern settings are rare for Square Enix titles, so we had to make sure our art style would stand out from other titles and to keep the entire game in 2D. express ourselves on the DS if we went the polygonal route. 2D graphics wildly shifting and morphing monsters (Arakaw a et al. n.p.). Here expressivity is highlighted as one of the key requirements for TWEWY style. As discussed in Chapter 3, expressivity, or what Marion calls teneur en trace is also a hallmark of comics and animation, to the extent that comics critics often place a higher value on teneur en trace than on the creation of a convincing representational illusion. TWEWY therefore, draws upon the conventional association of handwriting with creativity. 36 It also invokes the fantasy of handwriting to the extent that in this game, as in the two games discussed above, handwriting has effects; handwriting does stuff In TWEWY the player uses handwriting to attack enemies, not to create objects; handwriting is more destructive than creative in the literal sense. Nonetheless, in this game handwriting has physical effects within the diegetic storyworld. Handwriting causes things to happen. Handwriting has physical power. To this extent, TWEWY invokes the fantasy that to write is to write oneself into the worl d. TWEWY as Reflective Fantasy of Handwriting However, again like the other games discussed above, TWEWY features an idealized version of handwriting which is different in many ways from originary handwriting. First, as indicated above, actual handwriting is a three dimensional phenomenon. Paper and ink have a thickness which is not negligible. For example, the appearance of a handwritten line changes according to the amount of pressure with 36 At least it does so for an American player. Again, I am not prepared to argue whether such conventional associations exist in Japanese culture.

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435 which the pen is applied to the surface of the paper. Although th e three dimensional thickness of a written sign does not have semantic value in most contexts of printing (a normal letter A, an embossed letter A and an intaglio letter A are all understood as having the same semantic value), it can be used to distinguish multiple instances of the same letter. For example, Lidia Fogarolo, a practitioner 37 pressure exerted by a writing hand is tightly related to the need of showing material evidence, felt by the personality as necessary to its light pressure (Filiform sign) indicates that personality needs to avoid, as much as possible, conflicts on a material plan [ sic ], as it is more interested in subtle energy aims should be taken seriously, but they do indicate that handwriting is performed in a three dimensional space of interaction between the body of the writer and the material substrate of the writing surface. The three dimensional depth of a pen stroke is as much a part of that pen stroke as its two dimensional shape. This, however, is an element of handwriting that the DS does not reproduce. The DS features a resistive touchscreen, which is one of the more widely used touchscreen technologies for handheld devices, along with the capacitive touchscreen. The DS touchscreen consists of two sheets of electrically resistive material with a gap between them. When the stylus makes contact with the surface of the screen, the two sheets are compressed, generating an electrical impulse, and the DS registers the X and Y coordinates of the location of the impulse. The touchscreen can only detect one touch at a time, meaning that the DS does not have multi touch capacity. Resistive touchscreens have pressure sensitivity: a harder touch creates more 37 Used under erasure as graphology is of course a pseudoscience.

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436 compression between the sheets and therefore sends a stronger impulse. (Conversely, capacitive touchscreens, the other common variety, operate by detecting the electrical signal sent by the touching finger; thus, they support m ulti touch but not pressure Therefore, the DS is at least theoretically capable of simulating the pressure sensitivity has never been significantly exploited in an y commercial game. When a 2008 homebrew painting application called Colors! included support for pressure sensitivity, unconfirmed claims that Nintendo has refused to allow pre ssure sensitivity to be used in commercial DS games, because it was not possible to guarantee that all DS models would be equally pressure sensitive; it is also rumored that pressure sensitivity was removed from the DSi, the most recent version of the DS c onsole, because of concerns about damage to the screen. Thus, although the DS technically does have the capacity to detect pressure, this capacity is almost never exploited, and the vast majority of games treat the DS touchscreen as if it were a purely two dimensional surface. Moreover, permanently stored in memory, yet the line itself soon disappears Finally and most crucially, TWEWY than analog. TWEWY only detects whether the player has correctly executed the stylus action corresponding to the pins Neku is wearing, and ignores th e idiosyncratic aspects

