Thresholds and their Occupants:

Passages in Hypermedia and the Literary Avant-garde

Heather M. Crickenberger

1          Introduction, Overview, and Rationale: Briefly describe the ebook or scholarly project—no more than two single-spaced pages.

The Arcades Project Project exists currently as a living, online scholarly hypertext. It was begun in 2003 as an experiment in the use of hypermedia as a primary means of both enacting and sharing scholarly research.  Its awkward title was intended, first off, to anchor the project to a stable text that has been deemed a valid subject of study in the academic realm of the humanities where books are still the preferred end products of scholarly investigation.  I also chose to work with The Arcades Project because, as much of the project reflects, Benjamin’s writings in many ways anticipate the medium that we now call hypertext through his deployment of a file-based compositional structure, his extended use of quotation, his development of a means of linking a text to itself through the use of visual cues or “blinks,” and his incorporation of images (though few have survived to be included in either edition). Benjamin was aware even before the web became a reality that media of communication were undergoing an enormous transformation in the twentieth century and that this fact alone would alter not only the way scholarship is disseminated but the form and purpose of scholarship as a whole.  In forging The Arcades Project, Benjamin in many ways seemed to be at work as his own “Author as Producer”—modifying the apparatus of perception—going to work as the “aesthetic engineer”—creating literary forms that could not have been dreamed up without advances in film-making, montage and advertisement that backgrounded the post-war street scene.  

The Arcades Project, like my own, achieves its coherence through repeated references to wandering, collecting, and gambling and through its return to the image of a the arcades themselves—a unique improvised architectural structure made possible by the advent of a new technique in iron and glass construction and a new economic system--one which, though removed to the nineteenth century, provided Benjamin with a metaphor—or “an apparatus of perception”—that in many ways posed similar questions to those brought forth by the advent of film and the assembly line.  A similar process of transposition takes place in my own project, the content of which is comprised of though not limited to an extensive use of images (both as backgrounds and as subjects of study), citation of and commentary on literature and theory from Benjamin’s own historic time (in the form of cut-and-pasted texts incorporated into the mother site and those appropriated through hyperlinking); as well as a similar concern with the possibilities for scholarly investigation which might be realized through its enactment in the new media of the electronic text.   

What has resulted after five years of experimentation is a scholarly composition replete with old-world references and thesis-driven arguments but open and nonlinear and in no way claiming to be ‘finished.’ Currently, the project is approximately 150 megabytes in size, consisting of roughly 1500 files, 40 folders, 400 images, hundreds of hyperlinks, including links to approximately 150 external sites, an interactive online quiz, a cited video game, a message board, a virtual café, a visitor map, an internal site-searching tool, a guest book, a hit counter with statistics regarding everything from the number of visitors per hour, the operating systems used to access the site, the URLs or addresses of pages that referred visitors to the project, lists of the keyword searches used to locate the site, etc., and finally approximately 800 pages of written commentary and quotation. 

The written text was developed based on a selection of over 100 brief, often one-word, prompts—or keywords—that were initially used as working titles for blank pages, much like the titles of Benjamin’s Convolutes which function as nodes of significance within the larger structure of The Arcades Project.  The use of short titles supplied me with a simple and consistent means of linking the written text of each page to many other pages simultaneously, creating visual articulations of divagation in the form of hyperlinks. Many of these convolutes stem from subjects directly related to The Arcades Project while others deal with authors who directly address subjects of interest to Benjamin such as the flâneur or concern theorists whose work is historically or retrospectively linked to the theories developed in The Arcades Project. In addition, there is an entire lexicon of terms that connect directly to issues surrounding hypertext production as the text is intended to be self-conscious.  Each page has imbedded META tags which supply a subject registry for search engines, so each page functions as a separate entity within the larger system of the World Wide Web, operating both as an entrance and exit, a threshold in a sense, to the larger project. Designing a seductive and distracting point of entrance became my method for growing the project and for disseminating it.   

The framing essay or “foyer” to this project which so often returns to the idea of foyers and projects, is here presented as an essay entitled “‘The Structure of Awakening’: Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media.” It is this argument that binds The Arcades Project Project to scholarly tradition and makes it recognizable as a piece of scholarship through a sustained and linear form and its reliance on multiple references to external hard copy articles and books. Here, I examine the manner in which scholarly investigations behave differently in hypermedia than in static texts, requiring from their readers not only a refashioned perception of the scholarly, one which observes the function of scholarship as an ongoing educational process that might indeed be guided by multiple “ends” and yet remain endless, but a different technique of scholarly production is also required of its author, one that acknowledges the medium as the method.

