|Plate 3, Copy Z
||Plate 29, Copy Z
Already I'm cheating at the game. I just spent two hours re-working
my first move because there was much there that seemed muddled,
and some other things I thought I could mine for future moves. I'm
making up the rules as I go along. Is that allowed? Can you play
a game without the rules up front? How can you proceed without procedure,
and how can you have a procedure without rules?
I go leafing through books to find my answer. In a game of critical
interpretation, are other books my rules? Is the "discourse
field" my rule book? One of my booksone which I'm actually
reading for another projectsays: "All play has its rules.
They determine what 'holds' in the temporary world circumscribed
by play. The rules of a game are absolutely binding and allow no
doubt" and "the player who trespasses against the rules
or ignores them is a 'spoilsport'" (Homo Ludens, by
Johan Huizinga, 11).
Another one of my rulebooks (Hamlet on the Holodeck, by
Janet Murray)says of computers, as they relate to games: "the
computer is not fundamentally a wire or a pathway but an engine.
It was designed not to carry static information but to embody complex,
contingent behaviors. To be a [game programmer] is to think in terms
of algorithms and heuristics, that is, to be constantly identifying
the exact or general rules of behavior that describe any process"
(72). A book is also an engine, also can be a game, also has algorithms.
What is our algorithm here? And does an algorithm predict or proscribe
behavior in the gameworld? This seems to me a vital distinction.
Pertinent questions as we consider Blake's Songs as a game.
Time to look at the image/texts in play.
First note: in choosing the title pages, I am following Blake's
order. So I am following his procedure, his rules. This will probably
not hold in the playing of my game. Why did I choose them? Because
that's how Blake did it, and I am following his authority? Or because
of the habit of reading codex books? Or because I had an agenda?
Probably all of the three, but most definitely the third.
My agenda is to talk about paratext, which I wanted to do in my
previous move but ran out of space. These are my two themes of late:
gaming and paratext. So I suppose it's logical I would want to say
something about the role of paratext in games of a literary kindas
well as want to "game" the concept of paratext, expecially
Blake's unique paratext.
For those just tuning in, paratext consists of the elements of
a book (and a game? We'll see) that bracket the text proper: title
page, table of contents, intertitles, notes, index, etc. Gerard
Genette is something of the expert here. He writes, "the paratext
is what enables a text to become a book and to be offered as such
to its readers and, more generally, to the public. More than a boundary
or a sealed border, the paratext is, rather, a threshold"
It is important to note that such thresholds appear variously in
the book. These entrances to the meaning of the text could be at
the beginning (title page), alongside (footnotes), or at the end
(index). And in that they affect the presentation they also affect
the meaning of a work. Genette quotes Philippe Lejeune to that effect:
paratext is "a fringe of the printed text which in reality
controls one's whole reading of the text." Genette closely
ties this to the author as procedural authorityFoucault's
"author-function" though Genette seems oblivious to that
concept, which I assume is willful in some way.
So the paratext offers portals into the meaning of the work. But
how does paratext function in interactive, virtual narratives, such
as we encounter through the Contraries Machine? Certainly its functioning
is different. If our paratextual portals can be everywhere in the
work, paratext is certainly possible in a work with an infinite
number of access points, such as hypertext offers. Could every page
be paratext into the larger meaning of the work? Yes, but could
it control the discourse of the work? I wonder.
So what, finally, can I say about the respective title pages to
The Songs of Innocence and The Songs of Experience,
particularly in terms of paratextin their framing of meaning?
We can see how it works immediately with the Innocence title
page: it forecasts many of the themes we'll see deeper into the
book. There is much foliage spreading without check across the page.
We see the fecundity of Innocence. We also see how the image and
words meld into each other, text becoming greenery and vice versa,
facilitating a double-vision become single, in our interaction with
the plate. We also see how Innocence can be renewed: the blasted
tree is sprouting green again. This renewal implies Experience,
so here we have a portal to that book, or a portal between the two
books. All this we will see again in the book.