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437 trouble distinguishing between these actions because both are represented by the same patterns of stroke data. Where TWEWY crucially differs from Scribblenauts is that it acknowledges this an uncritical restoration of handwri ting. It makes few explicit references to handwriting, playing TWEWY is not foregrounde d. TWEWY, then, is not constrained by the ideological project of producing a replica of fantasized handwriting. Its success or failure as a game is not measured by the similarity or dissimilarity of its writing system to the fantasized version of handwriti ng. Instead of trying to literally recreate handwriting, SquareEnix was able to simply seek to create a system that offers the characteristic pleasure of handwriting: the expression of creative agency through embodied interaction. Combat in TWEWY is not ha handwriting is fun. It engages the hand (both hands, in fact) and the rest of the body, whereas combat in other SquareEnix titles is often a boring process of repetitive button mashing. It allows one to imm results come in the form of damage to enemies rather than permanent inscriptions. Moreover, TWEWY offers the player genuine freedom of play style, since many different pins are available and the pl ayer can therefore choose the pins that suit his/her personal play style. Unlike Scribblenauts TWEWY the desire for handwriting a project which is impossible because this desire is based

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438 on a constitituve lack TWEWY uses digital processes to evoke the memory of handwriting. It is therefore able to open up a space for critical reflection on what handwriting meant and on how our memory of handwriting might inform our engagement with the post reflective as opposed to restorative nostalgia (cited above, p. 22). Rather than simply trying to revive handwriting (and inevitabl y failing), TWEWY invites the player to notice the gaps between its interface and handwriting, and to reflect on what these gaps might mean. TWEWY further encourages such reflection by means of its story, which, as with most SquareEnix games, is heavily foregrounded. The TWEWY player uses the handwriting interface not only for its own sake, but also as means of progressing through a story in which the values associated with handwriting creativity and individuality play crucial roles. (By contrast, Scr ibblenauts effectively has no story; the game never explains who Maxwell is, why he is able to write objects into existence, or what his motivation is for collecting Starites.) TWEWY nostalgia for handwriting by arguing that creativity and idiosyncrasy are threatened by various repressive forces. However, it also appeals to reflective nostalgia for handwriting by showing that these values are not absolute. Taken to an extreme, the desire to assert and express the embodied self leads merely to narcissism, to a neglect of the socially situated nature of the self. In order to make productive use of the qualities that handwriting stands for, the writer must realize that handwriting is useless in a vacuum; it only works because of a constitutive gap between the self and the other. In

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439 order to function, handwriting requires the absence of the writer and the presence of the reader. As noted above, TWEWY suggests, however, that creati vity is currently under threat (a theme which we have seen often throughout this dissertation; cf. Birkerts and Calvino). Creativity is precisely pisodes, the villains open a noodle restaurant, ominously named Shadow Ramen, and bribe a popular blogger, Eiji Oji (a.k.a. the Prince), to write a good revealed in a conversatio Ramen simply because the Prince says so, not because they genuinely like the food critical decisions replace th eir own. 38 Meanwhile, by taking a bribe for praising Shadow Ramen even though he dislikes its food, the Prince surrenders his capacity for self expression in exchange for financial rewards. As a final consequence, Shadow Ramen steals business from an older, neighboring noodle restaurant, Ramen Don, whose due to the competition from Shad ow Ramen, however, Ken Doi abandons this 38 ce wrote about yen price tag is a little

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440 his own creative instincts, he tries to appeal to the desire for novelty and shock value This unhappy situation is resolved when Neku time. I write my own blog. I list my own thoughts, my own feelings . ativity triumphs over conformity. of these are methods of creative self inscription, of literally or figuratively inscribing the Prince and Ken Doi, Neku wins a small battle against the forces that would seek to deny these things. This, however, is turns out that the destruction of creativi ty and individuality is their ultimate goal. Mr. . All the This might seem like a rather simplistic and generic argument against conformity, but there is a further wrinkle. The Prince and Ken Doi are committed to sha ring their subjective self expressions with others lines of argument: that individuality is important not in its own right but as a precondition for a diverse and democratic society. Early in the game, Shiki describes Shibuya as a

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441 paradigmatic example of a space where healthy diversity results from the interaction of personal idiosyncrasies: Shiki (Shibuya sucks. Who needs a town with this many people? All they Wish I had a giant Mute button.) Beat Rhyme . Like every Shiki Neku : (Yeah . It is kinda like that. A clash of creeds.) centered Neku learns to appreciate other people, as indicated in the ending when the title of the Excep t one problem -for those moments, when we clash together and find something new. Here in the UG, I clashed. I changed. And now I know Shibuya should stay just as it is! Rather than uncritically praising creativity as Scribblenauts does, TWEWY suggests that when indivi duality is taken too far, it leads to solipsism. Creativity and individuality problem is that he focuses exclusively on self expression, and therefore has little