In an attempt to continue Benjamin’s own experiments with scholarly production, The Arcades Project Project has grown from and continues to pose two questions that seemed answerable only through the enactment of such an experiment. The first question—“What can hypertext do?” arose from a pedagogical experiment which resulted in the production of The Lemming, an online literary ezine designed in response to the work of avant-garde presses of the 1920’s. Here, the student editors and myself strove to push the limits of online composition rather than electronically reproduce its paper counterpart. We incorporated multimedia compositions, interactive texts, and literary forms that could not be duplicated in hard copy. These efforts were driven by a desire to build an online community of artists and writers that could help those involved to cultivate and improve upon their work, but the project was also envisioned as an education tool, the enactment of which enabled students—myself not excluded—to study aspects of hypermedia composition that were not envisioned in advance, that could not be envisioned in advance. In other words, it was through the creation of the website that we were to encounter this new medium and develop responses to the new possibilities and questions such a medium introduced.  As the webmistress and primary editor of this student-based ezine, I began to wonder, “What can a scholarly hypertext can do?” and then “What does Benjamin’s flâneur teach us about the construction, navigation and reception of hypertexts?” and so on and so forth, question leading to question leading to labyrinthine filing systems and networks within networks, and at last to something sprawling enough to become a different kind of scholarly document: one that exists like a cluster of passages that may be traversed, returned to, missed or abandoned. 

Together, The Arcades Project Project and “‘The Structure of Awakening’: Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media” comprise the book I am proposing for your press—Thresholds and their Occupants: Passages in Hypermedia and the Literary Avant-garde. It currently exists as a work in progress here:

2          Context:  Place the ebook or scholarly project within the context of an academic field and the key conversations taking place therein.  Place the proposed ebook or scholarly project in relation to existing books or projects that have attempted similar work. You need to show how your ebook or scholarly project will be both similar and different from work that already exists.

“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” recently published under the more accurately translated title “The Work of Art in the Age of its Mechanical Reproducibility” by Harvard UP, 2008, is commonly cited in conversations concerning technological progress and the impact of new media on perception.  In an attempt to identify an alternative to the revolutionary and fascist models presented in Benjamin’s best-known essay, I examine this well-known text along side his lesser-known “The Author as Producer,” in which Benjamin distinguishes between two types of production that can characterize an author’s techniqueprogressive production and regressive production.  I argue that Benjamin clearly favors the progressive mode and identifies it as a refashioning of the apparatus of perception and as the only means of eliciting lasting (non-revolving) change in the world. However, one must acknowledge that the “progressive” for Benjamin when applied to technique is not to be confused with “progress” as it has been traditionally identified in relation to capitalism;  unlike the capitalist view of “progress” which is guided by goals and visions laid out in advance, a view that would align progressive thinking with fascist thinking, a “progressive technique” as Benjamin puts forth in “Program for a Proletariat Children’s Theatre,” is not guided by a desire to communicate or realize a preconceived idea but by a desire to refashion the apparatus of perception and in thereby doing, open possibilities for the emergence of new previously unthinkable ideas. 

I argue that when examined in light of “The Work of Art” essay, the concept of progressive technique posed in “The Author as Producer” might be encountered in The Arcades Project and that this project functions as the anti-revolutionary, anti-fascist progressive model that Benjamin locates in architecture in “The Work of Art” essay, in the aesthetic engineer in the “The Author as Producer,” in the theatre school in “Program for a Proletariat Children’s Theater” and in the Parisian arcades of The Arcades Project. Benjamin’s conception of structure, textual production, and pedagogy are in many ways embodied in the image of thought that he used in collecting his Passages in The Arcades Project. My project argues through its structure that Benjamin’s concept of passage is itself a medium and thus dictates a method when deployed in the writing process, a medium that lends itself easily to structural modification and improvisation, enabling generative play and organic evolution to progress and to move naturally forward without a predetermined goal or end. In this way the structure of the arcades, upon which Benjamin structurally bases his scholarly apparatus in The Arcades Project, is one that is accommodating to progress or passage--the concept most closely connected to what he calls the structure of awakening: Benjamin states, “There is a not-yet-conscious knowledge of what has been: its advancement has the structure of awakening” (The Arcades Project 389 [K1,3]).  This notion of progressive writing as the refashioning of structures that forge new means of perception enabling access to “a not-yet-conscious knowledge” through its tactile appropriation in a state of distraction is particularly poignant in this time in history, when we are as writers at last presented with a medium in which writing can keep pace with thought. 

