Brooks, Kevin. “Reading, Writing, and Teaching Creative Hypertext: A Genre-Baed Pedagogy.” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture 2.3 (2002): 337-356

Kevin Brooks explores the use of hypertext. He says students read on-line and engage in digital text, including as Micheal Joyce states, television. Students are engaged in these mediums and know them, so we should teach web-writing and hypertext, a pedagogy of “electronic rhetoric.” We need to teach students to go beyond consuming “screen culture” and become producers of it.

Brooks’ essay wants to put forth strategies for teachers to teach genre-based web-writing. This writing requires students to make rhetorical choices about form, composition, and traditional story elements.

Brooks looks at the history of genre-based and hypertext theories. Earlier work opened up pedagogy but provided no models for enactment. Brooks states that “The structure of a hypertext has been deemed more central to its function or success than its generic affiliations, but it seems to me that separating structure from generic affiliation is a formalist, arhetorical pedagogical move” (341).

Many theorist have argued that genre-theory applied to reading text, including internet text, is useful but none have provided clear models. Genres are familiar starting points to use with students. Brooks claims that his students equate “creative hypertext” with the choose-your-own-adventure and build from there. Some students might not be familiar with the computer technology or programs but will be familiar with genre conventions. Brooks goes on to outline his model:

  • Students should understand all texts are rooted in genre, and they need to read hypertext and print examples to familiarize themselves with the genre. Students should understand the print sources that hypertext emerge from.
  • Students should “choose genres that will meet their communicative needs” (344). Brooks picks a flexible genre (autobiography) and broad categories (popular culture).
  • Students should be encouraged to challenge and play and reinvent these genres.

Brooks notes how writing pedagogy has already used these strategies—now, we need to apply them to hypertext and genres.

He looks at Activity Theory that states we learn new things by using old knowledge. In writing, writers must respond to other text and choose their medium (pen and paper, computer, etc.). Brooks has rethought the hypertext to include non-electronic forms. [[These strategies speak to Roland Barthes’ autobiography, as well as fiction text by Jonathan Safran Foer, and The Principles of Uncertainty.

Brooks uses the autobiography and popular culture genre; the latter includes working in collaboration. Assignments ask students to keep in mind their print predecessors in order to understand the genre but should challenge and play with those genres. (Good examples: Shelly Jackson’s My Body

Brooks proscribes four aspects to keep in mind to tighten up hypertext pedagogy:

1-This technique is good for teaching literature

2-Over the research, we should allow students to make their own rhetorical choices and not limit them because of what the research says

3-Assign familiar genres

4-The door is open for more research.


These are some great ideas; I am lucky that USF has taught me to implement many of these ideas in composition already. The idea of remediating a text helps students contemplate their rhetorical choices, and once they begin to think about their own rhetorical choices, they begin to think critically about the rhetorical choices made in the work they are reading. For every major project our students complete, they have to remediate their argument into an alternative (hypertext), whether a web-page, a yoututbe video, or a blog. I would like to take this idea a step further and have the final project be a multiple genre assignment.

I would love to use these techniques and ideas to teach a theory course. Brooks idea to have students create an autobiography, I think, will translate well into teaching Roland Barthes in the same manner as in composition class. Once students begin to think about the techniques and are forced to articulate their choices, they begin to learn the material better. I would also like to teach the postmodern novel again– this time, I would have less text and have the final revolve around the students creating their own “postmodern novel.”

On Zizek’s “Courtly Love, or, Woman as Thing”

Zizek sets out to explore the notion of “courtly love” and claims that it is only in the last century, with the emergence of masochism and the masochistic couples that we can begin to “grasp the libidinal economy of courtly love” (2407).

Zizek outlines the first problem of looking at courtly love, which is that the Lady is idealized; the woman is rasied to a sublime, radical Otherness, which makes her Freud’s uncanny ‘Das Ding’ (the Thing) and which he suggest is an example of Lacan’s Real—that is a thing which resist articulation and being placed in the symbolic order (it is unknowable). Furthermore, the Lady-Thing is just a mirror reflecting the narcissistic ideal projection of the subject.

The second problem with looking at courtly love is that courtly love has nothing to do with passion; it is just a “fictional formula” where the man pretends “as if” the Lady is inaccessible (2409). Zizek links this idea with a masochistic relationship, where the couple where the couple pretends “as if” the masochist has no power; although, it is the masochist who dictates the contract of the relationship. This relationship is a busness exchange (not psychological).

The principle mistake to avoid, Zizek posits, is reducing this inaccessibility to a mere “dialectic of desire and prohibition” (2412). Zizek describes how in courtly love the man creates obstacles and barriers around the Lady; as the Real, the only way to approach the Lady is at an angle, indirectly. This is Lacanian sublimation, where an everyday object is raised to impossible Thing. To reduce the rest of the argument into a concise summary: the subject claims to want to sleep with the womean, but in reality, he is scared and so creates barriers of postponement. The Lady, like the phallus, becomes a symbol for both enjoyment and for castration (2415).

Then by looking at a number of examples (most prominently The Crying Game), Zizek elucidates how true love is ‘the stretching out of the hand, “towards the loving one and to ‘return love’” (2421).

