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Judd Morrissey, The Jew’s Daughter

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Morrissey..explored the subject of textual context and reconfiguration in The Jew’s Daughter, a work in which rolling over active words changes passages of text on the same screen, as opposed to prompting a change of screen. The screen stays while the text changes, embodying Michael Joyce’s notion that “electronic text replaces itself.” Shifting the content’s context destabilizes the act and process of reading. The reader of The Jew’s Daughter learns to expect disorientation within the words themselves. To extract a quote from The Jew’s Daughter, and thus to participate in decontextualizing content: “Things seek realization in new configurations” (screen 221).

From The Iowa Review, “The Very Essence of Poetry” by┬áJessica Pressman.

Comments

  1. March 21st, 2006 | 7:13 am

    The way the text develops is really interesting, but I found the solid block of text a little overwhelming. I think the transitions were most evident and powerful between the last line and the first, that concrete physical break in sentances byassed by the loop of the narrative. Also, later on, when the text does not immediately reconfigure, it really jolted me out of my kind of idle looping skimming… the passage about “She had laid her head on the tracks and the train cut cleanly through her neck” unfolded word by word, tearing a less clean whole in the overall piece but really grabbing my attention again.

    For me at least it is those points of discontinuity that are the most powerful, the divides when the prose becomes almost verse in form, when the text unfolds at different speeds, not all at once, and the ever-present gap between the last word and the first. I get lost in the block of text, but those points are always interesting.

  2. Raphael
    March 21st, 2006 | 9:00 am

    Not knowing what to think at first, I fell back on my first and least effective way of trying to understand how I was feeling: listing, mindlessly, the adjectives which surfaced first in my head. Here’s what I have:

    – obsessive
    – subtle
    – varied
    – unfortunate
    – spiral (apparently, “spirular” is not a word)

    I’m going to agree with Adam here and say that the block of text was overwhelming. To me, there was no obvious way to update my representation of the text without rereading the entire thing, which I quickly became unwilling to do. After the first flicker of change, I was unable to know immediately what was new and what had stayed from the previous page, and I found it frustrating — even after realizing that this was probably a conscious affect.

    The piece appears to know this, and will present certain pieces of writing in a different way from time to time, as if to highlight their importance: the bit about decapitation is especially jarring because the words are appearing one by one, as are the old man’s comments and the building directory. I’m repeating Adam here, but these are by far the most obvious and the most striking transitions in an otherwise quite-subtle piece.

    In summary: I wished I knew how better to read it, because I was consistently rewarded with an interesting change of context when I knew what was going on.

  3. jason
    March 24th, 2006 | 5:22 pm

    The Jew’s Daughter was surprising at first, mainly due to its simplistic interface. I knew it couldn’t be as simple as it looked, because after all, it was a “hypertext” drama, and therefore there were definitely some tricks up ahead, but I couldn’t sniff out immediately what type of angle it was going to take. “Okay, so we’ve got a white page with some black text. Looks like a book. It’s made with flash. Okay…”

    And then the text started changing. That was cool. And not just “hover your mouse and see the next page,” but the a portion of the text would change, and it was the reader’s duty to go investigate: “What just happened? I know something changed. I don’t know where exactly, or semantically what had changed, but something definitely changed.”

    The next pleasing aspect of this project was that not only did text change in the middle of paragraphs, but the text was written to be almost amorphous: segments of text would change, yet would still be coherent. The bottom of each page even connected with the top. Just thinking about what must’ve gone into architecting such malleable text made my head hurt, but surprisingly, reading it didn’t.

    In terms of story though, it was a bit hard to follow in the sense that this wasn’t a linear story. Nor was it your typical non-linear story. It wasn’t many short “scenes” scattered around that can be read in a non-specific order, but more like the literary equivalent of musical motives: small segments (of text in this case) that set a tone, mood, or feeling, and do so via various characters. The characters aren’t necessarily developed either, but thrown at the reader, leaving him or her to parse whatever they feel is important to them.

    Throughout the piece I was looking for a sign of the narrative voice’s identity. “Who’s telling this story? Is it the same person telling the story? Are there multiple people?” A few times I was graced with a line like “I am an Irish-Jew,” but it still didn’t give much detail as to who was doing most of the talking.

    A few lines I found interesting…

    -“One of the first times that I encountered him by chance, he was engaged in an argument throughout which he upheld his belief that only a homosexual could truly appreciate an ass.”

    -“Or he stands on the shore” [mouseover] “of some body of water hailing shiploads to some obscure doom.”

    -“She had laid her head on the tracks and the train cut cleanly through her neck” -form parallels content. increasingly faster, cutting off the “head” of each word

    -big topic changes: difficult pregancies

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