Jay Bolter’s book Remediation--an expansion on his ground breaking project Writing Space--has become a standard in the field of hypertext studies, examining as it does the phenomenon of new media in postmodern critical contexts. Benjamin’s work with media in “The Work of Art” essay is integral to Bolter’s development of the title concept.  Theodore Nelson's discussion of  "nonsequential writing" in Literary Machines, the Hypertext/Hypermedia Handbook and Landow’s The Digital Word. Text-Based Computing in the Humanities, Hypertext. The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology and Hypermedia and Literary Studies are all helpful introductions to hypermedia’s connections with postmodern theory. 

Often accused of taking the stance of technological determinism, Walter Ong writes in Orality and Literacy that the postmodern is the result of “a changing media environment, one characterized by secondary orality, the electronically amplified and reproduced word” (Ong xi).  Stuart Moulthrop’s “You Say You Want a Revolution? Hypertext and the laws of Media” is a useful run down of early hypermedia scholarship, arguing that this new means of communication has made us the generation and generators of “nextness” (Moulthrop 693). He refers to Benjamin as having already noted, with the advent of mechanical reproduction, a means of dislodging the work of art from tradition, a concept he notes is extended by Lyotard in his The Postmodern Condition whereupon the grand narratives of history are exploded into “a proliferation of incompatible discourses and methods”  (Lyotard 26).  As a medium that fits rather naturally into the postmodern view of hierarchical structures Moulthrop argues: “Hyperreality privileges no discourse as absolute or definitive; critique becomes just another form of paralogy, a countermove in the language game that is techno-social construction of reality. The game is all-encompassing, and therein lies a problem” (Moulthrop 694).  Thus it becomes a terrain where postmodern questions may be “addressed not in theory but in practice” (Moulthrop 694)  While some see the consensual literacy made necessary by hypertexts as resulting in “visions of informatic chaos” Moulthrop reminds us that chaos is now being understood as not simply an “absence of ‘order’” but as ‘a condition of possibility in which new arrangements spontaneously assemble themselves”:  he identifies the consensual literacy with “visions of informatic chaos” (Moulthrop 700) qualifying chaos as “concept we have recently begun to understand as something other than simply an absence of ‘order:’ it is instead a condition of possibility in which new arrangements spontaneously assemble themselves (Prigogine and Stengers, 14). This notion of the language game that becomes interaction is extended into a book length study by Jean Baudrillard entitled Seduction--in which one is provided an anti-Oedipal model that uses Narcissus as a mythological stand-in to dramatize the evolving relationship between humans and new media.  One can find the seeds here of what was to become his philosophy of the hyperreal in Simulacra and  Simulations.

Several critics remind us that these very same hypertext systems that many hail as a means of undermining structures of authority were developed in order to address the needs of defense systems.  This affiliation clearly influences the development of the new media—“consider an influential paper on ‘The Rhetoric of Hypertext” which uses the requirements of a military training system to propose general standards of coherence and instrumental effectiveness for this medium (Carlson 720). Technological development does not happen in cyberspace, but in the more familiar universe of postindustrial capital. Thus to the clearheaded, any suggestion that computer technology might be anything but an instrument of this system must seem quixotic—or just plain stupid” (Carlson 702). She goes on to argue that education is already bound to the cult of authority concluding that  “[r]esponsibility of the evolution of hypertext systems as genuine alternatives to the present information economy rests as much with software developers, social scientists, and literary theorists as it does with legislators and capitalists. If anything unites these diverse elites, it might be their allegiance to existing institutions of intellectual authority—the printed word, the book, the library, the university, the publishing house” (Carlson 703).

McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man, like this essay makes references to William Blake in relation to new media theory and his mantra “the medium is the message” from Understanding New Media has been taken up by media scholars of all kinds. Manovich, in “New Media from Borges to HTML,” defines new media as a computer based art form to be realized in the concept of the computer installation. Engelbart’s “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” contains a discussion of the author’s experiments with memex notecards, comparable to Benjamins’ concept in his famous quotation regarding the replacement of the book by filing systems as cited earlier. Through his experiment, Engelbart demonstrates how one might construct an argument through the construction of a filing system that “made up for the pitifully sparse possibilities available for symbol structuring in printed text.” (Engelbart 108).  Sutherland’s “Sketchpad: A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System” includes a similar discussion of the graphic interface as a new form of conversation and Brennan responds to Sutherland by ascribing the concept of “backchannels, or secondary speech in human/human communication” (394-395) to what goes on beneath the graphic interface in the form of technical code. 