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442 concer game he learns to collaborate productively with his partners something which the simultane ous control of Neku and his partner and in the ending the title is replaced by TWEWY presents creativity not as an absolute value, but as a function of the democratic interaction of multiple conflicting subjectivit ies. The game demonstrates this perfectly with its mechanic of branding. The game includes 13 brands of clothing and pins, and each area in the game has a list of popular and unpopular brands. Pins receive a power boost if they belong to a most popular bra nd, and a penalty if they belong to an unpopular one. Thus, the player has an incentive to be a slave to fashion. However, if the player fights several battles in an area while wearing pins and clothing of a certain brand, then that brand will become more popular and its corresponding pins will become more powerful.Thus the player also has an incentive to be a trendsetter and is not discouraged from dressing the characters according to his or her wishes; however, the player is also encouraged to work at sha ring his or her stylistic preferences with others. Much like handwriting, fashion is of little use unless someone else can understand it. In summary, then, unlike Scribblenauts TWEWY does not attempt to equate its interface uncritically with the grapholo gical view of handwriting. What TWEWY offers is not handwriting, but an abstracted version of handwriting which is appropriate to the gaming situation. Nor does it present handwriting as an absolute, terminal avlue. Yet like Scribblenauts, TWEWY encourages the player to leave lasting traces on the gameworld and to do so in a personal and innovative way. The player does this

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443 TWEWY appeals to the desire at the heart of the fantasy of handwri ting: the desire to make manual contact TWEWY succeeds in balancing the desire for handwriting with an acknowledgement of the incomplete satisfiability of that desire which r esults both from the specific needs of the gaming situation, and from the fact that handwriting does not exist in a vacuum, but functions within an intersubjective context. To that extent, TWEWY is a paradigmatic example of an invocation of the reflective fantasy of handwriting in a graphical video game. 39 The DS as Object of Nostalgia However, games like TWEWY are themselves in danger of becoming objects of nostalgia. As of April 2011, the DS is rapidly becoming an obsolete system, having been superseded by the Nintendo 3DS. This system is backward compatible with the original DS, but its top screen uses revolutionary autostereoscopic technology to produce a 3D creative an d expressive uses of this technology remain to be seen, 3D has typically been associated with transparent immediacy, cinematism, virtual reality, etc. the very things that threaten handwriting. My fear, then, is that with the new 3D technology, the impor the unique affordances of the touchscreen games like Scribblenauts, Okamiden, and above all The World Ends with You will become fewer and farther between. Of course, I h 39 Another example I could have discussed is Okamiden (2011), the DS sequel to Okami but this game was released too late to be analyzed extensively here.

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444 are often reactionary in nature, stemming from reactionary fears of progress and from that lie behind these fears are legitimate desires. I may know on a rational level that my memories of the DS may be selective (I tend to remember the great handwriting interface games and forget the bad ones, like Hotel Dusk: Room 215 [2007]), and that vi the moment when I first played TWEWY. That moment, of course, is now bound up with a whole complex of other selectively edited memories. I played that game during my first years of graduate school. As I prepare to leave graduate school and embark on an the problems I have now, even though reason tells me otherwise. In the wo rks that most effectively deploy the reflective fantasy of handwriting including but not limited to City of Secrets Scott Pilgrim (comic and film), Up, and The World Ends with You these two realizations (that handwriting i The reflective fantasy of handwriting is ultimately about balancing the understanding that we externalize our innermost selves in handwriting, and that nonetheless we still want to Discourses of the upgrade path should not obscure the realization that at the root of many works in contemporary American popular culture, there remains an appeal to a desire which has little to do with transparency or progress the desire to wr ite ourselves into the world.

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445 Figure 6 1. Screenshot from Dead Space (Electronic Arts, 2008). This game omits the standard HUD. Instead, the meter on the avatar's back represents his remaining life, and the counter on his gun indicates his ammunition s upply. Figure 6 2. Map of one level of Comix Zone (Sega Technical Institute, 1995).

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446 Figure 6 3. The second panel of the first level of Comix Zone Note Mortus's hand drawing an enemy into existence. Figure 6 4. Screenshot from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo, 1998). Note the three dimensional style of graphics.

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447 Figure 6 5. Screenshot from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Nintendo, 2003). Note the two dimensional style of graphics. Compare to Figure 6 4. Figure 6 6. Screens hot from the Japanese version of (Clover Studios, 2006). Note the thought balloon, the ink painted appearance of the graphics, and the rice paper veneer (visible in the sky at the upper left).

