Mallen Clifton

Beyond the Screen: Examining Spatial Structure in Hypertext Fiction

The home page of tthe website entitled The Unknown begins with the text, “The Unknown: The Original Great American Hypertext Novel.” The Unknown is a piece of electronic literature—literature that exploits the capabilities of the computer—in the genre of hypertext fiction. Hypertext fiction itself is literature that links pages through hypertext to create new kinds of narratives. As a genre in a field of writing that has only emerged with the rise of computers, these narrative possibilities are just beginning to be explored and discussed. I propose that graph theory, a field of mathematics dedicated to studying vertices (comparable to pages on the web) and the edges that connect them (comparable to the links between pages) can expand discussion on hypertext fiction in an entirely new dimension. More specifically, I plan to analyze The Unknown as a graph and then compare the spatiality that this visualization affords to The Unknown’s narrative and literary meaning(s). This research fuses technology, literature, and mathematics to produce not only quantitative material, but also the deeper, poetic meanings inherent in such material.

Message to Sponsor

I am so grateful to Anselm for providing the funding necessary for me to carry out my research. Receiving financial support for a project largely dreamt up and carried out by myself has given me the confidence to say that my ideas are interesting and worthwhile. This experience will also support my future plans, as I hope to go to graduate school and maybe one day be a professor, all while doing research just like this.
  • Major: English, Mathematics
  • Sponsor: Anselm Fund
  • Mentor: Clancy Wilmott