There are also various golden figures flitting about the text-forms.
So we are againalwaysentertaining angels, oftentimes
unaware. Keynes points out the piper figure in the bowl of the bottom
of the "I" in "Innocence." (Keynes commentary
is keyed to plates rather than page numbers. See the commentary
to the Innocence title page). He suggests, because he is wearing
the type of big hat favored by Blake, that this piper is meant to
represent Blake, but it is always dangerous to identify any of his
figuresshepherd, piper, bardwith Blake and I am hesitant
to do so here.
There is also a nurse here, another common figure in these two
books. Also children, who throng about Innocence, and are
clearly representative of that world for Blakethough they
appear in Experience as well, and not just as hapless figures (Use
the Machine to view "Holy Thursday" and "The Chimney
Sweeper") but do some frolicking there as well (See second
plate to "The Little Girl Found," Plate 36). What are
the children doing? They're peering into a book, no doubt a book
for children, the kind a nurse would read to her charges. Maybe
Blake's book? Though that might make Blake more pre-pomo than he
(or I) would be comfortable with.
This idyllic scene of reading lulls us into a comfortable expectation
that we are about to read is something strictly for children, presenting
quaint representations of childhood innocence. We will shortly find
this is not so, and perhaps this is why Blake depicts it this way
at the start.
Now the title page from Experience. A very different scene,
to say the least. We have moved from the lovely rural scene of Innocence
into a kind of mausoleum. So, from outside to inside.
So here we seem to have a contrary relationship established. We'll
see if it plays out in other plate combinations.
In Experience, the fecund green foliage we saw in Innocence
has largely dried up. But not completely: their are some new sprouts,
coming from the letters, again suggesting renewaland a portal
point between the two virtual worlds of Innocence and Experience.
Innocence has "dried up" in a more dramatic way in the
depiction of the children. In Experience, the two childrenslightly
older versions of the same children in Innocence perhapsare
grieving the death of both their parents. In Innocence they were
complacently frolicking outdoors, listening as their nurse read
them nursery rhymes and fairy tales, and now they come in to find
their parents dead, and the nurse gone. This is truly a disaster
for the children, more dire than the readerat least those
from the industrialized Westmight encounter today. In Blake's
time, becoming an orphan, being thrust upon the charity of othersusually
other family members or the church; there were precious few other
resourceswas nothing but a disaster; it generally meant desperate
poverty. Other Romantic-era works (Cf. Caleb Williams by
William Godwin, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley) have shown
the true, disastrous, radically disempowered, nature of orphanhood.
Innocence could never survive such a disaster. There is no better
entrance, or portal, to Experience than the child's experience of
his/her parents' death.
What do we make of the dancing figures above the tableux of death
and bereavement? Are they mere ornaments? Nothing is "mere"
in Blake. Are they meant to be a mockery of the scene belowa
callous world dancing as parents die, leaving children who are suddenly
cast into poverty? Possibly. Perhaps a more charitable explanation
would be that they represent the world of Innocence, which continues,
elsewhere, though these children have been cast out. Again, the
parallel universes of Innocence and Experience co-existing within
a larger meta-universe, without any traffic between them until the
experience of visionary consciousness gives us the portals.
I thought I might say other things about paratext but I think my
discussion so far has showed clearly the functioning of paratext
in Blake's text. They reflect thematic content, as well as visual
and textual tropes. They are portals, thresholds upon, two distinct,
though parallel, universes. So we how paratext functions in a work
that is not just verbal or visual, but both at the same time.
We also glimpse that the ride Blake is going to give us may prove
to be bumpy: not a boat ride along a placid stream, past lovely
pastoral scenes, but more like a roller coaster through the dark
mountain, with garish faces appearing suddenly out of the world
of shadows. Until we come out the other side and see, for good or
ill, the world has not changed, though our perception of it might
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