Lighting out for the Territory: Hypertext, Ideology, and Huckleberry Finn
PATRICK W. CONNER
Tom's most well, now, and got his bullet around his neck on a watchguard for a watch, and is always seeing what time it is, and so there ain't nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I'd a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn't a tackled it and ain't agoing to no more. But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can't stand it. I been there before.
THE END, YOURS TRULY HUCK FINN.1
Hypertext is an interesting term, because it has to bridge an unusual semiotic gap: it is used to name a cybernetic phenomenon in which a text appearing on a computer monitor can be used to access another text stored elsewhere, either online or in memory; or it may be used as a new term in the realm of critical theory to refer to a decentred, infinitely referential kind of discourse. In this essay, I intend to argue that any critical use of the term 'hypertext' must take into account how the object so termed may be modelled in the cybernetic context, because--at least, in the case of hypertext--the connection between literary criticism and technology is mutually supportive of both domains, and each serves the ideologies of the other.
To provide a case study in support of this position, I shall examine certain conjunctions of ideology and structure in Mark Twain Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Samuel Clemens (for whom ' Mark Twain' was a pseudonym) did not have access to the term 'hypertext', yet he endowed a certain open structure within Huckleberry Finn with an ideology which reflects the fundamental assumptions of a recognizable American myth; this myth, which focuses on the relative positions of the individual and society, and an ambiguous attitude towards boundaries and difference, is relevant to