Zizek uses these examples to make his argument: that courtly love (and any conception of “love”) only reinforces this imbalance in the sexes, and it is only in the masochist relationship that a true symmetry in a relationship can be achieved.

My first reading for the semester is Marx/Engels’s excerpt from Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. M/E outline how the worker is turned into a commodity, and how political economy (political science) has failed to acknowledge nor account for this; rather, political economy ignores this aspect of capitalism.

The worker becomes alienated from what he is producing because the worker no longer has any relation to his product. The worker does not sell any material object; he sells his labor and the rich sells the worker’s product: “With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion the devaluation of the world of men. Labour produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as commodity” (653). As the worker becomes alienated from the things he produces, he also becomes alienated from himself. The worker, himself, becomes a commodity (a “thing”) because he is used as thing– something that is meant to produce labour. Furthermore, the worker has no contact with his finished product (and if he does the product is alien to him–it is something that the worker does not recognize as something he has made). He is alienated from the end product. And the object is alienated from the worker.

Furthermore, the more the worker works, the more the world is made alien to him and the more the inner-world of the worker is made alien. M/E give a compelling argument that anyone who has come home from a long day of work can relate to: “He is at home when he is not at working, and when he is working he is not at home. His labour is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labour” (655).

The implication here is that the industrialized world of capitalism has alienated the labour of the worker from his end product. If a farmer tills the land, he sees his end product, can eat it, can sell it, himself. With industrialization and capitalism, a worker works in a factory making objects he never sees and that he does not sell. If the worker makes a part of a pen in a factory, he is completely alienated from that product when he sees it in the world. Furthermore, without this connection to his labour, the worker no longer works at what he loves but rather works in order to feed and house himself.

The beginnings of what is about to be written can be seen here. The concern of the working class and the exploitation of the working class by the rich are beginning to be analyzed here. This reading will continue in German Ideology, which I have to read next.

It seems the depiction of class in Hurston’s novel is more complicated than merely being a depiction of status. There is rather an intersection of class and status linked to race and color, which is seen in the exchanges that Janie has with Mrs. Turner. For Mrs. Turner, it seems that class is decidedly linked with race as the narrator tells us that Mrs. Turner can “forgive” Janie for wearing overalls “like the other women who worked in the field” because of Janie’s “coffee and cream complexion and her luxurious hair” (140). Mrs. Turner even goes on to say that “…dey outghta make us uh class tuh ourselves,” referring to light-skinned blacks (142).

Of course though, everything that Mrs. Turner says is refuted by what happens earlier in the novel. Even if whites were to make light-skinned blacks a “class tuh [them]selves,” would it matter? The people of Eatonville create a social hierarchy even away from a controlling white hegemony.

The people of Eatonville consider Janie to be high class, and this is seen at the very beginning of the novel when Janie walks back into town and the townfolks are gossiping about her: “–why she don’t stay in her class?–” (2). While the town’s view of Janie as being of a higher class has slightly to do with her appearance, it is her money that makes her high class, which is seen in Janie’s gold spittoon: “It was bad enough for white people, but when one of your own color could be so different it put you on a wonder” (48). This is hints at the contrast between Gatsby and Janie: while Gatsby, no matter how much money, could never be part of the upper echelon, Janie and Jody could buy their social status in Eatonville, just as earlier Killicks is considered someone of higher social standing because he owns land.

Jody, who was just like the people in Eatonville except for having money and because of money having power, considers the townsfolk “trashy people” (54), and doesn’t want Janie to interact with them. Although this attitude arises from both class and patriarchy, as Jody believes that a woman’s place is in the home. Jody conveys this view a number of times. He uses not only class but his position as the bread-winning-man to control Janie and discourage her from not getting involved in what the “trashy people” do (for example when Jody and the town bury the mule 60).

Class is wielded throughout the novel against Janie as a way for her to get out of her position as a woman (her grandmother’s way of living: marrying out of poverty). It is only through money, marrying into money, that she can be classy, and she can easily compromise her class by making “mistakes.” Pheoby warns Janie that running around with Tea Cakes is somehow compromising her class: “He don’t know you’se useter uh more high time crowd than dat, You always did class off” (112).

I think this raises an interesting question about what “class” means. If someone has class, can he/she lose that class? Tom Buchannan is considered by society as someone of high class even though he is a womanizer and brute while someone like Tea Cakes can never be considered of a high class even if he buys into it, or can he? JOdy is able to buy his way into the upper crust in Eatonville, but is this because Eatonville is a new town just for blacks? How then is class defined? It almost seems to be something one is born with (the nature vs. nurture exchange between the men on the porch).

For instance, Janie is considered by everyone to have some air of class about her even though she enjoys doing things that are not considered fit for her station, such as gossiping and joking on the porch with the men. This is further seen when Tea Cakes tells Janie that he didn’t invite her to the party he threw with her money because he was afraid she “…might get all mad and quit” him for associating with the non “muckty mucks” people. (124).

In the end, Janie is back in Eatonville with everyone gossiping about her, and it doesn’t matter to Janie. I htink this illustrates Janie’s realization that class is just a social construct, so it doesn’t matter if the townsfolk gossip about her and about what happened.