dumb students

"But then came Henry James' 'Brooksmith' and I was completely derailed. . . . My students could barely muster the energy for a thumbs-up or -down. It was as though some pneumatic pump had sucked out the last dregs of their spirits. . . Students whom I knew to be quick and resourceful in other situations retreated into dumb illiteracy. 'I dunno', said the spokesman, 'the whole thing just bugged me -- I couldn't get into it."
-- Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies,, pp. 17-18

"I sat in R.'s studio and did my dutiful best to get past the wall of resistance to hypertext. But I was still stymied. . . I could scarcely hold still long enough to read what was there in front of me. Granted, what prose I did browse was not of a quality to compel entry by itself -- it needed the enticement of its 'hyper' element -- but I realized that it would be the same if Pynchon or Gass had written the sentences."
-- Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies,, pp. 161-2

On page 151 of The Gutenberg Elegies , Birkerts for the first time deigns to examine an actual hypertext. The first (and only) hypertext he examines is Stuart Moulthrop's Victory Garden . Strangely, though, Birkerts is suddenly overcome by the 'dumb illiteracy' that decries in his students; he just can't bring himself to read (or think about) the work itself.

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