Needless to say what used to be an off-shoot of compositional studies has been replaced by a rapidly growing new discipline of scholarship.  This summary limits its survey specifically to monumental figures in the study of hypertext and a sample of investigations that are directly linked to Benjamin studies.  Needless to say, Benjamin has become a central figure to this emerging discipline.

In her essay “The Flâneur, the Sandwichman and the Whore: The Politics of Loitering,”  Susan Buck-Morss sets Benjamin’s compositional method, what she deems to be  the source of its “revolutionary energy,” as her starting point, using an analysis of the flâneur as a “programmatic method of interpreting the Passagen-Werk” (Buck-Morss “Flâneur” 101), a method which she argues “becomes extinct only by exploding into a myriad of forms” (Buck-Morss “The Flâneur” 105). This explosion, she argues, is comparable to “the formal principle of montage” (Buck-Morss “The Flâneur” 99) which she identifies as his primary compositional method. She was to later develop her ideas concerning this method in her monumental reconstruction of The Arcades Project, The Dialectics of Seeing, in which she attempts to disclose through images and citations from what she conceives as Benjamin’s notes an image of what The Arcades Project might have become had the scholar’s life not been cut short, arguing for a continuation of Benjamin’s endeavors as the most appropriate response to his work.  

In recognition of Benjamin’s compositional method as a kind of response through critical continuation or resonation—assuming Benjamin, functioning as “Author as Producer,” set out to reintroduce the individual projects that comprise The Arcades Project’s primary components in order to give the arcades themselves a continued existence if only in writing—the desire to reenact this practice underlies many critical approaches to the text.  In this vein, McLaughlin makes an argument for the appropriateness of such scholarly attempts at continuation.  He acknowledges the rift between Benjamin readers concerning The Arcades Project’s standing as a scholarly work, but instead of choosing a side goes on to emphasize that, being neither merely a collection of notes nor a finalized project, Benjamin’s medium—the Werk—is that which, when applied to the scholarly endeavor, places the reader in the position to “attest to the potentiality of what it [The Arcades Project] might become” (McLaughlin 197).   In Mapping Benjamin, Gumbrecht and Marrinan respond structurally to this call to engage Benjamin’s work through recognition of its potentiality as they escort the author’s ideas into the digital age in a structurally unconventional spirit, organizing a scholarly collection of essays on “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” in a way that fuses Deleuze-Guattari’s structurally nonlinear multi-vocal and nodal approach to scholarship in A Thousand Plateaus with key questions concerning Benjamin’s relevance to poststructuralism and contemporary discourses concerning technology.  In doing so, the editors find themselves “overlapping zones of intellectual interest and intensity” (Gumbrecht and Marrinan xv) in order to “open or chart the intellectual terrain for the eight large sections of the book” (Gumbrecht and Marrinan xvi).  Gillioch, in Walter Benjamin: Critical Constellations, carries on this “notion of the afterlife of the object, and in particular of the work of art, and the figure of the ‘polytechnical engineer. . . [which] capture two moments of Benjamin’s dialectical thinking: destruction and (re)construction” (Gillioch 4). This critic sees Benjamin as identifying his own task as that of the “aesthetic engineer” by whom “[o]bjects, edifices, texts and images are fragmented, broken and blasted from their usual contexts so that they may be painstakingly recomposed in critical contemporary constellations” (Gillioch 4).

Yet another way that the Benjaminian critical approach has manifested is in new media projects.  It is in this way that The Arcades Project has served as a kind of “Program” for the evolution of scholarship in light of its relationship to the concept of technology and the new media that emerge as a result. Many scholars have explored The Arcades Project as well as Benjamin’s famous essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” as a means of examining the manner in which prior work in the humanities might lend insight to this swiftly advancing technological phenomenon.  Like other critics responding through continuation, Dillon makes the case in his article “Montage/Critique: Another Way of Writing Social History” when he says: 

I want to understand Benjamin’s theory and practice from the point of view of the latter-day users of it—those who claim it as inspiration and method for their work, who attempt to do critique without an integrating authorial voice. (Dillon par. 1) 

