The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Hopscotch and Hypertext

Walter Ong describes writing as a means of transcending space and time; an external process which reflects the interiorization of thought. Based upon Aristotle’s plot structure, the linear pattern, arguably contrary to the natural flow of the thought process, became the accepted format for written works. As one scholar expresses “…the writing space itself has become a hierarchy of topical elements” (Bolter, 2001). While writing for a print publication demands the creation of a hierarchical format, the discipline of that structure is contrary to the creative process. One idea suggests another and writers struggle to capture the idea in a fixed format before it slips from the consciousness.  “A writer today may still begin with a jumble of verbal ideas and only a vague sense of how these ideas will fit together….he may organize by association rather than by strict subordination” (Bolter, p 33).  The traditional format of a print publication acknowledges the artificiality of the structure. The table of content s reflects the hierarchal format dependent upon a linear process while the index incorporates the associative process. One author who rebelled against the unnatural structure imposed by traditional format is Julio Cortázar. In contrast to the plot structure outlined by Aristotle, his novel Hopscotch reflects the patterns inherent in actions and thoughts; a mosaic rather than a linear process.

Hypertext, the ability to expand beyond the linear limitations of written text, enables the reader to interact with the printed word.  Two years before the term “hypertext” was used and decades before the term was commonplace, Latin American author, Julio Cortazar created what can be considered a literary hypertext in his novel, Hopscotch. A labyrinth structured novel, Hopscotch proffers an invitation to the audience to be read either in the traditional linear format or following a zigzag path. The latter format allowed the reader to deconstruct meaning of the novel based on the readers “own preoccupations, experiences, imaginings and desires…”  (Rix, 2007). The reader participates as an accomplice in the creation of the story, which will vary depending on the path the reader takes.

Contrary to the accepted conventions, the narrative resembles a montage incorporating narrative interspersed with seemingly random information bits– newspaper fragments, scraps of literary theory, definitions and commentaries. Cortázar utilized a break with traditional readership and invited the reader to intervene and get involved in the construction of the story.  Thus the interpretation of the novel, the meaning of the text, is “to be found in the reader’s response, which has been stimulated by the text” (Yovanovich, 2005).  The participation of the reader enables the personalization of the text to self interaction and demarcates the hypertext interaction.

Termed a primitive hypertext, Hopscotch incorporates one way links between the two narrations which occur in Paris and Buenos Aires and the miscellaneous chapters.  The users ability and freedom “to re-arrange, re-combine and even abandon any specific text at any time”  (Rix, 2007) demonstrates the acceptance of Hopscotch as hypertext. Much discussion has been given to the impact of Hopscotch as a “codex hypertext”.  The impact of Hopscotch as a paper hypertext would be lost if it were in electronic format. Formatted electronically, Hopscotch would appear to be linear in nature, with no anchors and no external links. The hypertext process inherent in codex Hopscotch would be rendered useless on the computer (“Hopscotch as a Hyperbook,” n.d.).

In a deliberate challenge to established cultural norms, Hopscotch seeks to “transcend the schemes and constructs of culture…”  (Alazraki, 2005).   Cortázar argued ideas and words should not be bound by the constraints of traditional codex.  Jaime Alazraki quotes Cortázar  “ ‘I’ve always found it absurd…to talk about transforming man if man doesn’t simultaneously, or previously, transform his instrument of knowledge’”  (Alazraki, 2005).

Hypertext reflects the authenticity Cortázar presents in Hopscotch, the use of associations rather than categories, the viability of the readers response and choice in determining an individual reading experience. In contrast to the linear structure expounded by Aristotle, Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch introduces the reader to a non-linear pattern of reading. Published years before the incorporation of digital technologies into daily life, Hopscotch exemplifies a “hypertextual literature”.

Works Cited

Alazraki, J. (2005). Toward the last square of Hopscotch. In H. Bloom, Julio Cortazar (pp. 2-26). Philadelphia: Chelsea House.

Bolter, J. D. (2001). Writing Space: Computer, Hypertext and the Remediation of Print. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hopscotch as a Hyperbook. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2009, from

Rix, R. (2007). Julio Cortazar’s Rayuela nad the Challenges of Cyberliterature. In C. a. Taylor, Latin American Cyberculture and Cyberliterature (pp. 194-206). Cambridge: Liverpool University Press.

Yovanovich, G. (2005). An interpretation of Rayuela Based on the Character Web. In H. Bloom, Julio Cortazar (pp. 101-148). Philadelphia: Chelsea House.

I created a video which I will embed as soon as it finalizes. Having some technical difficulties as the program continues to freeze.

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