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448 Figure 6 7. Screenshot from Note the thought ba lloon containing a henohenomoheji symbol (a face composed of hiragana characters) at the upper left. Figure 6 8. Screenshot from Note the giant kanji character.

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449 Figure 6 9. Screenshot from The brush god Yomigami is partially drawn and partially real, and has a brush for a tail. Figure 6 10. Screenshot from showing the Celestial Brush interface. Note the variation in the thickness of the brushstroke.

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450 Figure 6 11. The cover of Scribblenauts (Clover Studios, 2009). Note the ha ndwriting like font used for the title, and the Comic Sans font used for the subtitle. Figure 6 12. Screenshot from Scribblenauts showing the handwriting interface, which is designed to resemble a sheet of notebook paper. Figure 6 xkcd strip #637.

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451 Figure 6 14. The Nintendo DS Lite and its included stylus.

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452 Figure 6 15. Screenshot from The World Ends with You depicting the combat interface. Note the top screen, controlled with buttons, and the bottom screen, controlled with t he stylus.

PAGE 453

453 LIST OF REFERENCES Aarseth, Espen J. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. Print. reflexivity in Classical Hollywood Scre ening the Past 19 (March 2006). Web. 9 Jun 2011. . Vixen Magazine Web. 18 Apr 2011. Amazon. com. Web. 19 Apr 2011. About.com. Web. 19 Apr 2011. The World Ends with You. Game Developer 15:9 (Oct 2008): 34. Print. Animation 4.3 (2009): 265. Print. ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies 1.1 (2004): n. pag. Print. Avgerakis, George. Digital Animation Bible: Creating Professional Animation with 3ds Max, Light Wave, and Maya New York: McGraw Hill Professional, 2003. Print. Balzs, Bla. Theory of the Film: Character and Growth of a New Art New York: Arno Press, 1972. Print. Barrier, Michael. Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age New York: Oxford University Press US, 2003. Print. Barry, Lynda. Picture This: The Near sighted Monkey Book Montreal: Drawn & Quarterl y Publications, 2010. Print. Bartram, Alan. Futurist Typography and the Liberated Text New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005. Print. Barton, Matthew. Dungeons and Desktops: The History of Computer Role playing Games New York: AK Peters Ltd, 2008. Pr int. Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Print.

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458 Goldmark, Daniel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. Print. Green, Justin. Binky Brown Sampler San Francsico: Last Gasp, 1995. Print. Groensteen, Thierry, Bart Beaty, an d Nick Nguyen. The System of Comics Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2009. Print. Groth, Gary, and Robert Fiore. The New Comics New York: Berkley, 1988. Print. gh Renaissance Studies in French Cinema 8.2 (2008): 123 136. Web. 9 June 2011. Harpold, Terry. Ex foliations: Reading Machines and the Upgrade Path Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009. Print. Game Studies 7.1 (2007): n. pag. Web. Harris, Paul L. The Work of the Imagination New York: Wiley Blackwell, 2000. Print. Hatfield, Charles. Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississi ppi, 2005. Print. Transatlantica 1 (2010): n. pag. Web. 11 Oct 2010. Desistance? Trends in the Age Distribution of Problem B Journal of Research on Adolescence : The Official Journal of the Society for Research on Adolescence 18.2 (2008): 285 304. Heaney, Seamus. Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966 1996 First Edition. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999. Print Heer, Jeet, and Kent Worcester. Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2005. Print. Heffernan, James A. W. Museum of Words: The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 2004. Print. Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays New York: HarperCollins, 1977. Print. Compcon 1996. 463 468. Print. Hetherington, Janet, and Bill Desowitz Animation World Network Web. 19 Apr 2011.

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468 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Aaron Kashtan graduated cum laude and with honors from Brown Univers ity in 2005, having majored in comparative l ite rature and h istory of a rt and architecture. He received his Master of Arts degree in c omparative l iterature from Dartmouth College in 2006, under the supervision of Professors Ana Merino and Beatriz Pastor. While at the Univresity of Florida Aaron served as the President of both the Graduate Comics Organization and the Digital Assembly and as the moderator of the international mailing list comixscholars l, and was a member of the editorial board of ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies He co organiz ed the 2009 UF Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels and edited an issue of ImageTexT based on this conference. Aaron's first peer reviewed essay, based on Chapter 3 of this dissertation, recently appeared in Digital Humanities Quarterly ; other essays wi ll appear in Digital Humanities Quarterly, Forum for World Literature Studies and an edited collection from Sheffield Phoenix Press.