Dillon’s project documents the work of artists and writers spanning from the 1960’s to the present—Berger, Mohr, Peaker, Broadway, Michals, Lederman, to name a few—who all, according to Dillon, have proceeded through Benjamin studies in this way. His focus on visual artists is foregrounded with the following claim: “Benjamin had come to see images—photographs, drawings, illustrations—as other fragments to be included and reportedly had amassed a very sizeable collection for inclusion in the project. Only sixteen remained when Tiedemann put the manuscripts in order” (Dillon par. 3). He also goes on to document and close read the projects in hypermedia that have taken Benjamin as the source of their inspiration or their subject matter beginning with Peaker’s hypertext fragments of The Arcades Project (Dillon par. 40) begun in 1997, moving toward Michals’ e-Arcades, Leaderman’s 2001 online installation piece American Views: Stories of the Landscape and others. He continues on in an analytical investigation of visual and multimedia Benjaminian undertakings, even supplying readers with a link to his own online exploration of Benjamin’s work.

Having seen the manner in which continuation as response has emerged as a kind of methodical staple in Benjamin studies, and noting Benjamin’s relevance across the disciplines with regard to conversations concerning the emergence of new media, when embarking on my own scholarly investigation of The Arcades Project, I chose to learn about the project by working with it entirely in hypermedia.  As a way of drawing an end to this potentially endless project, I will discuss the development of my scholarly project--The Arcades Project Project-- the rationale for its current structural state, the manner in which the dictates of hypermedia construction advised its compositional method and the ways that the project, to my knowledge, has performed through its appropriation by other multimedia projects. To clearly delineate an archivable and stable  version of the text, I found that it was necessary to truncate what had become a sprawling web of multi-vocal texts, so that it might be preserved in hard copy in the form of a collection of HTML files to be accessed through CD-ROM, all with the understanding that such imposed limitations preserve only that part of the project that I personally authored or cited and thus provide only the suggestion of what continues to become its virtual actuality. [17]

3          Target Audience(s):  Which audiences will your ebook or scholarly project attract? For whom is it written?

I believe there are several audiences that will be interested in this project. The more likely ones are described as follows:

First, there are the Walter Benjamin scholars and readers of The Arcades Project and “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”: such readers will probably find the intricacies of the project more interesting than most as several of the convolutes deeply investigate subjects of great interest to Benjamin.  Several references to rarely read texts by this author are woven throughout the project as part of an effort to recontextualized the intellectual contributions of Benjamin within the scholarly climate of today’s theory-driven intellectual world.

In this same vein, there are also the William Blake scholars who might be interested in the manner in which this poet has contributed yet again to another evolutionary step in technologies of intellectual production.  While in depth exploration of Blake is not a current part of this project’s aim, his work most certainly figures in to the project’s larger framing argument concerning “progressive” scholarship.

Many readers will probably fall into the more general camp of those who are interested in exploring the manner in which post-structuralist theory manifests in intellectual undertakings such as the “project”.  Arguments regarding compositional practices in general are made in here implicitly through structure rather than directly through polemic discourse.  Derrida, Deleuze, DeCerteau, and Baudrillard are just a few of the more recent thinkers and critics that are addressed and assimilated into this project.

Educators who are interested in bringing the computer into the composition classroom might also find the project interested as it began first and foremost as an experiment in pedagogy. Benjamin’s “progressive” take on scholarship and education is examined at length in the framing article entitled "'The Structure or Awakening': Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media" and it is my belief that his ideas have much to offer much to teachers and scholars today, especially who are faced with the challenges posed by new media.

Students and scholars of new media studies should also find the project interesting as an example of scholarly composition that takes into account the possibilities provided by the hypertext medium.  While the site is extremely simple compared to much of what is being done in new media today, through its design and content the project aims to distill some of the larger questions any writer working in hypermedia must ask him/herself. There are several nodes, for instance, that directly discuss compositional choices writers in hypermedia must ask—i.e.: backgrounds, frames, search engines, chat rooms, external linking, etc., etc.

Readers who are interested in writers of Benjamin’s Paris such as Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, and Henry Miller will also find full-length articles at their disposal. These articles are tangentially related to the larger theoretical concerns of Benjamin but they also serve as the more traditional literary content that is to be expected of any project that aims to be of interest to those scholars in the humanities.

Wandering figures in literature are also addressed at length—Poe, Whitman, Thoreau, Lao Tzu, Zarathustra, Odysseus, etc.  These close readings are designed to better inform readers of Benjamin’s concept of the flâneur, which is integral to the understanding of readers in new media textscapes. 

Finally, one must not forget, that the most likely reader of a project that exists as this one currently does—online, available, free of charge—is the virtual flâneur, the reader who clicks and reads and skips and feeds on texts rich in ideas. This project is overflowing with quotations, questions, and selections for perusal.  Its structure does not require the reader to “finish” and in fact encourages the fleeting interest of the passerby. However, for those who are willing to stick around and read the larger sections, there is much to be seriously considered.

4          Annotated Table of Contents:  Brief description of each chapter or major section of your proposed ebook or project.

Where possible, the structure of The Arcades Project Project has been designed to mimic the structure of Eiland and McLaughlin's edition of The Arcades Project so as to continue and respond to the structural argument made by both the author and the text's editors. For this reason, the tool bar consists of thresholds such as "Convolutes" and "Addenda"; however, because hypermedia provides the writer with different options, some of the organizational and structural devices here do not translate into hard copy. A brief outline of the larger sections or "chapters" is provided below.


A. "The Structure of Awakening": Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in new Media

This essay introduces an online experiment in the composition of scholarly hypertext that resulted in a website entitled The Arcades Project Project. My argument in favor of such endeavors begins with a discussion of “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” which I examine alongside “The Author as Producer” and “A Program for a Proletarian Children’s Theatre,” focusing on Benjamin’s distinction between progressive and regressive compositional and educational techniques.  In these essays, Benjamin identifies a way of thinking about progress that is “totally useless for fascism.”  This involves a refashioning of the apparatus of perception as a means of eliciting change. I argue that Benjamin makes this argument structurally in The Arcades Project by adopting passages as its title concept, providing an image of thought that lends itself easily to structural modification, improvisation and adaptation that is diffused throughout his structural apparatus.  In this way, The Arcades Project serves as an example of what Benjamin identifies as “the structure of awakening.” This concept of structure is then combined with the call by many Benjamin scholars to respond to his work, not through analysis and argument, but through continuation.  My response takes the form of the website referenced above.

This essay tells the story behind The Arcades Project Project, explains its roots in the online literary avant-garde and its connections to American literature and continental philosophy.

C. Bibliography


In this section the larger, more developed and polished convolutes have been arranged and organized for reader perusal.

Site Introduction: "The Structure of Awakening": Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media

Arcades: Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project

Walter Benjamin's Notion of Gambling as "Presence of Mind"

The Sustained Threshold in Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project

Charles Baudelaire's "A Une Passante" / "To A Passerby:

Translating Zero: Dostoevsky's "The Gambler"

Edgar Alan Poe's "The Man of the Crowd" and Illegibility

Interiority/Exteriority: Henry David Thoreau's "Walking"

The Wandering Type: Walt Whitman and the Flaneur Narrator

Transcending Reptition?: Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons

Passengers: John Dos Passos' Manhattan Transfer

Weather, Sickness, and Henry Miller's Tropic Novels

Baudrillard's Seduction and Walter Benjamin's Use of Gambling in The Arcades Project

Traces: Sophie Calle's and Jean Baudrillard's Suite venitienne. Please Follow Me.

Webs of Significance and DeLillo's The Body Artist

The Flaneur as Narrator


This section makes up the bulk of The Arcades Project Project, existing as a list of key words that were originally intended to be developed into larger more polished articles at some point. They stand as the material of divagation that drives the project forward and lends it its distracting quality. Some of these words were chosen in order to create common ground between Benjamin's project and my own, some stemmed from my experiences composing in hypermedia, and others arose from the works of authors that have been examined through the lens of this new compositional method.

absence of mind accessibility alphabet anchors anderson aquariums arcades project architecture arrivals apparatus of perception assemblage a une passante authoritative avant-garde backgrounds barnes bibliography book boulevards cafe canetti centers centers-surfaces chance chance/encounters collecting constellations containment copernicus crowds death departures display dissemination diversion dwelling ecclecticism editor encounters end exteriority faulkner flaneur flaneuse frames forces gambling games gibson guide hieroglyphics home hosting hyperlinks index interiority interruption intoxication juxtaposition keywords labyrinths lighting links magic maps messages minotaur myth narcissus navigation network nodes novelty obsession omission palaces parasite passages passengers paths poe preface presence of mind producer progressive prospectus prostheses prostitution quotation randomness reading recreation refrain repetition regression ritual ruins rules scrolls search seduction serres smoothe space spiders stakes storage strategy striated structure sublime surfaces surrealism tactile target task technique text thread threshold toolbar traces types underground wandering weather webs wharton writing zero


This section is comprised of articles and notes that address issues of online reading and writing.

Site Introduction: "The Structure of Awakening": Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media

Navigation: The What-Kind-of-Reader Are You Online Quiz

Giants, Genius, Jack-Offs and Hacks: Accessibility, Respectability and the Online Avant-Garde


This section was designed to house external references in both bibliographic and visual form. It consists of an Image Gallery which displays, catalogues and discusses the background images that serve to fram the individual pages that comprise The Arcades Project Project. I have also provided an extensive Bibliography citing all sources referenced througout the project. And finally, I have provided readers with a list of direct Links to external files, pages and images that have been used in the project.


This section does not yet exist and it is quite probable that it will be replaced with a site searching tool as this would be the equivalent to the index in hypermedia and a much more realistic undertaking.


This section enables readers of The Arcades Project Project to communicate with its authors as well as with one another. The site was envisioned with the plan to incorporate message boards througout the convolutes as a way of allowing readers to annotate and discuss the text. It is in this way that the project was intended to grow in a rhyzomatic manner. There are three main avenues for the "Connect" section:

5          References/Works Cited:  Works you’ve cited in your prospectus.

Here is a link to the current bibliography for The Arcades Project Project Bibliography. The framing essay, "'The Structure of Awakening': Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media" is provided as a word document here: Works Cited.

6          Expected Completion Date: When can we expect to review the full, revised ebook or scholarly project? 

As mentioned in the first section of this prospectus, which describes the make up of the hypertext that comprises both the experiment that underlies the argument in "'The Structure of Awakening': Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media" and the framing argument itself, Thresholds and their Occupants: Passages in Hypermedia and the Literary Avant-garde is a project that has been underway for many years. It is virtually unfinishable; however, I am looking forward to hearing from the editorial committee regarding what needs to be added, changed, or modified in order to “bind” the undertaking as a digital “book.”  Depending on what the committee recommends, the book could be finished already or it might need a great deal of revision. Certainly the concept of "completion" is one of many topics this project hopes to address.

7          Curriculum Vitae:  Your educational and professional background.

Click here for a Word Document version of my Current C.V.

8          Sample Chapters or Sections: Please include at least two sample chapters of your proposed ebook or two major sections of your digital scholarly project (along with any readers needed for accessing this content). 

SAMPLE #1: "'The Structure of Awakening': Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media"

SAMPLE #2: "Repetition: Gertrude Stein's TENDER BUTTONS"

SAMPLE #3: The Flâneur

SAMPLE #4: Weather: Henry Miller's Tropic Novels

9          Possible Reviewers for Final ebook or Digital Scholarly Project: Please list names, affiliations, full postal addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses. 

Susan Buck-Morss
Department of Government
102A White Hall
Cornell University
, Ithaca , NY 14853

Michael Marrinan
Stanford University
Department of Art & Art History
101 Cummings Art Building
Stanford , California 94305-2018

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht
Albert Guérard Professor in Literature in the Departments of Comparative Literature, of French & Italian, of Spanish & Portuguese (by courtesy), and he is affiliated with German Studies, the Program in Modern Thought & Literature, and HPST
112 Pigott Hall
Stanford University
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10        Technical Specificans/Considerations: In this section, please identify your plans for content formats, digital genres, technical specifications or considerations that might assist the CCDigital Press Editors better understand your project and its requirements.

The text was composed using Adobe Go-Live CS and is comprised entirely of HTML and .jpeg images. 

AUTHOR CONTACT INFORMATION:  Please feel free to contact me at the following email address: with any questions or comments regarding this proposed electronic book.

NOTE TO VISITORS: This page is part of a doctoral dissertation that is scheduled to be completed August 2005 at the University of South Carolina. Feel free to peruse, but keep in mind, much of the bibliographic information required of such a project is yet to be included. If you have any questions, suggestions, or problems concerning what you find here, feel free to contact me at You are also invited to leave a message for me and other visitors HERE. The Arcades Project Project or The Rhetoric of Hypertext, Copyright 2005: all rights reserved. This site was created and is maintained by H. Marcelle Crickenberger who holds all rights to all images and all material on this site not credited otherwise.